In a welcome policy move from the NSW government, victims of domestic and family violence will now have easier access to NSW public hospitals for the treatment of their injuries; forming part of the state’s COVID-19 disaster response.
The government has likewise altered its hospital fees policy, so that those ineligible for Medicare—such as victims on Temporary Protection Visas— no longer be required to report the crime to law enforcement in order to access public hospitals free of charge.
Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Mark Speakman stated that the government had followed the advice from a recent Australian Institute of Criminology report that showed that DFV had escalated significantly during isolation, but that a high percentage of victims were still not reporting incidences to the police.
“Many women will choose to contact the Domestic Violence Line, specialist frontline domestic violence services or medical care before they’re ready to report to police for a range of reasons, including fear of repercussions,” Speakman said. “Those suffering domestic violence need every lifeline we can give them, especially now when COVID-19 measures are potentially forcing victim-survivors into isolation in the same household as the perpetrators of their abuse.
“This reform is focused on removing obstacles for especially vulnerable victim-survivors to ensure immediate medical support is available and accessible when it’s needed most.”
This decision from the Berejiklian government follows additional funding to the exacerbated DFV crisis first allocated by the federal government in March. $150 million was awarded to counselling services for families caught up in or at risk of violence such as 1800 Respect and Mensline Australia.
A call that came after alarming reports showed search engines such as Google were “seeing the highest magnitude of searches for domestic violence help that they have seen in the past five years with an increase of 75 per cent and some services are already reporting an increase in demand”.