Funding to improve court and justice services

Funding to improve court and justice services

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

down arrow

Attorney-General Jill Hennessy has announced $23.1 million funding to improve court and justice processes, improving the safety of family violence victims and helping to reduce delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The package will include $7.8 million to expand the specialist family violence legal services model – where pre-court legal advice aims to resolve family violence intervention order (FVIO) matters prior to the court listing day.

This will reduce pressure on the courts by significantly shortening court lists and supporting the safety of family violence victim survivors by providing early legal assistance.

Additional legal assistance will also be provided for vulnerable women experiencing, or at risk of, family violence while pregnant or with young children.

The funding is part of a package of more than $80 million to increase the capacity of the courts to hear and finalise more matters.

The funding also includes:

  • $6 million for the Victoria Legal Aid Help Before Court service to assist people to prepare before their court date online and new legal service hubs for regional Aboriginal Victorians
  • $3.6 million for audio-visual technology to support staff across Magistrates’ Court, Children’s Court and VCAT
  • $5.7 million to appoint new judicial registrars and support staff to focus on simpler cases, freeing up time for Magistrates to determine more complex matters

Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said, “Those experiencing family violence do not need the added burden of unnecessary delays at court – this is about minimising backlogs to deliver the decisions and support people desperately need”.

Read the media release.

Page last updated Wednesday, December 16 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Final Orange Door locations announced

Final Orange Door locations announced

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

down arrow

The Orange Door network is expanding to ensure more Victorians impacted by family violence can get the help they need closer to home.

Minister for Prevention of Family Violence Gabrielle Williams announced the rollout will be completed by 2022 with the final four Orange Door sites to open in Hume Moreland, Brimbank Melton, Western Melbourne and Outer East Melbourne.

These hubs bring together specialist family violence and perpetrator services, family services and Aboriginal services under one roof.

Workers from these services provide a range of support, from risk assessments, safety planning and crisis assistance, as well as vital connections to services for ongoing help.

Hume Moreland is expected to be set up next year, with the other three to be completed in 2022.

Each Orange Door has a primary site which is complemented by additional access points and outposts, making it easier for people to get in-person support wherever they live.

The Orange Door is currently operating in seven areas in Victoria and the remaining ten sites will be established within the next two years.

While the establishment of the Orange Door has a positive impact on victim survivor safety, DV Vic has called on government to involve and collaborate with DV Vic and other key peak bodies to resolve critical issues with the model. Read the statement.

Page last updated Tuesday, December 15 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

50,000 Victorians Get The Help They Need At The Orange Door

50,000 Victorians Get The Help They Need At The Orange Door

Monday, 15 July 2019

down arrow

More than 50,000 Victorians have attended an Orange Door during the past year. A key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, the Orange Door gives Victorian women and children access to the support and services they need when they are experiencing family violence.

There are five Orange Doors – in Frankston, Geelong, Morwell, Mildura and North Melbourne. Frankston was the first established – and has now been in operation for 12 months.

Women, children and young people who attend Orange Doors are able to access specialist family services in a safe and secure environment – or get extra support with the care of children.

The Orange Door brings together workers from specialist family violence services, child and family services, Aboriginal services and services aimed at perpetrators. The model is designed to make it easier for people to seek help and support earlier. Locations are clearly visible and close to public transport.

Twelve more Orange Doors are planned to be up and running by 2022.

Page last updated Tuesday, December 15 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Practitioner profile: Ashleigh Shanahan

Practitioner profile: Ashleigh Shanahan

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

down arrow

We recently spoke with LGBTI Homelessness and Family Violence Project Worker, Ashleigh Shanahan, about what inspires her work and how her current role is helping to build inclusive and integrated mainstream service provision for LGBTI people experiencing family violence, mental health issues and homelessness.

Tell us about your career in the family violence sector, and what inspired you to take on your current role at Wombat housing support services?

AS: I undertook a project for EDVOS for my final social work placement and this really set the scene for my career in the family violence sector. That project looked at how to get young people more engaged with services. After graduating I worked at EDVOS as an intake specialist family violence advisor. Whilst there I also took on the LGBTI portfolio. When my current role at Wombat came up, it was the amalgamation of everything I had been doing over the past few years and combined all of my passions together.

How have LGBTI people been discriminated against and how has the service system let them down?

AS: There hasn’t always been a great understanding of the nature of power and control and the use of violence within LGBTI relationships, especially when gender is not the defining factor. This lack of understanding has played out in LGBTI people’s experiences of services. For example, police have sometimes trivialised LGBTI people’s experiences of intimate partner violence, with responses like “Oh well, it’s just two women, what’s the harm? What can they really do to each other?” And with men, it’s like “they’re both men, they can fight it out.”

Non-binary people and trans women have, historically, been denied services because they haven’t been seen as real women or haven’t appeared feminine enough. Visual identity is important for non-binary people and trans women, and they often experience discrimination when those markers don’t live up to feminine ideals. Being homeless, for example, doesn’t allow them access to the privileges of appearance, where they’re able to access things like hormones, clothing and razors that enable them to visibly present their identity.

Many services have a poor understanding of where to refer LGBTI people. The LGBTI community is a small community, some people do not want to access an LGBTI specific service out of fear of being recognised. This makes it important for mainstream organisations to understand the needs of LGBTI people. Whilst displaying the rainbow or trans flag is important, it needs to go beyond that. If it just stops at the door, that’s even more damaging because it’s lulling people into a false sense of security.

How is the LGBTI Homelessness and Family Violence Project addressing some of the systemic gaps that LGBTI people experience?

AS: The project focuses on building the capacity of the housing and homelessness sector to be able to understand the specific needs and experiences of LGBTI people and to be able to respond to those needs. It’s about bridging the gap between the homelessness, housing and family violence sectors through a whole range of capacity building activities such as training and resource development, and working collaboratively.

Many young people have gone through the service system and never once been asked if they identify as LGBTI. This has huge implications for their safety and wellbeing. We’ve been developing ways that housing and homelessness services can create safety for LGBTI people. For example, vetting accommodation so that it’s safer and fits their needs. We’ve also developed risk assessment and safety planning processes and a checklist. So when someone is looking at placing a client in accommodation, what should they consider? This might include things like checking how safe the area is in terms of neighbours, or other residents if it’s a refuge or transitional housing. Are staff educated in LGBTI best practice? How close is their accommodation to the specific services they need? Can they easily connect with their local LGBTI community?

The work of creating organisational cultural change often falls on LGBTI staff. The majority of staff who work on rainbow tick groups or who are doing any LGBTI work, tend to be people who identify with the community themselves. But the point that we want to make is, it’s time for agencies to get on board.

What about the role of collaboration across different sectors?

AS: Collaborating is crucial. There’s often been discrepancies in some of the understandings or the ways in which family violence services work compared with how homelessness services work. We’ve been working more closely together to navigate differences in terms of risk assessment and to enable a clearer pathway for LGBTI people.

Our current focus is on family of origin violence and the homelessness that LGBTI people can experience as a result of that. So we are developing partnerships with child protection, residential, foster and kinship care services. These are really overstretched services so it’s hard to ask people to all of a sudden consider these new priorities. But I’m hoping that the project will provide the support needed and then we can advocate for there to be dedicated specialist LGBTI/homelessness roles that can do this work collaboratively with the other services.

What have been some of the highlights in your current role?

AS: I get to work directly with young people who have found their own journey of discovery with their identity, and also the hardships that they’ve come from. The resilience that these young people have is so inspiring. I’ve loved working with them and hearing their stories. I’ve also loved the collaborative process of working with other agencies.

When I conduct surveys or ask for feedback from people who have participated in the project, I get so many passionate and detailed responses. It really makes me feel that this is an area people really want to learn about and make change.

What drives you to work in the family violence sector?

AS: After falling into work in the family violence sector, I’ve fallen in love with it. I don’t see myself working outside of family violence anytime soon. I really love that this sector is so rapidly changing and adapting to the needs of people.

Page last updated Wednesday, December 9 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Protecting Australia’s gun safety framework

Protecting Australia’s gun safety framework

Tuesday 8th December 2020

down arrow

DVRCV has been a proud member of the Australian Gun Safety Alliance since 2018. We have joined nearly 30 other organisations in support of efforts to protect Australia’s strong gun safety framework.

The Australian Gun Safety Alliance (AGSA) is a coalition of voices representing the interests of the community in ensuring that we maintain vigilance on issues of gun safety.

Stephen Bendle is the convenor of the Alliance and works with the Alannah & Madeline Foundation. The Foundation was established after the tragic mass shooting in Port Arthur in 1996 where young sisters Alannah and Madeline Mikac, along with their mother Nanette were killed by a single gunman.

