In a “first for the state”, LGBTQI victim-survivors of domestic violence will have access to more help and resources with the announcement of federal funding.
ACON is set to receive a $200,000 funding boost as part of the NSW and Federal Governments’ recent $21 million investment.
Nicolas Parkhill, ACON CEO, welcomed the funding and said it comes at a critical time for the issue of domestic and family violence.
He said that in March and April the organisation saw a 278.5 per cent increase in people accessing their domestic violence website, sayitoutloud.org.au.
“In the last 6-8 weeks we have seen more people wanting to access our frontline services as the restrictions have been lifted and people feel more able to safely access support with just over 30 accessing counselling and care coordination support with minimal promotion,” Mr Parkhill said.
“We have assisted these clients to make safety plans, find emergency accommodation, navigate legal systems, make applications with Victims of Services, Centrelink and Housing NSW, assist with immigration and visa matters, provided emotional support and facilitate access to community and health support services.”
He added that others may also tend to spend time at the homes of safe friends and family or public spaces like cinemas and salons that can provide brief periods of respite.
“Without being able to access such places and with them spending considerably more time at home, there is a greater chance of being trapped in dangerous situations,” Mr Parkhill said.
“There are certain situations that we are particularly concerned about, such as LGBTQI people living at home with their family of origin who may not support their identity, who can’t leave to access their supportive community connections.
“LGBTQI people with disabilities who rely on carers whose support network are also of concern as these networks may have become even more limited. Also, LGBTQI people on temporary visas face greater insecurity with no extra support for their situation.
“Across the country there has been an increase in drug and alcohol use during COVID, which we know also has an impact on DFV. Similarly, people’s mental health is impacted by COVID and that too is a greater risk factor for DFV.”
“However, for priority populations like sexuality and gender diverse communities, it means that many services are not equipped to work with people outside of the female equals victim, male equals perpetrator binary,” he said.
Mr Parkill said this is the first DFV funding of its kind for sexually and gender diverse communities in NSW.
He said it will boost three main areas: additional specialist counselling, support, information and referral services for LGBTQI individuals who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault; online platforms set to roll out specialised domestic violence and sexual assault counselling services for LGBTQI communities within NSW; and support to help people leave abusive homes by meeting immediate needs, such as food and security.
“The pandemic has increased the potential for domestic abuse in homes across the community, so we want to ensure help is available and accessible at this crucial time,” she said. “The dedicated staff at ACON do a great job advocating for LGBTQI people in violent relationships to best ensure they get the support they need, while connecting them with vital frontline services.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence, please contact the Domestic Violence Line on 1800 65 64 63 when it’s safe to do so.