Client partnership strategy

The strategy proposes seven related focus areas for work (or ‘initiatives’) to strengthen client partnership in The Orange Door. This diagram in this documents shows an overview of the initiatives and their relationship to each other:

Client Partnership Strategy for The Orange Door (diagram)
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A high-level description of each initiative follows in the rest of this section.

The initiatives can be planned and considered separately but sequential implementation may enable better management of resources and dependencies. The strategy suggests a phased implementation approach, outlined in the diagram linked to above and further described in the detail below.

It is suggested that by introducing the client partnership register first, this could support work to bring the rest of the strategy to life and bring the voice of clients into current and emerging pieces of work. Initiatives on which other initiatives rely, and those with potentially far-reaching change management and workforce implications may need to be commenced earlier than others. Consideration needs to be given to the appropriate oversight for implementing the initiatives in this strategy, which could include a dedicated steering committee including people with lived experience.

An action learning approach, including prototyping, testing and piloting, should be considered in implementing each initiative. All initiatives will embed client partnership approaches (informed by the framework earlier in this document) in design, development and implementation.

Description of proposed client partnership initiatives

Each initiative below is described as an ideal end-state, with the assumption that some may initially be limited in scope and scale. It is also assumed that clients will be partners in bringing these initiatives to life, through involvement from early planning to detailed design and implementation.

1. Establish a client partnership register

A common barrier to client partnership for service providers and government is being able to quickly connect with clients who are willing and able to participate.

This initiative will establish a register of clients who are interested in participating in the development, implementation, delivery and improvement of The Orange Door. It will match them to time-limited participation opportunities and support them to take part in activities such as interviews, workshops or governance and advisory groups relating to local and statewide issues. This initiative could be implemented first to make it easier to partner with clients in implementing the remaining initiatives.

Scope of initiative

Develop processes and resources to:

  • identify and prioritise client engagement opportunities across all streams of work
  • safely identify clients who may want to contribute (considering how existing statewide and local groups could support this)
  • match clients to participation opportunities based on their skills, interests and capacity
  • establish development pathways for clients to strengthen their skills and sense of agency by progressing to more complex and demanding partnership opportunities (and potentially employment) with The Orange Door and across the service system
  • support clients to participate, which may include skill building (e.g. communication training), debrief counselling, mentoring and tools
  • support staff across The Orange Door partners to identify opportunities for client participation and engage with clients matched through the register


  • Improves service quality and design through a mechanism to easily include clients in the process, avoiding common challenges with recruitment and support.
  • Provides a development pathway for clients, and acts as a stepping stone to other roles within the service system and beyond.

Key questions

  • Which organisation(s) would be best placed to maintain the register and support clients to participate?
  • Should this register connect with similar registers in other service sectors (e.g. mental health)?
  • What tools and resources from other contexts can be used to support the register and its engagement processes?

2. Introduce consumer lead roles

Clients have reported that they want opportunities to contribute to the service system in a more embedded (and less piecemeal) way.

This initiative will introduce consumer lead roles to contribute directly to the work of The Orange Door across policy, design, implementation and service improvement, including evaluation and quality assurance. Consumer lead roles are in place at DHHS and in other services (including at Safer Care Victoria and mental health services) and require common project, policy and design skills in addition to lived experience expertise. Having a consumer lead role in a team doesn’t remove the need to consult with clients outside of the organisation. These roles could be introduced early to play a key role in realising the remainder of the strategy.

Scope of initiative

  • Develop position descriptions for the consumer lead roles, drawing on insights from other organisations with similar roles already in place.
  • Develop resources (such as communications tools) to support managers and teams to understand the expectations of the consumer lead role, and to help consumer leads feel welcome and valued.


  • Improves the quality of products and processes by embedding lived experience expertise directly in the work of The Orange Door.
  • Provides employment opportunities for people with lived experience.
  • Responds to client concerns about ‘piecemeal’ and inauthentic client partnership.

Key questions

  • What is the ideal number, placement and scope of these roles?
  • Would there be benefit in these roles being independent of government?
  • Could existing roles be re-purposed as consumer leads?
  • How will the needs of diverse populations be represented?

3. Build lived experience within The Orange Door workforce

While it is acknowledged that there are people with lived experience working within and leading The Orange Door, there is no consistent approach to acknowledge or draw on this experience, or to build the lived experience expertise of the workforce.

