Religious leaders take part in Sutherland Shire domestic violence forum

Lifting the lid: Research has shown domestic violence is common in faith communities but is rarely spoken about.

Lifting the lid: Research has shown domestic violence is common in faith communities but is rarely spoken about.

More than 50 religious leaders took part in a forum today which aims to reduce domestic and family violence rates in Sutherland Shire.

The Interfaith Forum on Domestic Violence was organised by Sutherland Shire Domestic Violence Committee (SSDVC) to improve education and workshop responses, and come up with ways to provide consistent responses to domestic violence incidents so as to drive down rates.

The forum, which was funded by a Sutherland Shire Council community grant, brought together representatives from various religious organisations to share strategies and tap into community resources to address domestic violence within the community.

NSW Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Cronulla MP Mark Speakman, was among the attendees.

He said reducing domestic violence was a key priority of the government and Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

"We are investing $431 million over four years to crack down on violence in the home, better protect victims and hold perpetrators to account," he said.

"But tackling this epidemic is a team effort and that's why we need to work together as a community to make a difference and ultimately, help save lives."

Speaking up: The Interfaith Forum on Domestic Violence is hoping to stop violence against women.

Speaking up: The Interfaith Forum on Domestic Violence is hoping to stop violence against women.

Sutherland Shire Police Area Command Chief Inspector Andrea Panozzo and LoveBites Program co-ordinator Amber Schacht discussed the signs of domestic violence and how religious and community leaders could effectively respond.

Committee chairwoman Belinda Harrison said faith leaders had a responsibility to help people in need.

"This forum will allow us to find ways to improve support for people who are facing violence in the home," she said.

SSDVC said research from the Australian National University showed domestic violence was common in faith communities but rarely spoken about as it was considered a private, family matter.

Ms Harrison said the forum provided the opportunity to develop relationships between religious communities and agencies working with domestic and family violence to increase their capacity to address and prevent violence.