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Primary prevention priority area

Changing community attitudes and behaviours to help stop family violence and all forms of violence against women before it starts

Primary prevention aims to shift the underlying drivers of family violence and all forms of violence against women to prevent violence from occurring in the first place. These drivers include systems, structures, norms, attitudes, practices and power imbalances.

Primary prevention is a long-term strategic approach that seeks to engage and reach people of all ages in the places they live, work, learn, socialise and play. It aims to drive social and cultural change towards a society where Victorians can live free from violence. We all have a role to play in calling out and challenging violence-supportive attitudes, behaviours and drivers. This includes discrimination and gender inequality.

The Rolling Action Plan will continue to:

  • strengthen the foundations already in place
  • scale up the prevention activities that are most effective
  • increase the capability and capacity of our workforce.

The recently released Free from Violence Second Action Plan 2022–2025 sets out our approach to primary prevention as a priority of the Rolling Action Plan.

Free from Violence Second Action Plan 2022-2025

What has happened

This report provides an overview of some of the prevention initiatives undertaken as part of the Victorian Government’s family violence reforms. Work has commenced on two reports to be delivered in 2022. These will provide a more comprehensive picture of activity under the Free from Violence Strategy and primary prevention efforts undertaken across Victoria more broadly.

These are:

  • Respect Victoria’sExternal Link Three-yearly report to Parliament. This will report on progress of all primary prevention activity of family violence and violence against women across Victoria
  • a midterm review of the Free from Violence Strategy. This evaluates the collective work delivered by programs funded under the strategy’s first action plan.

Actions highlighted in this section have largely been undertaken under the framework of the Free from Violence Strategy’s First Action Plan. This includes the multifaceted work of Respect Victoria in community awareness, research, evaluation, policy and advocacy.

    • Gender inequality is a key driver of family violence. Addressing it is a critical part of our reform to reduce family violence. In 2020, Victoria appointed its first Public Sector Gender Equality CommissionerExternal Link responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Gender Equality Act 2020External Link (the Act), which came into effect on 31 March 2021. The Act is the first of its kind in Australia. It requires public sector organisations to demonstrate meaningful progress on workplace gender equality. The Act will work to break down discrimination and gender barriers in the public sector. It also guides gender equality for defined entities, including the Victorian public sector, local government, university and TAFEs. The Commissioner has also received the first workplace gender audits from defined entities. Gender equality action plans, which must include workplace gender audit data, are due to the Commissioner on 31 March 2022.
    • Organisations across the health sector have developed gender equality action plans in line with the requirements of the Gender Equality Act. These plans include provisions that address violence for staff and consumers.
    • Women’s health services are key partners in supporting the health and wellbeing of Victorian women, promoting gender equality and preventing family violence and all forms of violence against women.
    • Under the current Victorian Women’s Health Program, 9 regional and 2 state-wide women’s health services are supported with core funding to lead best practice health promotion and the primary prevention of family violence, as well as to promote gender equal health outcomes and prevent illness and disease in Victorian women.
    • Over 1,950 Victorian government, Catholic and independent schools are signed on to the whole school approach to Respectful RelationshipsExternal Link . More than 35,000 school staff and more than 3,500 early childhood educators have participated in Respectful Relationships professional learning.

    Integrating respectful relationships in VCAL at Melbourne Polytechnic

    Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) students and staff at Melbourne Polytechnic were concerned about unhealthy relationships. They piloted a process that could influence positive change within the VCAL cohort.

    The senior VCAL program for 2020 explored the themes of power, justice and equity. It was informed by research on family violence primary prevention strategies and respectful relationships.

    Students developed and applied knowledge and skills about social issues around violence against women, respectful relationships and social connectedness.

    They also reflected on their own value systems. This includes the responsibility they have as individuals to build self-awareness and resilience to support personal growth. The project addressed the bystander effect and calling out disrespectful actions and sexist language.

    The project commenced in 2020 and ran over two semesters. In the first semester, students conducted a targeted youth attitudes survey through social media. This sought responses to the question: ‘What does it mean to be a young man growing up in Melbourne in 2020?’

    This research informed the respectful relationship prototype resource VCAL students developed in the second semester. The prototype is designed for senior secondary school students to talk and learn about respectful relationships.

    The project was funded by the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing and supported by the Department of Education and Training.

