SEX ASSAULT CENTRE OPENS IN GEELONG:
New Geelong police centre makes cases a higher priority
GEELONG is now home to the state’s largest centre for sexual assault and child abuse victims.
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Jack Blayney said the centre, officially opened yesterday, would strengthen the force’s commitment to make sexual assault and child abuse investigations top priority.
‘‘It’s something that needed to be done . . . to reduce the harm caused across the community,’’ Mr Blayney said.
‘It’s something that needed to be done ... to reduce the harm caused across the community’
– Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner JACK BLAYNEY
‘‘Victoria Police many years ago probably treated those crime categories with low priority . . . and . . . didn’t give strong commitment to dealing with these.
‘‘We’re proud to have now embraced the messages and what we develop now will be the model for what’s opened across the state.
‘‘ The future for dealing with this scourge on the community is a lot brighter.’’
The State Government allocated $1.7 million in capital costs plus more than $3.6 million in annual operating costs to run the centre.
The centre brings together counselling, crisis support, child protection and criminal investigation services all under one roof.
Reported sexual offences, not including rape, rose 29.5 per cent in Geelong last financial year.
On the Surf Coast, it increased 107.8 per cent.
More than 500 reports of family violence were also made.
Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge said the new venture was the largest and latest in the state and would minimise trauma on victims and increase evidence collection.
The centre embodied what Geelong needed — to keep children safe and hold perpetrators to account, Mrs Wooldridge said.
‘‘Geelong showed a readiness, a strong advocacy and when Geelong advocates it advocates very well,’’ she said.
‘‘By bringing it together in one space . . . we know the outcomes can be significantly different.
‘‘We’re holding per-petrators to account.’’
She said similar centres in Frankston and Mildura had proved successful, with centres planned for Bendigo, the Latrobe Valley and another in Melbourne’s southeast.
Buildings house representatives from Victoria Police, the Department of Human Services and the Barwon Centre Against Sexual Assault.
‘‘It removes from the client the stress of repeating their story — it’s clearly a model that is working,’’ Mrs Wooldridge said.
‘‘If we can keep children out of the child protection system it’s a much better outcome as well.’’