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Chapter 3 - Sharing information in the context of family violence

Key points

  • Family violence has significant impacts on children’s wellbeing and safety, and is likely to co-exist with other wellbeing and safety issues for children.
  • In the context of family violence, information sharing entities must use the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework (MARAM Framework) to guide:
    • information sharing under the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme to identify, assess and manage family violence risk to children and adults; and
    • information sharing under the Child Information Sharing Scheme to promote the wellbeing or safety of children more broadly, supported by relevant best interests and developmental frameworks.
  • Information sharing entities must plan for and maximise the immediate and ongoing safety of children and other family members, being mindful that sharing information in the context of family violence may pose particular and complex risks.

Intersection of Child and Family Violence Information Sharing Schemes

This chapter applies to information sharing entities prescribed under the Child Information Sharing Scheme (see Appendix 2), as well as those prescribed under one or both of the following:

  • the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework (MARAM Framework), which sets out the responsibilities of different workforces in identifying, assessing and managing family violence risk across the family violence and broader service system
  • the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme, which enables information sharing to facilitate assessment and management of family violence risk to children and adults.

Information sharing entities should refer to the MARAM Framework and the Family Violence Information Sharing Guidelines for more specific detail on applying these initiatives (see Appendix 3 for links to resources).

The interface of the Child Information Sharing Scheme with other legal obligations, including mandatory reporting and privacy law, is set out on Chapter 4 of these guidelines.

Information sharing entities must use the MARAM Framework to guide information sharing under the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme to identify, assess and manage family violence risk to children and adults.

The MARAM Framework and relevant best interests and developmental frameworks will guide sharing under the Child Information Sharing Scheme to assess and respond to the wellbeing or safety of children more broadly within a family violence context.

The Child and Family Violence Information Sharing Schemes share a similar model and are designed to complement each other, to enable services to share information to respond to the range of needs and risks facing children and families. The schemes align in a number of ways, including:

  • broadly consistent information sharing entities and record keeping requirements
  • similar protections for professionals who share in good faith and with reasonable care
  • prioritising children’s safety over any individual’s privacy.

The key difference between the two schemes is the purpose for sharing. The Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme permits sharing for the purpose of assessing or managing family violence risk, while the Child Information Sharing Scheme permits information sharing to promote the wellbeing or safety of a child or group of children. However, these purposes have substantial overlap, as outlined under the next heading 'Children and family violence'.

Children and family violence

Experience of family violence as a child or young person can have serious long-term wellbeing and safety impacts, whether the behaviour is directed towards a child or towards others in their family or household. This can include substantial trauma, ongoing mental health difficulties, impacts on general health and wellbeing, effects on learning and social and emotional development. Each child’s needs and risks should be assessed both individually and within their family context, and should take into account risks of family violence to other family members such as parents or siblings.

Children who experience family violence require appropriate support and services to assess and manage the complex needs they are likely to have. Additionally, children who experience family violence may be more vulnerable to other risks that impact on their wellbeing and safety, such as institutional abuse.

Young people may also use family violence themselves. In some of these cases, young people using family violence may also be victims of violence. If a young person is using family violence, the MARAM Framework must guide:

  • the sharing of information under the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme to assess and manage the risk of family violence to adults or children
  • the sharing of information under the Child Information Sharing Scheme to promote the wellbeing or safety of children and young people who are affected by, and/or using violence.

See Chapter 6 of the Family Violence Information Sharing GuidelinesExternal Link and the MARAM Framework for more details about how to respond to a young person using family violence and how to share information safely.

As stated earlier, in a family violence context, a child’s needs and risks are significantly influenced by the needs and risks of their family members.

Information sharing entities should plan for and maximise the immediate and ongoing safety of children and all family members at risk of family violence, as discussed under the next heading 'Sharing information safely if family violence risk is present'. It is also important that promoting each individual child’s long-term wellbeing and safety remains a consideration throughout service engagement.

Sharing information safely if family violence risk is present

Sharing information in the context of family violence may pose particular and complex risks for children and other family members.

Care should especially be taken when sharing information that may disclose a child or another family member’s whereabouts, including where the child or family is living or services they attend. However, risks related to information sharing are not always easily identified, so it is important to access relevant expertise.

As set out in the MARAM Framework, information sharing entities should engage with services that are authorised and skilled (including those located within The Orange Door Network) to determine appropriate actions and promote collaborative practice around families and children. The Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme may enable voluntary sharing to support this collaboration.

Under the MARAM Framework, a family violence risk assessment will be undertaken by a professional with appropriate expertise and a safety plan will be prepared for the child and other family members at risk. Safety plans specifically address potential risks posed by sharing information and provide guidance about what should be considered. Information sharing should occur in accordance with a relevant safety plan. Information sharing entities must retain copies of relevant risk assessments and safety plans. See Chapter 5 for a full list of record keeping requirements.

It is important to note that the potential misidentification of a victim survivor or perpetrator of family violence may mean that information sharing has unintended consequences. Information sharing entities are encouraged to exercise their professional expertise, and to seek additional support as necessary. See Chapter 3 of the Family Violence Information Sharing GuidelinesExternal Link and the MARAM Framework for more details about how to respond when it becomes apparent that a perpetrator or victim survivor of family violence has been misidentified.

It is intended that professionals will exercise their judgement and utilise appropriate frameworks and expertise to determine the safest and most effective approach in each circumstance.

Reviewed 09 January 2023

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