By Paul Dobbyn
BRISBANE Good Samaritan Sister Bernardina Sontrop hopes the latest State Government report on domestic violence can help slow the spread of an epidemic that claimed 17 lives in Queensland from 2012 to 2013.
She has worked with victims of domestic violence over many years in roles including school chaplain, principal and pastoral worker.
“The value of Not now, Not ever: Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence is to put really good information on the issue into the public arena,” Sr Sontrop said.
She revealed her congregation’s plans in April to open four, two-bedroom units in Brisbane’s northern suburbs for homeless women with children.
Brisbane-based Mercy Community Services is also involved in related areas including child protection and family mental health.
Other Catholic organisations including Centacare and the archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission commented on the “increasingly complex” scourge of domestic violence.
Centacare Family and Relationship Services have been working with people affected by domestic and family violence for many years and through managing various domestic violence programs.
Centacare’s SCOPE Domestic and Family Violence Services manager Brigitte McLennan said one of their roles was to provide court support in five regional magistrates courts on a regular basis.
“Our experience over the past five years is that the number of applications for protection orders is increasing,” she said.
“Referrals from police to our service are also increasing … existing resources are often over-stretched and dedicated workers can easily feel overwhelmed by the sheer day-to-day demand on services.
“We see an increase in complexity, where families not only deal with domestic violence, but drug and alcohol issues, mental health issues, homelessness and poverty.”
Ms McLennan said the latest Government taskforce report into domestic violence was valuable “because it challenges community organisations including churches to take a leadership role; to not be silent bystanders but to take an active stand against the use of power and control and abuse in relationships”.
Former governor-general Dame Quentin Bryce headed a taskforce to prepare the report Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland.
Statistics revealed in 2013-14 more than 66,000 domestic violence incidents were reported to Queensland police – more than 180 incidents reported every day across the state.
CJPC executive officer Peter Arndt said justice representatives from several churches in Brisbane met soon after the release of the report.
“We are keen to encourage all churches to take advantage of the excellent resources and support that the Joint Churches Domestic Violence Prevention Project offers churches in Queensland,” he said.
Sr Sontrop said her congregation continued its work providing accommodation to homeless mothers and children, which started with their ministry in a refuge in Pitt Street, Sydney, in 1857.
“The units due to open next month will provide supported independent-living accommodation for young mothers and their children who are homeless, or at risk of being homeless,” she said. “Such women often have difficulty getting rental references.
“The renewed Good Samaritan Housing program will help these women gain such references and also develop living skills where necessary.”