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Primary Prevention

Changing community attitudes and behaviours to help stop family violence before it starts

Building momentum

It is more important to prevent a problem rather than spending a lot of money, time, lives lost [and] children’s lives destroyed in trying to correct the problem in the aftermath.

Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council
Rolling Action Plan workshop
August 2020

Primary prevention is a long-term agenda that aims to prevent violence from ever happening in the first place. Primary prevention works by identifying the deep underlying causes of violence – the social norms, structures and practices that influence individual attitudes and behaviours – and acting across the whole population to change these, not just the behaviour of perpetrators.

Family violence and all forms of violence against women are driven by gender inequality and other forms of discrimination that give rise to power imbalances.

We must call out and challenge bad attitudes towards women and behaviours, structures and systems to stop family violence before it starts.

On average, one woman per week is killed in Australia by a current or former male partner.

Everyone has a role to play, from grassroots community-based organisations to women’s health services, education providers, sporting associations, the arts, workplaces, all levels of government, local communities and individuals.

In this phase of the reform we will integrate primary prevention more widely and broaden activities beyond the prevention sector for greater collective impact.

Primary prevention and coronavirus (COVID-19)

While the pandemic has affected all Victorians, it has disproportionately impacted women. The risk factors exacerbating family violence rose during the lockdown. As the economic impact deepens the longer-term effects of employment insecurity are expected to be hardest on women.

International evidence shows that emergencies and crises, including the coronavirus pandemic exacerbate existing gender inequalities and other forms of discrimination and inequality.

Primary prevention has been critical to the COVID-19 crisis response to ensure our messaging about behaviours that are unacceptable reaches the widest possible audience, and those at risk know where they can seek help.

Primary prevention will be just as critical to our recovery. We will build prevention approaches into our recovery efforts.

Primary prevention action starts with addressing the gendered drivers of violence against women and other forms of discrimination.

We are doing this by using a range of approaches across multiple settings: policy, program, institutional and legislative responses are being delivered in the places where Victorians live, work, learn and meet.

This video was released in March 2020 to coincide with the publication of our first annual report about delivery of our primary prevention strategy. In the video Gabrielle Williams, Minister for Family Violence, outlines what has been achieved - and where we are headed next.

Free from Violence: Annual Report - Year One 2018-2019

I’d like to see a new motto on Victorian number plates – 'Victoria, a state of respect' or 'I’m an active bystander' car plate, stickers. We need to embed the prevention messaging in our lives.

Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council
Rolling Action Plan workshop
August 2020

Building on the foundations

  • Free from Violence is Victoria’s strategy to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women.

    The strategy responds to Royal Commission Recommendation 187 and sets out a 10-year plan, with a series of rolling action plans, to help break the cycle of family violence.

    Free from Violence

  • Respect Victoria was established in 2018 as an independent statutory authority and Australia’s first dedicated primary prevention agency, leading Victoria’s research, evaluation and behaviour change efforts.

  • The Gender Equality Act 2020 (the Act) comes into force in March 2021. The first legislation of its kind in Australia, it requires public sector agencies, as well as universities and local councils to measure, report on and progress gender equality in their organisations.

    • The Act establishes the Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner to oversee implementation.
    • Dr Niki Vincent was appointed Victoria’s first Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner in September 2020 for a four-year term.
    • Dr Vincent is the former Commissioner for Equal Opportunity in South Australia.
    • The Commissioner has monitoring and enforcement functions under the Act, as well as educative functions to support defined entities to comply with their obligations.

    The 2020/21 State Budget committed $7.8 million over four years to support the Office of the Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner and implement the Act.

Approximately one in four women has experienced intimate partner violence compared to one in 13 men.

Progress since 2016

The Victorian Government has worked with community-based organisations to develop and embed a statewide primary prevention approach to family violence.

The key primary prevention activities which have been delivered since the Royal Commission are grouped here into four areas.

1 Delivering primary prevention initiatives

  • More than 1,500 Victorian schools have signed on to the whole school approach to Respectful Relationships:

    • includes more than three quarters of all government schools
    • creating a culture of gender equality and respect and changing the story of family violence for future generations

    The 2020/21 State Budget committed $37.5 million over four years to continue rollout of Respectful Relationships.

  • Leaders, experts and partners across the state have been supported to deliver primary prevention activities in:

    • all 79 local councils
    • 24 Aboriginal-led organisations
    • nine regional and three statewide Women’s Health Services
    • 21 community-led organisations
    • 65 culturally and linguistically diverse organisations and community groups
    • 10 Elder Abuse Prevention networks, involving health centres, legal services, councils and other organisations working with older people

    While still early days, this work is contributing to an increased awareness of family violence, including elder abuse, and is driving a positive cultural change within workplaces and communities.

