Suburban home in Queensland
  • 14 Jun 2023
  • 6 min read
  • By SafeHome Alliance, Q Shelter and the REIQ

Domestic and Family Violence & Housing

domestic and family violence, property management

In conversation: Q Shelter Executive Director Fiona Caniglia, REIQ CEO Antonia Mercorella and Laura Valenti, Co-Founder SafeHome Alliance & Managing Director of McGrath North Lakes, discuss the links between DFV and housing and the real estate industry’s role in responding.

91% of respondents to the 2021 National Community Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women Survey agreed that violence is against women is a problem in Australia. However, only 47% of respondents thought that it was a problem in their own suburb or town[1].

What is the prevalence of DFV in Australia? Does it occur in all communities?

Population-based prevalence studies indicate that, since the age of 15 years, one in four women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner and one in six women have experienced physical abuse by a partner[2]. Domestic and Family violence is prevalent throughout all communities regardless of wealth, education, cultural background, or religion[3].

And during 2021-22, domestic and family violence was the most common reason people sought help from specialist homelessness services[4].

Q Shelter, in partnership with the Real Estate Institute of Queensland and SafeHome Alliance, has produced an online, interactive, self-paced course for real estate professionals who wish to improve their practice as it relates to domestic and family violence.

Why is this training important to you?

Laura Valenti: I think each of us, as members of our communities, has an enormous capacity to make a difference in one another’s lives, especially around the impacts of DFV. And even more so for those of us who are property managers, where we are obligated, by law, to go behind closed doors.

In our professional roles we will, sadly, see evidence of DFV frequently throughout our careers. This training helps us understand the ways we can help – because I think if we can do something, we should!

Fiona Caniglia: Absolutely. Each of us has a role to play in responding to domestic and family violence in our communities. And hopefully this training empowers more people to taking meaningful action to help keep people experiencing DFV safe.

Antonia Mercorella: I understand that DFV in tenancies is a really complex and challenging issue which can be confronting, uncomfortable, and even frightening to address but that’s why education is key and I assure you that with this training you can equip yourself with the tools and resources you need to be able to help, and to feel confident in your approach in doing so.

What are some of the links between domestic and family violence and the real estate industry?

Laura Valenti: As an industry, we deal with housing – so you can't get away from the fact that we also deal with people's personal lives. We're invited into their homes whether they like it or not, and what we see becomes very important.

For instance, during rental inspections we might see property damage, or other indicators that something isn’t quite right. We might be the only other people to suspect something is wrong – because not even someone’s best friend is invited into every room.

Antonia Mercorella: For those in the middle of an intensely emotional cycle of abuse, an external objective party such as a property manager overseeing a tenancy can be a lifeboat, and by being aware of what to look for, paying attention, and gently opening up the dialogue, real estate professionals can make a world of difference.

Who is this course for?

Fiona Caniglia: It's vital that people at the frontline of housing take up this training opportunity – and the course is specifically designed for them. But because the training also investigates the issues surrounding DFV more broadly, anyone involved in providing property services at any level within a real estate agency will also benefit from completing this course.

For instance, if you're more senior in your organisation you can support people at the front line to think about these issues and understand what they can do – and what their boundaries should be. You can also become part of the conversation about how the real estate industry as a whole can help.

Who will the course benefit?

Antonia Mercorella: While the training is predominately about supporting property managers in confidently identifying and appropriately responding to DFV in tenancies, its benefits extend to the broader real estate community and to the whole-of-community response.

Domestic and family violence has become an epidemic in Australia. If this training indirectly helps just one victim of domestic and family violence, then I think we can all agree that our involvement in this initiative and your completion of this course has been well worthwhile.

Laura Valenti: It will certainly benefit DFV survivors, as well as having a flow-on effect to the whole community. The training will also equip agents and property managers to know what to do if they're faced with someone experiencing DFV – and knowing what to do takes away a tremendous amount of stress and uncertainty.

Property managers already have a challenging job. Is this just adding to their already full workloads?

Laura Valenti: What a great question! Anyone who thinks they have a busy job doesn't really understand what busy is until they have been a property manager.

But this training actually makes our jobs a little easier, because there's nothing worse – and frankly, more time consuming – than having a bad situation and not knowing what to do about it. But this training puts everything you need to know within easy reach.

And most property managers get into the industry because we genuinely like people. We care about others. And when you have been able to respond well to someone who is experiencing DFV, it’s incredible satisfying to know you’ve made a real difference in their life.

Antonia Mercorella: While no one is expecting a property manager to take on the additional role of a support worker, as a first responder, you can be an important conduit to guide the victim towards the support and resources available. It’s about being an open and willing part of the solution within the parameters of your role. The sad reality is the statistics suggest that you will encounter evidence of DFV in your line of work, and if and when that happens, knowing what to do will undoubtedly be a relief.

Fiona Caniglia: I recognise the incredible workload of property managers and their Community Housing counterparts and hope this training helps them identify issues early. If you can recognise the situation and can reach out with timely referrals, support or more information, it can save you a lot of time down the track. It can also help prevent you being faced with a tenancy ending unexpectedly, or with rental arrears or property damage.

What do you want everyone who reads this to know?

Antonia Mercorella: Domestic and family violence is an issue that requires courage on behalf of every single Australian to help eradicate it. It’s all too easy to say that what happens in the domestic sphere behind closed doors is “private” and we shouldn’t “stick our nose in” others business, but that is a mindset that needs to be shattered if we ever hope to break the cycle of DFV in our communities. I have no doubt that real estate professionals have the heart and the courage necessary to make a significant difference in this space.

Fiona Caniglia: The partnership between the REIQ, Safe Home Alliance, Q Shelter, and other key people in the real estate industry who have put their time and expertise into developing this course is truly incredible.

The fact that we are working so closing together to amplify this training so more people can be equipped to respond to DFV is amazing. Honestly, it’s one of the most fulfilling partnerships in Q Shelter’s history.

Laura Valenti: I would like property managers to know that they don't have to have all the answers. That’s an impossible burden. They just need two things: an awareness of DFV and the signs it might be occurring, and what to do next with that knowledge. And this training will teach you that.

Since doing the training myself, I can’t not see things anymore – I have this new radar permanently switched on – but I also know best-practice guidelines about how I can respond. And I feel confident to respond well.

Where can people access in this course?

Fiona Caniglia: People can access this course from Q Shelter’s website by clicking here. You can also sign up to receive our regular newsletters with more information, training opportunities, and resources.

Q Shelter would like to thank the Queensland Government Department of Justice and Attorney General, Office for Women, for funding this important project.

[1] Coumarelos, C., Weeks, N., Bernstein, S., Roberts, N., Honey, N., Minter, K., & Carlisle, E. (2023). Attitudes matter: The 2021 National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS), Summary for Australia (Research report, 03/2023). ANROWS.

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2017.

[3] AIHW, 2023, Family, domestic, and sexual violence

[4] AIHW, (2021): AIHW (2022): Specialist homelessness services annual report 2021–22.

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