Children and young people as victim survivors
The changes we are making in Victoria recognise the distinct needs of children and young people as victim survivors of family violence in their own right, and the cumulative harm that living with family violence creates.
We’re building a system in which children and young people will be able to access information, support and safety when and where they need it. We know we still have a lot of work to do.
Natasha Anderson, now a young adult, was a member of the inaugural Victim Survivors' Advisory Council. In 2019, Natasha wrote, illustrated, narrated and directed an animation of her experience growing up with family violence.
Her story tells us of the cumulative and devastating effects of family violence on children and young people and her family’s experiences of the system.
Listening to and validating their lived experience will help us build a better system for our children, which prioritises their safety and supports child victim survivors to ultimately thrive.
Natasha’s award-nominated film is shared with her permission. It is a powerful reminder for us to heed the voice of children.
Progress since 2016
The Royal Commission found that children and young people had been the 'silent victims' of family violence, but this was shifting. It also found resources were insufficient and not tailored to meet the distinct needs of children and young victim survivors.
Since 2016, significant progress has been made in strengthening our response. The foundations are being put in place that enable children and young people to be recognised as victim survivors in their own right and to drive change across all the places where children and young people interact with the system.
- MARAM, Victoria’s family violence risk assessment framework, has been designed with children as victim survivors in their own right. This means that the risk assessment tools, safety plans, practice guides and training are in place to assess and work with children and young people as victim survivors.
- Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme and the Child Information Sharing Scheme (CISS) prioritise the rights of children and their safety over any person’s right to privacy, promoting wellbeing and preventing the potentially devastating consequences of not sharing information.
The Orange Door network
- The Orange Door network is bringing together family violence, child and family and perpetrator services. This enables the system to take a whole of family approach which considers the individual needs of all family members, including children and young people.
- Victoria Police are asking questions specific to children and young people when responding to incidents. They are improving their consistency in referring children and young people to services and ensuring children are consistently recorded as protected persons on family violence protection notices.
- Court Support 4 Kids is a trauma-informed service which has been made available at some courts for victim survivors with children.
- Upgrades to the database enable child protection practitioners and practitioners in The Orange Door to search historical Victoria Police family violence (L17) reports back to August 2004.
- The Preventing the Cycle of Violence Fund and Community Initiatives Fund have supported a number of trauma informed and strengths based initiatives specifically targeted to at-risk and vulnerable Aboriginal children and young people.
- Therapeutic interventions, flexible support,and counselling for children and young people is provided to keep children and young people safe and to support them to recover from their experience of family violence and sexual assault.
Delivery to 2023
More needs to be done to meet the needs of children and young victim survivors and to ensure their voice is heard. Building on the foundations, the focus over the next three years will be to continue to drive a consistent approach across the whole system. This includes:
- continued delivery of reform initiatives, including The Orange Door network
- delivery of evidence-based therapeutic support
- delivery of core and cluster refuges
- collecting data and evidence to inform the design and delivery of services
The specific and long-term effects of family violence on children and young people is profound. We are working to deliver more integrated responses to their needs to ensure we can intervene earlier to prevent harm to children and young people.
We will improve the consistency of our approach through:
- an assessment of the impact of family violence on child health and development
- embedding co-located specialist family violence positions within the child protection program that will strengthen integrated family violence risk assessment and integration across systems for children and young people
- embedding therapeutic support services for women, children and young people who are victim survivors of family violence
- supporting specialist family violence case management services to respond to the needs of children and young people, including within refuge and crisis accommodation
From April 2021, Phase 2 of MARAM and the Family Violence Information Sharing scheme is being rolled out to universal services. This means workers in early education, primary and secondary schools, community-managed mental health and housing services, public health services and hospitals, refugee and migrant services will use MARAM as part of their work.
Phase 2 includes 5800 government and non-government organisations, covering approximately 370,000 additional professionals.
This is an important step in ensuring no matter where or how people who are affected by or experiencing family violence engage with services, there is an appropriate, consistent and capable response.
It means early identification and intervention with children and young people at risk of, or experiencing family violence, specifically through early childhood services and schools.
Children and young people of all ages will have improved access to refuge accommodation through the core and cluster redevelopments. The new amenities will ensure greater privacy and independence while maintaining connections with the community and schools.
The Victim Survivor domain of the Family Violence Outcomes Framework includes a focus on making sure victim survivors, vulnerable children and families are safe and supported to recover and thrive.
The domain will be reviewed as part of our ongoing refinement of the Family Violence Outcomes Framework to better reflect outcomes for children and young people as victim survivors in their own right.
It continues to be challenging to capture data on children and young people impacted by family violence. This limits the ability to make evidence-based decisions with regards to service design and delivery. The Victorian Family Violence Data Collection Framework released in 2019, provides important standards that will drive consistency and support to organisations to improve data collection. The Family Violence Outcomes Framework Implementation Strategy will help improve the quality and quantity of data over time, including leveraging data collected by the sector.
The courts are continuing to support children in the courts system to ensure that they are supported and not marginalised. This means promoting their needs, wishes and voices through the implementation of less adversarial practices, and access to supports that are better targeted to their individual needs.
Court Attendance Safety Plans under development at the Melbourne Children’s Court are an important step in continuing to prioritise the safety of victim survivors, including children.
This may include arranging for remote witness facilities, staggered departure times, and arrangement of appropriate support when entering court rooms and participating in proceedings.