  • Baby Makes 3 is a primary prevention program for new parents that promotes gender equitable, respectful relationships. The program has increased participants’ awareness of the gendered social expectations of parenthood and improved parents’ ability to discuss the changes that parenting has brought to their relationship.

    Tailored approaches have also been developed for Aboriginal, culturally and linguistically diverse and rainbow families. Rainbow families include parents, carers and prospective parents who identify as LGBTIQ+.

    Since 2016 the Victorian Government has provided funding for delivery of this program in:

    • 11 local government maternal and child health services
    • 9 antenatal services through childbirth and parenting education provided by hospitals
  • The messaging and advertising needs to be really strong and in every single place, so shame and avoidance is not possible, just as COVID-19 messaging is everywhere.

    Member of the Victim Survivors' Advisory Council
    Rolling Action Plan consultation workshop
    August 2020

    Respect Victoria has developed, delivered and evaluated the impact of large-scale behaviour change media campaigns with input and advice from victim survivors and diverse communities including:

    • Respect Women: ‘Call it Out’ (café and public transport)
    • Respect Older People: ‘Call it Out’ (including culturally and linguistically diverse communities)
    • Respect Each Other: 'Call it Out’ (COVID-19)
    • Respect Each Other: ‘Connection Keeps us Strong’ (COVID-19)

    Close to half of all Victorians were able to recall the public transport Respect Women: ‘Call it Out’ campaign and its key messages unprompted.

    Respect Victoria: 'Call it Out' 30 second ad

2 Building evidence

  • Ongoing investment in research, monitoring and evaluation is helping to build knowledge and evidence for effective primary prevention activity that is inclusive of all Victorians. Examples of these activities include:

    Respect Victoria
    • Respect Victoria has undertaken a set of action research projects on the key drivers and innovative prevention of family violence for women with disabilities, same sex parent families and older Victorians.
    • Respect Victoria led work with ANROWS and VicHealth to produce the National Community Attitudes Survey Toolkit for primary prevention practitioners to help make the survey results accessible and inform the work they do.
    Free from Violence
    • A new monitoring and evaluation framework is being developed for Free from Violence to evaluate primary prevention interventions and gather strong evidence to embed longer-term investments.
    • Core funding has been provided to Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) to design and deliver prevention research.
    Rainbow Health Victoria
    • Rainbow Health Victoria are leading a review of evidence to better understand the drivers of family violence against LGBTIQ+ communities.
    Our Watch
    • Our Watch are leading research exploring the links between dominant forms of masculinities and violence against women
    • The Our Watch Workplace Equality and Respect (WER) project provides valuable insights for the public sector and local councils as they prepare for their obligations under the Gender Equality Act 2020.

3 Strengthening the prevention workforce

  • Through the Industry Plan Rolling Action Plan, Strengthening the Foundations, the Victorian Government is building capability of the primary prevention workforce, including specialists and the broader workforce who contribute to primary prevention efforts.

    • Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria provides learning and development support to more than 1,600 primary prevention professionals through the Partners in Prevention (PiP) Network.
    • 12 Women’s Health Services are building the capability of local and regional partner organisations to lead primary prevention efforts in their communities.
    • Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health provides cross-cultural and intersectional training for prevention workers and access to bilingual community education to prevent violence against immigrant and refugee women.
    • Strengthening Aboriginal women’s capacity to take a leadership role in prevention through the Spark Health’s Wellah Women Aboriginal Health and Happiness project.

4 Grassroots activity

Government’s focus on building gender equality and driving primary prevention of family violence and all forms of violence against women builds on the extensive work of grassroots and women’s organisations who have been delivering and championing primary prevention for decades.

Partnerships with organisations representing diverse communities are key to progressing effective prevention work. We also know that supporting local activities and coordinating prevention action around key events increases awareness and promotes positive changes in attitudes and behaviours.

There is really good work happening at a local level, and really great leadership at the top with Respect Victoria and the government’s campaigns.

Primary Prevention Sector Forum
Rolling Action Plan consultation
August 2020
  • The Victorian Government continues to work with women’s organisations, particularly the nine regional and three statewide Women’s Health Services and has benefitted from their successes and their learning.

    Women’s Health Services play a vital role in supporting partners to understand and embed primary prevention in workplaces, services and with the broader community.