Stephen says that “AGSA is not politically aligned and receives no corporate or individual donations. It is funded by philanthropic donations and in-kind services by members.”

He adds that “all States and Territories, along with the Commonwealth, signed the National Firearms agreement in 1996 and renewed their commitment in 2017. Unfortunately, nearly 25 years later, not a single jurisdiction is fully compliant with the Agreement.”

The AGSA understands that most gun owners in Australia are law-abiding, responsible people who are not criminals. However, Australian Governments must do everything in their power to avoid a slide towards an American culture of gun entitlement.

The AGSA believes that the onus of firearm laws and regulations should be on public safety and not for the convenience or commercial interests of a few. This is the overriding principle of the National Firearms Agreement which has served Australians well.

The role of firearms in family violence is well known.

According to the Women’s Legal Service Qld:

  • gunshot wounds are the third most common cause of death in domestic homicide
  • abusers who use or threaten to use a weapon are 20 times more likely to kill their victim
  • violent intimate partners who have access to firearms engage in more severe domestic violence than those who do not.

Following the Port Arthur shooting in 1996, Australia’s gun reforms have been recognised by the Public Health Association of Australia as one of our top 10 public health successes of the last 20 years. At the time, 90% of Australians supported the bipartisan approach to the introduction of a National Firearms Agreement that established a national framework for the regulation of firearms.

The Australian Gun Safety Alliance continues to speak to governments in all jurisdictions, monitor amendments to firearm legislation and regulations, and speak on behalf of those committed to the health and safety of the community in policy discussions.

More information is available on the AGSA website or you can contact Stephen Bendle on


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Dedicated family violence court to open in Melbourne’s south east

Dedicated family violence court to open in Melbourne’s south east

Monday, 7 December 2020

down arrow

More Victorians living with family violence can now access expert and dedicated court services with the state’s newest Specialist Family Violence Court up and running in Moorabbin.

The court has been designed to provide greater security, comfort and choice for people experiencing family violence and includes separate court entrances for victim survivors, safe waiting spaces and interview rooms, remote witness facilities, child-friendly spaces and culturally safe spaces.

Specialist magistrates at the court have the power to mandate counselling and other services such as men’s behaviour change programs, which help to promote safety by holding men accountable for their use of violence towards family members.

All specialist staff working at the court take part in ongoing family violence learning and development to ensure they are well equipped to meet the needs of people living with family violence.

The Moorabbin facility is one of five Specialist Family Violence Courts rolling out across Victoria. Family Violence Courts are already operational at Shepparton and Ballarat, with Heidelberg and Frankston set to open next year.

The project delivers on key recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence and ensures consistency in family violence functions and services across courts.

Page last updated Monday, December 7 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

More perpetrators misusing technology to abuse victims

More perpetrators misusing technology to abuse victims

Monday, 30 November 2020

down arrow

A report released by WESNET and Curtin University has found that perpetrators are finding new ways to misuse technology to abuse victims.

The Second National Survey of Technology Abuse and Domestic Violence in Australia outlines results from a national survey of 442 specialist family violence practitioners and found significant increases in technology-facilitated abuse in Australia.

Practitioners’ awareness of the use of technology in family violence has increased since the previous survey conducted in 2015, however they find it hard to keep up with the numerous ways that perpetrators seek to control and monitor women.

WESNET CEO Karen Bentley says “The findings of this research are a stark reminder that technology is now fully enmeshed in all aspects of our lives. Legislative and programmatic responses are constantly playing catch-up, while victim survivors are living daily with the terrifying reality and frontline workers grapple with new and emerging abuse tactics.”

The report states that there was little shift in legal responses to this abuse compared to 2015. Respondents noted that breaches to intervention orders made via technology were rarely enforced and are often taken less seriously than physical abuse.

Impact on victim survivors

While the impact of technology-facilitated abuse on victim survivors is similar to 2015, there is an increased perception that they experience high levels of fear and terror as a result of the technology-facilitated abuse and that they feel trapped and hopeless.

One survey respondent reported:

“The impact is huge. Since technology is such a part of everyday life now, women often feel they have no escape from the perpetrator. This kind of constant, relentless abuse has a massive impact on women’s mental health. I have seen women become completely paranoid and jump at every sound due to the abuse.”

Technology facilitated abuse can increase the isolation felt by victim survivors and the fear of using technology to keep in contact with friends, family and services can cause significant impact on their lives.

In some cases, the victim survivor returned to their abuser because they felt they could not escape control. This intensified during the first wave of COVID-19 in Australia (the survey ran from May to August 2020).

Other key findings

  • Almost all survey respondents (99.3%) said they had clients who had experienced technology-facilitated stalking and abuse.
  • There was a 74.4% increase in the reported use of text messages, email or instant messages to threaten victim survivors.
  • There was a 244.8% increase in practitioners reporting perpetrators’ use of GPS to track victim survivors and 183.2% increase in the use of video cameras.
  • A high proportion of respondents reported perpetrators used government services such as myGov to abuse victim survivors, with 27% of respondents seeing this ‘all the time’ and a further 37.8% seeing it ‘often’.

The use of children in technology-facilitated abuse showed significant increases since the 2015 survey.

  • There was a 346.6% increase in children being given a phone or other device as a way to contact their father and monitor their mother’s movements.
  • There was a 254.2% increase in perpetrators’ use of children’s social media accounts to contact children’s mothers.
  • 49.4% of respondents reported that perpetrators use court-ordered child contact to abuse, threaten and intimidate women ‘all the time’.


About the research

The research was conducted from May to August 2020 via an online survey of 442 practitioners in the specialist family violence sector. It is a follow-up survey to the 2015 ReCharge study, conducted by DVRCV, Women’s Legal Services NSW and WESNET.

Find out more

To find out more about safe technology use, read DVRCV’s technology and family violence information.

Page last updated Monday, November 30 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Further investment in family violence reforms

Further investment in family violence reforms

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

down arrow

The Victorian Government announced a $435 million investment into gender equality and family violence initiatives in yesterday’s state budget.

The investment aims to support families to recover from family violence, further develop the family violence and sexual assault workforce, and increase perpetrator accountability.

The investment includes:

  • $87.3 million over four years for flexible support packages
  • $10.7 million over four years for perpetrator accountability for family violence
  • $9.7 million over four years focused on preventing and responding earlier to family violence in multicultural and faith-based communities
  • $8.2 million to grow the family violence and sexual assault support workforce, supporting the coordination of up to 240 traineeships
  • Further funding for the implementation of the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) framework and information sharing schemes

There is further funding of $1.6 million for the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor for the next two years. It is critical this role continues until the reforms have been fully implemented and the coordinated family violence system is operating as envisioned by the Royal Commission.

This is part of a budget that focuses on gender equality and tackling the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women.

Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence Gabrielle Williams said “putting women at the heart of our recovery from coronavirus will mean we recover stronger and faster as a community. It’s the right thing to do – and the smart thing to do.”

DV Vic and DVRCV will continue to engage with the Victorian Government to ensure that there is additional funding for specialist family violence service delivery in the next budget to respond to increased demand and safeguard the health and wellbeing of this unique and specialist workforce, as well as advocating for further investment into primary prevention.

Read the DV Vic and DVRCV response to the state budget.

Page last updated Wednesday, November 25 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

State budget response

State budget response

Wednesday 25th November 2020

down arrow

DVRCV and Domestic Violence Victoria welcome the Victorian Government’s continued investment into family violence reforms announced in yesterday’s state budget.

In particular, we are heartened by the government’s clear commitment to putting housing at the centre of Victoria’s response to family violence, with the big housing build of nearly $5.3 billion, ensuring the availability of long-term social and affordable housing that will support families to recover from family violence. This significant investment is supported by extended funding for emergency accommodation options, and $18.2 million across two years to support case management in core and cluster refuges.

We are also pleased to see continued funding for flexible support packages of $87.3 million over four years.

While we welcome the announcement of further funding for the implementation of the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) framework and information sharing schemes, we know this will need to continue beyond the 12 months committed to today.

We look forward to working with government and our members to define specialist family violence service program requirements, to make sure implementation funding extends past 2021-22.

DV Vic and DVRCV also welcome the $8.2 million investment into building the family violence and sexual assault support workforces. However, we note that this is only a fraction of what is needed to grow and also retain the specialist workforce for an exhausted sector that continues providing services to victim survivors through the pandemic and beyond.

We look forward to engaging with the Victorian Government to ensure that additional funding for specialist family violence service delivery in the next budget, in order to respond to unrelenting and increasing demand, as well as to safeguard the health and wellbeing of this unique and specialist workforce.

