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Geelong Advertiser - - NEWS - HAR­RI­SON TIPPET

FAM­ILY vi­o­lence vic­tims and sur­vivors will ben­e­fit from a $3 mil­lion re­fur­bish­ment to the Bar­won Multi-Dis­ci­plinary Cen­tre, a one-stop shop of es­sen­tial ser­vices.

Vic­to­rian Po­lice Min­is­ter Lisa Neville and Gee­long po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent Craig Gil­lard of­fi­cially opened the re­fur­bished Bar­won Mul­ti­Dis­ci­plinary Cen­tre yes­ter­day.

The cen­tre now has ca­pac­ity for about 140 staff — com­pared to 50 when it opened in 2012 — and houses Vic­to­ria Po­lice’s fam­ily vi­o­lence unit, sex­ual of­fences and child abuse in­ves­ti­ga­tion team and the newly-merged Bar­won CASA Minerva (an amal­ga­ma­tion of Minerva Com­mu­nity Ser­vices and the Bar­won Cen­tre Against Sex­ual As­sault).

Af­ter tour­ing the cen­tre, Supt Gil­lard said the dif­fer­ent ser­vices would be able to bet­ter share in­for­ma­tion on vic­tims and sur­vivors, mak­ing it eas­ier for them to share dif­fi­cult ex­pe­ri­ences.

“The way the ser­vices are de­liv­ered is the key,” Supt Gil­lard said.

“So pre­vi­ously we’ve asked peo­ple who’ve been sub­jected to fam­ily vi­o­lence and child abuse and other things to go to dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions, but here it’s a one-stop-shop, so peo­ple don’t have to be sub­jected to retelling their story in a dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment and to a dif­fer­ent per­son again.”

Ms Neville, who is also the Mem­ber for Bel­lar­ine, said the Gov­ern­ment’s $3 mil­lion re­fur­bish­ment fund­ing would give fam­ily vi­o­lence vic­tims es­sen­tial sup­port.

“More vic­tims and sur­vivors will be en­cour­aged to come for­ward to seek help and re­port crimes across the re­gion with po­lice, le­gal and coun­selling ser­vices will be of­fered in the one lo­ca­tion.”

“Un­for­tu­nately we still have too many women who die at the hands of fam­ily vi­o­lence, and the hands of their part­ner — po­lice are called out to one case ev­ery seven min­utes.

“This cen­tre will make a huge dif­fer­ence to chang­ing the lives of many women and chil­dren.”

Supt Gil­lard said the num­ber of fam­ily vi­o­lence of­fences had in­creased in re­cent years due to an im­proved com­mu­nity aware­ness of the im­por­tance of re­port­ing, but ex­pected it could soon be­gin to drop.

“We’re see­ing it plateau here lo­cally,” Supt Gil­lard said yes­ter­day. “In the pre­vi­ous decade there’s been a lot of en­cour­age­ment and talk about fam­ily vi­o­lence, en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to come for­ward, and I think that’s now at the fore­front of peo­ple’s minds — and that’s a good thing.”

“It needs to be aired be­fore we can ad­dress it.”

New fea­tures at the cen­tre also in­clude a re­mote wit­ness fa­cil­ity for vic­tims to pro­vide ev­i­dence re­motely to court.

There is a foren­sic med­i­cal suite where adult vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault can get ac­cess to a foren­sic ex­am­i­na­tion on site, while an ad­di­tional nine spe­cial­ist fam­ily vi­o­lence de­tec­tives will also be de­ployed to the cen­tre by April.

It is un­der­stood to be the first time Ms Neville and Supt Gil­lard have ap­peared to­gether pub­licly since a pocket dial in­ci­dent in­volv­ing As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Tess Walsh left Supt Gil­lard on ex­tended leave.

Ms Neville in­ter­vened in the mat­ter, call­ing on Vic­to­ria Po­lice to ur­gently find a res­o­lu­tion.

But, the pair did not dis­cuss the ele­phant in the room yes­ter­day.

In­stead, they chose to fo­cus on the of­fi­cial open­ing of the re­fur­bished cen­tre and its im­por­tance to the re­gion.

Pic­ture: ALI­SON WYND

ELE­PHANT IN THE ROOM: Su­per­in­ten­dent Craig Gil­lard and Po­lice Min­is­ter Lisa Neville at the of­fi­cial open­ing of the re­fur­bished Bar­won Multi-Dis­ci­plinary Cen­tre yes­ter­day. It is be­lieved to be the first time the pair have ap­peared to­gether pub­licly...

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