A specialist telephone counselling service is part of a new frontline response to tackle family and domestic violence in rural, regional, and remote Western Australia.
The service was launched on October 1, 2020 in Perth by Forrest MP Nola Marino. The call centre is the second phase of a unique pilot program by non-profit organisation DVassist.
Funded through a Federal Government grant, DVassist focuses on 16 Western Australia towns in the Kimberley, Pilbara, Goldfields, Great Southern, Wheatbelt, and South West regions.
The call centre, and recently launched online services directory, provide information and support tailored to where people live in regional, rural, and remote areas.
The DVassist services are also cognisant of the specific challenges facing women and men in country towns impacted by family and domestic violence.
These include social isolation, fear of community gossip, physical distance from services, a lack of privacy, and a commonly held view that 'you don't talk about family problems, you just tough it out.'
DVassist founder Fleur McDonald said the call centre is operated by qualified specialist family and domestic violence counsellors.
"They bring strong knowledge from regional, rural, and remote communities to their role," she said.
"They understand the genuine fears people in close-knit country communities have about seeking help form family and domestic violence.
"Their knowledge of the different regional areas means they can also recommend safety plans based on the availability or lack of appropriate local services."
While the call centre is initially offering single-session counselling, DVassist will transition to multi-session counselling and case management in the future.
"This is important as it means people requiring help don't need to repeat their story from scratch each time they call the service," Ms McDonald said.
"We can support people on their journey in the longer term as family and domestic violence is rarely a one-off incident."
The DVassist counselling service is available on free-call 1800 080 083.
It operates from 10 am to 7 pm, Monday to Friday, with plans to extend it to 10 am to 10 pm, seven days a week in 2021.
Planning is also underway to develop a program for people who are using violence.