Domestic Violence Services for Women in Remote and Regional Australia

Domestic Violence Services for Women in Remote and Regional Australia
Institutional Affiliation
Domestic Violence Services for Women in Remote and Regional Australia
The rate of domestic violence in remote and regional Australia has continued to rise.
Most of the women living in sparsely populated and remote regions are susceptible to domestic
violence from their spouses and partners as compared to those living in the metropolitan areas.
This has resulted in higher rates of morbidity and mortality. According to Stunzner (2015), six
women die every month in Australia as a result of domestic violence. Moreover, Dillon (2015)
and Donnermeyer (2016), as well as Hogg and Carrington (2005), affirm that 26 per cent of
women, mostly between the ages of 25 and 44 years who live in remote Australian regions, have
been victims of domestic violence. This is because such women are vulnerable to spousal or
partner abuse since there is higher access to firearms and misuse of alcohol in the rural areas. On
the same note, living in rural areas tend to limit women from leaving violent-related relationships
since they are isolated from others and have to travel for a long distance in order to get help from
their friends, police, support services, and family members (Dillon, 2015). Donnermeyer (2016)
asserts that men are highly likely to become violent towards women as a way of exercising
power, reestablishing their status, enforcing boundaries, and contesting the rise of women’s
sociocultural and economic status. Therefore, there is a need to have domestic violence services
in the region in order to curb the heightened cases of mortality and abuse. It is unfortunate that a
range of related services is no longer carried out by the Government, mostly in remote and
regional remote Australian communities; hence, the responsibility of delivering relevant services
either virtually or by face to face has fallen on the hands of the human service workers such as
lawyers, educators, nurses, and social workers (Donnermeyer, 2016). Therefore, this discourse
aims at giving a limelight on the strengths and weaknesses of delivering domestic violence
services to remote communities in Australia via virtual service models and face to face. It also
identifies and discusses the challenges that are faced by human services workers in both
approaches. Finally, it gives insights to professional strategies that should be employed in order
to improve regional and remote skills.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Delivering Domestic Violence Services via Face-to-Face
In delivering of domestic violence services, face to face is integral to building a lasting
and meaningful relationship with the social workers, educators or health care providers. It also
helps the human service workers to read the body language or the non-verbal cues of the client
unlike in the case where one is using Skype, and they do not want to be visible or using emails to
relay information and possibly maintain anonymity. For instance, in case they do not maintain
eye contact or seem distracted, it is easy to deduce that, maybe, they are uncomfortable sharing
information or they have a problem that needs to be addressed. It is also highly likely that
delivering of services in person helps in boosting efficiency (Howard et al., 2016). This is
because instead of the human service workers such as the doctors or social workers spending
their entire day e-mailing their clients back and forth, it is possible to relay all the details at a go
without having to keep asking for clarification in order to gauge the needs of the clients. As such,
such a face-to-face method can also help the two parties brainstorm on the way forward such as
attending counselling services or seeking legal help (Howard et al., 2016). There is also a
personal touch that comes with this method amongst the local women facing domestic violence.
The more a client interacts with a nurse, lawyer, or social worker, the more they build trust;
hence, there is improved healing. However, this is not possible with technological-mediated
conversations since the client is likely to feel the distance and might be reluctant to share all the
information since he or she suspects that the professionals might fail to maintain confidentiality.
Additionally, the face-to-face method helps the social workers to assess the client fully, carry out
home visits in order to evaluate the family and examine their needs. This also aids in direct
interview, evaluation of the environment, and writing down the findings (Chui & Wilson, 2006;
Howard et al., 2016).
Research reveals that remote and rural women rarely rely on social support services since
there are a few domestic violence service centres. Moreover, in a case where such face-to-face
services fail to deliver as expected, the victims end up being more isolated. It should also be
noted that the remote community context is also a determinant on ways in which sensitive issues
like domestic violence is handled. This means that social isolation, as well as geographical
location, inhibits disclosure. In addition, remoteness tends to increase the likelihood of people
knowing each other, therefore builds a climate that leads to more control and a need to conceal
issues regarding violence (Donnermeyer, 2016). Therefore, Donnermeyer (2016) avers that most
of the rural women in Australia experience fear, embarrassment, and shame once they undergo
any form of violence. These issues are compounded by problems regarding confidentiality and
anonymity, mostly in small communities. With face-to-face delivering of services, it becomes
hard for the women to uphold their anonymity since there are fewer services to choose from.
