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DPC travel outcomes report: Fiona Richardson's 2016 travel to the US

Information about costs, purpose and outcomes of Fiona Richardson's travel to the United States of America in March 2016.

Minister Fiona Richardson
Portfolio Women
Prevention of Family Violence
Countries visited United States of America
Date of travel 12 to 21 March 2016
No of official travel days (including date of departure and date of return) 9
Accompanying ministerial staff

Tanja Kovac, Chief of Staff

Accompanied by spouse in an official capacity No
Funding source Department of Premier and Cabinet
Airfares (including taxes and fees) $24,229.44
Accommodation (including taxes and fees) $7,264
Other expenses (includes surface travel and travel allowances) $200
Travel cost for minister and staff $4,334.56
Are the above costs final and complete? No

Purpose of travel

The purpose of the delegation was to attend the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW60) at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, and participate in relevant side events. In addition to attending the Commission sessions and seminars, the delegation also met privately with global best- practice experts at an executive level including UN Women, Ending Violence Against Women Section, United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women and the United Nations Development Programme.

Various meetings external to the United Nations (UN) were also attended in New York to discuss family violence and the prevention of violence against women, the promotion of gender equality and other critical gender equality issues. These included the Office of the Mayor, the Centre for Court Innovation and discussions with the founder of EndAbuse4Good and Leigh Goodmark – Professor of Law.

The achieved objective of these meetings was to gather information and resources on family violence initiatives in New York and across the globe, to strengthen global networks and relationships and provide an international platform to promote innovations underway in Victoria.

Benefits of travel to the State of Victoria

Attending CSW60 provided a unique opportunity for representatives of the Victorian Government to participate in the global discussion on the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to develop alignment with Victoria’s Gender Equality Strategy currently under development.

Victoria’s presence reinforced Australia’s support for the UN’s commitment to promoting women’s empowerment and linking this to sustainable development and the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and 

girls. Networks established with international colleagues at the UN, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and via further external meetings, were meaningful, insightful, beneficial and supportive of future global collaboration on the eliminating all forms of gender-based discrimination. 

Ms Helen Clark, Administrator of the UNDP has offered the Victorian Government the opportunity to work with UNDP on a programme which facilitates linking sub-national governments to developing countries and shares information to help reduce incidences of gender based violence.

Victoria has agreed to work with an African and/or Asia-Pacific country to consider use of the Family Violence Index (when developed) to help reduce incidences of violence against women.

A similar discussion was had with Ms Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary General, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, focusing on how Victoria’s Family Violence Index (when developed) may work  with UN Women's Global Database on Violence Against Women.

The recommendation from the Royal Commission into Family Violence report most relevant to these discussions is, “the Victorian Government ensure that the Victorian Family Violence Index, measures, as far as possible, the extent of and response to family violence in different communities”   State of Victoria, Royal Commission into Family Violence: Report and Recommendations, Vol V, Parl Paper No 321 (2014-16) p5.

Victoria has now established relationships with UNDP and the UN to explore  how the Family Violence Index will best intersect with the global approach of use and dissemination of data on violence against women, as well as analysis of such data. 

With regard to  community awareness campaigns targeting the prevention of family violence -the Victorian  Government delegation has had meaningful discussion with Ms Aldijana Sisic, Chief, United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, about the Victoria Against Violence – 16 Days of Activism campaign. 

The delegation also focused on US family violence services and the justice system, which included visits to the Office to Combat Domestic Violence (Office of the Mayor) and the Red Hook Community Justice Centre. 

During the visit to the Office to Combat Domestic Violence - the delegation met with Cecile Noel – Commissioner, Office to Combat Domestic Violence, Anabella Escobar – Deputy Director, NYC Family Justice Centre, Michael J Sidman, Director of Communications, Office to Combat Domestic Violence, Audrey Moore – Executive Assistant District Attorney, Chief Diversity Officer, Chief of the Special Victims Bureau. 

The NYC Family Justice Centre’s philosophy is to have the leadership of all units in one place to provide both safety and services. They also have a Child Advocacy Centre that intersects with Child Protection to promote the interests and needs of the child.

The delegation was informed of the benefits and limitations of specialist family violence hubs connected to legal service delivery and the prosecution of family violence offences. This visit included a tour of the hub location and the diverse services and programs contained therein. This research will aid in an understanding of how best to implement Recommendation 37 of the Royal Commission’s recommendations regarding the introduction of Support and Safety Hubs. 

