Focus on family and domestic violence

Richard clearly remembers the day he had to rush a person affected by family and domestic violence out a side door to safety, as an ex-partner tracked them down at an office.

As a Social Worker at the Department of Human Services, it sadly wasn’t uncommon for Richard to see the impact family and domestic violence has on individuals and their families. Motivated by a desire to create a sense of safety for those affected and their children, Richard Trow and colleague Rodney Madden set out to find a better way to process crisis payments for people experiencing family and domestic violence.

It took two years to put the idea into practice but as White Ribbon Day and 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence approaches, raising awareness of this cause, they acknowledge that persistence has paid off.

Richard and Rodney proposed that a person claiming a crisis payment be able to complete the entire process over the phone and online, removing the need to visit a Service Centre.

The idea was introduced after a trial and is now in place across Australia, making a difference to people who need it the most.

The new process ensures the same verification and evidentiary requirements can be met, now done through online capabilities.

Richard Trow, Social Worker

Richard estimates this change has already benefitted thousands of people, but would do it all again even if it helped just one person.

“If a woman with two young children and a black eye doesn’t have to drive 30kms to come into an office to apply for a crisis payment, then it’s all been worthwhile,” Mr Trow said.

“For survivors of family and domestic violence who live in rural communities or small towns, the requirement to visit a Service Centre so soon after a family and domestic violence incident is not only challenging, it may even expose them to further risk.

“One of my managers leapt at the idea, and said ‘We’ve got to make this happen – we’ve got to make it work’.

“That was about two years ago, and it’s been gratifying to see this idea come to fruition,” Mr Trow said.

Richard and Rodney were recognised in September 2017 for their work on this change at an annual staff awards ceremony in Canberra.

But both social workers are quick to point out they couldn’t have achieved this on their own.

“There were a number of people who were key in turning this idea into reality,” Mr Madden said. “We really want to acknowledge the work these teams across the department did to make this possible.”

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