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Nearly 200 women and children in Orange were “at serious threat of further harm or death”

May 2, 2023

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By David Fitzsimons

Orange’s shocking domestic violence record was laid bare on Tuesday night.

As Orange City Council unanimously backed a plan to be involved in an annual domestic violence prevention campaign, one councillor spoke of her own experience.

Councillor Melanie McDonell. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Councillor Melanie McDonell said it was an “incredibly personal issue” for her.

“I’m a survivor twice-over of domestic violence,” she said.

“Domestic violence is not just physical violence, it’s psychological, emotional, financial, it’s sexual. It’s not as obvious as seeing bruises and broken limbs.

“This is something [where] we need to raise awareness.”

In a lengthy interview with The Orange News Examiner in August last year McDonell spoke about domestic violence.

Councillor David Mallard brought the issue to council, asking it to get involved in the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence event later this year.

He said official crime statistics showed Orange had the 12th highest rate of domestic violence in NSW last year with 402 incidents.

The figures also showed a trend of an annual increase of 13.4 per cent in domestic violence related assaults in Orange.

He said the figures also showed Orange has the 17th highest rate of sexual assaults in the state with 82 incidents.

Councillor David Mallard. Facebook.

“The alarmingly high rates of domestic and family violence in Orange and the need to ‘break the cycle’ have also been highlighted by local police and magistrates, as reported on by local media,” he said in a report to council.

Mallard said while there were groups actively working on domestic violence there was a gap where council could be involved in prevention work.

“What we need more of, and what local government in particular can do a lot of, is whole-of-community work to shift attitudes, to shift expectations and behaviours,” he said.

Councillor Steve Peterson said a committee meeting earlier in the day had discussed ideas the council could consider.

“[They include] banners in the town entrances stating that domestic violence is a crime and domestic violence is not tolerated in Orange,” he said.

“The committee thought that advertising material on the issue on jerseys of local sporting clubs could be considered.”

Deputy mayor Gerald Power said the problem was an “epidemic” and the council needed to act.

Councillor Tony Mileto said there was a link between domestic violence and the large amount of money gambled in Orange.

“It’s no coincidence. $38 million a year, $780,000 a week for a city of 40,000 people,” he said. “My understanding is that some of the hotels are paying overs, just knowing how much gambling goes on in this town.” Mileto was referring to the prices paid in recent years to buy hotels in Orange with poker machines.

The Orange News Examiner has reported previously on the huge problem Orange has with poker machine gambling.

Mayor Jason Hamling said the domestic violence record in Orange “was nothing to be proud of”.

“They are the worst statistics that we want to be involved in.”

Councillor Frances Kinghorne said domestic violence was spread across the community: “It’s not just the people who are poverty stricken who do this, it’s all over.”

A report to council from Housing Plus showed hundreds of domestic violence victims needed help each year in Orange.

Councillors discussing domestic violence on Tuesday night.

“In the last financial year the Central West Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program supported 874 women in the Orange 2800 postcode, of those 620 involved incidents where the relationship was intimate,” it said.

“(And) 194 of the women and their children were deemed to be at serious threat of further harm or death and listed at the Central West Safety Action Meeting.

“The majority of referrals received were from NSW Police; 164 referrals were received from external services, or women contacting the service directly.”

The report also said that since opening in February last year The Orchard Orange, which includes six self-contained units and two crisis rooms for domestic violence support, had seen 61 women and 76 children stay at the centre.

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