Analyse recent (preferably the last 12 months) public policy debates in an area of Australian social policy (e.g. income security payments, prostitution, homelessness, child abuse, domestic violence, abortion, drug treatment or legalization, mental health, Aborigines, youth suicide, gambling, privatization etc) using the social policy literature. You may choose to use a model or framework for policy analysis such as Palmer & Short, Meredith Edwards, Segal & Brzuzy or Dalton et al to assist the development of your essay analysis and structure, but this is not obligatory.
1) A description of present policy – For example, the main details and implications of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, or the Healthy Welfare Card, or the Paid Parental Leave Scheme, or the Closing the Gap program, or current policies to support young people transitioning from out of home care.
2) A critical assessment of the policy process – on the processes used by the government to develop the policy. Was there a parliamentary vote? Was there a Senate Committee hearing as for the Healthy Welfare Card? Were the concerns of the hearing taken on board? Was there adequate consultation or negotiations with key lobby/advocacy groups or not?
3) A critical assessment of the policy itself including its impact (positive or negative) on service users – the key arguments for and against the policy. Use the views of opposition parties, lobby groups and academic literature. For example, how do the government justify the compulsory income management program, and conversely what do critics such as ACOSS and the National Welfare Rights Unit say.
4) Recommendations for change – listing a set of proposals for policy change and reform reflecting the views of opposition parties, lobby groups, and academic literature.
Description of present Australian social policy
Family violence has emerged as one of the major problems which people from various nations of the world are suffering from currently (Alexander 2015). Jeffries and Bond (2015) are of the viewpoint that the process of family violence is not only limited to the physical abuse that the individuals had to suffer from but also encompasses emotional as well as mental abuse as well. As opined by Morgan, Boxall and Brown (2018), the adverse effects of family violence take a toll not only on the physical health of the individuals but also on their emotional and mental health as well. More importantly, it is seen that the family violence crime rates are of the increase and women in comparison are the more likely victims of the family violence (Laing and Humphreys 2013).
As per Ourwatch.org.au (2018), more than 68% of the women of Australia have faced one form or family violence or the other in comparison to the 9.4% women who had faced violence at the hands of strangers. In addition to this, for 2013-14, more than 264,028 cases for family violence were registered in the various local courts of Australia along with the “44 family violence-related deaths in Victoria” itself (Fitz-Gibbon and Walklate 2018). Furthermore, for the same year, the Victorian government had to spend more than A$3.4 billion for the various legal and relief activities for the mitigation of this problem (Arrow 2018). The net result of this is the fact that the issue of family violence has is one of the major problems which the national government of Australia is facing currently. This essay will discuss the “Royal Commission into Family Violence” and the recommendations offered by it for the mitigation of the problem of family violence.
The “Family Law Act 1975” of Australia defines family violence as “violent, threatening or other behavior by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person's family, or causes the family member to be fearful” (Hawkins and Broughton 2016). The act also encompasses the other aspects of domestic violence like “violence between partners of both sexes, including same-sex relationships” and others (Walklate et al. 2017). However, the above mentioned legislation and the term itself have been amended several times by the national government of Australia. For example, in Victoria, the term is generally used to refer to any form of violence which occurs within a family irrespective of the causes or the reasons for it (Stubbs and Wangmann 2017). More importantly, it is seen that in the different states of Australia, the term domestic violence is called by different names like “family violence”, “domestic abuse”, “family and domestic violence” and others (Tarzia, Humphreys and Hegarty 2017).
Assessment of the policy process related to family violence
According to Fitz-Gibbon et al. (2018), the survey “Women's Safety Survey” conducted by the “Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)” (1996) can be seen as the first attempt of the national government of Australia to mitigate the problem of family violence. As a matter of fact, in the state of Victoria itself, there were more than 74,385 recorded instances of family violence in 2015, in addition to the ones which were not reported (Thelookout.org.au 2018). Middleton et al. (2014) are of the viewpoint that despite the ardent efforts of the Australian government in the recent times, the nation has not been able to overcome the evil of family violence because of the gap between the policy and practice. In this regard, Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence and its 227 recommendations are important since they try to resolve the problem of family violence right from the grass root level (Rcfv.com.au 2018).
