Keeping It Together program

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — My adjournment matter this evening is for the Minister for Community Services and concerns the good work of the Casey North Community Information and Support Service (CISS), in particular its successful Keeping It Together program. The action I seek is that the minister fund the program so that it can continue and, if possible, be expanded.

The city of Casey has disturbingly high levels of family violence and family breakdown. Sometimes the two problems are linked, sometimes not. What we know is that families in the city of Casey are in desperate need of assistance. Budget cuts are having a dramatic impact on the lifestyle of local families and support services which provide families with
advice and assistance during times of crisis. Family violence is a major cause of homelessness among women and children in the city of Casey.

The Keeping It Together program has been in operation for five years. Facilitators work two days a week, delivering three programs per term, with an additional annual program for culturally and linguistically diverse women. The emphasis in the program is on prevention –preventing family breakdowns and preventing family violence.

I do not think there would be a person in this house, and I know that to be true of the member for Gembrook, who would not support a successful program with such a positive
focus. This is what some of women have said about the Keeping It Together program:

The course was really worthwhile and the format and structure was excellent! I would happily recommend this course to others.

A second woman said:

I never thought I had an issue with anger management; I became aware that I actually do!

Another said:

It has also given me the skills to stop and act, rather than react.

Yet another said:

The kids are happier to be around and they seem to notice that I am happier and not angry all the time.

The program has been supported in the past by some philanthropic organisations, and I thank the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, the R. E. Ross Trust and the Besen Family Foundation. It is now time for the government to support this innovative and life-changing program so it can continue to change lives, save lives, stop women from being victims of family violence and keep families together.

None of us can be proud to live in a state where a woman dies every week at the hands of a partner or previous partner. Family violence is estimated to cost the state economy $3.4 billion a year in police and court costs, hospital time, ambulance response, lost productivity and support.

A couple who benefited from the program recently visited Casey North CISS
and  donated $300. They said it was to say thank you for saving their marriage. We should be all grateful for this life-changing program, so I ask the minister to follow the lead of this
generous and grateful couple, especially now that there is new money, given
that the budget was regarded as a pittance.

The Premier was asked to return his white ribbon, and the government was accused of being an active contributor to abuse of women and children. I ask the minister to find the funds necessary for the Keeping It Together program.