Background to the Family violence workforce health, safety and wellbeing guide

Victoria’s family violence sector is experiencing unprecedented growth in size, scale and demand following the release of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence (Victoria) in 2016.

The Royal Commission recognised the stressful, emotional and fatiguing nature of the work performed by the family violence, sexual assault and prevention workforce. It acknowledged that this stress was often exacerbated by ‘difficulties accessing services and resources for their clients, lack of time to respond to the complexities of client needs, and limited access to supervision’.

Fundamental changes identified by the Royal Commission recommended that a broad range of experiences and spectrum of risk should be represented in the aims of the MARAM Framework, including for Aboriginal and diverse communities, children, young people and older people, across identities, and family and relationship types.

The Victorian Government is committed to Aboriginal self-determination and recognises that it is critical to address the systemic disempowerment and oppression of Aboriginal people and communities. This support is recognised through the partnership with Aboriginal communities of the Dhelk Dja – Safe Our Way: Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families 10-year agreement.

Dhelk Dja articulates a vision for the future where Aboriginal people are culturally stronger, safer and self-determining, with families and communities living free from violence. It recognises that Aboriginal led and designed strategies, supported by government, sector and system transformation, are required to reduce the significantly higher levels of family violence experienced by Aboriginal people.

The Nargneit Birrang Aboriginal holistic healing framework for family violence provides a framework to guide the flexible design, funding and implementation and evaluation of Aboriginal-led holistic healing programs for family violence in Victoria.

The issue of vicarious trauma was also highlighted, with the Royal Commission noting that it was a consistent theme throughout the many submissions that they received. Counselling, supervision, debriefing and other support programs were cited to counter vicarious trauma and burn out and improve resilience.

Strengthening the Foundations: First Rolling Action Plan 2019-2022 (the Plan) is the first of three Rolling Action Plans that will work to achieve the broad vision of Building from Strength: 10 Year Industry Plan for Family Violence Prevention and Response (Industry Plan).

Released in November 2019, the Plan outlines foundational measures, including many from the Industry Plan, focused on addressing immediate and critical gaps in workforce capability building, training system capacity and workforce supply. It also includes foundational initiatives to support long-term, sustainable workforce and sector development.

Focus area five of the Plan has an emphasis on prioritising health, safety and wellbeing, with key actions including the development and roll out of:

  • a Health, Safety and Wellbeing Framework (Action 5.1)
  • leadership development aligned to the Framework and the Capability Framework (Action 5.2)
  • research in best practice supervision (Action 5.3)
  • online resources and tools relating to the Framework (Action 5.4)
  • initiatives to enhance the health, safety and wellbeing of the primary prevention workforce (Action 5.5).

While the development of a framework was recommended in the Plan, a Guide has been developed which meets the same requirements. The term ‘Guide’ has been used to reflect a flexible approach that allows organisations to tailor their response based on organisational requirements.

The need to support wellbeing of staff in the family violence sector was also evidenced in the 2019 Census of Workforces that Intersect with Family Violence. The survey found that one third of respondents experienced high, very high or severe levels of work-related stress. 40% of respondents planned to leave their current role in the next 12 months and cite the negative effect of the stress / pressure on their health and wellbeing as being a reason for this.


The Guide is supported by an agreed set of principles for building safe organisations and trauma and violence informed cultures of collective care:

Principle What this looks like
Safety Foster physical, psychological and cultural safety (where all people feel safe and there is no challenge or need for the denial of their identity) in all interactions.
Trust Invest in inclusive relationships that are focused on mutual respect and dignity and transparent, unbiased communication.
Empowerment Develop individual and collective strengths by acknowledging each other’s contributions and feedback for continuous learning and reflection.
Collaboration Share power and work in solidarity to support sustainability at a team, organisation, funding body and sector level.
Choice Provide freedom for people to align their approaches with their values and ethics.
Respect for Inclusion and Equity Develop an awareness that attitudes, systems and structures can interact to create inequality and exclusion. Respect diversity which includes intersecting social characteristics such as, cultural background, Aboriginality, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age, mental health, socioeconomic status, religion and, ability.