The manager of Maitland’s leading domestic violence support service believes Maitland Council isn’t acknowledging the gravity of the city’s domestic violence problem and is treating the refuge like a hobby group.
Carrie’s Place manager Jan McDonald made the statement in light of last week’s frightening statistics pointing out Maitland as the domestic violence assault capital of the Hunter.
But she felt like Carrie’s Place was being made to “wait in line” with other community groups for support.
Ms McDonald said the recent statistics were “disappointing and devastating”.
“I was alarmed, but sadly not surprised that the Maitland LGA was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons,” she said. “The demand never ends.”
Mayor Loretta Baker said she understood it was a huge problem, but domestic violence was not “core council work”.
Ms McDonald has called for a summit involving council, police, government and community leaders to delve deeper into prevention.
“We will never come up with a definitive reason why, but we should look at how we can work together to try and come up with primary prevention strategies,” she said. “Leadership is vital.”
She listed examples of strategies other councils had introduced, such as signage in Bega and garbage trucks in Warringah saying “Warringah says no to domestic violence. It’s Rubbish”.
Ms McDonald also brought up Cr Baker signing a homelessness pledge, and thought the same could be done for domestic violence.
“We’re not asking for tens of thousands of dollars, we’re not coming up with anything new,” she said.
Ms McDonald said she had appealed to council for years over the issue, but felt she had been treated as a “special interest group”.
“We’re told we have to wait in line,” she said. “We’re treated like this is a hobby.”
“But this is a real problem, you’ve got families that are being harmed every day. The gravity doesn’t seem to be acknowledged.”
But Cr Baker said she “absolutely cares” and that it was a “high priority for the city”.
“Domestic violence is the number one issue for Maitland,” she said. “But it isn’t core council work. It is for the police, it is for housing, it is for Carrie’s Place.”
Cr Baker said she didn’t believe strategies such as signage were worthwhile, particularly while trying to promote the city. She said “practical solutions” were more important, and mentioned the police-run community safety precinct meetings as an example.
Council’s community and recreation manager Laurie D’Angelo said council was reviewing its strategies to address social issues.
“There are a range of social issues, including domestic violence, that any council needs to consider as part of their social and community planning,” she said. “The work we are undertaking will ensure council is targeting key issues with government departments and services to achieve outcomes for the community.”