Therefore, as much as they would want to disclose their problems without others getting to know
them, the issue of invisibility is unlikely. Therefore, it is possible for the victims to shy off from
accessing domestic violence services due to mortification or fear that other people will get to
know their personal issues.
The other main problem with face-to-face service delivery is that it increases paperwork.
This is because a professional such as a social worker is required to go for home visits and
interview the victim as he or she writes down the results. This might result in him or her falling
behind on all his or her paperwork or missing important details since the meeting is not recorded
(Chui & Wilson, 2006; Pugh & Cheers, 2010).
Strengths and Weaknesses of Delivering Services via Virtual Service Models
Bullock and Colvin (2015) assert that the use of virtual models such as audio
conferencing, emails, video, and the internet in delivering domestic violence services is
paramount. This is because it helps the social workers to access important information from
various sites and browsers such as Google Scholar on how they can help victims of domestic
violence (Rice et al., 2015). Moreover, it helps them to stay up-to-date with the current data on
the issue at hand and ways more clients and perpetrators can be helped. Therefore, the use of
technology also helps rural communities to get into contact with more regional clients who have
access to the internet, thus reducing the costs of travelling, enhancing efficiency, and making
sure that information is delivered on time. The use of virtual modes also helps in expanding
networks that empower women since they bridge the gap that emanates from physical distance.
For instance, a victim of domestic violence can be able to get legal assistance remotely through
Skype or internet-oriented videos. In addition, other virtual sites such as Facebook can help in
bringing rural women together whereby they can share their stories on ways they overcame
domestic violence. In addition, the social workers can use virtual models in providing training
for these women on how they can prevent domestic violence (Rice et al., 2015). For instance, the
national plan to reduce violence against women and their children in Australia has made
immense strides in helping understand how women can prevent such incidences. This is because
the plan adopted a social marketing campaign, which is an important way of using technology to
reach more women who are isolated due to different reasons such as unemployment. Therefore,
virtual models help in developing and adopting a prevention initiative in remote and regional
areas by challenging the discriminatory cultural and social norms as well as gender-related
stereotypes that condone violence against females. The modern format such as webinars can also
be utilised to train lawyers, health workers, and human service workers on domestic violence and
how to handle victims of such. It can also help in reaching the perpetrators to understand why
they act as they do and suggest ways they can channel or manage their anger without hurting
their partners (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2012).
Moreover, the virtual modes help the victims to get access to health services. It should be
noted that there are limited resources and infrastructure in the remote regions. As a result, it
becomes hard for the victims of domestic violence to get access to healthcare. In that case,
virtual models such as use of video or emails can help the victim to speak directly to a health
provider without incurring transportation costs (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2012). In
addition, the use of technology amongst human service workers is beneficial since professionals
such as the social workers are able to manage their clients and time. It helps in keeping their
records as well as sharing relevant and meaningful information (Martin, 2009).
Virtual resources such as podcasts can also help in service delivery. This is because the
victims can download educational or counselling materials in which they get to understand what
they should do in case they face domestic violence in future and how they can prevent it. The
live video interactions are also paramount since the human service workers can counsel women
facing domestic violence or the perpetrators on ways they can manage their temper without
hurting their spouses. This tool is quite important since a large group of people can participate in
diverse locations or remotely (Perron et al., 2010).
However, although the use of emails, video, internet, and audio-conferencing, amongst
others, have started to slowly challenge the traditional face-to face mode of delivering services,
virtual models have their shares of flaws or weaknesses. This is because for the clients to benefit
from this mode of service, they need to have stable access of the internet, which is not often
possible in the rural communities. In that case, this leaves the clients and the professionals with
only one choice of delivering domestic violence services, using the face-to-face method.
