South West police undertake frontline family violence training

Police respond: Police officers across the South West are undertaking enhanced frontline family violence training as part of a $2.1 million initiative. Photo: Shutterstock.
Police respond: Police officers across the South West are undertaking enhanced frontline family violence training as part of a $2.1 million initiative. Photo: Shutterstock.

Police officers across the South West are undertaking enhanced frontline training and collaborating with local support agencies in a bid to tackle a 67 per cent increase in family violence incidents.

The family violence training, rolled out in mid 2019, is a product of a $2.1 million investment by the state government to develop a family violence Code of Practice for police and a Family and Domestic Violence Monitoring Unit.

Related stories:

As the first responders to a family violence incident, South West district superintendent Geoff Stewart said it was vital officers were prepared for what could often be a confronting situation.

"WA Police is making it a high priority issue," he said.

"All of our officers are undertaking more face-to-face family violence training than they would have initially received and this training is about giving all of our frontline officers greater insight into what family violence is and what the risks are.

"Attending any family violence incident is quite confronting, both for the police and those involved.

"It's about enhancing what our officers already know about it.

"We now have a South West family violence team working with other agencies, too."

The training coincides with the release of Legal Aid WA's latest report last week, which revealed almost 1,500 people in the South West sought family violence services in 2018/19, an increase of 67 per cent.

The increase was significantly higher than the regional average of 39 per cent and was the second highest increase of any region outside the metropolitan area.

The south west's family violence team collaborates with Child Protective Services and specialised intervention service Waratah, triaging all reports throughout the South West.

Superintendent Stewart said the increase was concerning but did not surprise him, with an increase in the number of support services offered by Legal Aid WA.

"The fact that there has been an increase there doesn't surprise me," he said.

"I think that what we're seeing right now is that we're bringing family violence out from behind closed doors and into the open.

"People no longer feel that they can't report it.

"We're always going to be a first responder, but our job is also about what we do after that.

"We're totally onboard with the other agencies to ensure that we help to make sure we get a good outcome for the vulnerable families affected and ongoing support.

"It's an evolving approach to the issue.

"It's about more engagement, more wrap-around services and more support groups in the South West.

"It [the increase] is concerning, but I take comfort in the relationships that now exist between the agencies to combat the issue."

Family Violence consultant Michael Hovane said Legal Aid WA was focused on providing more services to ensure family violence victims in regional areas had better access to support.

"Family violence is a priority for Legal Aid WA," he said.

"It's a major issue in this state and impacts on some of our most vulnerable.

"The Family Advocacy Support Services which is a wraparound delivery model at the Family Court of WA, has proven to be an important tool to assist regional West Australians who sometimes struggle to access both legal and non-legal support, and this provides all of that in one place."

If you have experienced violence, contact 1800 RESPECT.