Family violence risk assessment falling short

Tuesday 29th September 2015

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Last year’s coronial inquest into Luke Batty’s death was a rare opportunity to examine the systems that Rosie Batty was in contact with as she sought help to protect herself and to keep Luke safe, and how these systems can be improved to prevent this type of tragic event from happening again.

The findings from Luke’s inquest, handed down by State Coroner Judge Ian Gray on 28 September 2015, have highlighted the critical need to improve the way that family violence risk, and the risk of filicide in the context of family violence, is assessed and managed across the service system.

Despite a long and documented history of violence and abuse by Greg Anderson towards Rosie, as well as her contact with multiple services, Judge Gray noted the systems failure to engage with Greg Anderson. The responsibility to protect Luke was largely borne by Rosie. Luke’s death is a tragic example of what can happen in a system where risk of domestic homicide and family violence harm is not assessed and managed consistently and rigorously across sectors. There is no question: the system needs to change.

The Coroner made a number of recommendations about Victoria’s Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework (otherwise known as the Common Risk Assessment Framework or CRAF) including that it be reviewed and validated to ensure that Victoria has the best tool available to assess and manage family violence risk, including risk to children.

CRAF provides a common or standardised approach to risk assessment and can be applied across all organisations in Victoria that respond to, or encounter people experiencing, family violence. CRAF is widely available, and intended to be used across a large range of professional and service types, including police and the community sector.

However, Luke’s inquest highlighted that even first responders in critical sectors, like Victoria Police and Child Protection, were not always being trained in CRAF and not using it consistently. The Coroner recommended that all agencies in the family violence system be mandated to use an updated CRAF, and adequate training be provided. Operational support for agencies to embed CRAF within their responses was also recommended. Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria applauds these recommendations.

Effective use of CRAF requires effective information sharing. The Coroner noted that in this case there was no 360 degree information sharing; no uniform approach to risk assessment and no coordinated approach to risk management and safety planning. Had this been in place the assessment of the seriousness of risk faced by Rosie and Luke may have led to different outcomes.

Since 2008, over 6,500 professionals from a wide range of services have completed CRAF training. Judge Gray made recommendations on the need for further widespread training on recognising, understanding and responding to family violence. Understanding risk is a critical part of this.

More widespread and consistent use of CRAF will mean that, in future, the types of risk factors exhibited by someone like Greg Anderson could be flagged across the system, information shared and strategies put in place to manage the risks. It would mean that all services would apply common standards and practices to ensure the focus of any intervention and support remained on the safety of those experiencing violence. Using the same approach also minimises the risk of misunderstandings and important information being lost. It is a crucial step in preventing further deaths of women and children.

Last week, the federal government pledged $14 million for family violence workforce development. Now is the time to invest in making sure effective risk assessment practices are embedded across all sectors that respond to family violence.

Related media

ABC Radio – PM, 28 September 2015

7.30 Report – 28 September 2015 (story starts at 24.21 minute mark)

‘Stop domestic violence for all time’, The Age, 28 September 2015

‘Let’s talk about men’s deadly sense of entitlement’, The Age, 28 September 2015

‘Rights of children must trump violent parents: Rosie Batty’, The Age, 28 September 2015

Rosie Batty: coroner is right about child protection and police systems, The Guardian, 28 September 2015

Rosie Batty media conference 28 September 2015


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