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Domestic violence: 'We should be ashamed'

Magistrate Damien Dwyer was one of the key speakers at the Mayor's DV Awareness Leadership Forum.
Magistrate Damien Dwyer was one of the key speakers at the Mayor's DV Awareness Leadership Forum. Jarred Sferruzzi

IT WAS a passing comment from Mackay Regional Council's mayor Greg Williamson that best described the exorbitant rate of domestic violence within our community.

In the 2015-16 financial year, police were called to 5533 incidents of domestic violence just in the Mackay and Northern Beaches area. So far this financial year that number sits at 4486.

Last month police attended 420 incidents and in May so far there have been 164.

The Mackay Magistrates Court oversees about 60 domestic violence orders a week. In recent months, the busiest day had 96.

Mackay's population is roughly 124,000 with about 90,000 over the age of 18.

Statistics aren't always the best way to discuss the scourge of domestic violence in a community, but it left a room full of Mackay's stakeholders silent at the Mayor's DV Awareness Leadership Forum on Friday as Superintendent Bruce McNab listed the staggering numbers of people impacted.

"In the current financial year we've spent 9308 hours simply driving to, attending, and driving back from incidents of domestic violence," Superintendent McNab said.

"That's about $250,000 in labour costs in this district alone.

"Today, domestic violence is the most common call for service we receive."

 

Superintendent McNab was one of four featured speakers at the forum which included Mackay Magistrates Court's Magistrate Damien Dwyer, Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal CEO Steve Rae, and 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty.

Despite the different backgrounds of the various speakers, the main takeaway message was no government, group, or organisation could tackle the problem alone.

Mr Dwyer was scathing in his address and called domestic violence a "scourge" and explained the "explosion" in cases brought before the court lately.

"Queensland has seen a rise of about 20 per cent in domestic violence applications in recent times," he said.

"It would seem we're (Mackay) much higher."

He countered the stereotype of domestic violence as belonging to one segment of society when he said that, in his court, both victims and perpetrators had ranged from teenagers, to people in their 80s.

"They have included couples who have been married for decades," Mr Dwyer said.

"They are your parents, they are your spouses, they are your children, they are your sisters, they are your brothers, they are your family members, your friends and acquaintances, your team-mates and they are your work colleagues.

"They are the people you pass as you walk down the street, indeed, they are the people sitting in the audience here today."

Superintendent McNab agree and criticised those who tried to target any particular minority group.

"Media might report one religious group is more prone to domestic violence, but one thing we (police) do well is collect statistics and they prove it's across the board," he said.

The forum did have some positive moments when Mr Rae explained the steps his company had made in attempts to create a more inclusive and supportive workplace.

Aside from implementing extra leave entitlements and accommodation allowances, he said one of the most important areas a business can focus on was the first response; the reply an employee receives when they feel comfortable enough to discuss their situation.

The forum didn't finish with specific outcomes, but Mr Williamson promised the council would "keep the foot on the accelerator".

Chair of the Queensland Premier's Domestic and Family Violence Implementation Council Dame Quentin Bryce spoke at a business breakfast last year.

"After the breakfast we had a taskforce meeting on November 25 that adopted a mission of our aim to make the community we live in safe for families and free from violence," Mayor Greg Williamson said.

"We had a couple of tasks out of that and one of those was to engage councils around Australia who are doing very well in this space.

Topics:  damien dwyer domestic violence greg williamson mrc police rosie batty


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