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Mandatory minimum qualifications for specialist family violence practitioners

A new mandatory minimum qualification policy applies for people who enter the family violence sector as a specialist family violence practitioner from 1 July 2021.

Summary

Since the Royal Commission into Family Violence published its 227 recommendations in 2016, the family violence sector and the Victorian Government have worked together to drive remarkable change and create opportunity across many areas. 

Over the next 5 years a new Mandatory minimum qualifications policy will apply to specialist family violence practitioners entering the workforce from 1 July 2021.

Key dates

From 1 July 2021, a 5-year transition period will begin. During that time, new specialist family violence practitioners employed in a Victorian Government-funded organisation must: 

  • hold a Bachelor of Social Work or equivalent qualification, or 
  • be working towards meeting the new mandatory minimum qualification policy requirement, via one of the available employment pathways

About the Mandatory minimum qualifications policy 

The Royal Commission into Family Violence called for the introduction of mandatory minimum qualifications for specialist family violence response practitioners (Recommendation 209). The recommendation will strengthen the sector and equip Victoria’s specialist family violence practitioners to provide support and responses that are consistently high quality and culturally appropriate. 

Five-year transition period

Recognising the scale of the change, as well as the specialised skills, deep knowledge and diverse experience of the current workforce, the Victorian Government outlined a 5-year transition period to a mandatory minimum qualification policy beginning July 2021. 

The 5-year transition period will give people starting their careers as specialist family violence practitioners a number of options for meeting the new mandatory minimum qualification requirements while balancing work and life commitments.   

Existing workforce 

Practitioners who have already commenced in a specialist family violence role will have an ongoing exemption to the policy, which allows practitioners to change jobs, take caring or other breaks of up to 4 years. 

Although the existing workforce will be exempt from the requirements, practitioners can choose to take advantage of new professional development pathways.  

Cultural knowledge or lived experience

Achieving the mandatory minimum qualification requirement should not prevent people who bring cultural expertise or lived experience from entering the sector, particularly people who have faced barriers to education.

New practitioners who bring significant cultural knowledge or lived experience (for example: Aboriginal people, people with disability, migrant or refugee experience, lived experience of family violence) will have 10 years from the date of their employment as a specialist family violence practitioner to work towards a minimum or equivalent qualification, subject to agreement with their employer.

This will be an ongoing option, reflecting the crucial role people with significant cultural knowledge or lived experience play in the sector. 

Support

Employers will be supported through the 5-year transition period with advice from Domestic Violence Victoria through the appointment of an 18-month Sector Development Advisor position, and a range of resources and information forums.

Whether recruiting new workers or upskilling existing staff, the implementation approach is fundamentally flexible, giving employers and practitioners different ways to meet the new mandatory minimum qualification requirements depending on their circumstances. 

Frequently asked questions

  • The new mandatory minimum qualification policy is part of the Victorian Government’s implementation of the Royal Commission into Family Violence recommendations. The new policy describes the formal skills and knowledge required within the family violence sector to provide support and responses that are consistently high quality and culturally appropriate to people who experience family violence. 

    This is a shift for employers. And it’s a change born of the desire to describe and recognise the expertise of this growing sector.  

    The transition to this new professional standard starts with a recognition that specialist family violence practitioners are highly skilled and valued by employers and the people they help – for the diverse skills and knowledge brought from other professions and learned on the job; and for their rich cultural and lived experience. 

  • Flexibility is central to the new mandatory minimum qualification policy. People can choose the formal learning pathways that suit their interest and ambitions. That’s why there are choices, supports and different ways to get there over the five-year transition period.  

    All specialist family violence practitioners employed before the transition phase starts are exempt from the requirement for the duration of their continuous service – this is an ongoing exemption a person carries with them regardless of where they choose to work: it is not affected by changing roles, taking parental or carer breaks or long service leave. 

  • A Bachelor of Social Work or equivalent formal learning, including holding a Bachelor degree or above. But there are different ways to get there and you might be closer than you think to achieving the requirement.  

    A variety of disciplines and professional backgrounds are needed throughout the sector. The inbuilt flexibility of the transition period is intended to encourage and nurture diversity in the family violence workforce. 

    Seven equivalency principles have been developed in consultation with sector stakeholders to help employers assess whether candidates meet the policy. The employer is responsible for assessing whether a candidate’s qualifications and other formal learning meets the equivalency principles as being either equivalent or related to a bachelor’s degree. 

  • Equivalent qualifications 

    Equivalent qualifications are qualifications that meet all seven equivalency principles, either through a single qualification or through multiple courses or units of higher education or vocational education and training (VET), with at least 4 of the principles being met through a single qualification at a Bachelor degree or above.    

