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The Orange Door: delivering family violence and children and family services reform

The Victorian Government has committed to implementing all 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence and to delivering on the vision described in Roadmap for Reform: strong families, safe children. A key recommendation of both was to establish a network of Support and Safety Hubs, now known as The Orange Door, across Victoria.

The Orange Door network provides a new way for adults, children and young people who are at risk of experiencing or have experienced family violence and families in need of support with the care, wellbeing and development of children and young people to access coordinated support.

The delivery of The Orange Door network is a key part of the ongoing reform of the family violence and the children and families service systems. These reforms aim to strengthen responses for victim survivors of family violence and create better outcomes for children and families, while also addressing perpetrator behaviour, and improving access to interventions that support behaviour change.

The Orange Door network is an integral part of the family violence and family services systems. It provides an entry point into the continuum of service provision that aims to ensure there is no wrong door to access high quality, consistent and effective support for family violence and children and families in communities.

The significant work undertaken across Government and the community sector, specifically our partner agencies, to build networks of safety and to connect services has been central to the successful implementation of The Orange Door. There continues to be an enormous commitment and effort by The Orange Door workforce and partner agencies delivering this new service model.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic response had a major impact on The Orange Door network during the first half of 2020 and required Family Safety Victoria (FSV) and our partners to prioritise service delivery and related critical activities to help keep people safe. Essential intake, assessment and safety planning was increasingly delivered over the phone or online during physical distancing/community containment periods. Face-to-face services continued to be provided for people assessed as high risk or with high support needs where it was assessed that other means of supporting and providing a service were insufficient or unavailable.

Coordination was maintained with workforces more likely to be in contact with families impacted by family violence and in need of child and family support, during the pandemic, such as primary healthcare workforces. FSV also developed a suite of Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework (MARAM) practice notes to support professionals, including The Orange Door practitioners, to respond to increased family violence risk during the pandemic and to use technology safely.

Work to identify and progress establishment of The Orange Door network in the remaining areas continued throughout this period, with The Orange Door in Loddon and Central Highlands commencing operations in October 2020. Work to establish the remaining 10 areas by 2022 has also continued.

The VAGO performance audit conducted in 2019 made 9 recommendations focusing on project planning, management and governance, operational delivery, support for integrated practice, performance reporting and oversight, and continuous improvement. FSV welcomed each of these recommendations and the platform the report offers to collaborate with partner agencies to continue to improve The Orange Door implementation and service delivery.

Several actions to implement VAGO’s recommendations commenced in 2020. All the activities to respond to the recommendations will be incorporated into the 2020-21 Stage Plan and Implementation Plan for The Orange Door, which is also supported by an improvement plan developed with partner services and their peak bodies.

Hira’s story: accessing The Orange Door during COVID-19 pandemic

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions to face to face service delivery, The Orange Door remained operational and continued to support people to access the safety and support they needed. 

One such person who needed support was Hira, a 23-year-old woman of Somalian descent and 20 weeks pregnant when she came into The Orange Door. Hira* wanted to find out whether there would be someone there who would take the time to hear her story and work with her to meet her needs on becoming a new parent.

Hira had been born in Australia, but her family had decided that she needed to spend time in Somalia in a facility that she described as using physical punishment and control to rectify her ‘behaviour’. This experience had been distressing for Hira, and when she returned to Melbourne, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic she was subject to physical abuse from her extended family. Despite an Intervention Order being put in place against her uncle, Hira had been unable to find the support she needed to establish her own home away from her extended family.

Practitioners in The Orange Door who heard Hira’s story undertook a family violence needs and risk assessment. Emergency safe accommodation was a priority, along with providing funds to help meet her immediate practical support needs so that she would have enough to eat and did not have to return to her extended family’s home for clothing or belongings – as this would alert them to her plan to move away from them.

Hira agreed for the practitioner from The Orange Door to communicate with other support services – this included housing and youth services, and pre-natal services. By pro-actively making these connections, The Orange Door practitioner was able to make sure that these services were aware of and understood Hira’s specific safety and support needs and her history of trauma. This helped these services more effectively identify specific supports to help her – this included transitional housing in her area of preference, and a referral to the Cradle to Kinder program which could support her as a new parent, particularly as she could not rely on any extended family for support.

Hira has made the most of living safely and independently and since the birth of her child, Amina, she continues to utilise local community and health supports which support Amina’s wellbeing and development, but also give Hira an opportunity to focus on healing from her trauma.

*Not her real name