• Frontline services are encouraging communities to stay connected. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Frontline services and family violence experts are calling for collective action to prevent vulnerable community members slipping through the cracks during the coming months of isolation
Rachel Hocking

31 Mar 2020 - 7:42 PM  UPDATED 1 Sep 2020 - 1:33 PM

Days after the federal government announced a billion dollar package to support frontline services, experts have warned the response to COVID-19 could still have unintentional consequences.

Palawa woman Dr Kyllie Cripps researches family violence in Indigenous communities and said the implementation of emergency measures needs to consider those most vulnerable. 

“We’ve got people in our communities who are already vulnerable in domestic or family violence situations, who are likely to become more so as the social and physical distancing mechanisms are enforced,” Dr Cripps said in a statement. 

While she praised the extension of domestic violence orders in the emergency COVID-19 bill last week, she said the sector needed to be adequately prepared for a 'ripple effect' of consequences, such as over-crowding and lack of housing. 

“If a Domestic Violence Order forces the perpetrator from the home during the pandemic, where does that person go for 6 months? If someone is a victim of domestic violence, and does not feel safe in the home will there be accommodation for them elsewhere? If they have to stay in the home what measures are available to better protect them?" she said. 

“It’s crucial that members of the community are thinking about safety plans, that they know who to call if they or someone they love needs help and that they are aware of services like Link2Home, which can provide temporary housing."  

“These are going to be hard times. We can't not anticipate that. It's about working together effectively to manage what is ahead, and making the best decisions to protect the people who are the most vulnerable.”

Dr Cripps also emphasised the need for police to consider the way they interact with Indigenous children while enforcing the new restrictions. 

“Rather than telling groups of Indigenous kids to go home, they need to be asking if those kids have a safe place to go," she said.

"Being fined or charged with an offence because they haven’t complied with the new rules is not the best way for us to be handling this situation especially for kids who haven’t got a safe place to be," she said. 

On Tuesday New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott acknowledged COVID-19 restrictions created a "tinderbox" for domestic violence, but said so far they had recorded no increase in cases.

The state government said plans were being made to ensure both victims and perpetrators of family violence could access safe housing, while NSW Police said officers were increasing compliance checks on abusers. 

'Adjust your safety plan' 

Meanwhile the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA) has emphasised the importance of safety plans and staying connected over the coming months. 

Speaking with NITV News, psychologist and AIPA member Kelleigh Ryan said it's important to check in on our loved ones.

"If you’ve got the resources you need to be on that front-footing, checking in on people and seeing how you can help," she said.

"When it comes to family and domestic violence... if you have a safety plan, then make the adjustments that need to be made given the change in circumstances."

Ms Ryan said it was also important to go outside in ways which respect the new restrictions. 

"Take some deep breaths, bring your attention away from everything that’s churning in your mind or worrying you."

"Bring it back to ‘what can I smell? What do those smells connect me to? Are there stories from my childhood? Are there ancestral stories? Are there storylines, songlines that hold me to this space? Can I smell the leaves of the trees?"

"Bring your attention back to that connection." 

'These are going to be hard times': calls to protect most vulnerable during isolation
Frontline services and family violence experts are calling for collective action to prevent vulnerable community members slipping through the cracks during the coming months of isolation