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Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way

Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families

Building momentum

Dhelk Dja is the only enduring Aboriginal-led strategy to address family violence in the country.

Dhelk Dja workshop participant
Rolling Action Plan consultation
August 2020

We are committed to a community-led response to end family violence against Aboriginal people, underpinned by self-determination.

We recognise that family violence is not part of Aboriginal culture and that family violence against Aboriginal people is perpetrated by both non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal people.

We acknowledge that colonisation, dispossession, child removal and other discriminatory government policies have resulted in significant intergenerational trauma, structural disadvantage and racism with long-lasting and far-reaching consequences.

Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way – Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families 2018-2028 is the key Aboriginal-led Victorian Agreement that commits Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal services and government to work together and be accountable for ensuring that Aboriginal people, families and communities are stronger, safer, thriving and living free from family violence.

Dhelk Dja sets out six guiding principles to achieve this vision:

  • self-determination
  • collaboration and partnerships
  • strengths based
  • culturally and trauma informed, resilience and healing-based approaches
  • safety (cultural, physical and community)
  • accountability, transparency and honesty of all parties

The Dhelk Dja definition of family violence:

  • includes an acknowledgement of the impact of violence by non-Aboriginal people against Aboriginal partners, children, young people and extended family on spiritual and cultural rights
  • notes that it manifests as exclusion or isolation from Aboriginal culture and/or community
  • includes elder abuse and the use of lateral violence within Aboriginal communities
  • emphasises the impact of family violence on children

Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum

The Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum and its members are the individual and collective champions and strategic leaders overseeing the Dhelk Dja 10-Year Agreement. It is their responsibility to work closely with the community and stakeholders to implement Dhelk Dja and ensure that the principles of self-determination are at the heart of the Partnership Forum’s work.

The Partnership Forum, which meets three times a year, is the mechanism through which the Agreement comes to life. The agenda for each meeting reflects both the lived experience and the many voices and stories of Aboriginal people living across Victoria.

Dhelk Dja Agreement

The Dhelk Dja Agreement commits to the development of three-year action plans to articulate the critical actions and supporting activities required to progress the Dhelk Dja Agreement’s five strategic priorities.

Image of the Dhelk Dja agreement's five strategic priorities. Priority one, Aboriginal culture and leadership. Priority two, Aboriginal-led prevention. Priority three, self-determining Aboriginal family violence support and services. Priority four, system transformation based on self-determination. Priority five, Aboriginal-led and informed innovation, data and research.
The Dhelk Dja Agreement's five strategic priorities

Each of these priorities recognise the need to invest in Aboriginal culture, leadership and decision-making as the key to ending family violence in Victorian Aboriginal communities.

The Dhelk Dja 3 Year Action Plan 2019-2022 is providing a strategic framework for the implementation of significant priority investments.

In this video, Aboriginal Victorians explain why the Agreement is important and how the community is working together to deliver it.

Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way

Dhelk Dja: the symbolism in the image

Dhelk Dja are the Dja Dja Wurrung words for ‘good place’ pronounced ‘delk ja'.

The Dhelk Dja artwork in this video represents the 11 Dhelk Dja Action Groups that are working with Aboriginal communities to address family violence.

Creating the Dhelk Dja artwork by Trina Dalton-Oogjes

Progress since 2016

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

  1. We have strengthened investment in Aboriginal-led community family violence services.

    $119.3 million funding to deliver the Aboriginal family violence reform which includes the Dhelk Dja Agreement and Aboriginal family violence services.

    • This investment includes the establishment of the $18.2 million Dhelk Dja Family Violence Fund which opened to submissions in October 2020 to support holistic healing and frontline service responses.

    From 2018 there was an increase to the Aboriginal Community Initiatives Fund from $650,000 to $1.1 million:

    • annual investment to 11 Dhelk Dja Action Groups to support local Aboriginal community-led family violence prevention and education projects
    • the Fund has invested in 166 projects since 2016

    The Preventing the Cycle of Violence Aboriginal Fund includes a $2.7 million investment:

    • two-year funding grants currently supporting 11 projects for Aboriginal-led family violence prevention and early intervention initiatives

    The Victorian Government has provided $3.197 million under the Aboriginal Family Violence Primary Prevention Innovation Fund since July 2018.

