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Police chief fears new wave of domestic violence as isolation ends

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Queensland’s top cop says an increase in breaches of domestic violence orders is only one indicator of a “scourge” that must be eradicated.

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After the horrific murders of Hannah Clarke and her three children in February, the need for social distancing during the pandemic put other people at risk and without the normal external support.

Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll told InQueensland the situation was made worse by some people being unable to raise the alarm by going to a station or even making a private phone call.

This prompted police to quickly introduce an online reporting system to provide another avenue for victims to seek help.

“We found the actual reporting of domestic violence went down but what went up dramatically was the breaches (of existing domestic violence orders),” Carroll said.

“There has a decrease of nine per cent in DV applications however DV breaches have increased by 22 per cent when compared to 2019 calendar year.

“The breaches have had a dramatic increase. What my concern is the decrease in applications may have been as a result of the isolation and hence why we introduced the online reporting.

“I personally believe we are yet to see what will come out of this, and there may have been a lag in reporting because of people being in isolation.”

Queensland convened a domestic violence summit to discuss new approaches to the problem. Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath recently called for a cultural shift in attitudes towards violence, something supported by the Police Commissioner.

“It’s a scourge on society,” Carroll said of domestic and family violence.

“In a society that is contemporary and progressive these things should not be happening.”

Police could respond and react to incidents, help see the offenders punished and take steps to ensure the victims were not revictimised, but Carroll suggested prevention and early intervention were needed to ensure lasting change.

“It does start a lot earlier than that,” Carroll said.

“It starts in the family home, it starts when children go together, it starts about the conversations around respect and equality. Those conversations start very, very early in life.

“For us, when we end up with this, that’s many years down the track. So I think the conversations need to happen a lot earlier, the interventions happen a lot earlier, and we would be in a better space.

“This is a challenge; this is cultural, this is generational. It’s not good enough in 2020 that we still have people dying as a result of domestic violence.”

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