What is The Orange Door and how does it work?

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

The Orange Door network is for adults, children and young people who are at risk of experiencing or have experienced family violence, and for families who need support with the development and wellbeing needs of children.

It provides integrated services for people seeking support and a coordinated intake pathway to family violence services, Aboriginal services, children and family services, and services for perpetrators. Within The Orange Door these are known as ‘core services’.

The whole family is kept in view, with support tailored to each family member’s individual needs. The Orange Door assesses risk, responds to people’s immediate needs, and connects people to the broader range of services outside of the core services – such as mental health or housing support – thus enabling a network of safety and support. Practitioners support people to navigate the service system and address the spectrum of needs that might be identified. The Orange Door is designed to avoid the person having to ‘re-tell their story’ by providing an integrated service response based upon the person’s needs.

How The Orange Door is set up to support people

A partnership approach between services provides opportunities to strengthen coordinated and integrated service responses, where practitioners bring specialist expertise to multi-disciplinary teams.

The Orange Door brings together services as a partnership to support adults, children and families and hold perpetrators to account.[1] The unique model of The Orange Door allows practitioners with different specialisations to learn from and with each other, drawing on each other’s knowledge and experience, and providing an integrated assessment of risk and needs. The Orange Door also helps to tilt the focus towards tackling the source of the violence including a focus on perpetrator visibility, accountability and behaviour change.

The Orange Door brings together practitioners from specialist family violence services, child and family services, Aboriginal services, and perpetrator services to form multi-disciplinary teams and provide wrap-around support.

The Orange Door has connections with the systems and networks of services in each area. These strong service connections help people who access The Orange Door to be connected to the right services at the right time. The Orange Door also has a Service System Navigator in each area who works proactively to ensure strong partnerships with local services and agencies.

The Orange Door provides a visible entry point to the service system. The network is currently operating in the Bayside Peninsula, Barwon, Inner Gippsland, Mallee, and North Eastern Melbourne areas, as well as in the Central Highlands and Loddon areas which commenced in late 2020 and the Goulburn area which commenced in April 2021. The Orange Door will operate in all 17 areas of Victoria by 2022. More information is available on The Orange Door website.

The Orange Door provides safe and accessible physical premises in Ballarat, Bendigo, Frankston, Geelong, Morwell, Mildura and Heidelberg. However, anyone can access The Orange Door via phone, email, or referral. In addition to the primary premises, The Orange Door is enhancing the network of safety and support in each area through the establishment of Access Points over time. Access Points provide physical access to The Orange Door from alternative locations, enhancing accessibility across a geographic area or for specific communities. In 2019-20, Access Points were operational in Colac in the Barwon Area and Swan Hill in the Mallee Area.

Aboriginal Access Points will be established in Mallee, Bayside Peninsula and Barwon to provide an additional option for Aboriginal people to access services and support. These are currently being designed to provide service choice, they are a community-led service model that is self-determined by Victorian Aboriginal peoples.

[1] See Appendix 1 for a list of partner agencies.

Who works at The Orange Door?

The Orange Door workforce reflects the intent of the service model through a multidisciplinary workforce that provides an informed and coordinated service response. The composition of the workforce includes:

  • Specialist practitioners (employed by community service organisations): The expertise of different practitioners is drawn on to provide a multidisciplinary approach with specialists in family violence, child and family services and perpetrator services working together in The Orange Door.
  • Practice leadership: practice leadership and expertise is provided to the practitioners to support high quality and culturally safe service delivery through practice leadership roles such as: Team Leader, Aboriginal Practice Leader, Advanced Family Violence Practice Leader, Integrated Practice Leader and Community Based Senior Child Protection Practitioners.
  • Operational support: The Orange Door teams are supported by an FSV team that includes a Manager, Service System Navigator, Strategic Planning and Reporting Officer, Operational Support Officers, Client Support Officers, and administrative support staff.

Of the 289.6 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions, 90.4% of positions were filled as of 30 June 2020 (Figure 1). This is an increase in FTE positions from 2018-19 by 4% (11.9 FTE positions) and includes new roles created for specific areas and additional FTE for existing positions, attributed to the evolving nature of the service model and budget uplifts. The proportion of positions filled is similar to the previous year (90.8% in 2018-19).

Figure 1. Composition of The Orange Door workforce

Figure 1. Composition of The Orange Door workforce - Specialist Family Violence Practitioners (24%), Child First Practitioners (24%), Teamers leaders (11%), Men's practitioners (10%), Admin & support staff (9%), Child protection (6%), Practice leaders (5%), Aboriginal Practice Leaders & Practitioners (4%), Hub Managers (2%), Service System Navigators (2%), Other local roles (3%)

Family Safety Victoria is continuing to strengthen the capability of the workforce to work in a more integrated manner, with redevelopment of the training program provided to staff. This will be rolled out in 2021 and complements the establishment of a practice development group that supports continuous improvement across the workforce.