Workforce lived experience

Lived experience

Lived experience refers to a victim survivor’s experience of family violence, sexual assault, and/or the experience of the service systems. Lived experience is also informed and shaped by political, economic, and cultural forces within the context of history, institutions and culture.

The gendered nature of the workforces and the prevalence of violence against women and children means that many practitioners in these sectors will have their own lived experience of violence and sexual assault. The 2019 Census of Workforces that Intersect with Family violence indicated that 14% of family violence workforce respondents were motivated to work in the sector due to their own lived experience.

Organisations and managers need to be mindful of the prevalence of lived experience amongst professionals in the sector, which may intersect with a person's experience of oppressive social systems and structures, and proactively take steps to ensure that all staff are provided a trauma and violence-informed workplace, regardless of disclosure. All professionals require supervision from appropriately qualified senior staff. Where professionals require additional support, take steps to refer your workers to employee assistance programs or external supports.

Family Safety Victoria recognises all victim survivors of family violence. We remember those who have been killed as a result of family violence. We also keep forefront in our minds all those who are still experiencing family violence today, and for whom we undertake this work.

Acknowledgement of Aboriginal cultural safety

Aboriginal communities define family violence broadly to include a range of physical, emotional, sexual, social, spiritual, cultural, psychological and economic abuses. Family violence against Aboriginal people may occur in families and intimate relationships, as well as violence from people outside of the Aboriginal community who are in intimate relationships with Aboriginal people, and violence in extended families, kinship networks and community violence, or bi-lateral violence, within the Aboriginal community (often between Aboriginal families). It extends to one-on-one fighting, abuse of Aboriginal community workers as well as self-harm, injury and suicide. Family violence against Aboriginal people also needs to be understood in the context of structural inequality, barriers and past and present discrimination experienced by Aboriginal people.

Cultural safety is an environment for Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders, where there is no assault, challenge, or denial of their identity and experience.

A culturally safe and responsive family violence system for Aboriginal people is one in which government and service providers take responsibility to understand the importance of culture, Country and community to support Aboriginal health, wellbeing and safety. This can be achieved by government and services analysing their own organisational culture and working with Aboriginal communities to design and deliver culturally responsive services.

Cultural safety is a fundamental human right and is an essential element when seeking to achieve optimal health, wellbeing and safety outcomes for the sexual assault and family violence workforce.

Family Safety Victoria acknowledges Victorian Aboriginal people as the First Peoples and Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land and water on which we rely. We acknowledge and respect that Aboriginal communities are steeped in traditions and customs built on a disciplined social and cultural order that has sustained 60,000 years of existence.

We acknowledge the significant disruptions to social and cultural order and the ongoing hurt caused by colonisation. We acknowledge the ongoing leadership role of Aboriginal communities in addressing and preventing family violence. We recognise Dhelk Dja – Safe Our Way: Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families as the key Aboriginal-led Victorian agreement that commits the signatories – Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal services and government – to work together and be accountable for ensuring that Aboriginal people, families and communities are stronger, safer, thriving and living free from family violence.


The Everybody Matters: Inclusion and Equity Statement calls for action across four key domains. It recognises that our vision of achieving an inclusive, safe, responsive and accountable family violence response service system for all is within our grasp if we embrace our roles as champions, challenge our current systems and strive for change that delivers choice for all.

In order to do this, we must apply intersectionality into practice with a rights-based approach where we all challenge problematic and negative behaviours, norms, societal cultures and structures to achieve systemic change.

Challenging systems and structures that have oppressed and marginalised individuals and communities may be uncomfortable and confronting. However, it is necessary work to provide us with the opportunity to grow and transform the family violence response service system to be inclusive and equitable for all Victorians.

Mutual learning and reflective practice should be embedded in the family violence, sexual assault and prevention services. It must be recognised that adopting intersectionality into practice is a learning journey requiring critical self-reflection, growth and a commitment to continuous improvement.

This call to action and all work underpinned by an intersectionality framework must be centred and guided by the voices of clients, respecting their strengths and the knowledge gained through lived experience.

The Guide builds upon and complements the Embedding Inclusion and Equity: An Intersectionality Framework in Practice (the Resources), which is anticipated for release in second half of 2021. The Resources define intersectionality in practice as a framework that helps us understand how power intersects within systems and structures to create overlapping forms of discrimination or disadvantage for either an individual or group based on social characteristics such as but not limited to sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, language, religion, class, socioeconomic status, ability or age.

Intersectionality also helps us understand our own individual circumstances, our position of power and our experiences within those systems, structures and institutions that organise our society. By truly understanding our own position of power, we will be able to critically reflect and work towards removing the systemic barriers for all. This approach recognises systemic issues and the individual approach that needs to be undertaken to reduce barriers across the whole service system to ensure that everyone gets the help they need.