Hairdressers and bartenders would be recruited to combat domestic abuse if a proposal to train them in identifying and reporting family violence is accepted.
The association representing hairdressers has supported the recommendation because many clients are comfortable disclosing highly personal matters to their hairdressers.
State Labor MP for Wendouree Sharon Knight, who has worked in sexual assault and crisis support services for more than 25 years, made the recommendation in her submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
Ms Knight said bar staff and hairdressers could be trained to recognise signs of family violence and refer it to appropriate agencies.
“They are good resources that we haven’t really looked at fully yet,” she said.
Hair and Beauty Industry Association chief executive Sandra Campitelli said customers often placed enormous trust in their hairdressers.
She said clients were often very loyal and built up relationships with hairdressers over long periods.
“It’s quite probable that somebody might talk about some sort of violence that’s happening,” she said. “I hear some frightful stories about how much clients offload onto hairdressers. Clients will say ‘my hairdresser helped me through my divorce’.”
Ms Campitelli welcomed the proposal to train hairdressers in identifying family violence but stressed it must be done carefully.
She said the industry employed workers as young as 16 and their well-being also needed to be considered.
“We don’t want them becoming stressed because they have to deal with it as well.”
Ms Knight’s submission, which focuses on rural and regional issues, recommends family violence support services work with farm field days and women’s health services so abuse victims can get help discreetly.
“To walk in a clearly labelled building could be impossible,” she said.
The submission says intimate regional communities can be a problem for women suffering in abusive relationships.
“Social isolation can also be about knowing the community too well. If your abuser is seen as an upstanding or outstanding member of the community it may be difficult to report them to the local authorities,” it said.
The submission also calls for a review of public transport options for rural and regional Victoria where it is less frequent than metropolitan Melbourne.
“Women can often be isolated by their abuser through withholding car keys … or disabling cars. Without public transport there is not the means to escape a violent situation or attend counselling appointments.”
Many state government MPs have made submissions to the royal commission.
Carrum MP Sonya Kilkenny raised concerns about abuse perpetrators who “shop around” from one community legal centre to another, which left them conflicted and unable to act for the women.
For help in a crisis, call 000.
For help or information about family violence, call the Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 737 732. Online at www.1800respect.org.au.
The Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491