We also welcome the government’s commitment to perpetrator accountability for family violence, with the promised investment of $10.7 million over four years.

We are pleased to see a focus on women’s employment and note women’s inclusion as a key group in the government’s economic recovery plans. Employment for women and all victim survivors escaping family violence is a critical element in their survival and recovery.

The Victorian Government continues to demonstrate leadership by investing in primary prevention. In particular, we welcome the further commitment of $37.5 million over four years to continue to deliver the Respectful Relationships initiative in Victorian schools, as well as $9.7 million over four years focused on preventing and responding earlier to family violence in multicultural and faith-based communities.

However, we are disappointed that more funding hasn’t been committed in this budget to prevention initiatives and the development of the prevention workforce. We know that the only way to stem the flow of family violence is to stop it from happening in the first place. Victoria is a world leader in this space and DV Vic and DVRCV look forward to working with the government to ensure this continues by providing additional funding in 2021-22.

Finally, we welcome extended funding of $1.6m for the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor for the next two years. It is critical this role continues until the reforms have been fully implemented and the coordinated family violence system is operating as envisioned by the Royal Commission.


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Reflecting on a year of change

Reflecting on a year of change

Thursday 19th November 2020

down arrow

As we publish our annual report for 2019-20, CEO Tania Farha reflects on the past year.

I came into the organisation in July 2020 as CEO of both DVRCV and Domestic Violence Victoria and am honoured to be leading both organisations through the transition process and into the future as a newly merged entity.

I would like to acknowledge outgoing CEO Emily Maguire’s leadership of DVRCV over the last five years. It’s abundantly clear that DVRCV would not be the organisation it is today if it wasn’t for Emily’s dedication and I look forward to building on her legacy as we move into a new chapter.

Perhaps the most exciting development this year was the Board’s decision to merge with Domestic Violence Victoria. I feel privileged to be leading this phase and am excited about the potential opportunities it provides both organisations to come together to maximise their impact and influence.

I’d like to thank the DVRCV Board who governed the organisation through this time, particularly outgoing Chair Debbie King for her wisdom and expertise during the merge exploration process while continuing to lead the ‘business as usual’ governance of a dynamic and growing organisation.

Of course, preparing to merge was just one of many priorities. This financial year also saw DVRCV forge ahead in key program areas. We experienced an increase in demand for MARAM training and received further funding to expand our work in primary prevention to support the needs of an ever-expanding workforce.

And we continued to support the sector through capability building activities.

  • 3,440 participants attended training
  • 267 training sessions delivered in person and online
  • 8,353 print resources sold and distributed
  • 5.9M visits to our websites

It goes without saying that COVID-19 has had the greatest impact not just on DVRCV but on us all. Whilst recognising its unparalleled challenges, particularly on the provision of services and support to victims of family violence during this time, the pandemic has provided us with new opportunities. None of these could have been harnessed without the commitment of our exceptional staff – all of whom have not only adjusted to working remotely during this period but have successfully adapted our professional development and capability building activities for the online environment.

I would like to extend my gratitude to DVRCV’s Board, the Senior Leadership Team, and the phenomenal women I have had the privilege of working with and getting to know these last few months.

I’m excited for the future of this new organisation that we are building together!

Tania Farha


We’ve also published financial statements and an accessible Word version of the report on our Annual reports page.

The Domestic Violence Victoria Annual Report is available on the DV Vic website.


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Are you safe at home?

Are you safe at home?

Tuesday 27th October 2020

down arrow

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an increase in family violence in Victoria.

With public health restrictions in place and people staying at home more, it’s harder than ever for people experiencing abuse to seek help.

To help support people who may be experiencing family violence and concerned family and friends, we’re distributing two cards through community services and retail outlets in Victoria.

We’ve also launched the Are you safe at home? website – a valuable source of information on how to recognise the warning signs, act safely, provide support, and where to find help.

Developed in partnership with Family Safety Victoria, the wallet-sized cards are available in IGA supermarkets and other services across Victoria.

Social media toolkit

You can help promote this important resource on your networks. Visit the Are you safe at home? toolkit page for a series of social media images and messaging you can use.


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Crime Data Captures Record Spike in Family Violence

Crime Data Captures Record Spike in Family Violence

Monday, 26 October 2020

down arrow

Data released in September, compiled by the Crime Statistics Agency (CSA), shows a spike in family violence incidents and family violence order breaches over the past 12 months.

Drawing on data collected by Victorian Police, the CSA reported family related incidents increased by 6.7% since last year to a record high of 88,214 incidents. Meanwhile, the rate of family incidents increased by 5% to 1,315.4 incidents per 100,000 Victorians.

Children were recorded present at 32,535 of these incidents, which is another record high. The largest number of incidents were reported in December 2019, January 2020 and March 2020.

The report also found breaches of family violence orders increased 9.7% to 48,071 offences.

What has contributed to the spike? 

According to CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria, Tania Farha, the increase in reports over the last 12 months can be attributed to three very different causes. One of these is Victoria Police’s commitment to make it easier for victim survivors to access support, as per reforms recommended by the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

“An increase in reports to police over the previous 12 months may be the result of ongoing efforts by Victoria Police to break down barriers to victim survivors seeking help from police,” Ms Farha explained.

Given emergencies are known to increase the frequency and severity of family violence, the spike may also be credited to the two key crises which have arisen over the past 12 months: the catastrophic bushfires which burned across the state during Summer, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis which has persisted since March 2020.

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner, Rick Nugent, said the stay-at-home restrictions had contributed to the increase, which included notable rises in first-time victims and perpetrators of family violence.

It’s also possible that media coverage of high-profile family violence homicides, such as the murder of Hannah Clarke and her children in February 2020, played a role in the high number of reports seen this year.

“For some [victim survivors] it makes them more frightened to seek help, but for others it increases their sense of urgency for themselves and their children and so they reach out for assistance,” explained Ms Farha.  

What can we anticipate moving forward? 

While this data provides insight into the number of incidents reported to police, it does not capture the full extent of the prevalence, frequency and impact of family violence in our communities.

As Victoria continues to gradually ease restrictions, services are anticipating a spike in demand. The need to ensure these services are adequately resourced to respond remains as important as ever.

“Even during strict restrictions and lockdown, you can leave home to escape family violence. We must continue to amplify this message under the current restrictions and throughout the recovery period,” urged Ms Farha.

“Specialist family violence services must be adequately resourced to respond.”

To check out the latest Victorian crime data, visit the Crime Statistics Agency website.

Page last updated Monday, October 26 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Funding to Strengthen Aboriginal-led Family Violence Responses

Funding to Strengthen Aboriginal-led Family Violence Responses

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

down arrow

The Victorian Government has announced $18.2 million in funding to support Aboriginal-led family violence responses and prevention initiatives. Eligible Aboriginal community groups and organisations will be able to access funding through the Dhelk Dja Family Violence Fund.

This funding ultimately aims to provide more Aboriginal families and individuals with culturally-safe family violence support – including emergency support, family counselling and behaviour change programs.

“All Victorians deserve to live free from violence – and the best response for Aboriginal communities is one that is led by Aboriginal communities,” said Minister for Prevention of Family Violence and Aboriginal Affairs, Gabrielle Williams.

The announcement was applauded by the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA), who also stressed the importance of ensuring responses to Aboriginal family violence are led by Aboriginal organisations and communities.

“This funding will allow Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to work with community in providing a suite of culturally safe, trauma-informed family violence and healthy respectful relationships programs,” their media release read.

“VACCA commends the government’s commitment to advancing Aboriginal self-determination and this funding will allow VACCA and other Aboriginal Family Violence Services to enhance our programs to meet the community needs over the next two years.”

Launched in 2018, Dhelk Dja’ – Safe Our Way: Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families’ (‘Dhelk Dja’) is an Aboriginal-led Agreement that commits Aboriginal communities, services and the Victorian government to work together to address family violence in Aboriginal communities.

Self-determination sits at the core of this agreement, marking a systemic shift in the way government has historically partnered and worked with the Aboriginal community.

Submissions for the Dhelk Dja Family Violence Fund are now open to eligible organisations. To apply or find out more visit the Tenders Vic website. Applications close 23 October.

Read the government media release here.

Page last updated Wednesday, September 30 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Male peer relations and disrespect towards women

Male peer relations and disrespect towards women

Wednesday 9th September 2020

down arrow

Gender inequality creates the social conditions for violence against women to occur. There are four key expressions of gender inequality that have been found to predict or drive this violence. To prevent violence against women, we must focus our efforts on addressing these drivers.