    Women’s Health Services have been coordinating significant primary prevention activity across Victoria, including through:

    • regional primary prevention partnerships with local organisations to take collective action to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women:
      • local government
      • sporting clubs
      • community health services
      • working with more than 500 organisations to build the leadership and organisational capacity of local, regional and sector partners to deliver quality prevention initiatives

    Funding during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

    In April 2020, the Government announced that Victoria's 12 women's health services would share in $3 million over the next two years to continue their work in preventing family violence.

    The continuation of funding ensures that these services can continue their vital work to deliver prevention of family violence training, advice and support to organisations in their local areas, including local government and health services.

    The funding includes $600,000 from the $59.4 million mental health package to Women's Health Services to support women’s mental health and wellbeing through their regional and statewide network.

  • Women’s Legal Service Victoria is supporting champions to address sexism and disrespect in the legal and justice sector. This work will improve women’s career opportunities, safety and wellbeing in the long term.

  • Complementing the statewide campaign activity, the Municipal Association of Victoria supported local governments to run grassroots communication activities.

    The Association also co-developed a stakeholder supporter toolkit and a suite of supporting resources with Respect Victoria and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV).

  • Other programs are working with boys and men, and in male-dominated settings like sport, to promote healthy masculinity and challenge rigid harmful stereotypes of what it means to be a man. This includes:

    • Boys and men: a resource is being produced by Our Watch that guides prevention practitioners to promote healthy masculinities across a range of locations
    • Healthy masculinities: the Modelling Respect and Equality (MoRE) project,which is delivered by Jesuit Social Services, recruits and trains community leaders to promote more positive expressions of masculinity across their community
    • Sports program: The Gender Equality in Sport program is supporting clubs to deliver cultural and attitudinal change to prevent violence against women

    Engaging men as allies and change-makers to achieving attitudinal and behaviour change is particularly important.

    Women's Legal Service
    Engage Victoria survey response
    August 2020
  • The annual United Nations 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign has been funded and managed by Respect Victoria.

    The program includes support for locally-tailored activities through local councils, Women’s Health Services and diverse community organisations.

    In 2020, we delivered a COVID Safe campaign to raise awareness in light of the pandemic.

Delivery to 2023

This overview of our planned primary prevention activities to 2023 is grouped into four areas.

1 Strengthening the foundations

  • New legislation will address gender inequality in the Victorian public sector and local government workplace settings to improve women's economic and social participation.

    Gender Equality Act 2020 comes into effect to address gender inequality in Victorian public sector and local government workplaces March 2021 DFFH
    First gender equality action plans due from required entities. The plans will include strategies and measures to improve gender equality in each workplace, based on a gender audit of that workplace October 2021 DFFH
  • Launched in 2017, Victoria’s first primary prevention strategy Free from Violence and the First action plan (2018-2021) draws on Change the Story, a national framework for primary prevention to address violence against women and children and builds on many years of work and collaboration by women’s organisations.

    The plan is focused on strengthening prevention systems and structures, including:

    • bolstering the capability of the prevention workforce
    • enhancing and expanding local and regional networks and partnerships
    • researching and testing new approaches to contribute to the evidence base for what works in preventing family violence

    The second action plan will build on the foundational work and evidence gained through the Free from Violence action plan to expand population-wide prevention activities across multiple settings and systems.

    Free from Violence Second action plan developed Late 2021 DFFH
    Free from Violence Second action plan implemented From mid 2022 DFFH

    The outcomes framework for Free from Violence will be refreshed to align with the Family Violence Outcomes Framework to enhance monitoring and evaluation, so all activities are measured against relevant targets.

  • A new primary prevention governance model will inform key government priorities with input from sector leaders. Efforts to involve victim survivors will also help inform policy development.

    Establish a new governance group to advise government, comprising key community organisations working in prevention of family violence Late 2020 DFFH

2 Scaling up prevention programs and campaigns

We will scale up primary prevention activity across a range of settings, sectors, population groups and geographies, matched by resourcing and investment models that support longer term effort. This will increase the reach and impact of our primary prevention efforts over time, creating the basis for long-term cultural change.

Programs will be designed to reinforce the messages in campaigns and translate them into practical action.

  • Activities
    Prevention system coordination model developed – continuing to build and better coordinate statewide, regional and local grassroots activities and underpin work across a wider range of settings and sectors through sustained investment Mid 2021 DFFH
  • Promising prevention projects are scaled up and are reaching the majority of Victorians including through community partnerships, tertiary education, workplaces and local government.

    Mutually reinforcing activities in a range of settings, including sport, the arts, early childhood, and local government will increase reach and impact.

