Stefan Bradley

WELLINGTON Shire Council will employ a ‘Free From Violence’ Officer, who will manage programs and initiatives for the prevention of family violence and violence against women, using a dedicated state government fund of $262,500 over a three-year period.

Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, Vicki Ward announced last month that councils around the state will deliver a range of initiatives as part of the Free from Violence Local Government Program 2024-27, with Wellington Shire part of the almost $3 million in funds.

Wellington’s $262,500 will go towards delivering active bystander training to council staff – including community facing staff. Programs and activities implemented will help people in the community understand the role they can play to make their community safer.

“We’re significantly investing in our local communities to engage in important family violence prevention programs,” Ms Ward said.

Wellington Shire Council Mayor, Ian Bye welcomed the funding, and said that council was committed to the prevention of gender-based and family violence in Wellington.

“Using the funding, council will employ a ‘Free From Violence’ Officer, who will implement programs and initiatives dedicated to family violence prevention such as delivering Active Bystander training to local sporting clubs, business and community and health organisations,” Cr Bye said.

“Currently, council works with Gippsland Women’s Health and other organisations in family violence prevention, through coordinated events like Candlelight Vigil and 16 Days of Activism. Both events aim to start authentic conversations about gender-based and family violence.”

As large employers with unique connections to their local communities, councils are well placed to support communities to both prevent family violence and stop violence against women.

This is the second round of the program, which is already supporting 15 councils to carry out primary prevention initiatives in their local area.

Member for Eastern Victoria, Tom McIntosh said the grants are an important part of the state government’s work to end family violence.

Housing and Equality Minister and Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing said family violence prevention programs were vital to keep people safe.

“Every Victorian – no matter their age or address – has the right to be treated with respect at home, work or in their community,” she said.

Some of the state’s highest rates of family violence are in Gippsland LGAs.

From June 2022-July 2023, Wellington had the fourth-highest rates of family violence in the state per 100,000 people.

Per 100,000 people, Latrobe Valley has the second-highest rate of family violence in Victoria, with East Gippsland the third-highest during this time period.

Latrobe Valley saw a slight increase of calls to police (0.42 per cent), with East Gippsland seeing a dip (-3.58 per cent) over the previous 12 months. However, in Wellington, 1355 calls for assistance from Victoria Police were made from June 2022-July 2023, a staggering increase of 11.24 per cent from the previous 12 months.

Wellington has one of the worst family violence incident rates in Victoria. Photo: File

This data only includes Victorian Police callouts for family violence incidents; it does not indicate the number of people who sought assistance directly through a family violence service, hospitals, GP Clinics or through other referral pathways such as schools and Child Protection.

Across Victoria, 9120 women on average per year are becoming homeless due to family violence, with 7690 returning to relationships due to the inability to find housing.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

Lifeline 13 11 14

Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault 5134 3922

Kids Helpline 1800 551 800

Beyond Blue 1300 224 636

headspace 1800 650 890