    • The Aboriginal Family Violence Primary Prevention Innovation Fund currently supports 11 projects.
    • It delivers a range of innovative Aboriginal-led prevention activities across the state. 
    • The Fund supported Djirra’s YoungLuv program.

    The YoungLuv workshops are focused on promoting healthy and respectful relationships and aim to equip young Aboriginal women with information and skills to challenge unhealthy relationships, and to practice positive and safe behaviours.

    Djirra Engage Victoria survey response
    September 2020
  2. We are increasing the cultural safety of prevention programs and family violence support and response.

    • Community consultations informed the Concept Model and Design Elements of Aboriginal Access Points for The Orange Door network. The access points will resource Aboriginal services as primary partners within The Orange Door network.
    • We have improved the cultural safety of mainstream services, and court and police responses.
    • An Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation family violence sector forum was established in April 2020, to provide information on government activity in response to coronavirus (COVID-19) and funding announcements consistent with information provided to other forums.
  3. We are building a specialist Aboriginal workforce.

    • The Dhelk Dja 3 Year Action Plan (2019-2021) will strengthen Aboriginal representation across the family violence workforce.
    • Aboriginal frontline family violence services are being strengthened through the design and implementation of the Dhelk Dja Fund and the Aboriginal Family Violence Industry Strategy.
    • An Attraction and Recruitment Campaign has been developed to encourage Aboriginal applicants and increase representation across the family violence workforce.
  4. The Dhelk Dja Monitoring, Evaluation and Accountability Plan has been developed to accompany the Dhelk Dja Agreement. It lays out the monitoring and evaluation strategy for the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum throughout its life.

    The Plan will include Aboriginal-led and defined indicators and measures of success to respond to and prevent Aboriginal family violence. It includes a focus on cultural determinants and enables Aboriginal communities and services, through the governance mechanisms of the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum, to effectively monitor progress against the Dhelk Dja Agreement.

    An Aboriginal Data Mapping and Data Needs project to support baseline understanding of Aboriginal family violence and build the evidence base for prevention and intervention has begun.

    The defined data, indicators and measures will support annual reporting to the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum and inform strategic decision making and priorities.

Delivery to 2023

Activities for 2020-2023 will continue to progress Dhelk Dja's family violence reforms. We have grouped the planned actions for this priority under four headings

  1. We are strengthening family violence prevention through updating the Indigenous Family Violence Primary Prevention Framework.

    We are implementing an Aboriginal prevention campaign and education program to intervene early to address causal factors that can lead to family violence.

    Prevention must be grounded in cultural strengthening, cultural expertise and education that is Aboriginal community-led and driven.

    Activities
    Finalise review and update of the Indigenous Family Violence Primary Prevention Framework aligned to Dhelk Dja Mid 2021 FSV
    Respect Victoria
    Dhelk Dja
    Aboriginal Data Mapping and Data Needs project to support baseline understanding of Aboriginal family violence and build the evidence base for prevention and intervention Mid 2021 FSV
    Extensive design process for the Aboriginal family violence prevention campaign Late 2021 FSV
    Implement the Aboriginal family violence prevention campaign and education programs Late 2022 FSV
  2. We are strengthening Aboriginal frontline family violence services by funding Aboriginal-led tailored responses for victim survivors and people who use violence.

    As part of the rollout of The Orange Door network, we are designing and establishing culturally responsive Aboriginal Access Points. The Aboriginal Access Points workforce will:

    • include designated Aboriginal women's, children's and men's 'Journey Walkers' roles that will walk with the client
    • provide information about services and supports available
    • create access through engagement, education and awareness to navigate referrals across the broader service system
    • support victim survivors, vulnerable children and families and those who use violence to access services that meet their needs and aspirations

    Activities
    Dhelk Dja Fund established and successful submissions funded Late 2020 FSV
    Final service design model for Aboriginal Access Points tabled for endorsement by the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum Early 2021 FSV
    Aboriginal Family Violence Industry Strategy endorsed by the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum Early 2021 FSV
    Commence strengthening cultural safety in The Orange Door network Early 2021 FSV
    Establish the first Aboriginal Access Point in The Orange Door network Mid 2021 FSV
    All Aboriginal Access Points established in line with the Orange Door network rollout Late 2022 FSV
    Expand the Koori Family Violence Police Protocol to provide statewide coverage Late 2022 Victoria Police
  3. The Dhelk Dja Action Groups are comprised of local community members across Victoria including men, women, Elders and young people. They are leading the development of Regional Action Plans which complement and inform Dhelk Dja and its actions, ensuring appropriate outputs and measures.