The vision of the Royal Commission into Family Violence “is for a future where all Victorians are safe, thriving and live free from family violence” (Rcfv.com.au 2018). This policy was formulated by the Australian government in close association with Family Court of Australia, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Australian Law Reform Commission, Health Justice Australia and others (Vic.gov.au 2018). The primary idea behind this was to get a comprehensive idea about the major causes or the reasons for the high prevalence of family violence in the state of Victoria (ABC News 2018). More importantly, on the basis of the suggestions which were put forwarded around 227 recommendations were forwarded, out of which 212 have already been implemented (Thelookout.org.au 2018).
According to Hutchins, Crozier and Truong (2018), “violence against women remains the biggest contributor to ill-health and premature death in women aged 15 and 44”. This can be seen as the fulcrum point of the Royal Commission into Family Violence and also the various recommendations which has been offered by the commission. The major aim of the recommendations put forward by the Royal Commission into Family Violence was to implement various kinds of preventive programs as well as measures to ensure the fact that the perpetrators of family violence are punished (Rcfv.com.au 2018). In addition to this, one of the main scopes of the recommendations is to safeguard gender equality both within the structure of the families and also within the nation itself (Vic.gov.au 2018). The recommendations also aspire to develop various kinds of strategic as well as systematic foundations which will prevent the family violence (ABC News 2018). In addition to these, the recommendations, at the same time, also intend to extent the preventative measures to the Aboriginal Communities and the Diverse Communities (Rcfv.com.au 2018).
Analysis of the impact of policy decisions on service users
The recommendations of the “Family Violence and Service Delivery Reform Unit” also seek to establish different Support and also Safety Hubs which will enable the authorities to meet the increasing demand for quality services by the victims (Vic.gov.au 2018). Furthermore, they also intend to strengthen the kind of responses which are currently offered to the families to the family members and also the children safe. The recommendations also offer the opportunity to the individuals to establish safe as well as stable housing and also effective support recovery system (Rcfv.com.au 2018). The recommendations have at the same time proposed that rather than the normal legal proceedings special family courts be established for the hearing of these kinds of cases (Vic.gov.au 2018). Tarzia, Humphreys and Hegarty (2017) are of the viewpoints in the normal courts which is often crowded with people, deter the victims of family to discuss their problems in an effective manner and thus the establishment of special family courts would help these victims in a substantial manner. More importantly, these private courts would offer the opportunity to the authorities to conduct private interviews and others which will enable them to resolve the disputes in a much effective manner (Vic.gov.au 2018). However, this would require the national government as well as the legal authorities of the nation to establish “victim-centred justice” (Rcfv.com.au 2018).
The recommendations also propose for the strengthening of the “Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework” wherein special police forces will be there to react to the cases of family violence on an urgent basis (Vic.gov.au 2018). More importantly, the plan has also proposed for the synchronization of the different departments of the local as well as the national government, the legal system, police authorities and others for handling such kind of cases. The “Family Violence and Service Delivery Reform Unit” has also made it mandatory for most family violence workers to have social work qualifications by 2020 (ABC News 2018). The most important one among these qualifications is that the “family violence practitioners”, in order to counsel the victims of these cases would be required to have a social work or some similar kind of degrees (Rcfv.com.au 2018). In addition to this, the Victorian government in its “Building from Strength: 10-Year Industry Plan for Family Violence Prevention and Response” has made it clear that the practitioners are required to have the highest kind of educational qualifications and also skill sets (Vic.gov.au 2018).
Recommendations for policy change and reform
Neave (2015) is of the viewpoint that the effectiveness with which a victim can out of the trauma of family violence depends to a large extent on the efficiency as well as the effectiveness of the counseling services offered to them. It is with the objective to offer better kind of counseling services to the victims so that they are being able to overcome the trauma of the family violence that the Victorian government has made the regulations for the counselors more stringent (Fitz-Gibbon and Walklate 2018). In this conjunction it needs to be said that the “Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW)” also requires the social works or the counselors to have certain minimum level of educational qualifications as well as skill sets (Fitz-Gibbon et al. 2018). However, because of the kind of workload that the professional counselors are required to handle it is often seen that various individuals with inadequate educational qualifications and also skill sets are allowed to offer counseling services (Hawkins and Broughton 2016). The recommendations have made it clear that such kind of practices will be allowed no longer. These in short are some of the major precepts of the “Family Violence and Service Delivery Reform Unit” or more commonly called by the name of Royal Commission into Family Violence.