Male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women is one of these drivers.

What do male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women look like?

This gendered driver of violence against women is where men and boys seek to form relationships and bond with each other by proving their masculinity through actions that are sexist, disrespectful or hostile towards women. Examples of this include:

  • Sexist ‘locker room talk’ that disrespects women and is viewed as harmless and normal.
  • Fear of rejection by male peers if they take a stand against their friend’s disrespect of women.
  • Believing it’s natural for a man to want to appear in control of his partner in front of his male friends.

When aggression, sexism and disrespect towards women is normalised and seen as an important part of being ‘one of the boys’, it creates a culture where violence against women is more likely to be used, supported, excused or ignored (Our Watch, 2017).

The socio-ecological model

Looking at how this driver of violence against women manifests within different settings where people live, learn, work, socialise and play can help plan your approach to addressing them. The socio-ecological model comes from the public health field and is used to help explain how violence is a product of multiple, interacting factors at the individual, organisational, systemic and societal levels.

The four gendered drivers exist at all of these levels and are the social conditions which predict, or ‘drive’, higher levels of violence against women.

Reinforcing factors interact with the gendered drivers at the individual and relationship level to increase the probability, frequency and severity of this violence.

Unhealthy male peer relations and disrespect towards women takes many shapes and forms

At an individual or relationship level unhealthy male peer relations and disrespect towards women can look like:

At an organisational or community level, unhealthy male peer relations and disrespect towards women can look like:

At an institutional or systemic level, unhealthy male peer relations and disrespect towards women can look like:

At a societal level, unhealthy male peer relations and disrespect towards women can look like:

What are some actions that you can do to challenge male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women?

Take action to strengthen positive, equal and respectful relations between and among men, boys, women, girls and people of all genders. This includes challenging peer relations between boys and men that involve disrespect or hostility towards women. For example:

  • implementing a whole school approach to respectful relationships education
  • delivering training programs to men and boys
  • implementing organisational policies that send a clear message that gender discrimination and sexual harassment is not tolerated
  • encouraging bystander action in highly masculine/male dominated work or peer environments

Male friends, colleagues, family members and other peers are best placed to encourage positive relations and expressions of masculinity. Whether it’s the office, the locker-room, the classroom or the street, the intervention of peers can have a powerful effect (The Man Box, 2020).

What you can do:


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Five New Orange Door Hubs to Open Across Victoria

Five New Orange Door Hubs to Open Across Victoria

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

down arrow

The Victorian Government has announced it will be extending the Orange Door network to an additional five regions in the state.

New safety hubs will be established in Melbourne’s south and inner-east, Ovens Murray, Wimmera South-West and Outer Gippsland.

Establishing accessible support and safety hubs in each of Victoria’s 17 DHHS regions was a key recommendation that came out of Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence.

Branded as the ‘Orange Door’, these hubs are intended to bring specialist family violence and perpetrator services, family services and Aboriginal services together under one roof, and aim to make it easier for people affected by family violence to access the holistic support they need.

Five hubs have been set up so far, but an Auditor-General’s report tabled in May found they are ‘not yet reaching their full potential.’ The report also raised concerns that future Orange Doors will not be ‘fully prepared to support clients’ or be able to demonstrate better outcomes for families.

In light of the new Orange Door sites being announced, Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) has called on government to work collaboratively with DV Vic and other peak bodies to address these shortcomings and increase the positive impact current and new Orange Door hubs will have.

“Our member specialist family violence services are keen to work with Family Safety Victoria in this next phase of Support and Safety Hub implementation. We call on Government to involve and collaborate with DV Vic and other key peak bodies to resolve critical issues with the Hub model prior to these next five sites being established,” said DV Vic CEO Tania Farha.

“Addressing the concerns of peak bodies and service providers will strengthen the impact of these new Hubs as well as the existing ones. As a result, victim survivors will be safer and perpetrators will be kept in view,” Ms Farha added.

To date, almost 100,000 Victorians have been referred or directly sought help for family violence at an Orange Door hub.

Check out the Victorian Government press release here and Domestic Violence Victoria’s response here

See the Auditor-General’s report on Managing Support and Safety Hubs here

Visit for more information about the Orange Door network. 

Page last updated Tuesday, September 1 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

The power of advocacy: one survivor’s story

The power of advocacy: one survivor’s story

Monday 24th August 2020

down arrow

Reclaiming and redefining one's self after experiencing intimate partner violence is fraught with many challenges. Overcoming the trauma of abuse and the injustices of the legal system are just two of these challenges.

Cathy Oddie knows this all too well. In spite of this, her decision to become a victim survivor advocate has been one of her most life changing and rewarding experiences. Here she reflects on her advocacy journey and her recent appointment to the Victims of Crime Consultative Committee Victoria (VOCCC).

Cathy Oddie has been a family violence survivor advocate for 13 years. Her journey to becoming an advocate began as a result of experiencing life threatening abuse by her partner when she was 22.

“I endured every sort of abuse for three and a half years, and ongoing stalking once the relationship ended. What I didn’t expect was to be let down by the systems and services that were meant to support me. It made me angry. If someone with my white privilege finds the system that difficult, how much harder would it be for a person who is Aboriginal, or from a culturally diverse background, or who is living with a disability find it?”

Participating in the safe steps Survivor Advocate Program was a major turning point in Cathy’s life. The program supports victim survivors of family violence to get media training, to challenge victim blaming myths, and be able to tell their stories in the way they want them to be told.

"The decision to become an advocate for change saved my life."

Since completing the program Cathy has given many media interviews about her experience as a victim survivor and the need for system reform. She has also drawn upon her lived experience to help inform the production of early intervention resources for victim survivors.

In 2015, Cathy also found the confidence and courage to provide her own independent submission to the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence. As a result she was called upon to provide a witness testimony about her experience as a victim survivor and the difficulties she encountered navigating the service system.

“Giving that testimony was simultaneously one of the hardest things I’ve ever done plus one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s something I’ll be forever proud of.”

Cathy’s submission and testimony helped result in two of the Royal Commission’s final recommendations – Recommendation 104 and Recommendation 106, which led to the 2018 review of the Victims of Crime Assistance Act.

“To know that just by putting my experience out there for the Commission to consider, that it could have such a lasting impact for victim survivors, that’s something I’d never want to change.”

What are some of the challenges and rewards you’ve experienced as an advocate?

“There’ve been points where I felt like walking away because, when you’re a victim survivor of family violence and sexual assault, the trauma doesn’t just end when the crisis ends. The impact that it has on you emotionally, physically, and financially is ongoing and really tough.”

“The advocacy work has kept me going forward in my life. It’s given me an opportunity to take myself outside of my own individual circumstances, to see the bigger picture and the need for broader reform and change.”

“By speaking up I’ve been able to be part of creating change. I’ve got a voice in this space that people are listening to. I also have a responsibility to use that voice in a way that amplifies the voices of those who are not being heard.”

Tell us about your recent appointment to the VOCCC and what this means to you?

“It means being part of informing policy and legislative changes that help improve the victim supports that people who’ve experienced serious violent crimes receive.”

As a representative on the VOCCC, Cathy will bring a lived experience lens of what women who experience family violence and sexual assault go through. This will include advocating for:

  • the need for legal representation
  • changes in court designs so that victim survivors are not placed at risk of encountering their perpetrators
  • more specialised case management
  • victim survivors not having to repeat their experience and story of abuse

For Cathy, this role gives her an opportunity to ensure victim survivors’ voices are central to any reform and system changes.


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Q&A: The ins and outs of DV Vic’s new Code of Practice

Q&A: The ins and outs of DV Vic’s new Code of Practice

Thursday, 6 August 2020

down arrow

Building on a resource that informed the development of Victoria’s family violence sector over many years, Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) has officially released the second edition of their Code of Practice: Principles and Standards for Specialist Family Violence Services for Victim-Survivors (the Code).

To celebrate the launch, we recently spoke with DV Vic’s Senior Practice Development Advisor, Erin Davis, about the redevelopment process and how the Code’s principles and standards will guide better responses to victim survivors of family violence across Victoria.

In an ideal world, how would this resource be used by specialist family violence practitioners?

ED: I think this question is really good because it reflects how people maybe initially understand the Code: as something you give to a practitioner. Of course, the Code is for practitioners to use, but actually, it is first and foremost for service leaders to implement into their organisations. Leaders can use the Code and its audit tool to do continuous quality improvement work, compare service design against standards and indicators, and then make action plans when improvements are needed within their own contexts. Services can bring the Code into their strategic planning and value-setting work, to redevelop policies, procedures, education, training and induction programs for staff.

