Behavioural insights case study: understanding information sharing in the family violence system

This project aimed to understand the flow of information in the family violence system.

Good policy design and service implementation require a deep understanding of the issues that face workers on the ground who are integral to service delivery.

Using insights gained from fieldwork (such as observations and interviews), behavioural science can help us understand how policy is likely to be implemented and the behavioural issues at play.

The problem

The family violence system requires many people — including police, case workers, and specialised family support services — to share information and collaborate so that victims of family violence are safer, and perpetrators are held to account.

However, the Royal Commission into Family Violence described a system in which information was not routinely or systematically shared, potentially exposing victim survivors to further harm.

The Family Violence Information Sharing project aimed to understand the flow of information in the system using a behavioural insights approach.

What we did

We conducted fieldwork to gain a deeper understanding of what information sharing looked like in practice for family violence workers. We explored both the psychological and contextual factors that influence how frontline workers share information

What we found

Our fieldwork revealed some unexpected findings around why information was not always shared. We found that workers sometimes did not share information because they wanted to ensure victim survivors were not disempowered.

Frontline workers only shared information with others in the system after obtaining victim survivor consent, even though this was not a legal requirement. They wanted to strengthen victim survivors’ internal locus of control by signalling: “You decide how your information is shared. You have a choice."

We also learned that the workplace and system design influenced whether information was readily shared among workers. For example, visibility, proximity and accessibility to other workers affects whether information is shared. The setup of workspaces, corridors and general building features can affect staff interactions, which can in turn affect client outcomes. For example, open building design facilitates conversations and information sharing between staff.

Conversely, restricting access to areas in which specialist staff are located can hinder information sharing.

Good policy design will consider the choice architecture presented to the person and reduce the “hassle factors” involved in doing the desired behaviour.

Read our full report:

Report: Applying behavioural insights - improving information sharing in the Family Violence system
PDF 4.7 MB
(opens in a new window)

Behavioural insights concept: Locus of control

An individual’s belief they can or cannot control the consequences of their actions. Individuals with an internal locus of control believe they control the consequences of their actions whereas people with an external locus of control believe that the consequences of their actions are determined by chance, fate or other people.

  • People generally take the path of least resistance: Making something slightly more difficult for people, such as having to ask a Registrar in order to speak with a support practitioner, reduces the chance that the action will occur.
  • Expect error: People make mistakes. Physical and system design should reduce the consequences of those mistakes wherever possible.
  • Incidental interactions allow workers to give each other real time feedback: Incidental encounters between workers allow them to thank one another for information or inform each other how their information was used. Both forms of feedback are powerful ways to motivate information sharing.

What's next?

Understanding how these small, seemingly unimportant, factors shape behaviours on the ground helps policy makers design and implement better policies. For example, we applied the principle of simplifying choice architecture to redesigning the Ministerial Guidelines, which are used by family violence support workers to decide whether to share information.

Working with Family Safety Victoria, we simplified the number of issues workers must consider in deciding whether to share information from 47 down to 13. This simplification should improve efficiency and reduce errors in workers’ decisions.


We thank our partners Family Safety Victoria, the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria and Berry Street.