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Edition 1

Who we are

The Department of Premier and Cabinet has established the Family Violence and Service Delivery Reform Unit to lead and coordinate the whole-of-government state response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Victim survivors remain at the heart of these reforms.

The unit is leading the approach to system and social change, coordinating across government and key agencies the response to the Royal Commission's 227 recommendations.

Our approach

For the first time in Victoria, we have the funding, leadership and collective will to completely change our response to family violence.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ultimately change standards and behaviour so that creating, maintaining and supporting safe and respectful relationships remains a core priority for Victoria now and into the future.

We are all making this major social change happen. A person-centred approach is how we are achieving change.

People's insights, specifically the experiences of victim survivors and those who deliver these services, are the building blocks for these changes and are guiding the development of a future system.

This is the biggest point of difference in our approach — the voices of victim survivors are a key part of this process.

Their voice is formalised through the Victim Survivors' Advisory Group and, more broadly, through a range of ongoing community engagement.

The other critical point is incorporating specialist expertise of family service organisations and the diverse needs of people, including the challenges facing rural and regional communities.

This is an ongoing partnership and we are committed to a person-centred and innovative approach.

We would like to hear your suggestions of any other effective channels of communications you think we should include.

Some of these initiatives are completely new to us and this work is not without its challenges. We thank you for taking on this important but demanding role, on top of your daily work.

We especially appreciate and value the insights we are gathering from victim survivors, who have given us the privilege of entrusting us with their voice.

In progress

Community Conversations: a shared vision for a future family violence system

The Victorian Government is about to begin it's first major partnership project with Victoria — co-designing a shared vision for a future family violence system.

You are invited to be part of the conversation and share your vision for an improved Victorian system, which can provide effective prevention, response and recovery choices for anyone experiencing family violence.

We will be having a series of community conversations across Victoria and welcome you, your colleagues and your community to take part.

Victim survivors are at the heart of this major social change.

The Victorian Government is committed to co-design with victim survivors, the family violence and community sector and Victorians.

We want all Victorians to share this vision, so please forward this invitation to your colleagues, your networks and anyone who wants to partner with us to build towards a safer Victoria, free from family violence.

We are holding Community Conversations across Victoria at:

  • Hamilton – Monday 12 September 2016, 2pm at Hamilton Exhibition & Conference Centre
  • Mildura – Tuesday 13 September 2016, 2pm at Quality Hotel Mildura Grand
  • Bendigo – Aboriginal Co-Design forum – invite-only event
  • Benalla – Thursday 15 September 2016, 2pm at Lakeside Community Centre
  • Morwell – Friday 16 September 2016, 2pm at Morwell Football & Netball Club Social Rooms, Morwell Recreation Reserve
  • Melbourne – Wednesday 21 September 2016, 12 pm at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre

Register for Community Conversations.

Mapping victim survivors' experiences and insights of family violence

The Department of Premier and Cabinet has engaged Huddle Australia to engage deeply with victim survivors to understand their experiences and their vision for the future.

The project has the working title of 'Project Spirit' in recognition of the spirit of people who endure family violence and to remember those who have passed as a result of family violence.

The work will identify deep insights, establish design principles that will underpin the recommendations and paint a vision for the future. This will drive a person-centred approach to family violence reform, from early intervention through to long-term recovery. It will also inform the Victorian Family Violence Action Plan.

Participants will represent the diversity of people and their experiences, including varying levels of risk and complexity of need, as well as geographical and accessibility challenges.

You spoke. We listened

The mapping project began with a focus on mapping victims' experiences as they moved through the service system. After speaking with victims and the sector the approach has shifted and so has our language.

This project was originally described as client journey mapping. But you told us the word "journey" implies a linear progression through a range of services, which is certainly not the experience for victims, who have described their experience as a spider web that is not easy to navigate.

We also responded to questions about the best way to support people through this process.

To support sensitive and appropriate engagement with victim survivors, the workshops are being co-designed with specialist services and advocacy organisations. Members of the Victim Survivors' Advisory Council have played a critical advisory role in the design of the workshops and have participated in the activities themselves.

The Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria have already partnered with Huddle to facilitate these conversations through their already established Dilly Bag Program. The Dilly Bag programs are intimate, intensive culturally-based healing workshops for up to 15 Aboriginal women. Participants work as a group, using a yarning circle, to reflect on their personal experiences, and explore their strengths and potential for instigating meaningful life changes.

Aboriginal Co-design Forum

The Aboriginal Family Violence Steering Group has met three times this year to advise the State Government on a comprehensive, coordinated and culturally responsive Aboriginal family violence reform agenda.

There have been two Aboriginal Family Violence Co-Design Forums this year. The first, on 22 July, developed criteria for the design of Safety and Support Hubs. The criteria recognise the importance of cultural inclusiveness and intergenerational healing for Aboriginal communities and families. The second forum, on 19 August, gave feedback on the Royal Commission's model around information sharing and data for the purpose of risk assessment and risk management.

Also discussed was the implementation of the midterm evaluation of the Indigenous Family Violence Ten Year Plan.

The next co-design forum is in Bendigo on Wednesday 14 September 2016, as part of the Victorian Government's Community Conversations for a shared vision of future family violence system.

Indigenous Family Violence Partnership Forum

Members of the Indigenous Family Violence Partnership Forum have developed and endorsed a set of Engagement Principles and Governance Requirements to create the foundation for Aboriginal engagement, including co-design.

The Indigenous Family Violence Partnership Forum, which met most recently on 23–24 August, reinforced the need for all phases of systemic reform to be strengthened by the right of Aboriginal self-determination.

Consultation about changes to privacy laws to improve victim safety

DPC has been talking to people about their views about Recommendation 5 of the Royal Commission, with regard to changing the law so that a victim's right to safety would be given priority over the perpetrator's right to privacy. This would allow the sharing of perpetrator information without consent in family violence situations.

It was recommended that a group of prescribed organisations could share information relevant to making assessments about risk and safety management.

Consultations were held in Melbourne, as well as at the Bayside Integrated Family Violence Committee planning day and the Ovens Murray and Goulburn Integrated Family Violence Committee meeting.

'Engine room' wrap-up

Victim Survivors' Advisory Council

On 26 July, the Victim Survivors' Advisory Council (VSAC) held its first meeting. Chaired by former Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, membership of the council includes representatives from the Aboriginal community, CALD communities, women with disabilities, older Victorians and youth.

Since its meeting, members of the council have been supported to provide their insights through mapping and other projects.

Members of the Victim Survivors' Advisory Council are contributing to a number of ongoing projects, including:

  • mapping insights and experiences of family violence
  • a Department of Justice review of Specialist Family Violence Courts
  • a meeting with members of the DPC Information Sharing team.

VSAC members at their own initiative are having a major influence on the approach of mapping.

Their advice will guide the process:

  • with the right language so it affects change
  • finding a better way to speak about family violence
  • having a genuine voice
  • busting assumptions about who victims are
  • capturing the gender inequality that exists in many aspects of our society, outside of family violence
  • breaking down perceptions of people especially people with disability and perpetrators
  • increasing understanding about the public versus the private sphere so we don't hide family violence.

On Tuesday 6 September, the VSAC meeting was dedicated to the mapping project. Members have asked to participate in a range of ways, including:

  • developing a prototype for the workshop/interview design
  • sharing their own stories
  • providing feedback on participant packs
  • participating in synthesising data
  • validating insights.

Family Violence Steering Committee update

The Family Violence Steering Committee – co-chaired by Fiona McCormack, CEO Domestic Violence Victoria, and the Department of Premier and Cabinet, this is the primary source of advice and leadership on the family violence reform agenda. The committee is made up of 31 experts from across the family violence sector.

The last meeting, on 10 August, was attended by Premier Daniel Andrews, who reaffirmed the government's commitment to making changes to family violence which were guided by the lived experiences of victim survivors and the specialist expertise of the family violence sector.

Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings, Minister for Disability and Ageing Martin Foley, Minister for Police Lisa Neville and Minister for Children and Families Jenny Mikakos also attended this meeting to talk about the new Social Services Taskforce. Chaired by the Special Minister of State, the taskforce will ensure reforms across all social services are aligned and the specialist expertise of the family violence sector informs broader reforms across housing, child and family services and the justice system.

The committee has contributed to identifying key reform areas where co-design methodologies would be most useful.

The committee has given the government a clear mandate to proceed with the family violence reforms, particularly those that require implementation.

The most recent meeting on Tuesday 6 September focused on Vision.

Family Violence Housing Assistance Implementation Taskforce

The taskforce's role is to advise the Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing and the government on housing solutions for people experiencing family violence, unblocking housing options for people in crisis, and driving longer term social housing growth.

The taskforce is chaired by Jenny Smith, CEO, Council to Homeless Persons and has provided the government with advice about opportunities for service delivery improvement in rolling out the $152m Family Violence Housing blitz package.

On 18 August, the taskforce agreed on its work program and deliverables, and to establish three working groups focused on:

  • safe, affordable and suitable housing supply particularly determining the number of additional social housing units required for family violence victims who are unable to gain access to and sustain private rental accommodation
  • provision of family violence support services including Safe at Home approaches, unblocking crisis accommodation and oversight of flexible support packages
  • building a robust evidence base including establishing an evidence baseline, data collection and monitoring, developing an outcomes framework and policy feedback and reporting.

The next meeting is scheduled for 22 September 2016. For more information on the taskforce and its work, please email: FVHT@dhhs.vic.gov.au.

Roadmap for Reform

The Roadmap for Reform: strong families, safe children (Roadmap) sets out the first steps in how we can create better lives for vulnerable children, young people and families in Victoria, including through a greater focus on prevention and earlier intervention and improved coordination between universal, targeted and specialist services.

The Minister for Families and Children, Jenny Mikakos has established the Roadmap Implementation Advisory Group (RIMAG) to help guide and oversee the implementation of the Roadmap. Its key functions include:

  • providing expert advice on all aspects of implementation
  • advising on system-level impact of Roadmap initiatives
  • sharing learnings about cultural practice and change across the system
  • providing strategic advice on future reform of the system that supports vulnerable children, young people and families.

The RIMAG has met twice since on 31 May and 23 August 2016. It is co-chaired by Minister Mikakos and Deb Tsorbaris, CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare. Its membership includes representatives from peak and oversight bodies, unions, and service providers as well as service user representatives and academics. On 11–12 August 2016, around 150 representatives from the community services sector and government attended the Roadmap for Reform Symposium. Minister Mikakos announced the establishment of three working groups to provide leadership on key areas for development and implementation, based on discussions at the Symposium:

  • Out of Home Care Working Group – to oversee a program of co-design work to inform out of home care reform and support collaboration and engagement across the sector
  • Universal Services Working Group – to provide expert and technical advice on a program of work to increase access to universal services for vulnerable families and the capacity of universal services to identify and respond to children at risk, with an immediate focus on the Intensive Support in the Early Years project
  • Learning System and Practice Implementation Group – to oversight the release of the first iteration of the menu of evidence-based practices and programs and the development of a Children and Families Research Strategy.

At its meeting on 23 August 2016, the RIMAG considered the working groups. Each working group will be chaired by a RIMAG member. The role of the working groups will be to:

  • provide leadership to specific areas of the Roadmap development and implementation
  • bring together subject matter experts
  • oversee co-design work and drive collaboration across the children and families sector
  • help facilitate opportunities for children, young people and families with experience in the child and family services system to inform the Roadmap agenda, as appropriate.

A call for Expressions of Interest is being sent out, seeking applications from experts across the children and families sector.

For a copy of the Expression of Interest forms or for regular updates on the Roadmap, including the work of the RIMAG, please email roadmapforreform@dhhs.vic.gov.au or visit the strongfamiliessafechildren.vic.gov.au website.

What's new

Funding

The Victorian Government has announced an $87 million funding boost for family violence support services and the appointment of Victoria's Royal Commission Implementation Monitor.

