Australia's First Family Violence Command

Tuesday, 17 March 2015 08:40

I’m pleased to be standing in front of you today as the new Assistant Commissioner of Australia’s first Family Violence Command.

Our command will be dedicated to family violence, sexual assault and child abuse in situations where the perpetrator and the victim know each other.

We will be dedicated to the victims and the survivors of these horrendous crimes. We will put them at the centre of everything we do.

These issues all fall under the umbrella of violence against women and children.

We are all beginning to understand that this violence is far too widespread in our community.  

Let me remind you of the facts:

  • Police in Victoria attended 65,000 incidents of family violence last year. If we averaged that it would be one incident ever eight minutes.
  • One in three women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 (Personal Safety Survey, ABS 2006, 2013).
  • More than 2000 of them were them were adult women were raped or sexually assaulted in Victoria last year.
  • In 85 per cent of cases of rape last year an alleged male offender raped a female. The same was the case in almost 70 per cent of sexual assaults.
  • Almost 4000 children were raped or sexually assaulted in the same time frame. In over 80 per cent of cases the perpetrator was known to the child victim.
  • Not to mention the 22,000 children who were traumatised by being present at family violence incidents. 
  • And those are just the ones we know about. 

There has been a lot of work done in this space in the last two to three years by support services, government, schools, police, the media and the community.

Whilst many people are beginning to recognise that violence against women and children is characterised by power and control, we still have a long way to go.

As the leader of this command I am making three commitments to the community and to victims:

  • I will speak out as loudly and as often as I can about family violence; recognising that this is a whole of community issue and we can all play a part in preventing future violence.
  • I will prioritise keeping women and children safe – this is the cornerstone of everything we do.
  • I will hold perpetrators accountable and make sure we keep developing the most robust enforcement  methods in this theme.

I’ll follow through with those commitments with the support of a highly skilled and passionate team made up of analysts, advisors, investigators and police.

I will continue the good work of previous commissioners – starting more than a decade ago with Christine Nixon, and continuing more recently with the strong leadership of Ken Lay and A/CCP Tim Cartwright. 

We will be looking closely at:

  • Our risk assessments – when we get to an incident, in a very short period of time, we have to determine the risk to the victim and how to act on the risk. Are we doing this to the best of our ability?
  • Education to our members – are we doing enough to ensure all of our members understand what they are dealing with and how to deal with it the best they possibly can?
  • Working with the sector. I recognise how important support services are and how well they understand the needs of the victims.
  • Contributing to the Royal Commission that aims to prevent family violence, improve early intervention, support victims, make perpetrators accountable and improve the way government and society work together. 
  • We recognise that we don’t always know what victims need. We are here to listen and we are here to make real change.

We still want to see an increase in reporting…

Research tells us that some people have experienced eight violence incidents before they report to police.

There are still too many people out there still suffering in silence. 

My ultimate aim is to make people feel confident that they can report to police and to firstly feel believed, secondly confident that we will do everything we can to make them safe and thirdly that we will hold perpetrators to account.

Dean McWhirter
Assistant Commissioner, Family Violence Command


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