    A related qualification meets at least 4 of the 7 equivalency principles to be considered related. Employers will decide whether a qualification can be considered related when using this pathway to employ people. 

    During the 5-year transition period, practitioners can enter the sector with a related qualification while working towards meeting the policy. This can be done either through a single qualification or through multiple courses or units of education or training. 

  • Practitioners that hold continued service in a specialist family violence role prior to 1 July 2021 are exempt from the new mandatory minimum qualification requirement. 

    From 1 July 2021, new specialist family violence practitioners looking for a job delivering frontline services must follow one of the three mandatory minimum qualification pathways to be considered for employment: 

    Time-limited – only available during the 5-year transition period 

    • Related qualification or relevant experience: having at least 5 years of relevant professional experience or a related qualification. Once employed, the practitioner commences a Bachelor of Social Work or other formal learning to meet policy within five years of starting employment. 

    Ongoing – available beyond the transition period 

    • Equivalent qualification: having a Bachelor of Social Work or equivalent qualification to meet the minimum requirement. 
    • Significant cultural knowledge and/or lived experience: having significant cultural knowledge and experience, or lived experience (for example, of disability, migrant or refugee experience, of family violence), and facing barriers to education. The person must be working towards a Bachelor of Social work or equivalent qualification and have appropriate support from a qualified and experienced practitioner. The person will have 10 years from the date of their employment to work towards a meeting the policy, subject to agreement with their employers 

    Employers still choose who is best fit for the job. They will decide if a candidate holds lived experience and/or cultural expertise and whether a candidate’s professional experience is considered to be relevant or their qualification is considered ‘related’. Employers can determine the pathways that suits their organisational needs; however, this must meet the new mandatory minimum requirements or above. 

    If an employer decides that a candidate meets the requirements for the cultural and lived experience pathway, they must ensure there are appropriate supports in place to oversee and support the candidate’s role in the organisation. They must also ensure the candidate has a formal learning plan to achieve the mandatory minimum qualification within the time limit. 

    ‘Working towards’ means a practitioner must have a formal professional learning plan in place with their employer, outlining the formal education and/or training that will be undertaken in line with the principles that they need to meet and the time period over which they will finalise this.  

  • Specialist family violence practitioners or non-specified specialist practitioners in either Government funded specialist family violence services; or Government-funded non-specialist services who are providing direct specialist services to victim survivors and/or people using violence such as: 

    • safety planning 
    • assessment and intake  
    • case management and service navigation

    It also includes those practitioners providing the appropriate supports for people who entered on cultural or lived experience as they are working towards meeting the policy. 

    • All specialist family violence practitioners employed before the transition period starts on 1 July 2021. 
    • Government funded non-family violence specialist services who provide other specialist services to victim survivors and/or perpetrators.
    • People who work in the sector but don’t deliver specialised response services, including: 
      • courts and police staff 
      • staff in Victorian Government-funded specialist family violence services that provide administration support, basic service navigation (e.g. booking crisis accommodation), and staff managers who do not provide services to victim survivors
      • primary prevention practitioners 
    • Men’s behaviour change facilitators as there is already a minimum qualification set for this workforce. 
  • The Victorian Government has funded Domestic Violence Victoria to employ a Sector Development Advisor – Recommendation 209 for 18 months to: 

    • provide advice to and engage with the family violence sector on the implementation of mandatory minimum qualifications for the specialist family violence workforce​ 
    • answer questions from employers and practitioners ​ 
    • assist with gathering data to inform monitoring of the implementation approach as part of the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for Recommendation 209

    The Government will also be working closely with service providers, practitioners, and victim-survivors during the transition and beyond to understand changing concerns and to ensure people experiencing family violence receive consistent help and support. 

  • After the 5-year transition period, all new specialist family violence practitioners must hold a minimum or equivalent qualification. 

    If a person brings significant cultural knowledge and experience, or lived experience (for example, of disability, migrant or refugee experience, of family violence) and face barriers to accessing formal study, they will still be eligible for employment as a specialist family violence practitioner if they are working towards an equivalent qualification and will have additional support from a qualified and experienced practitioner.  

    People with lived experience or cultural expertise will have 10 years from the date of their employment to work towards a minimum or equivalent qualification, subject to agreement with their employer. This will be an ongoing pathway, available beyond the five-year transition period.

Resources

More information 

If you have questions about the Mandatory minimum qualifications policy for family violence practitioners and can't find the answer, email recommendation209@familysafety.vic.gov.au for more information. 

Reviewed 11 May 2021

Family violence reform

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