Children still largely invisible in family violence policy and investment

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Children still largely invisible in family violence policy and investment

June 19, 2021

According to the Coroners Court of Victoria, 65 children who were known to child protection authorities died in 2019-2020, the most recent year for which data is available. Five of the deaths were as a result of assault and 27 were suicides.

Among these, 44 had direct contact with child protection in the 12 months before their death.

Despite welcome funding into adolescent therapy programs in the Victorian State Budget, no specific funding for children has been allocated.

For Paula Westhead and the Emerge team, the needs of young children – babies to primary school children – have to be a priority for future government funding.

“Our 40 years of experience has shown that many of the children coming into our refuge and crises accommodation have post trauma syndrome disorder, do not connect with their mothers, are severely withdrawn and suffering development delay,” Paula said.

“Through arts therapy and our other mother-child services, we work genty and carefully with children and their mothers to begin to restore confidence.”

“Our arts therapy knowledge is now sought after from other family violence services in Australia and internationally.

Funding for arts therapy has come from philanthropic trusts and community donations.

Emerge’s children’s services include: Arts for Change, Open Studio, Safe Nest Group, Little Sparkz and Make Your Mark.

Paula said that there was an enormous amount of work and information still to be done to enable therapy programs to be funded effectively.

“While we welcome philanthropic funding, we are also aware that the demand on these funds is growing and there are only so many times that we can receive funding for the same program – even if it is working,” Paula said.

With the potential for long-term emotional damage that can affect a child’s mental health, schooling outcomes and future relationships, Paula Westhead is saddened knowing how many young people are beginning their lives with unaddressed trauma.

The Royal Commission into Family Violence recommended that children who witness violence should be regarded as direct victims of family violence, even if they aren’t physically injured themselves.

Research cited by the Royal Commission showed that hearing abuse or witnessing the aftermath of violence can be just as damaging to a young person as being attacked themselves.

Recent crime statistics show that between 2018-2019, one in 50 children witnessed a family violence incident that was attended by police.


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