In their day-to-day practice, practitioners can also use the Code for their own self-reflection, to work through ethical dilemmas or to think about their practice capabilities.

“The Code doesn’t necessarily have an answer to every question that may come up in practice, but it will have a principle, standard, or way of thinking that you can draw on to inform your response.”

Importantly, leaders and practitioners can also use the Code for systemic advocacy. It can be used to promote understanding of the sector and advocate for the rights of victim survivors.

Can you tell us about the process involved in redeveloping the Code? 

ED: It started at the end of 2018 and ran all way across 2019. First, we unpacked the previous Code and identified what we wanted to maintain and bring into the second edition. We then undertook a literature review, drawing on contemporary guidelines, standards and research into good practice responses and analysed those.

We also looked at how we needed to map this new Code with legislation and policy frameworks that had evolved since the first edition in 2006 and, in particular, since the Royal Commission into Family Violence. We wanted to make sure the new Code reflected the essence of other frameworks like the Human Services StandardsChild Safe StandardsEqual Opportunity guidelines for family violence services and MARAM.

What about engagement and consultation processes? 

ED: A lot of participatory engagement processes were set up. We established an advisory group that consisted of representatives from specialist family violence services, an academic advisor, as well as key partners – including DVRCV, NTV and Family Safety Victoria. That group met at key points during the development of the Code and was very actively involved in co-designing it, which was awesome. Regular discussion and consultation was also held with the Specialist Family Violence Services Group and the Refuge Roundtable, which are key networks convened by DVVic.

I also travelled around the State and ran focus groups and interviews with practitioners and victim survivor advisory groups. We were able to really benefit from asking them how they felt about the content being developed and what key messages they wanted conveyed to the sector. I think that was a really critical piece in developing the Code.

What is the value of this resource? How will it benefit Victoria’s specialist family violence sector? 

ED: I would say the value of this resource is in its ultimate, overarching purpose: to guide consistent quality service provision for victim survivors who are accessing specialist family violence services.

“The Code is an industry resource for the sector, but the proof of its value really is in how victim survivors experience the quality and consistency of the services offered by the sector. “

Of course, the specialist violence sector is already doing many of the things that are in the Code – after all the Code came from them! But it’s just going to take things to a next stage of development.

What are the key ways the new Code builds on the original 2006 version

ED: The second edition builds on the first by providing principle-based standards and indicators that act as a roadmap services can use to self-audit, action plan and do continuous quality improvement work.

It also expands on the foundational feminist, human rights and social justice frameworks used in the original Code. While those frameworks all still underpin it, the new Code also brings in a strong intersectional feminist framework. Throughout the development process, the intersectional feminist framework – time and time again – came through as the primary way of thinking the sector wanted to see reflected across specialist family violence services.

This framework helps us understand the complex ways in which family violence interacts with gender-based oppression, with homophobia, with transphobia, ableism, ageism and many other forms of oppression. Those forms of oppression are exploited by people who use violence. They perpetuate discriminatory service responses. And ultimately, all of that exacerbates the harm that victim survivors experience.

“Specialists can use intersectionality to unpack how family violence plays out in a more nuanced way, engage in critical reflection on their own policies and practices, and to work with other sectors that respond to these oppressions and build coalitions with them.”

What is your message to other services involved in the family violence response? Is this resource useful for them as well?

ED: The Code is primarily designed for the specialist family violence service sector, but I think it’s definitely a resource that would be useful for other non-specialist services.

Many have an important role to play in family violence response. Tier 2-4 services can use the Code as a quality improvement resource, just as specialist family violence services would do. That means not just handing the Code over to individuals responding to family violence, but using it at that leadership level in self-auditing and strategic planning discussions.

If an organisation has one family violence practitioner or as small local family violence response program, the Code is for them too. A key challenge is ensuring the Code reaches those parts of the sector.

Download DV Vic’s new Code of Practice.

If you need assistance navigating and using the Code, contact DV Vic for guidance and support.

Are you responsible for embedding the DV Vic Code of Practice into your organisation? Join DV Vic’s Implementation Champions Group!

This group will support professionals in funded specialist family violence services who are responsible for embedding the Code of Practice, MARAMIS and the future Service Model in their organisations. To learn more about this group and how you can join, click here.

Page last updated Thursday, August 6 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Rigid gender roles and stereotypes

Rigid gender roles and stereotypes

Thursday 6 August 2020

down arrow

Gender inequality creates the social conditions for violence against women to occur. There are four key expressions of gender inequality that have been found to predict or drive this violence. To prevent violence against women, we must focus our efforts on addressing these drivers. Rigid gender roles and stereotypes are one of these drivers.

What are rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and feminity?

Rigid gender roles and stereotypes are fixed beliefs and assumptions that men and women are naturally suited to different tasks and responsibilities or have likes, dislikes, desires, interests and abilities that aren’t based on their individual personalities but their gender. Examples of rigid gender roles and stereotypes include:

  • assuming women will do the cleaning, cooking or administrative tasks at work or community events.
  • viewing men as the primary breadwinner, and women as the primary homekeeper / child carer.
  • thinking men are ‘naturally’ more violent or driven by uncontrollable sexual urges.

We are all gender socialised from the time we are born. Messages received from family, friends, advertising and the media influence children to take up limited and stereotyped gender roles and identities. These gender norms become internalised and established as part of the ‘natural order’ of life. For example, the belief that men should be tough and dominant often means that boys and men feel like they shouldn’t cry, show emotions or demonstrate abilities to play caring roles; and the belief that women should be nurturing, ‘lady-like’ or sexually appealing means women and girls often feel pressure to behave in certain ways to meet these expectations.

People who support rigid gender roles and stereotypes are more likely to approve and uphold attitudes that justify, excuse, minimise or trivialise violence against women.

The socio-ecological model

Looking at how rigid gender roles and stereotypes manifest within different settings where people live, learn, work, socialise and play can help you to plan your approach to addressing them. The socio-ecological model comes from the public health field and is used to help explain how violence is a product of multiple, interacting factors at the individual, organisational, systemic and societal levels.

The four gendered drivers exist at all of these levels and are the social conditions which predict, or ‘drive’, higher levels of violence against women.

Reinforcing factors interact with the gendered drivers at the individual and relationship level to increase the probability, frequency and severity of this violence.

Rigid gender roles and stereotypes take many shapes and forms

At an individual or relationship level rigid gender roles and stereotypes can look like:

At an organisational or community level, rigid gender roles and stereotypes can look like:

At an institutional or systemic level, rigid gender roles and stereotypes can look like:

At a societal level, rigid gender roles and stereotypes can look like:

What are some actions that you can take to challenge gender stereotypes?

To address stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity it’s important to foster positive personal identities and challenge gender stereotypes and roles. This means supporting people to critique and reject rigid gender roles, and to develop personal identities that are not constrained or limited by gender stereotypes. For example:

  • undertaking activities that promote and encourage women and girls’ participation in sport and STEM subjects,
  • using the arts to raise awareness of gender stereotypes and explore alternative forms of masculinity and femininity,
  • promoting gender equitable parenting and domestic practices,
  • promoting flexible employment conditions for working fathers,
  • implementing workplace policies that tackle biases in recruitment and training.

What you can do


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Survey Captures FV Practitioner Experiences During COVID-19

Survey Captures FV Practitioner Experiences During COVID-19

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

down arrow

As many parts of Victoria move to Stage 4 restrictions, it’s a critical time to reflect on how measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 impact the incidence of family violence and how professionals can overcome challenges associated with supporting victim survivors under lockdown.

The Monash Gender and Family Violence Centre recently published a research report capturing the voices and experiences of 166 Victorian practitioners supporting women experiencing violence during Victoria’s initial COVID-19 shutdown period.

The responses, collected through an anonymous online survey between April and May 2020, are insightful, inspiring and informative. Here’s a summary of the key findings.

More frequent, more severe violence

Among the practitioners surveyed, 59% of respondents reported that COVID-19 has increased the frequency of violence against women, while 50% said it has increased the severity. 42% of respondents reported an increase in women experiencing family violence for the first time.

As violence has become more frequent and severe, women’s support needs have become increasingly complex. Over three quarters of respondents reported an increase in case complexity and 55% reported a significant increase.

Enhanced tactics of control

Practitioners also highlighted that perpetrators are using new forms of violence and “enhanced tactics” to control, coerce and socially isolate victim survivors during the pandemic.

These tactics include weaponising the COVID-19 restrictions and using the threat of infection to control women’s movements and decision-making power. As one practitioner articulated:

“Perpetrators are using COVID-19 as a reason to keep women isolated, for example, not letting them out of the home to ‘protect them’ from COVID-19.”

