Wagga hospital leading the way on response to domestic violence

PILOT SCHEME: MLHD manager priority populations Emma Field says a Wagga pilot program for domestic violence could go statewide.
PILOT SCHEME: MLHD manager priority populations Emma Field says a Wagga pilot program for domestic violence could go statewide.

A Wagga pilot program offering swift, specialised support to domestic violence victims may go statewide.

The scheme, which is based in the emergency department of Wagga Rural Referral Hospital, offers domestic violence victims the help of specially trained staff within an hour of their arrival.

MLHD manager priority populations Emma Field said a team of 25 people were specifically trained to provide support not only in domestic violence, but also in sexual assault.

Ms Field said the Wagga approach was being examined at a ministerial level.

“We always knew that emergency department played a pivotal role in providing a response to women experiencing domestic violence,” she said.

“Now, within an hour, a domestic violence victim will be sitting in one of our family rooms with a trained psychologist or social worker, who is able to identify their individual needs.”

Currently, the MLHD is recruiting to fill two counselling positions which have been vacant since December.

Wagga is widely reported to have high rates of domestic violence.

In 2016, 428 Wagga residents were convicted of a domestic violence-related offence. In that same year, the city recorded a 36.7 per cent increase in incidents of domestic violence.

CSU academic Andreia Schineanu, with Lauren Darley-Bentley from Wagga Women’s Health Centre, is conducting The DV Project: 2650, a study into attitudes to domestic violence in Wagga.

They have spoken to 1083 people, and found four out of five believed domestic violence was a common and serious issue.

Dr Schineanu is concerned about the vacant MLHD counsellors positions, as well as the levels of services available generally in Wagga, especially in the wake of the recent Hollywood scandals which she felt could encourage women everywhere to speak about their own experiences.

“Yes, it probably will encourage ordinary women to speak up. The only issue with that is, to be honest, we don’t have the services on the ground to cope with an influx of new clients who feel able to disclose and address their harassment and abuse,” she said.

Call 1800 RESPECT, NSW Rape Crisis hotline on 1800 424 017 or Wagga Women’s Health Centre on (02) 6921 3333.