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Australia’s largest Catholic social service agencies want more advocacy, education, and collaboration within the Church to improve the response to the scourge of family violence, a new report has found. Source: ACU.

Caritas Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia, and Catholic Health Australia worked with experts at Australian Catholic University to study their unique contribution to the prevention of and response to family violence. It is the first time these Church agencies have investigated the response to family violence by their partners and members in Australia and overseas.

A report into the study reveals the overwhelming pressure being felt by Catholic social service agencies responding to family violence crises in Australia, the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa.

The study, facilitated by ACU’s Stakeholder Engaged Scholarship Unit (SESU) and led by ACU’s Susan Broomhall and Dr Mary Noseda, engaged with Catholic agencies that provided family violence services between 2020 and 2021, the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It found the global pandemic not only exacerbated the rates of family violence but forced frontline workers to find innovative ways to communicate with clients, including placing staff in shopping centres, and offering tele-support on encoded platforms like WhatsApp, to ensure their safety.

Professor Broomhall said there weren’t enough services to meet the demanding increase of family violence around the world. This was caused by a range of factors including a lack of funding and an ongoing stigma against discussing family violence in public or associating with responding agencies.

“Importantly, the report highlights the significant influence of pro-active support from senior clergy, particularly the local Ordinary, which frontline workers felt was key to providing effective services and especially in reducing the stigma associated with family violence,” Professor Broomhall said.

“However, too often workers responding to family violence incidents felt their work was largely reactive to an incident as opposed to establishing initiatives that would alleviate causes of violence in the first place.”

ACU’s report makes five recommendations to ensure a whole-of-church response to domestic violence that can support and complement the frontline work of Catholic social service agencies.


Church agencies at the frontline of family violence call for greater whole of church response (ACU)