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Research and evaluation priority area

Coordinating research and evaluation across the family violence reform

We need a strong and effective evidence base regarding family violence and violence against women. This is key to delivering long-term, sustainable reform of our family violence system. It tells us what is working, what needs to be adjusted, and where to focus our efforts for the greatest effect.

Through the Rolling Action Plan we will continue to strengthen the family violence evidence base. We will focus on research activities that fill gaps in knowledge across primary prevention, early intervention and response. We will also improve the quality, availability and use of the data that underpins our research and evaluation activities. This is critical to driving improvement.

What has happened

Significant work has occurred to actively research, review, and evaluate to both inform and adapt programs as we implement family violence reform.

    • The Harmony Study is a partnership between Latrobe University and inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family ViolenceExternal Link . It works with primary care clinicians to increase identification and early intervention for family violence among migrant and refugee communities. It aims to test the feasibility and effectiveness of a systems intervention to increase identification and early intervention of family violence. It also seeks to improve the capacity of primary care clinicians (GPs, nurses and others) to enquire about family violence, provide first-line support, and offer female patients referrals to specialist family violence services.
    • Respect VictoriaExternal Link commissioned three research pieces looking at how the COVID-19 pandemic influenced the drivers and risk factors for violence against women and family violence. The research focused on elder abuse, LGBTIQ+ family violence and the impact of the pandemic on the primary prevention sector workforce.

    COVID-19 action research: Prevention in the Pandemic

    • We have established two research collaborations that will deliver important insights into how the COVID-19 pandemic affected family violence and associated service responses in Victoria. The projects also examine how we can harness these to strengthen our future responses. The projects are:
      • Future-proofing safety: surfacing inequity and building service capacity for crisis-ready responses. This study uses a system lens to understand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on family violence and sector responses. It is being delivered by the Centre for Family Research and EvaluationExternal Link at Drummond Street Services, RMIT University for Centre for Innovative Justice and the Australian Institute of Family Studies
      • Effectiveness and sustainability of COVID-19 related service changes and innovations for family violence and sexual assault victim survivors as they relate to the LGBTIQ+ community. This is being delivered by the Australian Research Centre in Sex Health and Society based at Latrobe University and Thorne Harbour Health.
    • The Prevention of Family Violence Data PlatformExternal Link was launched in June 2021. The platform will enable government and the broader sector to track progress towards preventing family violence and all forms of violence against women.
    • The Family Violence databaseExternal Link continues to be updated annually on the first Wednesday of December each year. Sexual violence related dataExternal Link was also added to the Family Violence Database for the first time on 1 December 2021. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a special project developed and published the COVID-19 Family Violence Data PortalExternal Link . It shows the effects of the pandemic on demand for family violence services.
    • We have developed a whole of government Family Violence Research Agenda. The agenda contributes to strengthening the family violence and sexual assault evidence-base and strategic decision-making. It supports research to be better targeted to address priority evidence gaps. It articulates the Victorian Government’s research priorities for family violence and sexual assault. The agenda will be supported by a research program. This will detail how government will work with Victorian universities, industry and agencies. It will also consider knowledge translation mechanisms. This will ensure research is relevant and accessible to sector organisations and practitioners.
    • The Respect Victoria Primary Prevention Research Agenda has commenced, supported by a newly established advisory group. The advisory group comprises expertise and experience spanning primary prevention peak bodies, practitioners, intersectional and research organisations. It will guide development of a three-year program of research.
    • Respect Victoria released the Free from Violence Monitoring and Evaluation Strategic Framework in June 2021. The framework is a principles-based document. It outlines an overarching evaluation strategy for primary prevention programming across the state. It sets out a ‘big picture’ for organisations leading or funding prevention programs or initiatives under Free from Violence. The framework can be used to guide decision-making around evaluation of initiatives, programs or priority areas under Free from Violence.
    • An evaluation of the Safer Stronger Communities pilot has been completed. The evaluation of the Multicultural Family Violence Work Package covered a range of initiatives funded from 2017–2021, including the Safer and Stronger Communities Pilot. The evaluation sought to capture emerging lessons. These will inform and improve community approaches to preventing and addressing family violence in migrant, refugee and faith communities. This will build the evidence base for what works in the prevention of family violence.
    • We have completed suite of action research projects with leading research bodies. These include the co-design of primary prevention interventions for addressing elder abuse, violence against women with disability, and LGBTIQ+ families in the transition to parenthood. The COVID-19 related research noted above was also action research. Research projects with Aboriginal communities are also under way.
    • In June 2021, Respect Victoria launched a new research seminar series. ‘Building the evidence to stop violence before it starts’ seminars share newly created research and applied evidence with the primary prevention and other sectors. This work supports prevention efforts including webinars, expert panels and program design and practice guidelines.
    • We engaged the University of Adelaide to conduct a systematic review of high-quality published studies of family violence intervention outcomes focusing on victim-survivor and perpetrator interventions. The review aimed to find out the characteristics of family violence programs that were effective at reducing family violence and improving outcomes for victims and perpetrators. The review will inform our own approach to research by summarising the existing evidence and identifying gaps in the evidence.
    • An evaluation of the maternal child health family violence initiatives is under way. The evaluation findings will guide service improvements. This will ensure that children, women and families at risk of or experiencing family violence can be identified earlier and supported with improved access to the right services and supports.