Additional barriers to support

In addition to impacting the prevalence and nature of family violence, the pandemic has also diminished women’s capacity to reach out for support. In particular, practitioners were concerned by increased perpetrator surveillance over victim survivor’s devices and online activity, restricting their ability to safely contact support services. As one practitioner voiced:

“Partners who are monitoring phone use now have an increased amount of power and control in this domain as the phone is now quite literally the only connection with the outside world. “

Another shared:

“Women have been very concerned about their phone calls being overheard and not having a safe space to speak freely. Women have often ended phone calls, changed the topic or called back later when it is safe to talk.”

According to the report, lockdown measures have also further isolated victim survivors from their usual support networks, increasing the overall invisibility of their victimisation.

Overcoming challenges posed by lockdown 

Across the sector, services and professionals are working in new, innovative ways to continue safely reaching and delivering support to at-risk women during COVID-19. A few innovative approaches to service delivery professionals shared via the survey include:

  • Integrating family violence support into “essential services” that have remained open through lockdown periods, including GP clinics, Centrelink and childcare centres.
  • Creating new alert systems victim survivors can use if in trouble or in need of support.
  • Partnering with all-women rideshare company, Shebah, to provide safe transport and deliveries to women and children experiencing family violence.
  • Getting clients to provide virtual “house tours” to provide more information to support risk assessment and safety planning.
  • Using alternative phone solutions that do not require app downloads to devices, such as Gruveo.
  • Utilising video streaming technologies such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and WhatsApp to connect with clients and do virtual risk assessments and safety planning.

Implications for professionals’ wellbeing

The research also drew attention to the effects COVID-19 has had on practitioners’ wellbeing. Several respondents reported that – since shifting to remote service delivery – the lines between work and home had become increasingly blurred, making it harder to “switch off” after a day of work. As one respondent shared:

“Boundaries for me personally – [having] work computers at home [I’m] more likely to check emails out of business hours because of concern for the family [and] wanting to see a response to be reassured they are ok. “

Others mentioned that adapting to new modes of service delivery when family violence is increasing in severity and frequency has created additional work-induced stress. In the words of one practitioner:

“[There is] increased stress on clinicians due to the pressure to not place the client at greater risk of harm when delivering an adapted service model whilst the client is in isolation with the perpetrator.”

If you’re struggling at the moment, remember there are particular services and people in your organisation you can lean on for wellbeing support. Check out this section of The Lookout for information on what supports are available to you.  

To learn more about this research project, and read the entire report for yourself, click here

For more information and resources to support your practice during COVID-19, check out our COVID-19 and family violence section. 

Page last updated Tuesday, August 4 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

WISHIN: a safe home for every woman

WISHIN: a safe home for every woman

Monday 3rd August 2020

down arrow

Homelessness is a gendered issue. Jade Blakkarly knows this more than most people. For the past three years, she’s been at the helm of WISHIN, a small organisation that’s at the interface of homelessness and family violence.

“Women’s homelessness is an issue of gender inequality, poverty and lack of affordable housing intersecting with other forms of discrimination and marginalisation. More than 75% of the women we see have experienced family violence.  On top of that, over 50% have a diagnosed mental health issue. We’re also seeing more women who were born overseas – over 40%.”

WISHIN’s clients have many multiple and complex needs and this often leads to them falling through the gaps. These are women who’ve been through the family violence system and felt like it hasn’t worked for them. They may have substance and child protection issues or have had lots of criminal justice involvement.

“Generalist homelessness services sometimes struggle to respond to the complex support needs of women and children.”

Many of WISHIN’s clients have previously presented to mainstream homelessness services, with active family violence issues and high risk safety concerns. Homelessness services aren’t always well-equipped to manage that risk and may refer the woman to a family violence service. Meanwhile, some family violence services may refer women to a homelessness service, if they see housing as their main issue. Jade points out that “this can lead to women bouncing backwards and forwards between those two systems and not getting an appropriate response from either.”

How does a small organisation provide housing to an overwhelming number of victim survivors, all on a shoestring budget?

“It’s a constant challenge for us but the uniqueness of our service delivery model means we’re better placed to catch many women who fall through the gaps,” says Jade.

WISHIN’s approach is to provide a holistic trauma informed response that includes initial assessment, safety planning, case management and a long term Wellbeing Program to help women transition out of the program at their own pace.

WISHIN have specialist family violence workers located at homeless access points, the places where women come to get homelessness support. These workers provide a direct response to women who come in with a current family violence crisis. This includes conducting MARAM assessments and developing safety plans, negotiating with police around intervention orders, and working with safe steps if the woman needs to access a refuge.

These workers also do a lot of advocacy between the two systems – working out the type of family violence response that women should be getting as well as the homelessness response.

WISHIN also do capacity building and training for the homelessness sector. They have staff members located at homelessness organisations such as VincentCare. This approach provides the benefit of supporting homelessness staff to develop skills in doing basic identification and risk assessments. “This has really improved the staff’s confidence and understanding in recognising and responding to family violence,” says Jade.

How has COVID-19 impacted WISHIN’s clients?

“The priority given to funding homeless people in hotels has been phenomenal. Over 2,000 households have been supported since COVID and it’s provided somewhere safe for a lot of people to stay in Melbourne’s north,” says Jade. (WISHIN’s catchment area covers the northern metropolitan suburbs of Hume, Moreland, Yarra, Whittlesea, Nillumbik, Darebin and Banyule.)

COVID-19 has exposed social inequalities with women disproportionately affected. A highly gendered casualised workforce has meant that many women have lost their jobs. WISHIN is finding that a lot of their clients who had previously moved forward and established themselves are now re-engaging with their service. As Jade points out, “they’ve lost their jobs and their options are tighter. Although there’s been a temporary increase in income for some with JobSeeker, the loss of work also creates an issue for their ongoing sustainability.”

WISHIN has also found that some women have chosen to move into private rental because the market is not as competitive as it has been, particularly for those on Centrelink and who have children. These women are willing to risk the private rental market even though they are still financially insecure.

The Victorian Government has announced a $1billion increase in social housing. How do you welcome that?

Jade acknowledges that this is a great outlay by the government but also cautions that it will take a long time to see the full benefits, especially given Victoria has the lowest percentage of public and community housing per capita in Australia.

The Victorian Government has also committed another $150 million to assist the homeless to find housing in the transition post COVID-19. Whilst this is highly welcomed, it will not in itself solve the long term cycle of homelessness for many women, especially given the ongoing high rates of family violence and poverty that many women will continue to experience.

“We’ve been carrying a long history of very poor [housing] investment and women have suffered because of it. Social housing is a major part of the solution. Working with an integrated model of support is another.”

Donate to WISHIN’s emergency appeal to raise urgent funds for homeless women and their children during the COVID-19 pandemic.


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

MARAM Resources, Training & Implementation Update

MARAM Resources, Training & Implementation Update

Tuesday 7 July 2020

down arrow

In Victoria, the Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) framework is used to ensure all services are effectively, collaboratively and consistently responding to family violence risk.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted MARAM reforms on multiple fronts – from what needs to be considered during risk assessments and safety planning, to the delivery of MARAM training, and the speed at which MARAM reforms are being rolled out.

To help you wrap your head around everything you need to know, we have put together a concise summary of key MARAM-related developments (as of July 7th 2020) below.

Resources to support MARAM risk assessment and management

Victim survivors are facing increased family violence risk and barriers to support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recognising this, Family Safety Victoria (FSV) have developed a series of “MARAM Practice Note” resources. These outline the minimum steps professionals – across men’s behaviour change, specialist family violence, key support agencies, and mainstream and universal services – must take when responding to family violence during the pandemic.

They can be downloaded via The Lookout’s MARAM practice notes page.

MARAM training for experienced family violence practitioners

All specialist family violence professionals in Victoria must complete MARAM training.

The Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria has recently begun delivering its MARAM Renewing Practice training online. This training is suitable for experienced family violence specialists who have extensive experience and have previously completed specialist CRAF training. You can learn more and sign up to this training via DVRCV’s training website.

MARAM training for non-specialist services

The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare has also started delivering online MARAM training to select allied workforces. These include:

  • MARAM Brief & Intermediate level training for Child FIRST, family services, alcohol and other drug, homelessness and mental health workers.
  • MARAM Screening & Identification level training for care services.
  • MARAM Screening & Identification training for maternal child health workers.

You can find out more about this training and whether it’s relevant to you here.

Information sharing entities database

Information sharing is one way in which services can work together to keep victim survivors safe and hold perpetrators accountable under the MARAM Framework.