According to Morgan, Boxall and Brown (2018), the issue of family violence has formed an integral part of the political debate of not only the Victorian political system but also of the entire Australian political system itself. Furthermore, since the past few years it is seen that many political parties have tried to win the elections on the basis of their support and also intended reforms for the cause of this issue. In this regard, mention needs to be made about Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister of Australia in 2015, who called the problem of family violence a “tragic and deadly epidemic” (Dowling et al. 2018). It is pertinent to note that all the major political parties of the nation like the Greens, Labor and Coalition recognized the issue of family violence as a major problem which is not only affected the individual lives of the people but at the same time affected the nation in a substantial manner (Walklate et al. 2017). However, all these parties differed regarding the measure which needs to be adopted for the mitigation or the resolution of this particular problem.
Overview of the problem of family violence in Australia
The Coalition government has been an ardent supporter of the Royal Commission and its efforts (Arrow 2018). As a matter of fact, the initial funding for the Commission, that is, A$100 million, came in the year 2015, which was provided by the Coalition government (Vic.gov.au 2018). In addition to this, another $30 million “to frontline legal assistance providers for victims of family and domestic violence and $25 million for improved provision of domestic violence support services” have been offered by the Coalition government for the resolution of the problem of family violence (Rcfv.com.au 2018). More importantly, the Coalition government has also offered funding to the Commission so that they can offer “help Indigenous women and communities” and also help in the creation of a safety culture (Arrow 2018).
The recommendations have not received much support from the Greens and the Labor. In this regard, it needs to be said that the major policy followed by these two was to invest millions of dollars into “frontline legal services” with the intention of offer adequate legal services to the women and the other victims of family victims (Stubbs and Wangmann 2017). It is pertinent to note that these parties believed that the issue of family violence can only be remedied by making the laws and legislative system more stringent. However, it needs to be said at this juncture that these parties have criticized the recommendations because of their failure to understand that the family violence would need more than the strengthening of the legal system for its mitigation (Fitz-Gibbon et al. 2018). In these regard, it can be said that the Coalition government through the introduction of these 227 recommendations is looking to gain long-term rewards so as to effectively address the issue of family violence.
Australia is one of the most of the developed nations of the world with a high rate of education and also a multicultural society (Middleton et al. 2014). Dowling et al. (2018) are of the viewpoint that the nation is known for its liberal and free way of life and the people generally like to live in harmony. In this regard, it can be said that the problem of family violence is perhaps one of the biggest blemishes of the culture of the nation. More importantly, it is seen that the majority of these family violence cases are committed against the women of the nation and the perpetrators are mainly the male members of the family (Laing and Humphreys 2013). These acts of violence not only take a toll on the physical health of the women but at the same time affect them emotionally as well and in many cases it is seen that they even scar the victims for the rest of their lives (Hutchins, Crozier and Truong 2018). In this context, the “White Ribbon Campaign (WRC)” is an important one to note. The primary aim of this campaign is to reduce or mitigate the violence committed by the male members of the society against the female members of the society (White Ribbon 2018). The members of the campaign wear ribbons to articulate “the idea of men giving up their arms” (White Ribbon 2018). More importantly, the members of this campaign try to reduce the number of cases of violence against women by not only educating the men but at the same time spreading awareness regarding the ill-effects of the process of violence against women (Arrow 2018).
The role of the Royal Commission into Family Violence in mitigating family violence
The Domestic Violence Resource Center Victoria is “a statewide resource centre supporting workers and families to help stop family violence” (Dvrcv.org.au 2018). The center under discussion aspires to offer a platform to the victims of domestic or family violence wherein they can not only raise their protests against the family violence instances that they have faced but also seek legal assistance. More importantly, this center has active tie ups with the legal authorities and others who can help the victims of family violence to seek legal advice as well as assistance (Dvrcv.org.au 2018). In addition to this, these centers also offer the services of various kinds of social workers or family violence practitioners so that along with legal assistance the victims are also able to get emotional counseling as well. The center not only offers telephonic services to the victims but also various kinds of courses to the professionals so that they can improve their counseling skills (Dvrcv.org.au 2018).
