Strengthen support for victim survivors

All Victorians should be able to get the support they need. It should be accessible, inclusive, culturally safe and tailored to their individual needs.

The advocacy of victim survivors was pivotal in bringing about the Royal Commission into Family Violence, and they have been – and will continue to be – at the heart of our response.

We want victim survivors to be safe. We want them to have somewhere to live. They need access to justice, counselling, health care, education and employment.

More Victorians now know about family and sexual violence and how they can seek help. This means there is more demand for services and support that meet the unique and diverse needs of Victorians across their lifespan. We are building the size and capability of the workforce to meet this demand.

We have made rapid changes to the family violence system, which is made up of all the parts of government and all the community services that work to prevent and respond to family violence. Now, we need to deepen our understanding of how this system is working as a whole. Most importantly, we need to find out more about the experience of victim survivors as they journey through it.

Provide all Victorians who experience family or sexual violence with the support they need when they need it

All Victorians should be able to get the support they need. It should be accessible, inclusive, culturally safe and tailored to their individual needs. This includes the needs of Aboriginal people, children, young people, older people, people of every gender and LGBTIQ+ people. It includes people who are migrants, asylum seekers or refugees, people who speak a language other than English at home or are from diverse cultural backgrounds or faiths. It includes people with a disability and carers. It includes people living in rural or regional areas. It includes people working in the sex work industry. It includes people who have been imprisoned, convicted of a crime or have engaged with police because of illegal conduct.

When seeking help, it should not matter where someone lives or how they choose to seek help. Our diverse community should have diverse ways to get help. This ensures people can make the choice that is most comfortable for them. All entry points must lead to safety and timely, high-quality support.

We have still got work to do to achieve this vision, alongside the many organisations we partner with across Victoria and people with lived experience who use these services.

Continue to shift the focus onto people who use violence

Too often, people who use violence are not held accountable for their behaviour. They can continue their lives, while victim survivors have to make big changes to stay safe.

We must continue to shift the focus onto perpetrators.

Justice services, such as police and the courts, play a vital role in this. We need to continue to build a strong web across the justice system and family violence services that keeps perpetrators visible and accountable. As part of this web, Victoria Police will continue to seek consequences for perpetrators of family violence.

We will also continue to provide people who use violence with the right services, at the right time. Our aim is to help them change their behaviour over the long term. This is one of the best ways we can keep victim survivors safe. Sometimes, this includes providing emergency accommodation to people who use violence to reduce the risk to the safety of their family at home. We will also continue to improve their access to legal services. This can be a way to connect them with services that help them change their behaviour.

It is important that we understand how the risks posed by people who use violence can change over time. Sharing information about these risks across justice and family violence services will help us manage them together. This will give people who use violence the greatest chance to change their behaviour over the long-term.

We will also strengthen our ability to intervene early. This means identifying times of heightened risk or at the first indication that someone has used or experienced violence. The first time they engage with the criminal justice system can be a good time to do this. We know the risk of violence also increases when a person leaves their relationship, when they are pregnant and just after they give birth [1]. These are key moments when intervening early can have the greatest impact.

It is also important we keep working to make sure we correctly identify the person who is using violence in the family. Sometimes, victim survivors are misidentified as the perpetrator. This causes further harm to them. In particular, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are disproportionately misidentified as the perpetrator of violence.

People who use family and sexual violence are not all alike. We know the majority are men. However, we need more interventions across wider geographical areas. These interventions need to be tailored for the specific needs of LGBTIQ+ communities, multicultural and multifaith communities, people with disability, young people, older people, people who commit elder abuse, and women who use violence.

Support Aboriginal-led responses for Aboriginal victim survivors and people who use violence

Our response to family violence and sexual violence against Aboriginal people needs to be led by Aboriginal people. This includes for Aboriginal women, children, young people, men, Elders, older people, families and communities [2].

It needs to draw on their cultural knowledge, strengths and resilience. This is the best way to reduce the incidence and intergenerational impacts of family violence and sexual violence. We will do this when supporting the healing and safety of Aboriginal communities, as well as when working with Aboriginal people who use violence.

We will continue to support a strong Aboriginal community-controlled family violence sector to lead this work in partnership with government.

Equally, our mainstream organisations must be equipped to provide culturally safe support to Aboriginal victim survivors and Aboriginal people who use violence.

Increase the number of skilled and diverse workers to prevent and respond to family and sexual violence

Preventing and responding to family violence is challenging and complex work. It is also meaningful and rewarding. It helps to stop family violence from happening in the first place and makes a difference in the lives of those who have been harmed by violence.

We need more workers with the right skills to specialise in this work or contribute to it from sectors, such as health, education, justice and community services.

Workers should reflect the diversity of the communities they engage with. The specialist family and sexual violence sectors should become ‘industries of choice’ for graduates. To do this, we need to keep improving conditions for workers in these sectors.

Some organisations are finding it difficult to recruit and retain the vital workers they need. This is particularly critical for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations which are working to increase the number of Aboriginal workers for Aboriginal-led and self-determined services. These services face particular challenges due to the continued impacts of colonisation and discrimination.

As more people experiencing or at risk of violence seek the help they need, the demand for family and sexual violence services in Victoria increases. This increases demand on frontline workers who are already experiencing high workloads due to a shortage of available staff. Some frontline workers are employed on short-term contracts. This can affect their job security. It can also contribute to turnover of staff.

We have introduced a minimum qualifications policy for new family violence response workers. This is helping us provide a consistent standard across our family violence services. It also recognises the specialised nature of this work. However, this policy is being implemented at a time when there are broader workforce shortages. This can make it difficult for employers to find workers.

Employers are continuing to trial ways to support people from diverse backgrounds and with different forms of expertise to gain the qualifications they need. We will also continue to monitor our minimum qualifications policy and, if needed, adjust it so that it achieves the intended outcomes.

We are helping organisations to recruit and retain the diverse workers they need. This includes boosting the leadership capability in the sector and strengthening support for worker health, wellbeing and safety. We recognise and value the lived experience of many of these workers.

References

[1] Campo M 2015, Domestic and family violence in pregnancy and early parenthood: overview and emerging interventions, Australian Institute of Family Studies.

[2] Department of Health and Human Services 2018, Dhelk Dja: safe our way - strong culture, strong peoples, strong families, State of Victoria.

decorative

Updated