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Focus Area 5: Prioritising health, safety and wellbeing

Specialist family violence response and prevention practitioners’ work is stressful, emotional and fatiguing and can often result in vicarious trauma and burnout.9 Supporting specialist response and primary prevention workforces to support victim survivors, hold perpetrators to account and engage in long-term primary prevention to bring about generational change means that we must focus on their health, safety and wellbeing.

In the response space, the Family Violence Health, Safety and Wellbeing Framework currently in development will guide the initiatives below. In the primary prevention space, there is a need to work collaboratively with the primary prevention sector to design initiatives that address the unique health, safety and wellbeing impacts of primary prevention practice.

Why it’s important

  • The specialist workforces are exposed to unique and distinct psychological health, safety and wellbeing risks and the impact on practitioners in terms of their emotions, behaviours and reactions needs to be recognised and normalised. Vicarious trauma and employee burnout are widespread issues.
  • The gendered nature of the specialist workforces and the prevalence of violence against women and family violence means that many practitioners in these sectors will have their own lived experience of violence. This experience can exacerbate the impact of the work on health, safety and wellbeing.
  • The prevention workforce experiences significant amounts of backlash in their work, which can lead to poor health, safety and wellbeing outcomes.
  • There are additional health, safety and wellbeing impacts experienced by Aboriginal workers, workers from culturally diverse communities and workers with lived experience of family violence, and tailored approaches that consider these additional impacts are required.

Strengthening the Foundations outcomes

  1. Specialist organisations are supported to establish healthy, safe and supportive work environments for all of their staff, from all backgrounds, with contemporary research on best practice supervision and peer support, and the Family Violence Health, Safety and Wellbeing Framework.
  2. Specialist prevention organisations are supported to develop and align practices that seek to improve the health, safety and wellbeing of practitioners.
  3. Workers across all sectors can access the health, safety and wellbeing guidance, information, strategies and tools available to support them in their work with family violence prevention and response.

Key foundational priority to support this focus area

This focus area prioritises initiatives that enhance the health, safety and wellbeing of specialist prevention and response workforces. Research on the specific family violence-related needs of non-specialist workforces in the third year of this Plan will inform work in future Rolling Action Plans.

Actions

5.1 Complete and roll out the Family Violence Health, Safety and Wellbeing Framework, a guide for specialist family violence organisations to proactively manage practitioner health and wellbeing and inform practices that are specific to the needs of specialist workforces.

5.2 Design and deliver professional development for organisational leaders in the specialist sectors around supporting health, safety and wellbeing, aligned with the Family Violence Health, Safety and Wellbeing Framework. This will align to the Responding to Family Violence Capability Framework.

5.3 Undertake research in best practice supervision to determine agreed definitions of clinical supervision, current practices within the sector (including funding arrangements), suitable models of supervision for the specialist sector, outline best practice standards of clinical supervision including minimum requirements for workforces and provide advice on successful implementation.

5.4 Roll out online health, safety and wellbeing resources hosted on the redeveloped The Lookout site to help organisations to manage their workforce’s health, safety and wellbeing and reduce the impact of vicarious trauma and potential burnout.

5.5 Identify and implement initiatives to enhance the health, safety and wellbeing of the primary prevention workforce.

5.6 Trial peer support initiatives for specialist prevention and response practitioners.

5.7 Undertake research into supporting the health, safety and wellbeing of specialist and broader workforces that intersect with family violence.

"An employer should equip you, help you to think about…understanding trauma. They should help you think about what you bring to the work, how it might impact on you and who you are as a worker, what the boundaries are. It is not enough to be kind and nice..." - Family violence worker, Attraction and Recruitment campaign research phase, 2019

"While the stories we are exposed to are complex and challenging, I find the welfare organisation I work in supports me as a professional experiencing vicariously the traumas our families live, and emotionally holds me as a professional to continue to do this work.” - Family violence worker, 2017 Census of Workforces that Intersect with Family Violence

Footnotes

9 State of Victoria, Royal Commission into Family Violence: Report and recommendations, Vol VI, Parl Paper No 132 (2014-16), p179.

Reviewed 26 November 2019

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