Courts

New advisory group

The Courts Council of Victoria has established a Judicial Advisory Group on Family Violence in response to the Royal Commission. The Group will be chaired by the Hon Marcia Neave AO.

Membership of the group:

  • Supreme Court – The Hon Justice Jane Dixon
  • County Court of Victoria – His Honour Judge Michael McInerney
  • Magistrates' Court of Victoria – Her Honour Deputy Chief Magistrate Felicity Broughton
  • Children's Court of Victoria – Her Honour Judge Amanda Chambers
  • Coroner's Court of Victoria – Her Honour Coroner Audrey Jamieson
  • VCAT – Deputy President Heather Lambrick

Improving security and safety

The Heidelberg Magistrates' Court, which was damaged by floods, officially opened its $7 million redevelopment last month with a range of upgrades providing a safer environment for victims of family violence as well as general court users.

The redevelopment was part of the State Government's $58.1million investment in court safety and security upgrades in response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

This investment will result in more than 70 additional security officers being employed to ensure that a security presence exists at every court across the state. Security upgrades include X-ray machines installed at the entry of four suburban and eight regional court locations (for example, Ararat, Bairnsdale, Colac, Echuca, Heidelberg, Korumburra, Kyneton, Maryborough, Shepparton, Stawell).

Separate waiting areas for family violence victims, additional interview rooms and building refurbishments will see 16 courts upgraded.

Work is currently underway at nine regional Victorian Courts to increase security, improve community safety and provide more support for victims of family violence. The works are expected to be completed between 2017 and mid-2018.

Where we've been

  • Hume Moreland ChildFIRST
  • Loddon Mallee Health Services Partnership Forum
  • Roadmap to Reform Symposium
  • Inner and Outer Gippsland Co-design Forums — Support and Safety Hubs presented an overview about how we are approaching implementation reforms and took part in the co-design masterclass
  • Family Violence Housing Assistance Implementation Taskforce
  • Visit to the Northern Family and Domestic Violence Service — L17 triage
  • Western Metro Integrated Family Violence Committee meeting

For the diary

12 September 2016 — Family Violence Community Conversations begin in Hamilton

21 September 2016 — Family Violence Melbourne Community Conversation

22 September 2016 — Family Violence Housing Assistance Implementation Taskforce meeting

6 October 2016 — Family Violence Steering Committee meeting

15 November 2016 — Family Violence Steering Committee meeting

Who we're talking with

We are also actively joining the conversation across Victoria with:

  • Domestic Violence Victoria members meeting
  • Statewide Regional Integration Coordinators' meeting
  • Victorian Children's Council
  • Visit to the Neighbourhood Justice Centre
  • Visit to the Broadmeadows Children's Court
  • Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV)
  • Regional Integrated Committees for Family Violence

Further opportunities for engagement and relationship-building with the family violence sector and other partners will be sought over the coming months.

If you would like us to come and listen to your ideas at one of your meetings, please email community@dpc.vic.gov.au.

What we're hearing

Victim survivors want to share their stories.

Language is important and words mean different things to different people.

Changes to family violence responses need to shift victims' support needs to be considered alongside efforts not in isolation from how we manage the behaviour of the person who uses violence.

Statewide model for Hubs, while providing a measure of consistency and equity, need to also be flexible to be adapted to meet local needs.

Hubs need to build on local service providers and provide choice, of physical, telephone, online and outreach options. Accessibility must be a focus of these services for those communities with increased barriers, such as Aboriginal communities, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities, the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender & Intersex (LGBTI) community and people with disabilities. As well as the needs of rural communities, and the barriers people may face in seeking help locally.

The stigma sometimes associated with strong crisis or protective services (for example, police), can deter people from seeking help.

New laws may need to be created to allow and encourage information sharing and broader cultural change so that services work together more effectively.

Co-design training

Co-design is a new way of working which requires new tools and skills. To support this approach, we will be offering the sector an introduction to co-design training. We are also looking at other ways we can support the sector.

We want to hear from you

Do you have content to share? Send your photos, videos or any other information (for example, key dates, etc) to Christine Panayotou.

We are also looking for updates and content for the family violence response website.