There’s help if you want to leave an abusive partner: social worker

Kelly BellNorth West Telegraph
Department of Human Services social work support manager Nicky Latham wants people to know there is support for those experiencing domestic violence and may find themselves homeless.
Camera IconDepartment of Human Services social work support manager Nicky Latham wants people to know there is support for those experiencing domestic violence and may find themselves homeless. Credit: North West Telegraph

A Federal Government social worker wants people suffering in domestic violence relationships to know there is assistance available to leave.

One-in-three Australians referred to the Department of Human Services for homelessness services in the past year were forced to leave their homes because of family and domestic violence.

As a result, all staff at Pilbara Centrelink offices have been trained to pick up on signs of dysfunctional and abusive relationships.

In the nine years that social work support manager Nicky Latham has worked in the region, a high percentage of people experiencing homelessness have also been dealing with it as a consequences of domestic violence.

Despite the public assumption that homelessness is not having a house or somewhere to sleep, Ms Latham said the definition of homelessness was as broad as not having secure tenure.

In an abusive relationship, it is possible the rental contract is in the abusive partner’s name.

Although Ms Latham said it was difficult to put a concrete figure on the number of people seeking help across the Pilbara, she said every day she either spoke to someone face-to-face or over the phone in regards to domestic and family violence.

She said there was a misconception domestic violence only occurred within specific groups.

“Our role is to provide the initial counselling and support, and then to link them into other support services, ” she said.

“What I can categorically say is it is right across the board — domestic violence doesn’t discriminate.

“Domestic violence is huge but it is still hidden and people still don’t like to talk about it.”

Due to the Pilbara’s remoteness, there is a tendency for those fleeing abusive situations to experience a period of homelessness.

Ms Latham said people who were leaving abusive relationships might be forced to leave their jobs as well as their homes.

She said the process of re-establishing oneself could be extremely difficult when isolated.

“Unless you’re in it, it is hard to imagine what it would be like (to leave an abusive relationship), ” she said.

“What Centrelink can do is provide people who are leaving a violent relationship with income support ... and there is a crisis payment which is a one-off payment that is linked to having to leave.

“That crisis payment can help to establish a new home, or if they can stay in the home but the partner has left, that money can be used to change locks and things like that.”

Ms Latham said it was paramount people were aware there was support available to domestic violence victims through the Department of Human Services.

“All our staff have been trained to be able to talk with someone and ask ‘do you feel safe in your home’ if they pick up that domestic violence could be an issue, ” she said.

“It is about making contact with the Department, being referred to a social worker and then onto community organisations.”

Social workers are available through the Department of Human Services for free for a wide range of issues including domestic violence, homelessness, bereavement and mental health issues.

Help is available for anyone finding themselves in a domestic violence situation 24/7 by calling 1800 RESPECT.

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