Throughout 2020-21 both metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria have been subjected to varying levels of restrictions. This created a dynamic and changing environment for services prescribed to implement MARAM. The commencement of Phase 2 for health and education workforces was postponed from September 2020 to April 2021 to account for the significant impact upon those particular workforces.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw an increase in the frequency and severity of family violence incidences in Victoria. This involves new forms of economic, emotional, and coercive controlling abusive behaviours. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, new safety measures were implemented to reduce the spread of the virus within the community. Although necessary, these measures had implications such as social isolation, a known risk in family violence. It has also been noted that:
- there are new forms of intimate partner abuse towards women, including perpetrators having thought out strategies to attain social isolation (the threat and risk of COVID-19 infection)
- there has been an increase in coercion and control, social isolation, financial abuse, technology abuse, and the fear of contracting COVID-19.
Public health directions have attempted to balance the need to stay home with messaging that you can leave to attend a police station, court or for support or accommodation.
Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, government departments and agencies continued to implement MARAM, in recognition of the important role all services have in the identification and management of family violence risk. Understandably, the pandemic disrupted implementation and alignment activities.
All workforces have seen a change to their working practice, including frontline community services organisations, specialist family violence and sexual assault services, The Orange Door Network, courts, Victoria Police, health services, education and community justice.
The recent report of the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor (FVRIM) outlined the key changes and impacts of a number of initiatives during the COVID-19 response.
- remote service delivery across the service system
- increased crisis accommodation
- the quick response of Safe Steps to develop an online access point, through a web chat function
- the Multicultural COVID-19 Family Violence Program, enabling multicultural, faith-based and ethno-specific organisations to receive appropriate support
- an increase in access to legal services for victim survivors through the launch of a family violence priority phone line
- the release of two COVID-19 specific advertising campaigns, ‘Respect Each Other: Call It Out’ and ‘Respect Older People: Call it Out’
- delivering online MARAM training for all workforces including e-learning and webinars
- embedding the MARAM screening tool in the hotel quarantine program
- family violence perpetrator programs for prisoners and community-based offenders adapted to remote service delivery
- the continuation of Operation Ribbon until December 2020 with Victoria Police Family Violence Investigation Units actively engaging with their highest-risk perpetrators and affected family members
- health and wellbeing key contacts assigned to government schools to increase support for vulnerable students.
Please note that all implementation activities and achievements for the 2020-21 reporting year may have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, even where not directly referenced.