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Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way priority area

Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families

We recognise that family violence is not a part of Aboriginal culture. We also recognise that family violence against Aboriginal people is perpetrated by both non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal people. We acknowledge that colonisation, dispossession, child removal and other discriminatory governmental policies have resulted in significant intergenerational trauma, structural disadvantage and racism. These have had long-lasting and far-reaching consequences.

Victoria has committed to an Aboriginal-led agreement Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way – Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families (the Dhelk Dja Agreement), that addresses family violence in Aboriginal communities. It is informed by the self-determination principles within Korin Korin Balit-DjakExternal Link , Victoria’s Aboriginal health, wellbeing and safety strategic plan 2017–2027.

The Dhelk Dja Agreement commits the signatories – Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal services and government – to work together. It commits them to be accountable for ensuring that Aboriginal people, families and communities are stronger, safer, thriving and living free from family violence. The Dhelk Dja Agreement is at the centre of family violence reform initiatives affecting Aboriginal people.

The Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum and its members are strategic leaders overseeing the implementation of the Dhelk Dja Agreement. The forum works closely with community and stakeholders.

Rolling Action Plan activities will continue to progress family violence reforms, in line with the Dhelk Dja Agreement.

    What has happened

    • Self-determination is at the heart of the Dhelk Dja Agreement, marking a systemic shift in the way we partner with the Aboriginal community.

      The Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum and its members are the individual and collective champions and strategic leaders who oversee the Dhelk Dja Agreement and the first Dhelk Dja three-year action plan 2019–2022. This plan which articulates the critical actions and supporting activities required to progress the Dhelk Dja Agreement’s five strategic priorities.

      Each of these priorities recognises the need to invest in Aboriginal culture, leadership and decision-making as the key to ending family violence in Victorian Aboriginal communities.

      The Dhelk Dja Koori Caucus comprises the chairs of the 11 Dhelk Dja Action Groups and key representatives of Aboriginal services that are members of the partnership forum.

      The caucus determined the need to develop a suite of specific and measurable targets and corresponding actions to eliminate violence against Aboriginal women and children. This work is to occur within the first year of the Closing the Gap Victorian implementation plan 2021–23.

      A detailed data collection plan for the Dhelk Dja Agreement will be developed. This will draw on existing data as well as identifying gaps and opportunities for new data. The data will support our understanding of Aboriginal family violence. It will build the evidence base for prevention and intervention.

      • Victoria Police, in partnership with Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum and the Aboriginal Justice Forum, has commenced a refresh of the current 10 Police and Aboriginal Community Protocols Against Family Violence sites. The protocols are an agreement between local Aboriginal communities and Victoria Police that document the local police response to family violence where a person identifies as Aboriginal. Victoria Police has committed to a statewide expansion to include additional sites.
      • Dhelk Dja action groups regional action plans are being developed and implemented, with many activities and events delivered virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic to maintain community engagement and connection.
      • At the August 2021 partnership forum, the Aboriginal family violence industry strategy was endorsed. The strategy aims to:
        • grow and expand the Aboriginal family violence workforce
        • ensure a self-determining, valued and empowered Aboriginal family violence workforce
        • enhance workers’ employment and study skills
        • ensure a skilled and equipped Aboriginal family violence workforce
        • increase cultural safety in the workplace
        • recognise Aboriginal culture and cultural strengthening as protective factors against violence
        • enhance Aboriginal family violence workforce health, safety and wellbeing
        • ensure the Aboriginal family violence workforce is appropriately remunerated
        • recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
      • Aboriginal-led prevention is a key priority of the Dhelk Dja Agreement. It has a particular focus on the safety of women and children. In 2021, through the annual $1.1 million Victorian Aboriginal Community Initiatives Fund, 24 Aboriginal organisations and community groups are delivering 28 projects. These culturally appropriate, place-based community-led projects are dedicated to preventing and responding to family violence in Victorian Aboriginal communities.
      • The $2.7 million Preventing the Cycle of Violence Aboriginal Fund, established in 2018, supported 11 Aboriginal-led family violence prevention and early intervention initiatives. An independent evaluation found that the projects reached at least 50,000 people across Victoria. Projects from the Aboriginal Community Initiatives Fund were also evaluated. With findings supporting building Aboriginal services’ and communities’ capacity in data collection, interpretation, and translation. Findings also supported using local data and evaluation methodologies to inform planning, prioritising and reporting.
      • The $18.2 million Dhelk Dja Family Violence Fund prioritises funding over two years to Aboriginal communities and their organisations to develop and deliver a range of Aboriginal-led family violence responses and initiatives. Thirty-four projects and initiatives were funded and delivered by 15 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations.
      • Consistent with the Victorian Government’s commitment to self-determination, the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum endorsed the draft Aboriginal Access Points concept model in January 2020. This included the locations of the first three Aboriginal Access Points in Barwon, Bayside Peninsula and Mallee areas. After a co-design process led by key Aboriginal family violence stakeholders, the forum endorsed the Aboriginal Access Point Service Design Model in May 2021. Work is now under way to appoint the Aboriginal service agencies that will deliver the Aboriginal Access Points. The first Aboriginal Access Point will commence in mid-2022. All three Aboriginal Access Points are expected to be in operation by December 2022.

