Please note this story includes information about Domestic and Family Violence which may cause distress. You can reach out to the Domestic violence crisis lines at 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or the Domestic Violence Hotline (1800 65 64 63) if you need immediate support.

Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month is an annual event held each May to raise community awareness of the social and personal impacts of domestic and family violence and the support available to those affected. 

The theme for 2023 is ‘It’s in our control to end coercive control.’

Worryingly, the statistics remain alarming. An estimated eight million Australians (41 per cent) have experienced violence (physical and/or sexual) since the age of 15. And on average, one woman every nine days and one man every month is killed by a current or former partner.

The Benevolent Society has a number of domestic and family violent support services to prevent and support children, women and men experiencing domestic and family violence and homelessness.

Our Tertiary Family Support (TFS) Program (previously known as Family Intervention Services) is an outreach based in-home service funded by the Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs. Practitioners are based at The Benevolent Society’s Early Years Centres on the Gold Coast, servicing clients referred to them from Mermaid Beach, Nerang, Labrador and Beenleigh Child Safety Service Centres. 

Shannon Williams, Team Leader Child & Family Services Gold Coast, tells us more about the TFS Program and how her team are supporting Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month. 

Tell us more about the Tertiary Family Support Program 

The aim is to assist families in achieving reunification or ensuring children can remain safely in the home through the use of strengths-based interventions, focusing on minimizing the identified child protection concerns and increasing resilience and safety. 

Our practitioners work closely with the family and other identified supports to strengthen family relationships, improve parenting skills and resilience and increase safety and belonging for children, through the use of evidence informed practices and therapeutic case management. 

The program also aims to prevent families from re-entering the child protection system by supporting families to be positively connected to family and community in order for change to be maintained post intervention. 

What does Domestic & Family Violence Awareness Month mean to you and your team?
Domestic Violence Awareness Month provides an opportunity for us as a service and collectively as a community to reflect on the role that we play in raising awareness around the experiences and impacts of DFV for the families that we support.  

Many of our clients have either experienced or are continuing to experience DFV within their relationships and these experiences directly impact on the safety, wellbeing and belonging of victims and children.  

We understand as a service that we have a really important role to play in partnering with victims of violence and children to feel safe and supported and to hold perpetrators responsible for their actions.  

This year’s theme - ‘It’s in our control to end coercive control’ - strongly resonates with the idea that if we work together we can continue to make our communities safer.  

Tell us more about the clients you support 

Our clients come from a vast range of cultural and social backgrounds and experiences. While we often commence our work with them during a really challenging time where child protection concerns have been identified, they mostly present as welcoming and open to support that will assist them in getting things back on track. 

Through therapeutic case management we are always able to identify strengths that exist within the family unit and we help parents and carers to draw on these in order to address the identified concerns. 

The focus of intervention can either be to help families remain together or to have children safely returned home and we have experienced a number of successful outcomes in both of these areas. 

How important is it to keep families together, where it’s in the best interests of the child?
It is so important that where possible children can remain safely in the care of their parents and extended family networks. The connection to kin is essential to a developing child’s sense of self, their feelings of belonging and their overall wellbeing. We know that children who experience healthy and loving relationships with their parents and carers in their early developmental years are likely to grow into adults who will create positive impacts on their community. 

The importance of family preservation is also felt in the efforts to reduce the number of children entering the out of home care system where they also have the potential to experience instability and displacement due to system pressures and placement challenges. 

The benefits to families and the communities they live in, when they can remain together and be supported to parent in a safe and healthy worry are extensive. Children are the future and where safe, they deserve to be cared for by their families. 

What do you and your team find most rewarding about the work you do?
Seeing the positive changes for the families children they support. This might be through improved parent-child relationships where parents are delighting in their children and children are experiencing positive interactions where they feel loved and safe. 

It might also be through supporting a family to safely exit a violent situation and improve parent functioning through a reduction in drug and alcohol use. The team looks for small wins that overtime all add up to long term changes for the children we are working to keep safe. It’s great when we start to see a parent begin to believe that they can be the parent they always wanted to be for their families. 

What are the challenges you face in your work?
The families we support often present with a vast array of complex needs and challenges which often make intervention difficult and create barriers to achieving positive outcomes. These can include a range of family related factors such as co-morbid concerns (AOD issues, DFV, mental health and intergenerational trauma) that make the ability to intervene in a consistent and safe way difficult. 

Additionally, for the Gold Coast, the families we service are often highly transient and isolated which at times prevents the ability to develop secure, stable and lasting relationships, which are critical to building safety. 

In addition to this, communities in general are feeling the effects of increased costs of living and daily pressures and services are struggling to manage to need for support in a range of areas, namely housing and mental health. This can at times make it difficult to build that network of safety around a family which we know is vital to long term change and success.” 

For more information on our Tertiary Family Support (TFS) Program, call 1800 236 762 or click here.