The Victorian Government will amend the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) to clarify that the Children’s Court of Victoria has the same jurisdiction to make Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) parenting orders as the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.
CISS allows authorised organisations to share information to support child wellbeing and safety and is being rolled out in alignment with FVISS and MARAM.
When Phase 2 of MARAM and CISS is rolled out, education workforces including education and care services will be prescribed under the CISS.
The video provides a perspective on how child information sharing will benefit children.
Adolescents who use violence
Adolescent violence against family members occurs in a specific context and requires interventions that treat it differently from adult-perpetrated family violence.
Given young people’s need for care and protection, services responding to adolescent family violence require a specialist approach.
Adolescents who use violence in the home are a distinct group where the approach to intervention is not the same as it would be for an adult perpetrator. Young people who use violence against a family member are often also themselves victim survivors.
The justice system and the police response recognise their legal status as minors and the complex circumstances and factors over which they may have had little or no control and which might have contributed to their behaviour.
The Royal Commission said that adolescent violence in the home needed to be better recognised and understood and better resourced. The wellbeing of the young person who is using violence should be the prime consideration: diversionary and therapeutic responses are considered preferable to any punitive interventions available.
Approach to adolescents who use violence
42% of children and young people involved with the youth justice system have been witness to family violence.
Adolescents who use violence in the home is a complex issue and requires a different approach from traditional interventions available to victim survivors and perpetrators of family violence.
Since the Royal Commission, we have been building the evidence base for intensive and early intervention approaches for adolescents who use violence.
This program is delivered in the Barwon, Bayside Peninsula and Central Highlands regions.
- an intensive case management program for young people aged 12-18 and their families
- an Aboriginal service for adolescents who use violence in the home operates in the Mallee region
Recognising the benefits of early intervention and the impact of COVID-19, the service capacity was boosted for 2020-21 to provide support and intervention to additional young people and their families.
The evaluation included as part of the following Royal Commission recommendation is due in late 2020.
In 2020 Family Safety Victoria partnered with the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare to co-design specific practice advice on responding to Adolescent Family Violence during coronavirus (COVID-19). This guidance will form the basis of standalone MARAM guidance and practice tools for supporting adolescents, their siblings and their families.
The Sexually Abusive Behaviours Treatment program provides therapeutic treatment services to support children and young people up to 17 years old who are displaying and/or engaging in problem sexual behaviour or sexually abusive behaviours towards others. It is available state-wide and provides services to 1150 children and young people each year.
In 2019, provisions in the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 commenced, enabling Child Protection to receive and investigate reports about young people aged 15-17 years who engage in sexually abusive behaviour.
Previously, the provisions in the Act applied to children aged 10 years and under 15 years. These provisions have addressed the gap in service treatment for young people in this age cohort.
Activity is ongoing to provide crisis and longer term supported accommodation for young people including adolescents who use violence in the home.
The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing is working with the housing sector, young people and the broader Victorian community to design and cost options that better meet the individual needs of young people and ensure they develop independence and resilience, and receive support to address their violent behaviours.
It is expected that work on designing and improving accommodation options for young people experiencing homelessness will also contribute to addressing the needs of young people who use violence in the home.
Since 2016 there have been changes to the justice system response to better support adolescents who use violence.
Youth Justice is improving coordination between police and the broader service system to address the impacts of family violence by intervening early to divert children from the criminal justice system.
The Youth Justice case management model and the custodial operating model are also gender-responsive, taking into account the specific needs and risks of girls and young women.
Victoria Police’s Family Violence Investigation Model was implemented in 2018 providing greater support for adolescents who use family violence including engagement with Family Violence Liaison officers, Youth Resource officers and Youth Specialist officers.
Youth Justice Case Management Framework
Following the Armitage and Ogloff review (2018), Youth Justice implemented the Youth Justice Case Management Framework in February 2019, with evidence-based assessment tools including MARAM, and integration with the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme and Child Information Sharing Scheme.
Youth Offending Program
Youth Justice has also implemented a new Youth Offending Program to address dynamic risks for adolescents with family violence-related offending requiring rehabilitation.
Melbourne Children's Court
The refurbishment of the Melbourne Children’s Court has expanded focus on adolescents who use family violence.
- There are specialist applicant and respondent practitioner services and a family violence registrar position.
- A new statutory statewide Youth Diversion Scheme is now operating in the Children’s Court.
- The Children’s Court Youth Diversion Scheme provides an opportunity for eligible children and young people to address the harm caused by their offending by taking responsibility and completing a diversion activity or activities.
- On successful completion of the diversion activity or activities, charges are discharged, with a non-disclosable criminal record for the offences subject to the diversion order.
The RESTORE program
RESTORE is a program facilitated by Jesuit Social Services operating out of the Melbourne Children’s Court to support families in situations where young people are using violence in the home. This service is available for young people who appear before the Court as respondents to family violence intervention order applications.
Youth Justice Strategic Plan
As set out in the Youth Justice Strategic Plan 2020-2030, Youth Justice is committed to supporting the transformation of the child and family violence system under the ‘Roadmap for Reform: strong families, safe children’ and ‘Ending family violence: Victoria’s plan for change’.
Youth Justice will also continue to work with Family Safety Victoria on evaluating and strengthening restorative family violence approaches.
Reviewed 19 April 2021