What is next?

The ongoing collection and informed use of data and evidence will continue through 2022. Key initiatives are being embedded to support a greater understanding of the family violence system. This work will also to inform our current gaps in knowledge to keep us focused on understanding the impact of our work. Activities include:

  • A midterm review of the Free from Violence Strategy First Action Plan is being delivered by Respect Victoria in 2022. The midterm review will evaluate the collective work delivered, including program implementation across the five priority areas.
  • Respect Victoria’s Three-yearly report to Parliament on the progress of all primary prevention activities for family violence and violence against women. The report is a key public accountability tool. It plays a pivotal role in supporting a continued focus on primary prevention of family violence and all forms of violence against women and will be informed by findings from the midterm review of Free from Violence.
  • As part of the Monitoring and Evaluation Strategic Framework, Respect Victoria will collaborate with experts and practitioners to release a monitoring, evaluation and learning Practice Guidance and Toolkit. The Toolkit will build on existing work being delivered across the sector to strengthen monitoring, evaluation and learning practice for primary prevention practitioners.
  • Continued development of outcome measures that support our understanding of how family violence reform is contributing to the changes we want to create. This will be informed by the work being done in the development of theories of change for both the Prevention and Perpetrator domains of the Family Violence Outcomes Framework:
    • Respect Victoria is developing a theory of change for the primary prevention of family violence and violence against women in Victoria. This resource will be developed in close collaboration with experts and practitioners. It will show the desired along our ‘pathway of change’.
    • Family Safety Victoria is finalising a draft theory of change and monitoring and evaluation framework for perpetrator interventions. This will be aligned with the perpetrator domain of the Family Violence Outcomes Framework. The work will include a consultation process. It will support greater quality and consistency in evaluations of the perpetrator interventions we fund.
  • We will use the whole of government Family Violence Research Agenda and the Respect Victoria Primary Prevention Research Agenda to drive research. This work will support the sector, government and other stakeholders in Victoria to deliver evidence-informed and effective policy and practice.
  • We will continue to evaluate programs. This includes evaluating the effectiveness of the Risk Assessment and Management Panels. It will also include select activities conducted under Strengthening the foundations: first rolling action plan 2019. Based on these evaluations, we will implement identified changes to ensure the system we build is responsive and flexible.

What this means for outcomes

We are working to strengthen our evidence base, evaluate programs and initiatives, and adapt our programs in response. This means we can focus on prevention and response activities that actively contribute to the achievement of our four outcome domains.

This work helps us understand how effective our activities are. It also shows us where we are not having the impacts we thought. This allows us to can adjust our programs, services and approaches to improve outcomes for Victoria.

We are improving the data and evidence we collect, and analysing it to inform our monitoring frameworks and outcome measures.

The long-term changes being implemented by the family violence reform will take time to embed across society. By keeping our outcomes in sight as we deliver on activities, we can investigate the barriers or challenges being faced.

Reviewed 14 April 2022

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