The Family Violence Multi Agency Risk and Assessment Management (MARAM) Framework, the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme, the Child Information Sharing Scheme, and the Central Information Point support an effective and consistent approach to risk assessment and management. They also increase collaboration between services through information sharing.
Having a shared understanding supports:
- successful system integration
- workforces who understand their responsibilities in identifying and responding to family violence
- an accessible, equitable system response.
The focus of the Rolling Action Plan is to continue to implement and embed the MARAM Framework. This will include working with organisations and services who do not primarily deal with family violence as part of their service provision. These organisations and services will nonetheless encounter family violence. They need to know how to respond and support victim survivors, as well as raising whole of system capability and confidence in keeping perpetrators in view and accountable. This includes collaborating with, or referral to other services and contributing to risk management.
MARAM is the cornerstone of the government’s family violence risk assessment and management reform. It provides evidence-based guidance and tools to professionals to help consistent and collaborative responses to family violence.
With the roll out of Phase 2 of the MARAM over 370,000 practitioners (as at April 2021) are now prescribed from organisations across the health, education, justice and social service system. This means that along with the family violence workforce, other workers will use MARAM as part of their work. This includes workers in primary and secondary schools, early childhood education and care services, community-managed mental health and housing services, public health services and hospitals, refugee and migrant services and state-funded aged care services.
So far, more than 62,000 workers have been trained in MARAM and the information sharing schemes. The bulk of prescribed workers became prescribed in April 2021.
Practitioner reflections from the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency
The new MARAM tools provide a holistic framework to assist with identifying current risk as well as any historical intergenerational trauma. This allows practitioners to design healing plans that respond to a family’s whole experience of family violence.
Practitioners state that the risk assessment tool is useful therapeutically to open up conversations about family violence.
A key aspect of this is how the tool supports the practitioner to continue to hear what the client is saying. This means they are less likely to make a binary judgment or have an attitude that might lead them to predict culpability at the outset about who may be using or experiencing harm.
Rather than being used in a single session, practitioners find that it works best when used over a series of sessions. It can also be revisited to reflect on shifts that have taken place around dynamic risk and safety.
The Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme is a key enabler of MARAM. It enables prescribed organisations, known as Information Sharing Entities, to facilitate assessment and management of family violence risk to children and adults. The Child Information Sharing Scheme enables the broader sharing of information to promote child wellbeing or safety including in the absence of family violence.
Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme
What has happened
- The Central Information Point consolidates information about a perpetrator of family violence into a single report for frontline practitioners to assess and manage risk of family violence. This brings together workers and information from the Magistrate’s Court of Victoria, Victoria Police, Corrections Victoria and Child Protection in the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing. Between when it commenced in April 2018 to 30 October 2021, the Central Information Point has provided over 11,925 reports to support frontline practitioners in family violence risk assessment and management, including safety planning. The service is currently available to The Orange Door network, the nine Risk Assessment and Management Panels and to Berry Street services. It has become a critical tool for practitioners to access timely and consolidated perpetrator information to facilitate service responses with victim survivors and perpetrators of family violence.
- In particular, The Orange Door network has found value in receiving information in a timely way that shows a perpetrator’s pattern and history of family violence. This also supports and validates a victim survivor’s story or experience, empowers decision-making for victim survivors, and may find instances where misidentification of the predominant aggressor has occurred.
Central Information Point
A Risk Assessment and Management Panel Coordinator was asked to case consult by a Specialist Family Violence service. The victim survivor and perpetrator have a baby called Jane.* The perpetrator was in custody due to family violence and other offences.
The perpetrator had requested contact with Jane. Several agencies involved with the family raised concerns about the perpetrator having contact with Jane due to the perpetrator’s history of family violence and contact with other children. The Risk Assessment and Management Panel Coordinator submitted a Central Information Point request.
The Central Information Point report showed a timeline of offences involving the perpetrator's child from a previous relationship, as well as offences involving young people not related to him. The Central Information Point report also demonstrated there had been limited system accountability around the perpetrator's use of family violence with past victim survivors and the harm he had caused to other young girls.
Through sharing the information with relevant services, a more comprehensive risk assessment and safety planning was undertaken. This included supports and conditions for Jane’s safety during any contact with the perpetrator. The information from the Central Information Point report was used to assess and manage the risk to both Jane as a victim survivor of family violence in her own right and to Jane's mother.
*Names have been changed
- A survey of practitioners at The Orange Door network conducted in mid-2021 found that:
- 100 per cent of practitioners responding to the survey said that the Central Information Point report helped them better understand the perpetrator's family violence history and current risk
- 79 per cent said that they assessed the victim survivor to be at a higher risk level based on the Central Information Report
- 78 per cent said that they used the Central Information Report to support a referral or update risk management plans (including safety plans).
- A new online system to host the tools for risk assessment and management has been rolled out to The Orange Door services and key partner services.
- From April 2018 to December 2021, more than 45,000 MARAM risk assessments and safety plans have been undertaken by The Orange Door. The MARAM tools have also been embedded in the Specialist Homelessness Information Platform used by homelessness and specialist family violence services. Between September 2020 and November 2021, more than 49,000 MARAM risk assessments and safety plans were undertaken in the Specialist Homelessness Information Platform.