    The Dhelk Dja Action Groups and the subsequent action plans are key mechanisms for driving local and regional action to prevent and address family violence in partnerships between:

    • Aboriginal communities
    • Aboriginal services
    • government
    • mainstream services
    • the broader community

    Activities
    Regional Action Plans developed by the 11 place-based Dhelk Dja Action Groups presented to Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum and launched locally Late 2020 Dhelk Dja 
    Review and update progress against Regional Action Plans Late 2021 Dhelk Dja 
  4. The Dhelk Dja 10-Year Investment Strategy will be developed to provide a mechanism for the Dhelk Dja Koori Caucus and Partnership Forum to inform the government’s budget development process. The strategy will be considered by the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum in late 2021.

    The Dhelk Dja Koori Caucus shape the Aboriginal-led family violence agenda to develop and propose practical actions designed to meet the overall strategic intent of Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way - Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families and other relevant family violence reforms and issues.

    Activities
    The Dhelk Dja 10-Year Investment Strategy considered by the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum Late 2021 Dhelk Dja FSV

Connecting the Dhelk Dja Agreement across the reform

The Dhelk Dja Agreement recognises the need to respond to all forms of family violence experienced by Aboriginal people, children, families and communities.

    The definition recognises that the cycle of family violence brings people into contact with many different parts of the service system.

    Efforts to reduce violence and improve outcomes for Aboriginal people and children must therefore work across the family violence services:

    • police
    • the justice system and the courts
    • housing and homelessness services
    • child and family services
    • child protection and out-of-home care
    • health, mental health, and substance abuse

    The Dhelk Dja Agreement connects across the breadth of reform activities. For example:

    The Orange Door network

    • Three Aboriginal access points are being delivered to complement The Orange Door network at Mallee, Barwon and Peninsula Bayside areas with the first due to be established in mid-2021.

    Primary Prevention

    • Primary prevention campaigns delivered by Respect Victoria will include a specific campaign for Aboriginal Victorians.

    Housing

    • Family Safety Victoria are increasing accommodation options for women and children escaping family violence.
    • Department of Health and Human Services are supporting Aboriginal people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness through the new Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework, Mana-na worn-tyeen maar-takoort: Every Aboriginal Person Has a Home. The framework will build a new approach to ensuring Aboriginal Victorians have safe, secure and stable housing.

    Victoria Police

    • Victoria Police are improving how they capture data through a new methodology and a compliance framework.
    • The framework will standardise how Victoria Police measures Standard Indigenous Question (SIQ) compliance against legislation and policy requirements.
    • Increased referrals for legal support through Djirra.
    • A formal referral pathway between The Orange Door network and Djirra was finalised in July 2020 to provide legal advice and support.

    Courts

    • Court Services Victoria has implemented Umalek Balit, a dedicated Aboriginal family violence support program, where women’s and men’s practitioners work with Aboriginal People to guide them through the court experience.
    • This includes offering culturally relevant, non-legal expertise regarding family violence matters.

    Reform-wide priorities

    Activities to deliver a community-led response to end family violence against Aboriginal people are informed by the reform-wide priorities of intersectionality, Aboriginal self-determination and lived experience.

    Intersectionality

    The recognition in the Dhelk Dja Agreement of the need to respond to all forms of family violence experienced by Aboriginal people supports an intersectional approach to the delivery of the reform.

    This approach must value the strength, knowledge and rich diversity of Aboriginal people, families and communities:

    • Aboriginal people with disabilities and mental health issues
    • LGBTIQ+ people
    • Elders and older people
    • children and young people
    • people in or exiting out-of-home care
    • people leaving State Government services such as prisons
    • people living in rural and regional areas
    • families comprising Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal family members

    For example, Family Safety Victoria funded six Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to undertake Rainbow Tick Accreditation and a Statewide Rainbow Tick Project Worker to support Aboriginal services' efforts towards accreditation.

