A rise in domestic violence victims staying in dangerous situations is being reported in the Darling Downs and South West Queensland region. 

Community services say those wanting to leave domestically abusive relationships may not be able to find alternative stable housing options, given the lack of available housing stock across the region.

It follows a peak in domestic violence breaches in Toowoomba in March this year.

Rising tensions are also being experienced by community service workers, with some reporting that clients are becoming increasingly overwhelmed and frustrated at the lack of housing options.

The reports come as QCOSS meets with community services from across the region today, to hear which social issues are most affecting the region currently.

Lifeline Darling Downs and South West Queensland CEO, Rachelle Patterson, said the “few or no housing options” were causing some people’s desperation to escalate, while trapping others in potentially dangerous situations.

“It’s the perfect storm,” Ms Patterson said. “It’s become a whole of community problem – I don’t think there is any demographic or cohort that is not impacted at the moment,” she said.   

“One change we have seen is a marked increase in the number of middle to older women presenting and needing our services. We have also seen an increase in the number of women who are wanting to escape domestic violence relationships, but they are staying in relationships because they have nowhere stable and ongoing to move to. This means we have women and children who are at increased risk.”

CatholicCare Social Services CEO and Toowoomba Chamber Board President, Kate Venables, said housing supply was “impacting every single level of the community”.

“Housing is the number one concern whether you’re well off or whether you’re homeless,” Ms Venables said.  

She said employers were consistently talking about job applicants having nowhere to live, with the region continuing to attract interstate and intrastate migration due to its popularity. Meanwhile, more vulnerable residents were being priced further out of towns, where there wasn’t the same level of services, resulting in potential health and social impacts.

“And we’re hearing more and more stories – once upon a time it was very uncommon – of families who have to stay together, even though the parents have now formally separated, or are in a separation process because there is nowhere else for one of the partners to go.  And that has a really significant impact for kids because they continue to live in a high conflict situation – even though parents are trying to do their best,” Ms Venables said.

She said every level of government needed to do what it could to increase housing supply.

QCOSS CEO Aimee McVeigh said it was especially alarming to hear that lives were potentially in danger as a result of the housing crisis and domestic violence in the region.

“It is time for the Queensland Government to step up and provide more housing and emergency accommodation for vulnerable families and individuals in the regions,” McVeigh said. “Noone should have to live in a domestically violent situation because there’s no safe place to go to. We need all level of governments to step up and pull every lever that is available to them to increase the housing and emergency accommodation supply in the Darling Downs and South West Queensland region.”

3 August 2023