FSV have developed a database that compiles a list of organisations prescribed under the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme and Child Information Sharing Scheme.

The database also tells you what kind of information sharing entity (ISE) they are, including whether they are risk assessment entity or a central contact point for information requests.  The database will be updated in regular intervals but is not a live list.

Remember: as per the Ministerial Guidelines, if you do not have an existing relationship with someone requesting information,  continue to verify their identity before sharing anything with them (e.g. by asking them to send an email from their official work account or by calling their switchboard at their organisation).

If an organisation’s contact information isn’t stored in the database, refer to the organisation’s website for public contact details.

If you are not sure if you or another organisation is prescribed, call the Information Sharing and MARAM Enquiry Line 1800 549 646 or email

Resources to support MARAM alignment

Prescribed organisations and services are required to ensure their policies, procedures, practice guidance and tools are aligned with the MARAM framework.

Recognising the diverse obstacles organisations are facing at the moment, FSV have developed a factsheet for organisational leaders on how to do MARAM alignment as part of business continuity planning in the COVID-19 context. The factsheet is available here.

An update on reform implementation

The MARAM Framework and Information Sharing Schemes are being rolled out in gradual phases.

FSV has recently announced that due to COVID-19, phase two of implementation will be delayed until the first half of 2021. This next phase will see universal workforces – such as hospitals and health and education workforces – prescribed under the framework.

To stay up to date with the progress of the reform implementation, sign up to FSV’s e-newsletter.

For more information on MARAM developments, plus access to MARAM tools and resources, go to the Victorian Government’s website.

Page last updated Tuesday, July 7 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Funding to Better Equip GPs to Respond to Family Violence

Funding to Better Equip GPs to Respond to Family Violence

Monday, 6 July 2020

down arrow


The Federal Government has announced $300,000 in funding to update clinical guidelines to help general practitioners (GPs) better respond to family violence.

Abuse and violence: Working with our patients in general practice (the Whitebook) is a manual resource designed to guide doctors and medical experts to identify family violence and support patients experiencing abuse.

Last reviewed in 2014, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) will use the funding to update the Whitebook and ensure medical practitioners across the country have current, tailored and evidence-informed advice at their disposal.

The initiative is part of the a broader $9.6 million government commitment, announced in the Federal Government’s 2019–20 Budget, to build the capability of more healthcare professionals to better recognise and respond to patients experiencing abuse.

Closer to home: Royal Commission Implementation 

After family and friends, it is GPs and other primary healthcare providers who people experiencing family violence most often turn to for help and support.

Research has found that approximately one quarter of women seeking help in relation to their abuse confide initially in a healthcare professional. It’s been estimated that every week a GP sees up to five women who have been abused by their partners, though the GP may not be aware of this abuse.

The powerful role GPs have to play in responding to family violence was captured by several recommendations that came out of Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence.

These included creating a database of health professionals with family violence expertise, making family violence training a mandatory requirement for all GPs, and developing a family violence learning agenda for current and future medical practitioners.

All of these recommendations have either been implemented or are currently in progress.

GP responses even more crucial during COVID-19

According to RACGP Chair, Dr Charlotte Hespe, the Federal Government’s funding announcement could not have come at a more pressing time given the detrimental impacts of COVID-19 on the prevalence and severity of family violence in our communities.

“It is a sad and unfortunate reality that the COVID-19 pandemic will have increased cases of family and domestic abuse and violence in Australia.”

“We must do all we can to ensure GPs are equipped with the skills and resources to help people experiencing abuse and violence and ensure they get the support they need,” she added.

Since the funding announcement, the RACGP has released a COVID-19 and family violence support fact sheetoutlining the indicators of family violence all general practitioners should be looking out for, plus practical advice on how to safely consult with patients over the phone or during video consultations.

The College has also released a self-paced professional development program for GPs on responding to family violence, which can be accessed via their website. 

If you are a GP looking to discuss a patient’s circumstances with a specialist family violence professional, you can contact 1800 RESPECT 24/7 on 1800737732 for guidance and support.

Page last updated Monday, July 6 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

A message from our CEO, Emily Maguire

A message from our CEO, Emily Maguire

Thursday 25th June 2020

down arrow

The police killing of George Floyd and the resurgence of mainstream media attention on the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and internationally has sharpened our focus on racism, dispossession and oppression in this country.

These are not new issues, but I hope this renewed spotlight will strengthen more people’s understanding of our country’s history of colonialism, marginalisation and discrimination and propel people to action.

The mass incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a feminist issue. The overwhelming number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people dying in custody is a violence against women issue. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their communities have long given voice to these intersections, while organising to resist systemic racism and state violence.

It is our collective responsibility, now and always, to not only listen and reflect but to take up their calls to action.

You can find links to some key voices we’ve been learning from and some useful recommended resources below.

This is an excerpt from DVRCV’s eNews from June 2020. Subscribe here.


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Condoning violence against women

Condoning violence against women

down arrow

Gender inequality creates the social conditions for violence against women to occur. There are four key expressions of gender inequality that have been found to predict or drive this violence. To prevent violence against women, we must focus our efforts on addressing these drivers. The condoning of violence against women is one of these drivers.

What does condoning violence against women mean?

Condoning violence against women is excusing, downplaying, justifying or denying violence, or blaming the victim rather than the perpetrator.

VicHealth expands on this definition to include attitudes and behaviours that:

  • excuse violence by attributing it to external factors (such as stress) or proposing that men cannot be held fully responsible for their violent behaviour (for example, because of anger or sexual urges);
  • justify violence against women, based on the notion that its legitimate for a man to use violence against a woman;
  • trivialise the impact of violence, based on the view that the impacts of violence are not serious or are not sufficiently serious to warrant action;
  • minimise violence by denying its seriousness, denying that it occurs or denying that certain behaviours are indeed violence at all; and
  • shift blame for the violence from the perpetrator to the victim or hold women at least partially responsible for their victimisation or for preventing victimisation.

The socio-ecological model

Attitudes that condone violence against women play a major role in shaping the way individuals, organisations and communities respond to violence. The socio-ecological model comes from the public health field and is used to help explain how violence is a product of multiple, interacting factors at the individual, organisational, systemic and societal levels.

The four gendered drivers exist at all of these levels and are the social conditions which predict, or ‘drive’, higher levels of violence against women.

Reinforcing factors interact with the gendered drivers at the individual and relationship level to increase the probability, frequency and severity of this violence.

Rates of family violence and violence against women are higher when societies, institutions, communities or individuals condone this violence. Looking at how this driver manifests within different settings where people live, learn, work, socialise and play, can help you to plan your approach to addressing it and prevent violence against women before it occurs. The more areas across society where violence-supportive attitudes, behaviours and structures are challenged and rejected, the more we will be able to prevent violence against women before it happens.

Condoning violence against women takes many shapes and forms.

At an individual or relationship level condoning violence against women can look like:

At an organisational or community level, condoning violence against women can look like:

At an institutional or systemic level, condoning violence against women can look like:

At a societal level, condoning violence against women can look like:

What are some actions you can take to challenge attitudes and behaviours that condone violence against women?


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Men’s control of decision making

Men’s control of decision making

down arrow

Gender inequality creates the social conditions for violence against women to occur. There are four key expressions of gender inequality that have been found to predict or drive this violence. To prevent violence against women, we must focus our efforts on addressing these drivers.

Men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence in public life and relationships is one of these drivers, where women’s autonomy in both public life and private relationships is constrained. This can include undermining women’s decision making and leadership in public life, or relationships where men control a woman’s personal, financial or social independence.

Findings from the National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (2017) support and reinforce this driver of violence against women. For example, many Australians:

  • agree that men make better leaders, decision makers or are more suited to holding positions of responsibility (14% agree).
  • agree that men have greater ‘natural’ authority, decision making and control in the private realm of intimate relationships and should have the ultimate say over what happens in a relationship or how a family and household are run (25% agree).

Men’s control of decision making and resources in the home, workplace or community can have serious consequences for women. Within public life, the overrepresentation of men in leadership positions and their control of decision making in the workplace has a flow on effect for women, whereby women:

  • continue to be overlooked for leadership roles, and
  • continue to be underrepresented in business.

Women in professions such as STEM, banking and finance, law, medicine and emergency services face strong cultural and institutional obstacles to leadership. This is despite the fact that women often have far higher postgraduate qualifications and are more likely to be overqualified for their work and wage than men in the same work.1

Men’s control over decision making within the private realm of heterosexual relationships and the family can limit women’s participation in public life. For example, the ‘man of the house’ can have the power to determine whether or not a woman can work and have economic independence. Women’s financial dependence on men is a barrier to them seeking safety from violence.2

Normalised control of decision making in relationships can also normalise controlling behaviours that increase the risk of intimate partner and family violence. This imbalance in power means that men have more opportunity to abuse that power with violence. Women, in turn, have less power to stop violence, call it out or leave.3

The socio-ecological model

Men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence play a major role in shaping the way individuals, organisations and communities respond to violence. The socio-ecological model is used to help explain how violence is a product of multiple, interacting factors at the individual, organisational, systemic and societal levels.