As opined by Fitz-Gibbon et al. (2018), the instances of family violence leave the victims emotionally as well as physically drenched and thus the victims often require the assistance of various kinds of counselors to get over the trauma involved in the process. Furthermore, the center also organizes various kinds of meetings and sessions wherein the victims can not only meet similar kind of victims of family violence but also derive the necessary strength from them. These meetings or sessions at the same time offer the victims an opportunity wherein they can express their feelings as well as emotions in an effective manner and thereby heal themselves emotionally (Dvrcv.org.au 2018). In addition to these, it is also seen that the center maintains an online blog wherein professionals from different parts of the world offer guidance as well as assistance to the victims. Thus, it can be said that these centers offer invaluable services to the victims of domestic violence and also help them to overcome the horrors of the family violence.
Domestic Violence Victoria can be seen as a peak body which seeks to offer specialist family violence services to the women as well as children who have been the victims of family violence. The mission of the body is to “shape a world where women and children can live fulfilled lives, free from fear and violence” (Thelookout.org.au 2018). The body is known for offering various kinds of advocacy services to the people of the nation so as to mitigate the evil of family violence. This is usually done by the body by means of spreading awareness and also making people understand the notions of equality and respect (Thelookout.org.au 2018). More importantly, the body from time to time takes the help of various kinds of media campaigns to not only raise respect for women but also to reduce the cases of family violence as well.
227 recommendations made by the commission
The recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence have also articulated the need for the improvement of the “domestic violence police in Victoria”. The “domestic violence police in Victoria”, can be seen as a division of the main police force of the state which deals with the various cases of family violence (Police.vic.gov.au 2018). However, the working style of this department of the police is drastically different from the other departments of the Victorian police force. For example, it is seen that rather than taking a professional approach the officials of this force are required to take a more personal approach for dealing with the various victims of family violence (Morgan, Boxall and Brown 2018). More importantly, this division of the Victorian police works as per the strict dictums of the “Victorian Family Violence Protection Act 2008” which offers a list of various offenses that belongs to the category of family violence (Police.vic.gov.au 2018). In addition to this, the officials are also required to follow the “Code of Practice for the Investigation of Family Violence” for dealing with the various victims of family victims (Fitz-Gibbon and Walklate 2018). The victims in case of emergency can seek their assistance by dialing the number “000” (Police.vic.gov.au 2018). Furthermore, the deaf as well as people with Autism and other kind of problems can also reach them through their telephonic number “1800 Respect” (Police.vic.gov.au 2018). The majority of the victims of family violence concur on the point that they offer invaluable services.
The current policies followed by the national government of Australia for the mitigation of family violence are no doubt effective and have shown results yet there is room for improvement. One example, even after the Royal Commission into Family Violence, special family courts had not yet been established. One way through which the Victorian or the national government can improve the quality of the family violence services offered to the victims is to establish family courts wherein the victims would be able to seek justice in an effective manner. Another measure to improve the existing policies followed by the Victorian government is to recruit more female support providers into the various bodies which are entrusted with the work of offering relief services to the victims. In this regard, it needs to be said that the majority of the victims of family violence are women and children and it is seen that after facing violence at the hands of a man they generally do not feel comfortable talking to a man. Thus, if there are female help providers the victims would feel more comfortable to discuss their problems. Establishment of local bodies along with the state level ones would also improve the quality of services which are being offered to the victims and would also reduce the number of these crimes.
Preventive programs for family violence
To conclude, the problem of family violence has emerged as one of the major problems which the nation of Australia is facing currently. Furthermore, the majority of the victims of these family violence cases are women. More importantly, these instances of family violence not only affect the physical health of the victims but at the same time affect their emotional as well as mental health. The Victorian government in conjugation with the national government of Australia has formulated various kinds of regulations for the mitigation of this problem. In this regard, the Royal Commission into Family Violence is an important one which has proposed 227 recommendations through which the problem can be resolved in an effective manner. Moreover, it is seen that out of the 227 recommendations 212 have already been implemented. In addition to these, as per the recommendations of the Commission, the various departments of the national government have been integrated with the Victorian government to offer better relief services to the victims of family violence.
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