Thursday, 14 April 2016

With rates of domestic violence & sexual assault higher than the NSW average, the Northern Rivers region remains a target for federal funding cuts

The geographic area of the Northern NSW Local Health District extends from the Tweed Local Government Area (LGA) on the Queensland/NSW border in the north to the Clarence Valley LGA in the south, the Great Dividing Range in the west and the Pacific Ocean coastline in the east. The Northern NSW LHD covers a geographic region of 21,470 square kilometres with a total population in 2011 of 288,241 persons and is made up of seven LGAs and one smaller State Suburb (SSC). [Northern NSW LHD, Fact Sheet 1, July 2015]

This health district population was projected to reach over 300,000 in 2016.

One of the health issues it deals with is domestic and family violence, as do the local courts.

Between October 2014 to September 2015 in NSW the rate of domestic assault incidents per 100,000 head of population was 398.7.

For the corresponding period in the Northern NSW LHD the domestic assault rate was:

Richmond Valley Local Government Area550.6
Lismore Local Government Area478.8
Clarence Valley Local Government Area426.5
Tweed Local Government Area401.7
Kyogle Local Government Area399.0
Byron Local Government Area – 313.3
Ballina Local Government Area – 246.3

All but two local government areas were above the state average – four were significantly higher.

Five out of seven of these local government areas also exceeded the NSW rate for sexual offence incidents – Richmond Valley, Lismore, Clarence Valley, Byron and Ballina.

Yet this region remains a target for Abbott-Turnbull Government cuts to services used by victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The Northern Star reported on 8 April 2016:

SHADOW Attorney General Mark Dreyfus and Labor candidate for Page Janelle have backed the Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre's plea to have funding cuts to programs aimed at preventing domestic violence reversed.

They said the Federal Government had announced a third, or $30 million, of commonwealth funding would be cut to the 39 Community Legal Centres around the state as well as the scrapping of $100,000 per year in funding to the Lismore centre, introduced by Mr Dreyfus in 2013.

Mr Dreyfus said the cuts could mean the end of the Lismore-based centre's outreach service in Casino, as well as the possible closure of the Tweed office and the loss of a specialised family violence solicitor.

Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre acting centre manager Fia Norton said it was the biggest challenge in the centre's 20-year history.

"They're (the cuts) going to affect the most vulnerable people in our community," she said……

Ms Saffin said she was concerned the federal funding cuts would impact complimentary services to the State Government's Safer Pathways domestic violence program, a service NRCLS was selected to coordinate in Tweed in 2015.

"Last year the Northern Rivers CLC was selected by the NSW Government as one of five sites to roll out the Safer Pathways reforms for Domestic Violence, an integrated response service to prevent domestic violence deaths and serious injury to women and children," she said.

"But how will the program be impacted when cuts come into effect next year?.....

The cuts are set to come into effect in mid-2017.

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