Virus prompts domestic violence warnings

Finbar O'Mallon
Advocates are warning the COVID-19 isolation will likely result in a spike in domestic violence

Domestic violence service providers say the sector needs more support to deal with the effects of coronavirus.

Australian Women Against Violence Alliance has warned of a possible spike in domestic violence cases if people are forced to self-isolate at home.

Program manager Merrindahl Andrew warned China saw an increase in domestic violence rates as people were forced to stay indoors.

"The other thing to understand is that this disaster is really overlaying on other disasters that are happening in people's lives," Dr Andrew told AAP on Monday.

Dr Andrew pointed to the Brisbane murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children - Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey - by her ex-partner Rowan Baxter.

"The services are already experiencing spikes in demand because of that," she said.

"The underlying level of resourcing for services is already too low so when there are crises overlapping then we can expect that there'll be even more problems."

Dr Andrew said she was disappointed that a meeting of federal, state and territory leaders on Friday didn't deliver any more support for the sector.

Likewise, Domestic Violence Victoria acting chief executive Alison Macdonald said enforced isolation could see a rise in domestic violence cases.

This occurred during natural disasters, with the coronavirus another unprecedented event, Ms Macdonald told AAP.

Frontline workers needed more support and service providers needed more pointers on hygiene practices or what to do if facing staff shortages, she said.

"We absolutely need to put out some advice for accommodation providers," Ms Macdonald said.

Ms Macdonald said she would be looking to have a domestic violence sector briefing with Victorian authorities this week.

One shelter in Sydney is bracing for a potential spike but said they didn't have extra beds.

Shelter NSW manager Justin Douglas warned homeless Australians and victims of domestic violence would be the worst hit by the virus.

"We haven't at this stage seen any spike in increased numbers," Mr Douglas told AAP.

"I would suggest that we are going to see some type of situation at some point in time."

He said staff had been making sure facilities in their shelter were extra clean, while providing hand sanitiser and notices on the importance of hygiene.

Mr Douglas said there had been no directions provided by state or federal health authorities, but they hadn't reached out either.