A realistic and dedicated commitment to reduce domestic and family violence would be likely to lead to a significant reduction in youth crime, a Brisbane crime prevention forum has been told.
The forum, organised by the Moreton Bay Crime Prevention Unit, brought together community and support services across the region on Thursday last week. It featured Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Council co-chair and former Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson.
Mr Atkinson said that ending the cycle of domestic violence would take a concerted whole-of-community approach, but had the real potential to reduce youth crime as a significant positive outcome.
“There’s no doubt that a child exposed to domestic violence is at greater risk in other areas,” he said.
Mr Atkinson, during his address to community groups stakeholders at the Deception Bay Police and Citizens Youth Club, said that, if it was possible to change community attitudes towards smoking cigarettes, drink-driving and wearing seatbelts, it was possible to alter the narrative around domestic and family violence.
“In 1973, there were 632 people killed on Queensland roads – the rate of road deaths was 32 for every 100,000 people… now it’s down to 5.5 per 100,000 people,” Mr Atkinson said.
“When I joined the police force in 1968 there were four things not talked about: domestic violence; youth crime; suicide and mental health and child sex abuse.
“Domestic violence was regarded as private business – now we’re talking about it, not just ignoring it.”
He praised the Moreton Bay Region for taking a proactive stance on breaking the cycle of domestic abuse in a bid to reduce its impact on young people and said the event was an impressive show of community concern.
“In terms of integrated service delivery, if there’s a better example of that than here (at the forum) today I would like to see it,” he said.
“We have a long way to go. It won’t happen overnight but I am confident we can get there. The result will be a far better society where children are able to reach their potential.”
Holly Brennan, the chief executive officer of the Centre Against Domestic Abuse (CADA), which provides services and support to the Moreton Bay and surrounding regions, told the forum living with domestic violence had a profound effect on children.
“Young people who live with domestic violence are more likely to have anxiety and depression, more likely to experience mental health issues, more likely to use abusive sexual behaviour (and) more likely to become a victim of domestic violence or use domestic violence,” Ms Brennan said
“If we listen to young people and ask them what they need and how we can support them, they will tell us.”
Ms Brennan said CADA believed one in three families experienced domestic violence or control.
“Last year we saw about 4% of the Moreton Bay community and that’s just the tip of the iceberg – most people don’t come to a domestic abuse service. If we do something about domestic violence there will be 41% fewer homicides in our community – that’s one woman a week in Australia.”