News & Media

Family violence after disaster


Category: Health & Safety

  5.41 PM 20 November, 2012

Location: General

Views: 2995

Women’s Health Goulburn North East has created a checklist to keep women and children safe after natural disasters.

The checklist, created following research into the experiences of women and children after the 2009 Victorian bushfires, is addressed to all disaster prevention, response and recovery services.

Please note, while this includes emergency services, it also includes organisations such as Red Cross – RediPlan and DHS. This means that some CFA readers might find some but not all of the following points relevant.

Link to peer support page on CFA website:


Educate disaster-prone communities about the probable health effects of disaster before a disaster occurs. Include the possible exacerbation of previous traumas.

Tailor mental health first-aid courses to include disaster trauma and the probability of increased family violence, and provide them annually to communities in disaster-prone areas.

Develop strategies to prevent and respond to family violence in your community after a disaster.

Establish methods for compiling accurate statistics on family violence:
Prioritise the inclusion of a ‘family violence’ tick-box in data collection forms so it is not hidden beneath other presenting issues.

Review Victoria Police Code of Practice for the Investigation of Family Violence to ensure accurate recording of family violence after disasters.

In policies and in response measures such as case management, include women and children as ‘vulnerable’ groups.

Establish a National Preferred Provider Register to list disaster trauma practitioners who have a sound understanding of family violence.

Increase long-term funding for family violence services in communities affected by disaster.

Police to establish a new position of disaster liaison officer with expertise in the dynamics of disaster and family violence and with a designated role in disaster recovery meetings.

Police to investigate ways to ensure the safety of women, children and communities, whilst being aware of the pressures on disaster survivors.

Establish National Disaster Guidelines that:
ensure accurate family violence statistics are recorded by all personnel responding to disaster eg. health and community services and police

state the need for relationship and family counselling in the immediate aftermath of a disaster and on a long-term ongoing basis

Recognise that the way men and women act is often the result of social conditioning and these gendered roles can leave women at a disadvantage both during and after disasters.

Before, during and after disasters, challenge expectations that men will behave in a defined ‘masculine’ way – encourage expression of emotion.

Ensure those working in human services post-disasters have undertaken Common Risk Assessment Framework (or similar) training to identify and respond effectively to family violence.

Include specialist family violence services in disaster response and recovery planning bodies.

Include women at all levels in disaster response and recovery planning bodies.

Name it: say the word ‘violent’ – not ‘stressed’ and ‘angry’.

Seek out specialist family violence services for advice and refer people to them.

Explore ways for emergency services workers – especially police and firefighters – to return to families immediately after the initial trauma of the disaster and where possible, backfill with personnel from other regions.

Investigate mandatory counselling for emergency services workers in the immediate post disaster period – particularly in male-dominated organisations.

Prioritise the needs of all sole adults escaping disasters with small children.

In the recovery phase:
Include an agenda item on family violence in regular meetings of organisations and community recovery committees.

Monitor accurate recording of family violence after disasters by police and other responsible recovery bodies such as a case management or other system.

Investigate ways of supporting men in the aftermath of a disaster, in the knowledge that they are often reluctant to seek formal counselling.

Offer financial and systemic support for women’s groups post-disaster.

Post-disaster, include responsible drinking advertising in community spaces and hold some community alcohol-free events.

Provide ongoing counselling for families of emergency services workers.

Employ local men and women in paid reconstruction efforts, and offer a gradual and supported re-entry to the workforce.

Manager Community Resilience Gwynne Brennan will speak about this checklist at the White Ribbon Day morning tea at CFA headquarters on Friday 23 November.

Advice and support services

• Women's Domestic Violence Crisis Service of Victoria
1800 015 188 or 9373 0123
• Sexual Assault Crisis Line
1800 806 292
• Men's Referral Service
1800 065 973

National hotlines
• 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732): 24 hour, National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.
• Lifeline has a national number who can help put you in contact with a crisis service in your State (24 hours)
131 114
• Police or Ambulance
000 in an emergency for police or ambulance.
• Translating and Interpreting Service
Phone to gain access to an interpreter in your own language (free)
131 450
• Mensline Australia
Supports men and boys who are dealing with family and relationship difficulties
1300 78 99 78
• Kids Help Line
Telephone counselling for children and young people
Freecall: 1800 551 800.

*Article compiled by Leith Hillard*

Last Updated: 20 November 2012