Behavioural insights

Behavioural insights helps us understand how people make decisions. We deliver projects, trials and interventions that improve outcomes for Victorians.

The Behavioural Insights Unit is part of the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s Public Sector Innovation Branch.

Our work is collaborative with teams from across the public sector. We deliver projects, trials and interventions that improve outcomes for Victorians.

You can read about how behavioural insights have been used in Victoria to deliver cost effective solutions to policy issues in our latest report: 

What is behavioural insights?

Behavioural insights helps us understand how people make decisions. It recognises that humans are not always rational, and we don’t always follow through with what we intend to do. Our decisions can be affected by seemingly irrelevant things, such as how information is presented or what others are doing.

Behavioural insights draws on psychology, behavioural economics, user-centred design and systems thinking to better design, develop and implement public policies.

How we work

Project work

We work with government partners on projects that have a clear behavioural issue. We can:

  • help define a problem statement
  • assess whose behaviour is contributing to a policy issue
  • design and test behaviourally informed interventions


We provide behavioural insights advice which includes:

  • messaging in surveys, letters or websites
  • behavioural science evidence that might support more effective implementation of a policy

Building capability

We partner with the Behavioural Insights Team (UK) and Monash University's BehaviourWorks Australia, to build capability in the Victorian Public Service. We do this through:

  • formal training
  • workshops
  • thought leadership events

Behavioural insights recognises that perfect information does not always lead to perfect decisions. For example, the timing of information matters almost as much as the quality. We can help improve the way information is presented, and the channels used to deliver that information.

Where we work in the policy lifecycle

Our approach complements traditional policy approaches, and can span the entire policy cycle. We target our support at the phase of the policy cycle where we can add the most value.

Problem definition

We can support problem definition in three ways:

  • help define the behavioural problem
  • target behaviours to change
  • assess how these behaviours link to the policy or program objectives

Explore and analyse

We can review existing behavioural research for evidence of what works. We can also undertake research with Victorians to address our knowledge gaps.

Policy design

We can develop behaviourally-informed solutions to address certain behaviours. We also provide advice to guide policy design.


We can support the roll out of a new policy or program as a trial. We often use randomised controlled trials to test a policy's impact in the first instance.

Testing and evaluation

We analyse our behavioural insights projects, and translate the findings into policy recommendations.

Our projects

Since the Unit was established in 2016 we have worked across all policy areas. We've applied our behavioural lens to help improve the lives of Victorians.

Work underway

  • Child Protection Reporter Support: We are working to ensure children in need of support can receive the most appropriate service at the right time. Partner: Department of Health and Human Services. Read our case study
  • Patient Communication: We are developing behaviourally informed SMS reminders to improve hospital appointment attendance. Partners: Safer Care Victoria and the Department of Health and Human Services. Read our case study
  • Emergency Department Diversion: We are trying to divert patients with non-urgent health needs away from emergency departments. Partner: Department of Health and Human Services
  • Birth Registrations: We are supporting Victoria's transition to online birth registrations. Partner: Births, Deaths and Marriages, Department of Justice and Community Safety
  • Balanced choices in post-secondary education: We are exploring how we can assist students to make informed decisions about what to do after secondary school. Partner: Department of Education and Training. 
  • Client Engagement with Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services: We are working to understand how, why and when people engage, disengage or re-engage with their alcohol and other drug treatment. Partner: Department of Health and Human Services
  • Family Violence Intervention Order court reminders: We are trialling SMS reminders to encourage respondents to attend court hearings. Partners: Neighbourhood Justice Centre and Victoria Police
  • Fines Enforcement: We are identifying Victorian cohorts with outstanding fines, and exploring how best to engage with them. Partners: Victorian Centre for Data Insights and Fines Victoria

Completed work

  • Energy Demand Management: We worked to reduce energy consumption during peak demand periods. Partner: Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
  • Organ Donation: We tested the effect of different messages that aimed to increase registered organ donors in Victoria. Partners: Department of Health and Human Services, VicRoads and DonateLife Victoria. Read our case study
  • Supporting Vocational Education: We trialled SMS messages of support, to help students persist with vocational studies. Partners: Department of Education and Training and three Victorian TAFEs. Read our case study
  • Family Violence Information Sharing: We explored the barriers to information sharing by frontline family violence workers. Partners: Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice and Community Safety, Magistrates Court of Victoria and Berry Street. Read our case study
  • Land Tax Payments: We increased the proportion of Victorians paying land tax via preferred payment methods. Partner: State Revenue Office. Read our case study
  • Boosting vaccination rates: We increased vaccination rates in Victoria. Partner: Department of Health and Human Services. Read our case study
  • Methadone Permit Compliance: We improved doctors’ compliance with methadone permit requirements. Partner: Department of Health and Human Services
  • Public Transport Interchanging: We assisted passengers to navigate train lines changes. Partner: Public Transport Victoria
  • Healthy Homes Energy Efficiency Retrofit: We measured the impact of home efficiency upgrades on the health and wellbeing of low-income households. Partner: Sustainability Victoria
  • Transition Queries to the Consumer Affairs Victoria website: We helped redirect simple phone line queries to the Consumer Affairs Victoria website. Partner: Consumer Affairs Victoria. Read our case study

Reviewed 05 July 2019

About VIC Government

Contact us

Behavioural Insights Unit Department of Premier and Cabinet

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