- Victoria Police shared a total of 5,368 information sharing requests through the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme and Child Information Sharing Scheme. Courts received 28,266 Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme requests in 2020–21, an increase of more than 30 per cent since 2019–20. The courts introduced updated Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme and Child Information Sharing Scheme request email templates for family violence practitioners to streamline request processes and support a consistent approach to information sharing.
The Family Violence Protection Act requires an annual report on MARAM to be tabled in Parliament that describes the key areas of progress and work being undertaken to align to MARAM across departments, organisations, and agencies. The first annual report on the implementation of the MARAM Framework was tabled to Parliament on 20 February 2020, the second on 18 February 2021 and the third on 10 February 2022. Information gathered from reviews and evaluations will inform future MARAM implementation and delivery and will be included in the annual reports.
- Development of accredited MARAM training through the tertiary education system has begun. Providers of this training will be encouraged to offer delivery models which recognise the training needs of different workforces and cover all levels of MARAM responsibility (identifying and responding through to comprehensive risk assessment and management).
- Non-accredited training has been made available in identification, intermediate and comprehensive practice. It has also been made available in collaborative practice and leading MARAM alignment. Training moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- We have worked closely with prescribed organisations across the health sector to move MARAM training online, ensuring greater participation from health services. The Strengthening Hospitals Responses to Family training is an example of how working in partnership with health services creates a tailored and appropriate response to family violence.
‘Following the tailored training that we have rolled out to our Child Protection practitioners, I notice a shift when they start asking questions about integrating MARAM into their practice. At this point they feel challenged by the new information and how to apply it, but for me this is the first sign that they are starting their journey of practice change… and this is where our implementation approach to MARAM alignment comes to the fore in providing practice resources, including tailored tools that inform and embed practice change’.
MARAM Practice Guides
In July 2021, Family Safety Victoria released the MARAM Practice Guides and assessment tools for professionals working with adults who use family violence (outside of specialist family violence perpetrator services – refer below).
The guides were developed through extensive consultation and user testing with more than 1,000 professionals involved over 18 months. Stakeholders engaged included academics and specialists in practice knowledge in working with people using violence, including towards
- Aboriginal people and communities
- LGBTIQ+ communities
- people with disabilities
- diverse multicultural, language and faith communities
- older people
These resources build on the MARAM Framework (released in 2018) and victim survivor focused Practice Guides (released in 2019).
The guides will continue to be updated and evaluated to reflect the evolving evidence base relating to experiences of family violence across the community and shifting practice directions that will contribute to this evidence base.
Tailored MARAM Practice Notes were released to update practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. They respond to adult and child victim survivors, adults and adolescents using family violence.
What is next
- We will continue to implement the MARAM Framework, Practice Guides and resources across prescribed organisations and services.
- In 2022–23, we will release comprehensive MARAM Practice Guides for professionals working with people using family violence. We will also release supplementary adolescent family violence and comprehensive child risk and wellbeing guidance. These will build on existing resources released during 2019–2021, including MARAM Practice Guides for working with adult and child victim survivors, and non-specialist guides for working with people using violence.
- Authorised organisations and services will continue to use the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme to manage family violence risk to children and adults and the Child Information Sharing Scheme to promote the safety of children.
- Family Safety Victoria and partner agencies are continuing to work together to support the ongoing operation of the Central Information Point.
- Annual reporting on the MARAM Framework will continue, as well as this 5–year reviews of the MARAM, Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme and Central Information Point are due to commence in 2022.
What this means for outcomes
Victim survivors are at the centre of our family violence reform. It is their experiences that have driven Victoria’s systemic approach to end family violence. Having a system in place where family violence organisations share risk relevant information and identify, assess and manage risk, helps ensure the safety of victim survivors. The MARAM Framework assists in services’ capacity to identify risks that may indicate the presence of family violence and severity of risk. This enables early intervention and coordinated and collaborative responses to risk management.
Having a system in place where family violence organisations share risk-relevant information and identify, assess and manage risk also helps to hold perpetrators to account. MARAM Practice Guides and assessment tools for professionals working with people who use violence help embed risk assessment and management responsibilities into operations. Tailored guidance ensures a common understanding of perpetrator presentations. It also promotes awareness of the risks that perpetrators pose to victim survivors. This approach supports the family violence workforce to hold perpetrators to account for their behaviour. Professionals are also supported to understand perpetrators and their behaviour. This reduce their ability to be manipulated, ensuring that perpetrators can be held accountable for their behaviour.
Embedding the MARAM Framework across the whole service system ensures Victoria is creating the foundation for an integrated family violence system. This system will support a shared understanding of risk and a consistent response to family violence. The benefits of this holistic approach at a service level are already being observed, with details provided in the MARAM annual reports. The family violence sector and broader workforces are becoming more skilled and capable of ensuring victim survivors are protected and perpetrators are held accountable. Information sharing across the family violence sector has allowed an integrated and consolidated approach to working with individuals experiencing or perpetrating family violence. This ensures the system remains person-centred and responsive.
Reviewed 14 April 2022