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How to use the research agenda

The research agenda applies a Victorian specific lens to areas of research interests and a focus on opportunities for knowledge translation that support application of research to policy and practice.

This research agenda has been developed with the recognition that there is a broad range of research on family violence planned and underway across Australian universities and through the work of Australia’s National Research Organisation on Women’s Safety (ANROWS) and Our Watch and led by Respect Victoria.

While these areas of interest will overlap, the Victorian research agenda is not intended to duplicate this work. Instead, it applies a Victorian specific lens to shared research interests, and a focus on opportunities for synthesis and knowledge translation that support application of research to policy and practice.

This research agenda does not propose specific research questions or presume research methodologies. However, government does recognise that certain types of research may be more beneficial at this stage of continuously improving our evidence base.

This could include:

  • research that collates and translates existing evidence into policy relevant information that is firmly situated within the Victorian context, such as literature reviews or meta-analysis
  • research activities that focus on knowledge translation to help ensure that existing research is relevant and accessible to the people who work to prevent and respond to family violence and sexual violence and harm
  • action-oriented research that focuses on tangible outcomes that readily translate to reforms, policies and practice.

The research agenda articulates areas of research interest under high-level priorities. This is done with recognition of the overlap and intersection between the people, groups and experiences that are described under those priorities. Each person’s experience of family violence or sexual violence or harm is different. Further, some factors may combine to affect the risk, severity, frequency and diverse ways in which an individual might experience or use family violence. When conducting research aligned to the Victorian family violence research agenda, researchers and organisations are encouraged to consider those overlapping areas and interplays, and the extent to which they can provide nuanced evidence that supports the Victorian reforms.

Underpinning principles

In line with the scope and approach of the Victorian family violence reform, there is an expectation that research delivered under this agenda will apply or be underpinned by core principles. This includes consideration of the role of Aboriginal self-determination, gender inequality, intersectionality, and lived experience, and application of a system lens that recognises the cross-system nature of the Victorian reform.

  • At its core, family violence is rooted in the inequality between women and men. This environment fosters discriminatory attitudes and behaviours that condone violence and allow it to occur. Addressing gender inequality and discrimination is at the heart of preventing family violence and other forms of violence against women, such as non-family violence related sexual violence and harm.

    Research on family violence must account for the impacts of gender inequality, including how it may play out in particular ways across diverse communities and relationships, intersecting with other forms of structural inequality and discrimination to create specific dynamics and tactics of family violence.

  • Embedding Aboriginal self-determination in the family violence reforms aims to ensure a holistic, culturally safe approach to our delivery of prevention, response and intervention activities. In the family violence context, Aboriginal self-determination requires the transfer of power, control, decision-making and resources to Aboriginal communities and their organisations.

    Dhelk Dja: Safe our way – strong culture, strong peoples, strong families describes self-determination in Aboriginal-led and informed research as including:

    • Aboriginal communities determining ethics to underpin culturally safety research processes and methodologies
    • Aboriginal communities and organisations leading or partnering in culturally safe family violence research
    • Aboriginal communities have control over the collection, ownership and application of data about them
    • community using its data and research findings to inform government, and drive innovation in family violence
    • collaborating and sharing best practice and innovation across Aboriginal communities and services, government and the sector
    • Aboriginal defined measures of success and cultural determinants of health, wellbeing and safety.

    Measures of success around Aboriginal safety and wellbeing, including mechanisms for collecting, sharing and using data, must be determined by Aboriginal people and communities. This will help ensure that resultant research generates evidence about what works from an Aboriginal perspective, with findings supporting improved future policy and program development.

  • Intersectionality recognises that the interconnected nature of social categorisations – such as gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, language, religion, class, socioeconomic status, geographic location, gender identity, ability or age – which create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination, marginalisation and disadvantage for either an individual or group. The Victorian Government’s approach to embedding intersectionality within the family violence reforms is available in the Everybody Matters: Inclusion and Equity Statement, which sets out government’s 10-year vision for a more inclusive, safe, responsive and accountable family violence system.

    Research underpinned by an intersectional approach will seek to understand the impacts of structural inequality, systemic power hierarchies and mutually reinforcing forms of discrimination, marginalisation or disadvantage for individuals or groups experiencing family violence or sexual violence and harm. This should include consideration of the ways peoples’ multiple interconnected characteristics impact their experiences of family violence and sexual violence and harm, including their access to inclusive and equitable services and responses.

  • The voices and insights of people with lived experience of family and/or sexual violence and harm are critical for developing effective reform. Embedding lived experience into research provides additional evidence to inform decision making and leads to better policy and service design outcomes for Victorians.

    The Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council was created to give people with lived experience of family violence a formal role in influencing the reform work.

    Embedding insights from lived experience into policy and practice is an emerging field. Over the next three years, in partnership with the family violence and sexual assault sector, survivor advocate groups and academia we will further develop this discipline. This includes a greater focus on hearing the voices of children and young people.

    The Victorian family violence research program will include guidance on ways to ethically and safely incorporate lived experience of family violence within research. It will also include recommendations for how people with lived experience of family violence, including members of the Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council, can contribute to research design and delivery in an advisory capacity.

  • The scope of this research agenda spans the continuum from primary prevention, early intervention to crisis and recovery responses. Research aligned to this agenda should apply a cross-system, or whole of system lens, that considers the full scope of opportunities to prevent and respond to family violence and sexual violence and harm across the Victorian health, education, community and justice services system.

    • Primary prevention aims to prevent violence from happening in the first place. It works by identifying the deep underlying causes of violence – the social norms, structures and practices that influence individual attitudes and behaviours – and acting across the whole population to change these. Primary prevention is distinct from early intervention and crisis response activities that aim to stop violence from escalating or recurring. Effective primary prevention supports and complements early intervention and crisis response efforts.
    • Early intervention focuses on identification and support for individuals and families experiencing family violence and sexual violence and harm with the aim of stopping early signs of violence escalating, preventing a recurrence of violence or reducing longer-term harm.
    • Response includes services for victim survivors of family violence and sexual violence and harm as well as responses for perpetrators, that support victim survivor safety and recovery and perpetrator accountability.

    The Victorian reforms are unique, in their whole of system scope, offering researchers an opportunity consider reform impacts through this lens. Community services, housing, education and training, health, and justice sectors all come into contact with victim survivors, including children, and with perpetrators of family violence. Many victim survivors seek help from courts, police and homelessness and refuge services to address immediate safety needs, while others are supported by family violence or sexual assault services at points of crisis and beyond. Schools, hospitals and other health services all provide opportunities to identify and respond to family violence and sexual violence and harm.

    Application of a system lens should also recognise variations in services and experiences across different parts of the same systems, for example across metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas, and across different communities. Consideration of the thresholds and overlaps between systems is also encouraged, including how this may impact people who are moving through systems and in contact with multiple parts of the system at the same time. This presents an opportunity to look beyond integration, to consider service effectiveness and challenges, in the context of whole of system reform.

    Taking a system view should also include consideration of overlaps with related reforms, including those arising from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Reviewed 21 February 2022

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