This initiative will explore opportunities to build the lived experience expertise of the workforce, including through active recruitment and developing ways for people in the workforce to acknowledge and draw on their own lived experience in their work with clients, if this is something that they wish to do. This initiative will also explore the potential for new roles specifically designed to leverage the skills and experience of people with lived experience.

This initiative should be informed by services and sectors where lived experience is already a prominent feature of the workforce, including Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and mental health, disability and youth services.

Scope of initiative

  • Deliver a review of role descriptions in The Orange Door workforce (including operational FSV roles), with a focus on drawing value from the lived experience of staff. The review should recognise that lived experience can be a professional asset, but that it is important to ensure all staff are equipped with the skills, knowledge and support to undertake the work. From 2020, consideration will need to be given to the implementation of mandatory minimum qualifications (recommendation 209 from the Royal Commission into Family Violence), noting that the model for implementation includes specific pathways for people with lived experience.
  • Start from the assumption that lived experience is not a substitute for minimum mandatory qualifications.
  • Explore whether any new roles specifically focused on leveraging lived experience could be of benefit in the context of The Orange Door.
  • Explore potential pathways for clients to develop the skills and experience required to progress into employment in The Orange Door workforce, or other similar roles.
  • Inform and be informed by research examining role design being undertaken as part of the Rolling Action Plan of Building from Strength: 10-Year Industry Plan for Family Violence Prevention and Response.


  • Making lived experience visible in the workforce would help build greater trust and empathy between the service, clients and the community, leading to improved outcomes for clients.
  • Supports people in the workforce with lived experience to acknowledge and draw on this in their work, playing a part in their own recovery journey.
  • Potentially provides employment opportunities for people with lived experience, contributing to improved longer-term recovery outcomes.

Key questions

  • What are the key ways that the workforce can draw on its own lived experience to benefit clients?
  • What are the possible impacts of this initiative on the workforce? How ready is the system for this initiative?
  • What can be learnt from other service sectors that embed lived experience in their workforces?

4. Strengthen client partnership practices

At its core, practice in The Orange Door is client-led and person-centred: practitioners are directed by the needs and preferences of clients seeking support. However, there is not a clear understanding of where there are opportunities to enhance client partnership, and how to best embed these in practice.

This initiative will explore the service model and practice on the ground to determine ways to improve clients’ experience of partnership. Areas for investigation may include identifying visible practices at The Orange Door which support client choice; information critical to share with clients to maximise their empowerment (through understanding of The Orange Door and their own service options) and ways to make the referral experience feel more supportive. It will also consider ways that workers, as part of their practice, can seek input about the client’s service experience directly from clients and use this to contribute to service improvement.

Scope of initiative

Develop guidance and resources to strengthen person-centred practice in The Orange Door to improve clients’ experience of partnership. Deliverables could include: practice guidance to support better engagement with clients of The Orange Door, and information and resources tailored for clients to explain service options.

Embed the proposed solutions into existing processes, documents and training materials and influence continuous improvement and practice development processes.


  • By strengthening client partnership, this initiative gives clients a greater sense of empowerment and agency in their service experience with The Orange Door.
  • Improves the ability of the service to hear clients and give them control over their situation and decisions (a measure in the Family Violence Outcomes Framework).
  • Provides a basis for more visible client partnership practices across the work of The Orange Door.

Key questions

  • How might we support clients to feel a continuity of partnership as they are connected from The Orange Door to other services?
  • How might approaches to person-centred practice inform this work?

5. Include clients in governance, reference and advisory groups

It is critical to include the voice of clients in decision-making and advisory structures to ensure that The Orange Door policy and operations evolves to better meet the needs of clients. Without client representation, client partnership can not be considered authentic.

This initiative will deliver policy and supporting resources for The Orange Door partners to include clients as members of The Orange Door governance, reference and advisory groups at the local area and statewide levels.

This initiative builds upon the success of the inclusion of VSAC members in various groups (such as The Orange Door Statewide Reference Group), and draws on examples in other social services sectors, including disability, mental health and youth services.