    • Our WatchExternal Link launched Respect and Equality at TAFEExternal Link in July 2021. This is a whole-of-institution approach to preventing violence against women and promoting gender equality. It was developed with the support of the Victorian Department of Education and Training and five TAFEs. The Department of Education and Training will work with TAFEs across Victoria to implement Respect and Equality at TAFE. It aims to support all TAFEs to build an environment where staff and students feel safe, respected and valued.
    • We have supported Our Watch to develop the Men in Focus practice guide. This builds on the Men in Focus evidence review, released in 2019. This will provide prevention practitioners with guidance and support to implement best-practice initiatives that engage men and boys.
    • Respect Victoria has developed a three-year campaign strategy that will run until 2023–24. Early evaluation of existing campaigns show a high level of community recognition and understanding of key messages. This includes the Pride, Respect, Equality (LGBTIQ+) campaign, released in early 2021. This campaign addresses family violence perpetrated against LGBTIQ+ people by a person’s biological family or the family a person was raised in.

    Respect Women campaign across 16 Days of Activism

    Each year, Respect Victoria supports organisations and individuals across Victoria to engage in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. This is a global initiative of UN Women that runs from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to 10 December (Human Rights Day).

    In 2021 there were numerous elements to the Respect Victoria-led 16 Days of Activism initiative. These included:

    • the Respect Women: 'Call it Out' (Respect Is …) statewide paid media campaign (seen by more than one in every three Victorians – 34 per cent across November/December 2021)
    • the Respect Women: ‘Call it Out’ (Respect Is …) grassroots initiative. This was delivered to 113 organisations across the state. It was done in partnership with Safe and Equal, the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Victorian Council of Social Services, No To Violence, GEN VIC and the Women’s Health Services Council
    • the Walk Against Family Violence was held on 25 November. It was led by Safe Steps with organising partners including City of Melbourne, Djirra, Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, Safe and Equal, InTouch Multicultural Centre, Emerge, Women with Disabilities Victoria, No to Violence and the Victim Survivors' Advisory Council. It reached an estimated 2.6 million individuals online in 2021
    • an initiative amplifying voices of victim-survivors and advocates sharing their stories of respect.

    The ‘Respect Is …’ platform encourages community members to call out sexism and disrespect. It aims to support Victorians to make the link between gender inequality and family violence in all of its forms.

    The 2017 National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey (NCAS) found that 40 per cent of people believe that women exaggerate when they talk about inequality.

    The 16 Days of Activism offers a unique opportunity for many different communities and organisations to come together and take action to create a future where all Victorians are safe, equal and respected.

    Outdated attitudes about gender no longer have a place in the spaces we live, work or play. By leading with respect, we can stop family violence and violence against women before it starts.

    • Respect Victoria commissioned research to deliver a family violence prevention action research project on the transition to parenthood for LGBTIQ+ parents. The project is titled New Parents, New PossibilitiesExternal Link and was undertaken in partnership with the Drummond Street Service’s Centre for Family Research and Evaluation. This research provides a suite of resources. These include three booklets for new parents, family and community, and perinatal practitioners. It includes a webinar series developed for the perinatal sector. It also provides an interactive simulation tool with case studies of diverse LGBTIQ+ families.
    • The $3.58 million Free from Violence Local Government Program 2022–2025 was announced in December 2021. The program will support up to 15 councils implement the Local government guide for preventing family violence and all forms of violence against women. This will be launched in mid-2022. The guide provides an evidence-based whole-of-council model. It aims to ensure a consistent, best-practice approach to prevention in local government settings. It was developed through an extensive co-design process.
    • The Baby Makes 3 Toolkit was developed by Health Ability (previously known as Carrington Health) in partnership with six antenatal service providers. This aims to support educators in childbirth and parenting education programs to promote equal and respectful relationships during the transition to parenthood. Twenty public maternity hospitals across Victoria have implemented the toolkit in their childbirth and parenting programs.
    • We are also funding community organisations to deliver programs targeting men and boys and promoting healthier masculinities. These include:
      • delivering a pilot project ‘Engaging with men in faith settings’ with the Islamic Council of Victoria. This was undertaken in partnership with the Jesuit Social Services’ The Men’s Project. The project engages with secondary school students and school staff to prevent family violence and promote healthy masculinity.
      • Gender Equality VictoriaExternal Link has been funded to work with young men to understand bystander behaviour and co-design bystander interventions to support young men to step in when they see violence online.
      • the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative engaged young men and their families to promote respectful relationships. This work was part of the Aboriginal Family Violence Primary Prevention Innovation Fund. It engaged 80 young men across eight primary schools. Feedback indicated their attitudes towards their culture and women had been positively changed.

    Prevention of Family Violence Data Platform

    In June 2021, Respect Victoria and the Victorian Crime Statistics Agency launched the Prevention of Family Violence Data Platform (the platform). It is a ground breaking primary prevention tool.

    The platform brings together a wide range of valid data. It allows the Victorian Government, the family violence sector, researchers and the public to track Victoria’s population-level progress on preventing family violence and all forms of violence against women.