Moreover, most of the local people do not have the technological skills to access, for instance,
emails or use videos. They often find virtual models a bit unfamiliar; hence, most of them would
be unwilling to use them. Research also shows that local clients do not trust technological
methods in maintaining their confidentiality, hence tend to shy away from utilising them
(Australian Human Rights Commission, 2012). In addition, unlike face-to-face delivering of
services, virtual methods can result in miscommunication. This is because it is hard to read the
tone or the body language of the human service worker; therefore, information relayed can be
misinterpreted. On the same note, with the modern hacking and cyber-security problems,
information shared is not 100 per cent secure and without the right measures it can land in the
hands of a third party. This means that not all cloud computing and e-mail systems are fully
reliable and secure (Perron et al., 2010). Consequently, any breach in security can result in
breach of data and, thereafter, to legal ramifications as well as lack of trust amongst the victims
or clients. The virtual models can also be unreliable in a case where there is poor access of the
internet or the phones and computers do not have enough power. Furthermore, it is possible for
the information to get erased or lost in case there is a system failure. As a result, it becomes hard
for the victims to access such services (Perron et al., 2010).
Challenges Faced by Human Service Workers in Delivering Services Using Virtual Service
The human service workers that work with rural communities in Australia need specific
skills that go beyond those that are required by urban or metropolitan practitioners. They are
required to have the sensitivity as well as the local knowledge of the particular concerns and
needs of their clients in order to be more effective. However, some of the social workers and
lawyers do not have the technological skills that are required in order to be more competent, stay
up-to-date with the current related research, and ensure that they help their clients without
necessarily having to see them. For instance, there are some who do not know how to reach their
clients, using telecommunications. As a result, they are unable to exchange important
information through electronic means such as telegraphs, videos, audio-conferencing, email,
internet, or fibre optics. In that case, they do not get to contact a large number of clients
(Giddings, Hook & Nielsen, 2001).
In addition, the use of virtual modes can be challenging in a case where the client is
unfamiliar with such delivery. Therefore, it becomes a problem for the social worker to contact
clients, using aspects such as video-conferencing or emails as most of the rural people are
uneducated, therefore lack the necessary technological skills. In that case, any attempt on the
human service workers to try and introduce such a method or non-face-to-face-services is
perceived as unsupportive and intimidating. Since the use of internet and computers is not a
normal way of life amongst remote communities, training, costs, and continuous support become
a major issue for the human service workers who have to travel and incur expenses in order to
help victims of domestic violence (Bryant et al., 2017).
The Australian Human Rights Commission (n.d.) also establishes that the other major
challenge that social workers face in delivering domestic violence services, using virtual modes,
is that there is inadequate access to the right technological infrastructure to the remote and
regional areas of Australia. The lack of telecommunications-oriented infrastructure is a major
challenge for the professionals. This is because they are left at times to shoulder the costs of
updating and providing infrastructure for their clients. Moreover, the lack of internet providers in
these regions makes access to the internet quite expensive as compared to those regions that have
access to such providers. As a result, the human service workers are unable to meet the needs of
their clients on time or develop prevention and other significant programmes (Australian Human
Rights Commission).
The human service workers also face a major problem when dealing with outdated
technology. This is because the lack of appropriate tools can cause grave issues, leading to
burnout, fiscal constraints, high caseloads, and inability to make important decisions due to
inaccurate, obsolete, and fragmented information (Perron et al., 2010).
Challenges Faced by Human Service Workers in Delivery Services Using the Face-to-Face
The human service workers who deliver face-to-face domestic violence services face a lot
of challenges. This is because such a method requires them to do a lot of paperwork as they
examine their clients, interview, and analyse their needs. This can result in fatigue or burnout,
which can demoralise and discourage them from meeting the needs of their clients. Moreover,
since their clients are local and most of them do not have stable jobs or a stable source of
income, it is possible for professionals such as lawyers to deliver services without being paid.
