Lived Experience

Embedding lived experience of family violence into policy development and service delivery


Out of tragedy you can make good, so I do recognise that for many victims of family violence it's really difficult to be heard.

But when you have someone with an experience, not just like myself but everybody else, it's very hard not to be emotionally challenged and realise that you have a duty to do something about this issue.

Rosie Batty, Inaugural Victim Survivors' Advisory Council Chair 2016-2019

Embedding lived experience of family violence and the family violence system into policy development and service delivery will lead to better outcomes for victim survivors and for Victoria.

Through the First Rolling Action Plan (2017-2020) we have seen the benefits of taking the time to understand how victim survivors experience the system.

Lived experience practice in family violence is an emerging field. Over the next three years, in partnership with the family violence sector, survivor advocate groups and academia we will draft an agenda to develop this discipline. This includes more work focusing on children and young people’s experience and how to better hear and incorporate this into our reforms.

Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council

The most visible element of our commitment to embedding lived experience is the Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council (VSAC).

... through their courage to share their personal stories, VSAC members have made a difference and started to shift and challenge thinking about family violence and disrespectful behaviours towards women.

Gabrielle Williams
Minister for Prevention of Family Violence
December 2019

VSAC Members represent their own diverse lived experience of family violence and include representatives from communities including Aboriginal communities, multicultural communities, people with disability, regional and rural Victoria, LGBTIQ+ communities, older Victorians, sex workers, criminalised women, family members who have lost relatives to family violence and people who experienced family violence as a child or young person.

Over the last 4 years VSAC has: 

  • contributed to the development of foundational strategies including our 10-year plan, 'Ending Family Violence: Victoria’s Plan for Change', as well as strategies for inclusion and equity, gender equity and primary prevention
  • advocated for change and reform in family violence by sharing personal stories and providing keynote speakers for events
  • provided advice across multiple government portfolios, relating to the design of courts, intersections with the NDIS, behavioural change campaigns and the design of a family violence memorial
  • advised on legislative changes, including the Victorian government’s Justice Legislation Amendment (Family Violence Protection and Other Matters) Act 2018 and the Gender Equality Act 2020
  • provided feedback and insights for the Rolling Action Plan 2020-2023 through participation in four deep-dive workshops on priority areas of members’ choosing: Primary Prevention, Housing, Legal Assistance and Courts

Liana Papoutsis is a victim survivor of family violence and was a member of the inaugural Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council. She explains how the reform benefits from embedding lived experience at every stage.

Liana Papoutsis talks about collaborating with people with lived experience

Victim Survivors' Advisory Council

Progress since 2016

People with lived experience have informed and influenced policy development and service design activities across the reform

Lived experience central to developing The Orange Door network

  • People with lived experience were instrumental to the design of The Orange Door network: development of the concept, service model, website, communications, branding and physical buildings.
  • People with a range of lived experiences were consulted as part of this work, as appropriate, including: service users of family violence services, family services and perpetrator services.
  • The Orange Door Client Partnership Strategy has been co-designed with people with lived experience and outlines a vision and roadmap to embed clients as partners in all aspects of work related to The Orange Door network. 

Lived experience delivered the Voices of Hope Project

  • For the first time, victim survivors from across Victoria came together to identify what a better experience with the service system might look like.
  • The project created a human-centred approach which positioned victim survivors at the heart of designing many of the family violence reforms.
  • The collaboration created tools for government and service providers to use in policy development and service design.

Lived experience developed the Nargneit Birrang Framework

  • An Aboriginal-led family violence holistic healing approach for Aboriginal communities across Victoria. 

By including lived experience as one of our reform-wide priorities for the next three years we are signalling our continued commitment to embedding the wisdom and expertise of people with lived experience across the breadth of family violence reform.

Delivery to 2023

All four domains of the Family Violence Outcomes Framework integrate lived experience as an essential element.

VSAC and people with lived experience will continue to contribute to the development of

  • policies and service delivery
  • evaluations of key family violence reform projects
  • advice to government agencies and ministers

2020 - 2021

  • design and implement a refreshed VSAC model
  • existing VSAC members complete their term
  • refresh the Terms of Reference and Terms of Engagement
  • continue to best reflect trauma-informed and strengths-based practice


  • the third VSAC council will be appointed

Royal Commission into Family Violence

Embedding lived experience into the family violence reform delivers on this remaining recommendation, but also influences the delivery of many other recommendations.

Summary of activities to 2023

Reviewed 19 April 2021

Was this page helpful?