    The platform includes data collected between 2009 and 2020 from 34 existing sources. This data relates to the prevalence of violence. It is presented through interactive dashboards that provide a visually rich interface with definitions, imagery and explanatory materials.

    This provides a baseline for Victoria’s status before significant investment in primary prevention.

    The platform will be updated regularly as more data becomes available.

    Updated data will include a number of datasets, such as the 2021 National Community Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women Survey (NCAS).

    Regular data updates will enable users to see how rates of gender inequality, violence, and community attitudes towards violence are changing over time. This will help inform primary prevention policy and program planning.

    Prevention of Family Violence Data Platform

    • The Victorian Government has consulted with the sector to identify priorities for supporting the primary prevention workforce. An internal report set out targeted recommendations and actions. This have informed the deliverables in the Free from Violence Second Action Plan and will inform the next industry plan rolling action plan.
    • We have progressed important work to strengthen the prevention system, to ensure enabling supports are in place, and to improve coordination and planning. To support this we have, established new governance forums for the Victorian Government to work closely with the broader sector. We have continued to invest in regional and local level leadership and partnership through women's health services. We have also developed a primary prevention model for local government.
    • We have funded Jesuit Social Services to implement the Contributor Workforce Capacity Building project. This builds the capacity of those who work with men and boys every day. This includes social workers, staff in correctional facilities and educators. The aim is to improve the wellbeing and attitudes of men and boys by confronting stereotypical constructions of masculinity. Training was delivered to more than 100 people across four agencies.
    • The Free from Violence Second Action Plan 2022–2025: Victoria’s strategy to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women continues the work started under the first action plan. This plan builds on what we have achieved and learned to continue embedding a primary prevention approach.
    • The Primary Prevention Sector Reference Group was established in early 2021. It provides a forum for key leaders in the prevention sector to provide strategic advice to the Victorian Government. This includes advice on policy, program and service development, implementation and delivery. It is co-chaired by Department of Families Fairness and Housing and Respect Victoria. It focuses on current and emerging issues relevant to the primary prevention of family violence and all forms of violence against women.

What is next

We will continue to strengthen existing prevention partnerships with community organisations and industry sectors to effect positive change. We will amplify our impact through the implementation of the Free from Violence Second Action Plan.

  • Regional and statewide Women’s Health Services continue to support primary prevention networks and partnerships with local organisations, councils and other priority group representatives. These partnerships build capacity and capability in primary prevention. They also promote gender equality across local communities. Support for these networks is delivered (in part) through the Women's Health Services Workforce Capacity Building Program. There is a total investment of $9.6 million from 2018 to 2026.
  • Respect Victoria partners across the sector to extend the reach of community initiatives. Current partnerships include:
    • Safe and EqualExternal Link (formerly Domestic Violence Victoria and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria) for the 'Respect Is' grassroots initiative across 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (working with initiative partners Municipal Association of Victoria, the Victorian Council of Social Services, No To Violence, GEN VIC and the Women’s Health Services Council)
    • Safe StepsExternal Link Family Violence Resource Centre to support the Walk Against Family Violence (with organising partners including City of Melbourne, Djirra, Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, Safe and Equal, InTouch Multicultural Centre, Emerge, Women with Disabilities Victoria, No to Violence and the Victim Survivors' Advisory Council).
  • The Supporting Multicultural and Faith Communities to Prevent Family Violence 2021 Grant ProgramExternal Link funds 33 organisations to deliver primary prevention, awareness raising and early intervention projects with over 17 identified ethnic groups, communities from five geographical and five faith groups across Victoria.
  • Rainbow Health AustraliaExternal Link has received additional investment to continue the LGBTIQ+ Family Violence Prevention Project from 2022 to 2024. The funding will enable Rainbow Health to expand their LGBTIQ+ initiatives and support the prevention sector to embed evidence-based, intersectional and community-led approaches to primary prevention of family violence.

What this means for outcomes

  • Creating social and cultural change can take years. Behaviour change campaigns are being delivered by Respect Victoria and the Department of Education and Training’s Respectful Relationships initiative, along with other program activities. These campaigns are starting the conversations that will shift the social norms, practices and structures that allow family violence and violence against women to occur. This work shines a light on some of the less understood forms of violence. It gives Victorians the tools to help prevent violence before it starts.

  • Primary prevention activities are establishing strong foundations to support sustainable changes across the Victorian Community and in specific settings and sectors. Significant investment has occurred in training and building capabilities and embedding training and models into our education system. This provides a consistency in understanding, approach and language used to address the drivers of family violence and all forms of violence against women.

Reviewed 14 April 2022

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