This week, IMPACT Community Services' Managing Director Tanya O'Shea highlights the issues we see in the Family Support space in recognition of the International day of Non-Violence

Today, October 2 is the International day of Non-Violence. Our region has historically experienced shockingly high statistics of domestic violence, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the number of violent acts being committed in homes in the Bundaberg region.

At IMPACT Community Services we have seen a spike in domestic violence cases following the outbreak of Coronavirus and the following restrictions and lockdown period. We are engaged with families involved with domestic violence every day. Our incredible Intensive Family Support (IFS) staff work tirelessly with families in violent circumstances, and help at-risk partners and children flee their homes when things become unbearable. Our IFS staff are on the frontlines and bear witness to the distressing situations many people are involved in.

Of course, it’s never okay to become violent to anyone or anything, but we understand there are several complex factors involved when this type of act is prevalent in families.

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When underlying issues involving financial burdens, drug use and alcohol abuse are present, the additional advice during COVID-19 to limit social outings and on-site work have compounded pre-existing pressures in homes that may have already been ill-equipped to manage stress adequately. Many workers lost their jobs or were given reduced hours when the pandemic hit, adding fuel to an already stoked fire.

The important message to get across here is that there are services available to people in these situations. Our IFS staff don’t judge families who need assistance. We approach any given situation with open minds and a willingness to help. Ultimately, our staff want to make a difference in people’s lives. We work to prevent Government departments becoming involved, to give people the opportunity to build strong and healthy futures for themselves. We work to broaden available support networks to help both the parent’s and children’s wellbeing.

Parenting is the world’s hardest job, and everyone is a on a learning journey – it’s okay to reach out for help. When families are ready for support, we let them lead the conversation in how we can best assist them to make beneficial changes within the family dynamic. We can also help with tenancy support, connecting people with specialist appointments, parenting tips, behavior management tools, household management and routine structure, safety planning, advocating for services such as mental health or for housing, and provide access to DV Connect.

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Sometimes people don’t understand the severity of their situation until they speak with someone removed from the immediate family structure. There are varying forms of violence and abuse, be that physical, mental or emotional, and acknowledging someone’s trauma can help them understand the realities of their lived experiences. Having someone to talk to is the first step to recovery, and once the conversation has begun, IFS can then approach their needs in a holistic way, wrapping support around people and families as needed.

When applying for certain assistance, families can become overwhelmed with tight criteria and departmental jargon that can be difficult to decipher. Our staff help clients articulate exactly what they need so they can be aligned with the services they are entitled to.

It’s important to remember that domestic violence is never okay and there are services available to help. If you are experiencing violence in your home, you can phone 1800 737 732 (1800 RESPECT) or DV Connect on 1800 811 811.

If you’d like to make a referral for support, you can contact Family and Child Connect on 13 32 34.

If you’re in need of assistance but unsure about how to proceed, please feel free to phone our IFS team for advice on 4153 4233.