This results in lack of morale to work with such a group (Hook & Nielsen, 2001). It is also
possible for them to be confronted by the perpetrators of violence, mostly in small communities
where almost everyone knows that the victim is seeking for help. This means that they may
endanger their lives in the process, considering that they are not provided with security. There
are also circumstances whereby the clients tend to seek their help during odd hours, mostly if
they live in the neighbourhood, therefore lack time for their families and end up suffering from
exhaustion. Furthermore, the clients might be unwilling to share information or be uncooperative
due to lack of trust. Consequently, they are unable to meet their needs on time, which can be
frustrating. The human service workers are also likely to face a language barrier. Most of these
women communicate in their local dialects; hence, the professionals are forced to look for an
interpreter. That kind of arrangement ends up hindering meaningful relationship since it becomes
hard for the client to build trust, thus ends up leaving a lot of important information (Giddings,
Hook & Nielsen, 2001).
Professional Development Strategies for Improving Regional/Remote Skills
In order to ensure efficiency in delivering of services and improving regional skills, there
is a need for all the stakeholders such as the Government, health providers, legal practitioners,
educators, community elders, and social workers, amongst others, to come together and devise
ways in which they can ensure that everybody is computer literate. Therefore, it is important to
invest in related training in order to realise the benefits that come with virtual models. Moreover,
it is important for the social workers to educate their clients on the use of virtual models such as
email and videos. This will help them in building confidence and trust that client confidentiality
will be maintained, and there is no course for alarm. However, in a circumstance where the local
people are still adamant on using such services, it is important to locate services at an area where
clients can be attending in order to preserve their confidentiality such as in health or community
centres (Giddings, Hook & Nielsen, 2001).
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission (2012), there is also a need to
improve the regional skills by ensuring that there is adequate funding to support plans that
require face-to-face or virtual modes. The introduction of specific prevention programmes and
accessible counselling centres or services for minority, vulnerable, and disabled women should
be prioritised. It is also important for the human service workers to continue embracing
technology and, at the same time, focus on balancing it with face-to-face service delivery since
both options have their shares of advantages and disadvantages (Martin, 2009).
Women who live in remote and regional Australian communities have diverse and
complex needs that emanate from the increased cases of domestic violence. Both face-to-face
and virtual models offer an array of innovative and efficient means of connecting them to related
services. However, they also have their shares of weakness that tend negatively to the population
under scrutiny. The human service workers face a lot of challenges when using these two
approaches; hence, there is a need for them to balance between the two and focus on providing
training to the local women in order for them to realise the benefits that come with delivering of
domestic violence services both virtually and face to face.
Australian Human Rights Commission. (n.d). Rural and remote education inquiry briefing
paper. Retrieved from
Australian Human Rights Commission. (2012). Connecting women through technology and
strengthening responses to violence against rural women. Retrieved from
Bryant, L., Garnham, B.,Tedmanson, D & Diamandi, S. (2017). Tele-social work and mental
health in rural and remote communities in Australia. International Social Work Online: 1-
Bullock, A & Colvin, A. (2015). Communication technology integration into social work
practice. Advances in Social Work, 16 (1), 1-14.
Chui, W & Wilson, J. (2006). Social work and human services best practice. Sydney, NSW:
Federation Press.
Donnermeyer, J. (2016). The routledge international handbook of rural criminology. New York,
NY: Routledge.
Dillon, G. (2015). Country women are more likely to experience intimate partner violence. The
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Giddings, J., Hook, B & Nielsen, J. (2001). Legal services in rural communities: issues for
clients and lawyers. Alternative Law Journal, 26 (2).
Hogg, R & Carrington, K. (2006). Policing the rural crisis. Sydney, NSW: Federation Press.
Howard, A., Katrak, M., Blakemore, T & Pallas, P. (2016). Rural, regional and remote social
work: practice research from Australia. New York, NY: Routledge.
Martin, J. (2009). Information communication technologies for human service education and
delivery: concepts and cases. New York, NY: IGI Global.
Perron, B., Taylor, H., Glass, J & Margerum-Leys, J. (2010). Information and communication
technologies in social work. Advanced Social Work, 11 (2), 67-81.
Pugh, R & Cheers, B. (2010). Rural social work: an international perspective. New York, NY:
Policy Press.
Rice, E., Haynes, E., Royce, P & Thompson, S. (2015). Social media and digital technology use
among indigenous young people in Australia: a literature review. International Journal
for Equity in Health, 15: 81.
Stunzner, I. (2015). Domestic violence: the shocking statistics. Queensland Country Life.
Retrieved from

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