Media Release by The Hon Tanya Pibersek MP

Government establishes new national telephone counselling service to help reduce domestic violence and sexual assault

Australians who have experienced, or are at risk of, physical or sexual violence will have access to a new national telephone counselling service.

Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, said the Australian Government would provide $12.5 million over four years to establish the new counselling service from October this year. The free service will be available 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Professionally qualified, specialist counsellors will staff the new service to deliver improved support to victims and their families. The service will complement existing State and Territory domestic violence and sexual assault services.

“Nearly one in three Australian women experience physical violence and almost one in five women experience sexual violence,” Ms Plibersek said.

“The new service will provide a ‘first door’ to victims in need of professional support and can be accessed from anywhere in Australia.

“We want to ensure that all Australians who have experienced or are at risk of violence to have access to professional support and information about where to pursue further help. 

Medibank Health Solutions will be funded by the Government to provide professional, technical and business support.

Formerly McKesson Asia-Pacific, Medibank Health Solutions has a demonstrated history of operating and managing national telephone counselling and support services in a range of different fields including mental health and health care.

The Government has required as part of the service contract that Medibank Health Solutions sub-contract expertise from the domestic violence and sexual assault sector to ensure that the specialised counselling, information and advice meets best practice standards.

Medibank Health Solutions is currently in discussion with the New South Wales Rape Crisis Centre, a specialist sexual violence crisis and trauma counselling service, to deliver counselling.

The implementation of the service will be overseen by an advisory board, which will be made up of experts from the family, domestic, and sexual violence sector.

The Advisory Board will be tasked with monitoring and evaluating the helpline to ensure it is delivering a top quality and appropriate service to victims.

The new service will support the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, which is in final stages of development.

The new helpline is expected to be operational by the end of 2010.