Children impacted by sexual and domestic violence will now receive enhanced support and privacy when sharing their traumatic experiences.

This was relayed by the Family Protection Unit (FPU) of the Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) after the Ministry of Justice and Community Services (MoJCS) opened two special areas designed for children in their offices in Port Vila and Santo yesterday.

It was funded by the Vanuatu Australian Policing and Justice Program (VAPJP), aimed at making justice services less stressful for children and families. These child-friendly spaces offer opportunities for children to play, learn, and be creative.

FPU’s Officer in Charge, Senior Sergeant Mark Willie, said the child friendly spaces, like the two launched yesterday, can help the VPF deliver improved outcomes for local communities.

“We all recognise that children are a vulnerable group. And whether they are the victims, or alleged offenders of crime, our FPU officers need to ensure they are protected and supported. Having access to child friendly spaces enables us to have private and confidential settings where children can feel comfortable,” he said.

“Ultimately, this allows our officers to collect a higher standard of evidence which can improve our investigations.

“It is hoped the ongoing collaboration between the MoJCS and VPF, including through a similar initiative planned for Malampa, will support the overall process for police, complainants and prosecutions to access justice.

“That is very important to us as it is critical the community has trust and confidence in the police when they report sensitive crimes. It is important that they know that we are here, and we can support them in a safe and secure way.”

In Port Vila, the space has toys, books, and comfy beanbags. It’s not just for the children of clients, but also for the children of the staff, making the workplace better for parents.

According to the MoJCS, the setup helps parents feel secure about their children’s safety and improves their ability to work without worry. As a result, the office is seeing better productivity and fewer staff missing work.

“Parents here at the Ministry of Justice now know that their children are safe and entertained. That is a huge thing for us as it alleviates worry and allows employees to focus better on their work,” said Director General (DG), Arthur Faerua.

“The Ministry values being family-friendly, aiming to help their team balance work and home life, which they believe makes employees more satisfied and loyal.”

On Santo, the MoJCS reports that the space is also designed to be safe and private for children and families during interviews, especially with the police’s FPU, as this is part of an effort to improve how justice services work for women, children, and youth, with support from the Australian government.

“These child-friendly areas are cozy and welcoming, making it easier for police to work effectively with children, whether they are victims or accused of crimes,” the MoJCS added.

“The aim is to collect better evidence and improve investigations.

“The Ministry and the police hope to continue working together on similar projects to make the justice process easier and more trustworthy for everyone, especially those affected by sexual and domestic violence.”