Scope of initiative

  • Identify which groups and forums are appropriate for client membership.
  • Determine if changes are needed to existing groups, their practices and terms of reference to be able to authentically include clients.
  • Deliver policies and resources (e.g. group terms of reference) to:
    • support secretariats to identify clients with the right skills and experience and recruit them to these groups
    • support clients to participate and be heard in these groups (e.g. requiring a minimum of two clients in each group and a dedicated support person before, during or after meetings - see the Voice at The Table Consumer Participation Kit for other examples)
    • clarify the purpose of client involvement in each group (this may be to contribute: based on their lived experience of family violence, vulnerability or services; based on professional expertise developed as an advocate; as a representative of a group/community or as an individual)
  • Determine if any additional groups are required.


  • Clients will identify issues and opportunities early that may otherwise be missed, or not identified until implementation.
  • Provides a skills development opportunity for clients, and acts as a stepping stone to other roles within the service system and beyond.
  • Improves the quality of connection and communication for all group members (according to reflections from organisations that have already adopted this practice).
  • Contributes to the healing and recovery of clients by giving an opportunity to influence the service.

Key questions

  • For which groups and structures is client membership most critical? For which is it critical to include Aboriginal people? For which is it critical to include people from diverse communities?
  • Is there a need to establish additional consumer advisory groups (as is common practice in health services) specific to The Orange Door at a statewide level and/or in each area?
  • Could clients in these groups play an oversight role in ensuring The Orange Door delivers on its client partnership vision?
  • What more can be learnt from other social services sectors (including disability, mental health and youth services) where this approach is already being used?

6. Involve clients in recruitment processes

Clients offer a unique perspective on what makes for a client-focused and effective staff member, however current FSV recruitment processes do not include clients and this practice is variable across partner agencies.

This initiative will deliver policies and resources to support the inclusion of clients in recruitment processes across The Orange Door partners for roles relating to The Orange Door. This will include involvement in recruitment process design through to role definition and candidate selection. The initial focus should be on operational roles, however involvement in recruitment of policy and project roles should also be considered.

Including clients in recruitment is a well-established practice in parts of the community service and health systems (see this case study from HealthWest).

Scope of initiative

  • Establish processes to identify and engage clients to participate in recruitment processes (drawing on initiative two above).
  • Prioritise roles relating to The Orange Door according to which would most benefit from client input in recruitment.
  • Review role descriptions and recruitment processes for priority roles (likely area-based roles). Alternatives to conventional interview panel processes should be considered.
  • Deliver policies and resources to guide practice and support hiring managers, recruitment panel members and clients to support and participate in the process.


  • Leverages client expertise in identifying the key skills and attitudes needed in the workforce, leading to better quality recruits.
  • Improves the ability to select candidates who have a genuinely client-centric approach.

Key questions

  • What are the opportunities and challenges for including clients in recruitment for CSO partners in The Orange Door?
  • How will the process ensure fairness in recruitment? In situations where the client knows the candidate, how will conflicts of interest be dealt with?

7. Co-design and co-deliver The Orange Door training with clients

Through sharing their knowledge and experience, clients are ideally placed to support the workforce to deliver a client-centric service. The current induction training program for The Orange Door workforce includes an opening speech by VSAC members and draws on client experience resources developed with clients. There is, however, an opportunity to draw greater value from client contributions in training, drawing inspiration from this emerging practice in other community and health service sectors, including disability, youth, homelessness and mental health services.

Using a phased approach, this initiative will embed clients in the design and delivery of training (including induction training) for The Orange Door workforce so they can better partner with, understand and meet the needs of clients. Clients will directly contribute to the development and review of training modules, and co-facilitate alongside other training providers.

Scope of initiative

  • Embed co-design and co-delivery with clients as a requirement in documents used to procure training services.
  • Establish processes to identify and engage appropriately skilled clients (drawing on initiative two above).
  • Engage training providers who are able to co-design and co-deliver training with clients.
  • Determine which existing training modules would most benefit from the proposed approach, and if any additional content is needed.
  • Update and develop training material as required (starting with the highest priority content).
  • Develop a plan to move towards greater client involvement in training over time.


  • Improved learning outcomes for The Orange Door workforce, and therefore improved service delivery and practice through deeper understanding of client experience and approaches to working with clients.
  • Provides a skills development opportunity for clients, and acts as a stepping stone to other roles within the service system and beyond.
  • Contributes to a more person-centred, partnership-focused practice and culture.
  • Demonstrates client partnership in action – to the workforce, and to clients involved in the training and in the broader community.

Key questions

  • Where would there be the most benefit in including clients in The Orange Door training?
  • What can be learnt from other sectors already using this approach?