    This initiative builds and supports collaborative working relationships between LGBTIQ+ specific services and provides advice on culturally-appropriate content for the workforce development aspect of accreditation.

    Intersectionality Overview

    Aboriginal self-determination

    We heard in our consultations with communities that to support Aboriginal self-determination it is important to embed Dhelk Dja across the family violence sector. Dhelk Dja is best supported through a holistic whole-of-community approach.

    Aboriginal members of the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum developed and agreed operating guidelines for the Dhelk Dja fund. This included prioritising funding streams and setting evaluation criteria to ensure that Aboriginal organisations are prioritised to deliver Aboriginal family violence services.

    Further activities include:

    • Nargneit Birrang is a Woiwurrung word meaning “To see the river”. The Nargneit Birrang Framework guides the flexible design, funding, implementation and evaluation of Aboriginal-led holistic healing programs for family violence in Victoria.

      Self-determination is a complex concept. In this framework it is understood as promoting agency, voice and empowerment at both the individual and community level. Self-determination becomes the foundation for achieving holistic healing.

      Nargneit Barrang Framework, 2019

      The Framework aims to better support Aboriginal families, children and young people to respond to trauma and promote wellbeing, based on six integrated principles:

      • self-determination is fundamental
      • safety is a priority
      • culture, country and community are embedded in healing
      • the past impacts on the present
      • healing is trauma-informed
      • resilience and hope make a difference.

      Nargneit Barrang Framework

    • Cultural safety is being advanced through:

      Cultural Safety Communities of Practice

      • an opportunity for practitioners to discuss and share best practice approaches

      Dispute resolution

      • development of an Aboriginal culture-informed family violence dispute resolution framework for the Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum and its associated governance structures

      Aboriginal Access Points

      • will work alongside The Orange Door network in three areas (Mallee, Barwon and Peninsula Bayside), providing a culturally safe referral pathway for Aboriginal people impacted by violence
      • commenced a series of workshops with key Aboriginal stakeholders to inform the service delivery elements for the Aboriginal Access Points

      Cultural safety in the workplace

      • developing a framework for assessing and implementing a culturally safe workplace, delivery in 2021

      Strengthening Cultural Safety project

      • the project is an example of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and family violence funded mainstream organisations working together
      • conducting cultural safety reviews and developing action plans to ensure their organisations and services are culturally safe for Aboriginal staff, and women and children
      • The Draft Aboriginal Inclusion Action Plan aims to embed inclusion, access and equity in The Orange Door network.
      • The development of a best practice model will support Aboriginal staff and clients in The Orange Door network.

    Aboriginal Self-Determination Overview

    Lived experience

    Including the knowledge and insight of Aboriginal people with lived experience of family violence ensures the reform meets the needs and aspirations of the Victorian Aboriginal community, including in the design, delivery and evaluation of services.

    Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum membership is representative of the Aboriginal community and Aboriginal family violence sector.

    The Aboriginal community in Victoria is represented on the Victim Survivors' Advisory Council.

    Lived Experience Overview

    Measuring outcomes

    Family Violence Outcomes Framework

    Activities in this priority area contribute to achieving outcomes against all the Family Violence Outcomes Framework domains:

    Domains 1, 2, 3 and 4

    Domain 1, Family violence and gender inequality are not tolerated. Domain 2, Victim survivors, vulnerable children and families are safe and supported to recover and thrive. Domain 3, Perpetrators are held accountable, connected and take responsibility for stopping their violence. Domain 4, Preventing and responding to family violence is systemic and enduring.
    Domains 1, 2, 3 and 4
    Download Domains 1, 2, 3 and 4

    *We acknowledge that while the Family Violence Outcomes Framework references the term ‘perpetrators’ the Nargneit Birrang Family Violence Holistic Healing Framework prefers use of the term ‘person/people who use violence’.

    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, five relate to Dhelk Dja.

    Reviewed 09 December 2020

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