The delegation also had a unique opportunity to visit and experience court proceedings at the Red Hook Justice Centre (Red Hook). Established to respond to escalated deaths from drug related shootings in Brooklyn, the Red Hook (community) judge has an array of sanctions and services at his disposal.

These include community restitution projects, short-term psychoeducational groups, and long-term treatment (e.g. drug treatment, mental health treatment, and trauma-focused psychotherapy). Red Hook features an on-site clinic staffed by social service professionals who use trauma- and evidence-informed approaches to assess and connect individuals to appropriate services.

Red Hook also works to connect court-involved youth to strengths-based programming, including art projects and peer education programs. Red Hook handles low-level criminal cases (including some felonies), as well as selected Family Court and Civil Court matters, including family violence matters.

In hearing these cases, Red Hook recognises that neighbourhood problems do not conform to the arbitrary jurisdictional boundaries of the modern court system. By having a single judge handle matters that ordinarily are heard by different decision makers at different locations, Red Hook offers a swifter and more coordinated judicial response.

The Hon Judge Alex M Calabrese, Presiding Judge, Red Hook Community Justice Centre showed great interest in visiting Victoria. The Honourable Rob Hulls, in his position as Attorney General during his state political career, visited Red Hook and met with Judge Calabrese. This then resulted in the establishment of a Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC) in Collingwood, Victoria.  

The Royal Commission has recommended that the Magistrates’ Court continue to move to a more therapeutic and specialised approach to family violence. The intention is that this will support victims and promote perpetrators’ compliance with court orders while building on what works to reduce the trauma, delay and complexity of court proceedings. The delegation learned a great deal from Red Hook’s approach to innovative justice.  

Another program of interest to the delegation was Red Hook’s Peacemaking Project, which uses traditional Native American approaches to justice focussed on healing and restoration. Using community peers and non-lawyers to facilitate discussions between individuals and groups in conflict the Peacemaking Project is an example of an innovative early intervention strategy. Recommendation 122 of the Royal Commission called for the Government to develop a pilot program for restorative justice in family violence cases.

In terms of breaking the cycle of family violence, the delegation met with EndAbuse4Good Founder Ms Aryn Quinn.  The EndAbuse4Good approach is two-fold: preventing abuse before it begins, and helping survivors break free from the cycle. Everything they do arises from the motto: Education = Prevention.

EndAbuse4Good’s campaigns, programs and events build awareness, re-educate survivors, and foster a culture of zero tolerance for dating and domestic abuse. Of particular interest was the EndAbuse4Good’s educational program ‘Share the 8 before it’s too late’.

The eight signs are a pattern of intensity, jealousy, criticism, control, isolation, blame, sabotage and anger.  When these behaviours are systematically used by one partner to gain power and control over the other, it’s an abusive relationship that may lead to violence.

Ms Quinn kindly offered to share her online collateral with the Victoria Government and to continue discussions as to how Victoria could adopt a similar approach to educate young women, potentially also working with the Department of Education and Training (DET). 

Next steps

  • DPC to  work with the Minister’s Office to propose next steps to Ms Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, to partner with one, possibly two developing countries (Tanzania was agreed upon, in addition to another potential partnership with an Asia-Pacific country) to consider sharing the findings of the Family Violence Index (when developed). 
  • DPC to  work with the Minister’s Office to invite Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka,  Executive Director,  UN Women, to visit Victoria, to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25 November 2016) and play a major role in the Victoria Against Violence 16 days of activism campaign, including addressing a joint sitting of Parliament.
  • DPC to work with the Minister’s Office to identify opportunities to align the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, highlighting relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that align with work underway in Victoria.
  • DPC to work with the Minister’s Office to ensure ongoing sharing of information with the UN via SDGs to place Victoria on the global stage and provide further opportunities for collaboration with the UN and UNDP.
  • DPC to work with the Minister’s Office invite The Hon Judge Alex M Calabrese, Presiding Judge, Red Hook Community Justice Centre to visit Victoria to discuss restorative justice models. 
  • DPC to explore partnering with DET to scope opportunities to work with End4Abuse Founder Ms Quinn, to share her collateral with the Victorian Government. Ms Quinn  discussed and agreed to sharing collateral at time of meeting. 
  • A briefing was held for all Victorian Members of Parliament on Wednesday 23 March 2016. This was an opportunity for the delegation to provide an overview of key meetings and findings.

Reviewed 28 January 2019

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