THE rapid rise in the number of Queensland women fleeing domestic violence has been attributed to massive media attention following the deaths of two women on the Gold Coast – Tara Brown and Karina Lock – in September last year.
The number of women and children seeking refuge in emergency motel rooms more than doubled.
So has the number of calls to a women’s domestic violence helpline operated by the crisis support agency DV Connect.
In 2015-16 DV Connect provided 9000 nights of motel accommodation to 9000 women and 13,393 children searching for a safe place to stay and sleep.
This was an increase from 3624 nights provided in 2014-15 and 2318 nights provided in 2013-14.
“This is a very significant increase. The magnitude of it has taken everyone by surprise,” DV Connect chief executive Diane Mangan said.
DV Connect is receiving $1 million in state funding this financial year.
Since October 2014, the number of calls to DV Connect’s womansline has surged from 100 to 150 calls a day up to 200 to 250.
Ms Mangan put the rise down to media attention around two key moments relating to domestic violence over recent years.
The first spike in calls, came after former premier Campbell Newman announced a domestic violence taskforce in August 2014, with a smaller jump after the public release of a reported on domestic violence entitled “Not Now, Not Ever”.
When Karina Lock was shot dead by her husband in a Gold Coast McDonald’s and Tara Brown was allegedly beaten to death by an ex-partner in a car in the same week in September last year, there was an even more dramatic jump.
“The next day we had a sudden surge on top of the one we had the year before,” Ms Mangan said.
Queensland Women and Youth Minister Shannon Fentiman revealed the latest figures on domestic violence following a parliamentary question on notice asked on August 17.
Ms Fentiman said the figures showed more women were feeling safe to come forward and ask for help as a result of a public push for change.
“We are seeing more women reporting domestic violence offences, more (domestic violence orders) and more DVO breach offences in Queensland,” she said.
“It makes sense that in this climate where we are talking more openly as a community about domestic and family violence, that we are also seeing more women seeking emergency accommodation to flee that violence.”
In May, The Catholic Leader dedicated two editions to covering Brisbane archdiocese’s efforts against domestic violence.
The archdiocese launched a website – www.rewritethestory.net.au – and was part of a wider campaign joining the State Government and organisations including Telstra in providing paid leave for domestic and family violence matters.
The archdiocese offers a unique insight to the problem because of the ongoing work of Centacare on the frontline of domestic and family violence.
Centacare works on a daily basis with victims throughout the archdiocese, helping them through their harrowing journey including assistance in courtrooms.
“Centacare has been right at the centre of raising the awareness of domestic violence and working against it,” Archbishop Mark Coleridge said during the May campaign.
“They are a remarkable agency which renders a great service, particularly in this area.”
By Mark Bowling