New-look support hub
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.
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...