On the blog: Driving the change needed to stop the violence

Station Sergeant Joanne Cameron

Station Sergeant Joanne Cameron is the latest member to provide a piece for the ACT Policing Blog.

Station Sergeant Cameron has worked more than 19 years as an officer in ACT Policing. She has a diverse policing background including general duties, criminal investigations and intelligence. At her current level , she has worked as Officer in Charge of Crime Reduction, Officer-in-Charge of Tuggeranong Police Station and is currently the inaugural Officer in-Charge of the newly formed Family Violence Coordination Unit. In recognition of her efforts especially regarding family violence, Station Sergeant Cameron was the ACT Policing recipient of the 2016 Community Protection Medal.

ACT Policing is a key partner to the ACT Family Violence Intervention Program (FVIP) and has a long standing commitment to the prevention and investigation of domestic and family violence.

Despite the strength and reach of FVIP reforms including the ‘pro arrest, pro-prosecution policy’, the ACT community continues to be effected by this insidious crime with five homicides in the past 18 months occurring in Canberra homes and a plethora of assault, intimidation and property damage being reported to ACT Policing daily.

Family violence reporting rates remain steady, although with seasonal trends which sees the summer months through until March, record a notable spike annually. 

Station Sergeant Jo Cameron

Media Folder:

In 2015 and unfortunately in response to individual stories of violence and terror in the ACT, the Government launched a renewed reflection into our response to family violence, and this has provided further significant reform for police.

On May 4 this year ACT Policing, as only the second jurisdiction in the country to introduce such reforms, began to gather evidence from victims through consenting video or audio recording. This recording of evidence at the scene captures unequivocally through the words and the emotion of the victim, these crimes. It is their evidence.

There and then the victim can tell their story, they can point out the injuries inflicted or the damage to their property, and through their own tone and emotional cues, articulate the true impact of these crimes.

The burden is lifted from the victim to be able to effectively recount in the witness box, the events and emotion of the crime. Family Violence Evidence in Chief reforms will again, as did the reforms of 1998, advance the effects of the criminal justice system response, to better support victims and families subject to violence.

The court will see and hear this story unadulterated. The victim’s story will finally be heard in its truest sense.

The full effect of these reforms are yet to be realised as the ACT Courts are in the early stages of having this evidence presented at hearings, but I remain confident that through the professional and compassionate investigation by ACT Policing front line members, the impact of this reform will be remarkable.

I am extraordinarily proud to be part of the delivery of this  reform to ACT Policing and to be able to guide our front line investigators and first responders to deliver the most professional and dedicated response possible. This is the essence of the Family Violence Coordination Unit.

Beyond the prosecution as police we must all remain mindful of the people involved. The tensions police observe in the family unit, the reluctance after the event for victims to continue with prosecutions, the choices people make to try to keep their families together, must all be balanced with decisions to keep people – women mostly – safe and in some cases alive.

These tensions are the challenge that our policy responses to family violence are yet to truly tackle. In this regard I see prevention before the violent dynamics build up as key to long term change in the  occurrence of violence in the home.

With this in mind, a whole of community response is needed to change culture. Individually we can support family and friends who are experiencing some “difficult times” but this is needed in a systemic and sustainable way, in all aspects of life, at school, in sporting clubs and importantly, in the public eye of media reporting.

Ultimately we all join a police service to serve. My 19 years to date in ACT Policing has strengthened my duty to serve the ACT community with all the efforts I bring to the job.

As a police officer, a mother, a wife and a leader I am, whilst given this appointment, committed to improving the role police and the broader criminal justice system plays in responding to violence in the home. Most of us are very fortunate to each have a safe and loving family. But sadly, many of us have seen or been effected by this violence.

As police, we strive to give a voice to those who can’t speak out; those who are trapped in a life where at the very least, there is no respect. Each person in this world deserves to live a life based on respect.

The relationships we form with every person around us should be respectful. It is a human right and I would like to see that our criminal justice system’s response elevates the human rights of the victim so they are heard – a person who powerlessly has had their life turned upside down because of the criminal actions of someone else.

Those that perpetrate violence need to be held accountable and ultimately they need to change, and for now, that’s my job - to drive change that stops the violence.

*If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence there are a number of support services available.