The Queensland Police Service (QPS) has made great strides forward since the release of the Not Now, Not Ever report to improve service delivery, policies and training related to domestic and family violence.
Under the leadership of the Domestic and Family Violence Change Champion, Deputy Commissioner Strategy, Policy and Performance, the QPS went ‘back to basics’ in considering domestic and family violence reforms. Key stakeholders, including QPS members, partner agencies, industry experts and community leaders, defined good policing practice in preventing and responding to domestic and family violence. QPS’s Senior Executive also travelled the state holding workshops with operational police to explore the challenges facing frontline officers in responding to domestic and family violence incidents.
As a result of these efforts, and the ongoing dedication of officers, both specialists in the field and general duties, the QPS is in a very different place to where it was two years ago when the Not Now, Not Ever report was handed down.
Collaboration is key
A key lesson learnt is that no single organisation can comprehensively respond to the issue of domestic and family violence; collaborative partnerships with other government and non-government agencies and the community will deliver a more cohesive and informed response.
The QPS has a referrals service that connects at risk and vulnerable community members to external support service providers. Referral categories include domestic and family violence, homelessness, legal, seniors and victim support. The referral approach is now a standard part of QPS frontline operational policing. The referrals service continues to grow, with police officers submitting 55,805 referrals covering more than 80,000 issues in the 12 months up to 31 May 2017.
First responders role
The important role police play as first responders to domestic and family violence incidents was brought to light, and the report emphasised the need for officers to conduct a thorough investigation when responding to such incidents. In response, the QPS rolled out one of the largest training initiatives ever undertaken, equipping police with knowledge and tools and, more importantly, the skills to listen, understand and make an informed decision that is in the best interests of domestic and family violence and vulnerable persons.
Legislation allows police to better protect victims and hold perpetrators accountable. The new Police Protection Notice and information sharing provisions, forming components of the Domestic and Family Violence Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2016, commenced on 30 May 2017.
The QPS will continue awareness-raising and educating about the offence of strangulation, suffocation and choking. Strangulation been identified as one of the most lethal forms of domestic violence and sexual assault. Since May 2016, as a result a Not Now, Not Ever report recommendation, strangulation, suffocation and choking became a stand-alone offence under section 315A of the Criminal Code.
Coordinating victim support and service delivery
The important role of the QPS Domestic and Family Violence Coordinator in victim support, and service delivery consistency and quality control related to domestic and family violence, has been recognised in reviews and inquests, and the Not Now, Not Ever report. The coordinators connect the QPS, other agencies and community. The QPS will continue to develop their coordinator’s role into a ‘specialist domestic and family violence practitioner’ through workshops and more formal qualifications such as the Graduate Certificate in Domestic Violence (QUT).
In continuing the journey, the QPS is looking through a different lens at how it can change the current attitude and culture related to domestic and family violence and vulnerable persons. If the goal is a ‘Queensland free of domestic and family violence’, no stone can be left unturned as we search for solutions.