      Cultural safety and Aboriginal Access Points in The Orange Door network

      The Orange Door network includes staff and practice leaders from partner Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations. Embedding culturally safe practices with Orange Door services is informed by the experience and expertise of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation staff and practice leaders. It ensures principles of self-determination are upheld when working with Aboriginal families experiencing or using family violence.

      The Strengthening Cultural Safety in The Orange Door project is under way to establish a continuum of learning across The Orange Door networks. The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency has been contracted to commence development of a cultural safety training package tailored to The Orange Door network. A Cultural Safety Project Lead will be employed in local Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations in each area across the state from early 2022. These roles will localise the package for their area and support the rollout of training to all staff in The Orange Door. The Cultural Safety Project Leads will facilitate cultural safety assessment and planning processes as part of the implementation the Aboriginal inclusion action plan.

      The Aboriginal Access Points are a complementary service pathway for The Orange Door network for Aboriginal Victorians experiencing or using family violence. A series of workshops with key Aboriginal stakeholders were held to inform the development of the Aboriginal Access Points service model. This model was endorsed by the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum. Work has commenced to appoint Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations that will deliver the Aboriginal Access Points.

    • The Orange Door Aboriginal inclusion action plan was endorsed by the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum in mid-2021. The plan focuses on actions to improve access and equity for Aboriginal peoples. This is to reduce Aboriginal peoples’ experience of systemic barriers when accessing family violence and other specialist services such as child and family services.

    • We undertook Aboriginal-led evaluations of the Preventing the Cycle of Violence Aboriginal Fund and Aboriginal Community Initiatives Fund.

      Evaluation-capacity building of the funded organisations or community groups is a significant component of the two-year evaluation project. The aim is to enable the transfer of evaluation skills and capacity to inform their work with Aboriginal communities.

      This project makes an important and significant contribution to the evidence base for what works in family violence prevention for Aboriginal communities.

      Final evaluation reports have been provided to the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum to inform future direction.

      An independent evaluation of the Aboriginal Innovation Fund was also conducted in 2021, led by a First Nations consultancy firm. The findings offer opportunities to strengthen Aboriginal-led prevention activities and culturally- safe commissioning processes.

    What is next

    We will continue many activities started over the past two years:

    • Work has commenced to deliver the Aboriginal Family Violence Primary Prevention Research Project. This will examine existing initiatives and inform effective primary prevention of violence experienced by Aboriginal Victorian women, children and their families. This research will inform the review and update of the Indigenous Family Violence Primary Prevention Framework.
    • Work will commence on developing frameworks to ensure the voices of Aboriginal children and young people and Elders are embedded in the system transformation work.
    • A forum will be held in 2022 showcasing the successful Aboriginal community-led prevention initiatives to inform communities and share best practice.
    • Discussions will continue to inform an approach for a campaign focused on preventing violence against Aboriginal women, children and families.
    • The refresh and expansion of the Police and Aboriginal Community Protocols against Family Violence sites will continue. Co-design and delivery is informed by the Dhelk Dja Regional Action Groups, Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committees and the community.
    • A 10-year investment strategy will be developed in partnership with Koori Caucus members of the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum to inform the 2022–23 budget cycle.
    • Work is progressing to inform the Aboriginal data needs project to support baseline understanding of Aboriginal family violence prevention activities and build the evidence base for prevention and early intervention. This will support the Koori Caucus of the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum to prioritise investment and activity towards identified need.

    What this means for outcomes

    • We are strengthening family violence prevention by investing in Aboriginal community-led projects and initiatives through the Dhelk Dja Family Violence Fund and Aboriginal Community Initiatives Fund. Prevention and early intervention must be grounded in cultural strengthening, cultural expertise and education. This will be led and driven by the Aboriginal community. It will have self-determination at the centre of all decisions.

    • We know that Aboriginal people are disproportionately affected by family violence, particularly women and children. Activities across the priority areas, such as the use of the Central Information Point, assist risk identification. This supports services to prevent the escalation of violence. The design of the concept model for Aboriginal Access Points has been led by the Aboriginal community. This ensures access points will be culturally sensitive. Once established, it will provide a service pathway that can appropriately respond and support Aboriginal victim survivors to ensure they are safe.

    • We continue to work with perpetrators and people who use violence. This work aims to change their understanding of family violence and their attitudes. Ultimately, it seeks to support them to change their behaviour. This requires significant commitment from the perpetrator and support services. Our activities in other priority areas such as the Koori Cultural Safety Initiative, and the Medium-term Perpetrator Accommodation Scheme consider the different requirements of Aboriginal people who are perpetrators or who use violence.

    • The Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way – Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families is an Aboriginal-led approach to addressing reform within the system. Activities being delivered recognise the need to respond to all forms of family violence experienced by Aboriginal people in a culturally safe and inclusive way. The approach has focused on integrating the family violence system and making services and programs more accessible to Aboriginal communities. It also ensures that staff and practice leaders from Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations are engaged and able to provide culturally appropriate responses. This ensures the system is more responsive and that the professionals within it are skilled, capable and reflect the communities they serve.

    Reviewed 14 April 2022

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