    Community organisations targeting men and boys delivering grassroots programs that are designed to promote healthier masculinities, gender equality, building relationship skills, and social connections Early 2021 DFFH
    Local government whole-of-setting primary prevention model developed, providing evidence-based guidance to councils on how to embed prevention in the range of services they deliver and through leadership in the community Early 2021 DFFH
    All government schools are signed onto Respectful Relationships Early 2021 DET
    Develop TAFE whole of institution prevention model to support TAFEs to build an environment where staff and students feel safe, respected and valued, including tools, resources and evaluation report Early 2021 DET
    First phase of up to 15 councils selected to implement the local government primary prevention model Mid 2021 DFFH
    Develop strategic partnership arrangements between Respect Victoria and key bodies in and across multiple sectors to extend and embed primary prevention efforts in the Victorian community 2021-2023 Respect Victoria
    Support local, regional and sector partnerships, including those led by Women’s Health Services, to drive collective community action on prevention Ongoing DFFH
    Respect Victoria
    Grant funding to ethno-specific, multicultural and faith-based organisations to design and deliver family violence prevention and early intervention activities, delivering on a $9.7 million commitment over four years in the 2020/21 State Budget 2020-2024 DFFH
  • Respect Victoria’s campaign messages will be reinforced through funded programs in the community and practical support for organisations to translate these messages into tangible actions. This will increase the impact of campaigns and support collective community action.

    Finalise a medium-term primary prevention campaign strategy 2020-2021 Respect Victoria
    Deliver a portfolio of campaigns for all Victorians, including culturally and linguistically diverse Victorians, people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTIQ+ and Aboriginal Victorians 2020-2022 Respect Victoria

    Government is delivering a range of primary prevention activities with diverse communities across Victoria. These are presented in Reform-wide priorities.External Link

3 Workforce development

We will deliver training and other learning and development opportunities to continue building a skilled, capable and diverse prevention workforce. We will engage workers in schools, community health and across the not-for-profit sector to increase prevention expertise and develop the next generation of prevention practitioners.

Through the reform-wide Industry Plan for workforce development and the first rolling action plan under that plan, Strengthening the Foundations, Government is building workforce capability in primary prevention.

  • Activities
    A plan for supporting the current and growing primary prevention workforce is developed in consultation with stakeholders,including ways to engage with broader workforces to help in prevention efforts. This plan will complement the Industry Plan for workforce development Early 2021 DFFH
    Work with the emergency management sector to embed a framework for planning for primary prevention of family violence in diverse communities in disaster management training to ensure preparedness and build capacity 2020-2021 Respect Victoria
    Produce resources to assist the primary prevention sector to better monitor and proactively plan for response to potential ‘backlash’ and ‘resistance' (ranging from denial, inaction to more aggressive opposition) to gender equality and to challenge violence-supportive attitudes (in conjunction with Our Watch) 2021 Respect Victoria

4 Research and evaluation

We will commission research addressing key gaps in understanding about the factors leading to family violence and how these can be prevented. This will lead to more effective prevention programs and services for Victorian communities.

  • Activities
    Primary Prevention Research Agenda established as part of the whole of government research program for family violence 2021 Respect Victoria
    Respect Victoria primary prevention research forum held Mid 2021 Respect Victoria

    Critical evidence gaps in LGBTIQ+ family violence primary prevention is being addressed by Rainbow Health Victoria through the LGBTIQ+ family violence primary prevention initiative.

    Test and evaluate community-based primary prevention activity with LGBTIQ+ communities and prevention organisations to help build evidence of what works Ongoing DFFH

    Respect Victoria will develop a Theory of Change, describing how changes to attitudes, behaviours and social norms will happen in the short, medium and long term to reduce and prevent family violence and violence against women. This will support well-targeted approaches to the prevention of all forms of family violence, building on Change the Story, which is focused on the prevention of men’s violence against women.

    2020-2021 Respect Victoria

    Respect Victoria is also leading targeted research projects to understand the experiences and impacts of COVID-19 on target cohorts including:

    • older people
    • LGBTIQ+ communities
    • primary prevention workforce
  • The platform will enable policy makers, researchers and practitioners to track population-level progress of family violence prevention to help understand how collective prevention effort is contributing to shifts in culture, attitudes and behaviour over time.

    Launch the Prevention of Family Violence Data Platform, developed by Respect Victoria and the Crime Statistics Agency Early 2021 Respect Victoria
    Build on initial datasets and support effective use of the platform Ongoing Respect Victoria
  • We will monitor and evaluate primary prevention initiatives to ensure they are delivered effectively, with evidence to support longer-term investments.

    Deliver Free from Violence Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for primary prevention, and commence implementation Early 2021 Respect Victoria
    Deliver the first three-yearly report on progress in primary prevention to Parliament under the Prevention of Family Violence Act 2018 2022-2023 Respect Victoria
  • Respect Victoria will encourage design and delivery of evidence-based primary prevention programs delivered across multiple sectors and settings by developing an endorsement model.

    Develop an endorsement model including guidance, design and delivery standards, endorsement processes and promotion of the use of the endorsement model 2020-2023 Respect Victoria

Connecting primary prevention across the reform

As we advance primary prevention activities over the next phase of the reform, we will continue connecting with other family violence and gender equality reform initiatives.

Equality and intersectionality


Dhelk Dja

Connecting to broader social reforms

Reform-wide priorities

The Victorian Government is committed to creating policy and programs that are relevant, practical and meet the diverse needs of our community.


We are supporting diverse communities across Victoria to continue to lead in innovating and trialling new approaches to primary prevention.

This includes:

  • guidance resources developed by Respect Victoria on embedding diversity and intersectionality into primary prevention program design and delivery
  • improving data collection and the primary prevention research approach to respect complex and intersectional experiences
  • ensuring commissioned research programs have a particular focus on understanding the intersectional drivers of all forms of family violence and what works to prevent it
  • raising the profile of diverse forms of family violence and providing practical guidance for the design, delivery and evaluation of primary prevention work

Late 2020

  • Prevention initiatives piloted as part of the LGBTIQ Family Violence Prevention Project 2019-2021 and informed by Rainbow Health Victoria’s Pride in Prevention, a guide to primary prevention of family violence experienced by LGBTIQ+ communities.


  • Guidance resources developed to support organisations to apply an intersectional lens to primary prevention program design and delivery.


  • Implement the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Multicultural Family Violence program to strengthen multicultural, faith-based and ethno-specific organisations to prevent, identify and respond to family violence in line with the MARAM framework and to ensure community members are accessing the services they need.
  • Co-design and deliver primary prevention initiatives with culturally diverse communities to meet the needs of migrant and refugee communities. For example:
    • the two-year Safer and Stronger Communities pilot started in 2018 to support five leading settlement and multicultural organisations to build their own organisational capacity in primary prevention using the Our Watch Workplace Equality and Respect standards.
  • Working closely with LGBTIQ+ health and community service providers.

Respect Victoria’s behaviour change campaigns will focus on how key drivers of family violence play out in different communities, reflecting the diversity of Victorians.

Intersectionality Overview

Aboriginal self-determination

Victoria’s leading by having Aboriginal voice in discussions.

Women's Health Services
Rolling Action Plan consultation workshop
August 2020

We are committed to a self-determined approach to primary prevention activity for Aboriginal Victorians.

Awareness-raising campaigns and targeted prevention activities include:

  • providing a culturally safe space for Koori women aged 13-18 to explore the dynamics of healthy relationships
  • strengthening Aboriginal women’s capacity to take a leadership role in prevention through the Spark Health’s Wellah Women Aboriginal Health and Happiness project

Aboriginal women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised and 11 times more likely to die as a result of family violence compared to other Australian women.

  • Supporting 11 Aboriginal organisations to deliver prevention activities with their communities through the Aboriginal Primary Prevention Innovation Fund.
  • Strengthening Aboriginal-led prevention by updating the Indigenous Family Violence Primary Prevention Framework and implementing an Aboriginal-led family violence prevention campaign and education program.
  • Supporting Aboriginal-led innovative and new approaches to prevention with the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum, including targeted investment for Aboriginal-led research and community education programs.
  • Development of a new Aboriginal-led prevention funding model.

Aboriginal Self-Determination Overview

Lived experience

We will continue to provide support for primary prevention programs and policies that are created and informed by the lived experience of victim survivors, including:

  • Respect Victoria will develop a victim survivors engagement plan to ensure all primary prevention efforts are informed by lived experience
  • we will work with the Victim Survivors' Advisory Council during the development of the Free from Violence Second Action Plan (2021-2024) to ensure it includes the lived experience of victim survivors

Lived Experience Overview

Measuring outcomes

Family Violence Outcomes Framework

Delivering the activities for this priority area will likely have the greatest impact in achieving outcomes against the following domains:

Domains 1 and 4

Domain 1, Family violence and gender inequality are not tolerated. Domain 4, Preventing and responding to family violence is systemic and enduring.
Domains 1 and 4
Download Domains 1 and 4

Royal Commission recommendations

The Victorian Government has committed to implement all 227 recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

Of the recommendations still in progress, three relate to primary prevention.

Reviewed 19 April 2021

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