The four gendered drivers exist at all of these levels and are the social conditions which predict, or ‘drive’, higher levels of violence against women.

The socio-ecological model helps us understand how men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence manifest within different settings where people live, learn, work, socialise and play. Understanding this can help us plan prevention approaches to address violence against women within these spheres of life.

The more that women’s independence and decision making is promoted in public and private life as well as across society, the more influence and positive change we will see.

Men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence takes many shapes and forms.

At an individual or relationship level, men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence can look like:

At an organisational or community level, men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence can look like:

At an institutional or systemic level, men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence can look like:

At a societal level, men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence can look like:

What are some actions you can take to promote women’s independence and decision making in public life and in their relationships?

To address men’s control in decision making and limits to women’s independence we must promote women’s independence and decision making in public life and in their relationships. This means supporting women’s leadership (in all its forms), autonomy and social connectedness, and challenging the norms, practices and structures that enable and perpetuate men’s control and dominance across different levels of society. Promoting alternatives could include:

  • offering leadership training and mentoring programs for women both in communities and in workplaces
  • providing opportunities for women to establish social networks
  • implementing workplace gender equality strategies, such as promoting flexible work arrangements for both men and women
  • introducing workplace gender quotas for leadership.

What you can do:

  • DVRCV has developed a series of tip sheets on the four gendered drivers. This resource is a great primary prevention tool that can be used to increase understanding about how men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence drive violence against women. Read about the tipsheets.
  • Australia has a national framework for preventing violence against women and their children, published by Our Watch, ANROWS and VicHealth in 2015. Read Change the Story and How to Change the Story.
  • Our Watch has an excellent range of ‘Workplace Equality and Respect’ tools and resources including standards for workplaces to implement.
  • Get connected. DVRCV’s Partners in Prevention network connects people working in the primary prevention of violence against women and family violence in Victoria.
  • The Equality Rights Alliance is Australia’s largest network advocating for women’s equality, women’s leadership and recognition of women’s diversity.
  • Learn about women’s financial capability. Wire and Women’s Health in the North have developed many resources aimed at increasing women’s financial literacy and independence.
  • Read Victoria’s statewide gender equality strategy: Safe and Strong: A Victorian Gender Equality Strategy.
  • Build your knowledge. DVRCV is soon set to launch its free foundational elearning package. Stay tuned!
  • Strengthen your skills. DVRCV offers a range of training in the primary prevention of violence against women, all catered to where you’re at in your prevention career.

[1] Victorian Government, Department of Premier and Cabinet, 2016: Safe and Strong: A Victorian Gender Equality Strategy

[2] Our Watch, 2018: Workplace Equality and Respect Standards

[3] ibid


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

New Family Violence Jobs Hub for a Growing Workforce

New Family Violence Jobs Hub for a Growing Workforce

Thursday, 28 May 2020

down arrow

The Victorian Government has launched a Jobs Hub for the family violence workforce, putting current and prospective employees in touch with family violence and primary prevention career opportunities and information.

The Hub includes a Family Violence Jobs Portal that can help you discover and apply for roles in specialist family violence response, primary prevention or men’s behaviour change services across Victoria.

Finding your calling 

From experienced family violence workers and social workers to educators, communicators and researchers – the family violence workforce needs people with a variety of skills and backgrounds to fill diverse roles.

Within the new Jobs Portal, you can set up a profile to help employers and recruiters find you, and filter advertised family violence jobs by search terms, location or industry.

If you’re a student, graduate or career-changer, the Jobs Hub can help you get a better sense what a family violence career looks like in Victoria and just how you may be able to contribute.

Government and not for profit employers can promote relevant roles via the portal for free. Within the portal they can also view, shortlist and download candidate’s applications.

Growing the workforce 

The launch of the Jobs Hub is part of a broader campaign to help grow Victoria’s family violence workforce through raising awareness and deepening your understanding of the many meaningful, challenging and rewarding ways you can support the sector.

“Victoria needs more social workers, researchers, educators, advocates and leaders working in family violence – this hub will help fill this demand,” said Minister for Prevention of Family Violence Gabrielle Williams.

“We know these people are out there – but we need to go to them. Many potential candidates don’t know there are jobs available in a range of areas and that they could be perfect for a family violence role.”

To check out the Job Hub, click here.

To read the Victorian Government’s full media release, click here.

Page last updated Thursday, May 28 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Funding Boost for Legal Support Services

Funding Boost for Legal Support Services

Thursday, 14 May 2020

down arrow

The Victorian Government has announced a $17.5 million funding package for services delivering legal assistance to Victorians, including victim survivors of family violence, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding will flow immediately to Victoria Legal Aid and every Community Legal Centre and Aboriginal legal service across the state, increasing their combined power to provide more Victorians with legal advice, representation and support.

The announcement comes at a critical time, with services reporting a spike in family law and family-violence related cases since the onset of the pandemic.

“Right now, victims of family violence are isolated and at serious risk,” said The Federation of Community Legal Centres’ Director of Policy and Engagement, Shorna Moore.

“We know they need our help to obtain an intervention order and make safe arrangements for their children.”

In a similar vein, CEO of Victoria Legal Aid Louise Glanville said “we are very concerned that the isolating effect of COVID-19 on our community is increasing the risk of family violence.”

The “funding announcement means that, along with our legal sector partners, we can ensure the community continues to have access to legal information and advice about family violence. Having early access to appropriate legal assistance can help to mitigate the risk,” she added.

Many organisations – including Djirra, Victoria Legal Aid, Women’s Legal Service Victoria and other Community Legal Centres – are still providing legal services during the pandemic.

This includes duty lawyer services at Magistrates Courts across Victoria. Clients seeking an intervention order or safety notice can speak to a duty lawyer by contacting Legal Aid or a Community Legal Centre before or on their court date.

This will ensure that even if not attending court in person, they can still access legal information and advice before their case is heard.

Legal services are also being funded to upgrade their technology to continue delivering services via telephone, digitally and remotely.

The funding has been welcomed just weeks after the Family Courts announced they will triage and fast track all cases involving increased family violence risk.

Enjoyed this article? Head over to the DVRCV blog to read more about The Eastern Community Legal Centre’s innovative approach to delivering crucial services to survivors through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

If you are experiencing violence, require any support, or know someone who does, contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Safe Steps (1800 015 188). 

Page last updated Thursday, May 14 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Redefining family violence legal practice

Redefining family violence legal practice

down arrow

The impact of the recent COVID-19 isolation restrictions on woman and children experiencing family violence has meant that organisations have had to look at and change their approach to delivering crucial services.

Fortunately, Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) has a proven track record of rethinking, redesigning and employing early intervention approaches to address family violence which has eased some of the current challenges in providing legal assistance remotely.

Marika Manioudakis from ECLC tells us how their innovative approach to legal service has provided leverage to help reach women during the recent pandemic.


Almost three-quarters of our work directly involves family violence, so it’s critical for us to respond sooner and integrate services to reach women before crisis point. A key question for us is always:

“how do we respond more safely to the legal needs of women at an earlier stage, when those initial warning signs of family violence begin to show.”

For example, we know that high risk periods for experiencing family violence are during pregnancy and the time after a woman gives birth. With almost 99% of women visiting their local Maternal and Child Health (MCH) centres during those first months, these services provided an obvious starting place for us to design programs to reach and engage mothers.

To develop the program required a high level of trust and support from other organisations who had relationships with women at that critical time. So our Mabels program was developed as a Health Justice Partnership (HJP) between:

  • MCH services
  • local councils
  • Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations.

These partnerships are unique. They provide an opportunity for legal services to work directly within healthcare settings. For us, that means our lawyers get out of their offices and into the community.

“It helps break down the silos that have made responding and preventing family violence so difficult.”

Mabels’ early intervention approach involves having both a family violence lawyer and family violence advocate attend clinic appointments at an MCH site. This sounds simple, but a lot of work is needed to build trust and develop solid relationships.

“For early intervention and integrated practice to succeed on the ground, all parties need to see value in the work; need to support each other; and need to feel ownership in the process and outcomes.”

Having that level of trust and coordinated approach has produced some fantastic results. Between 2015 and 2018, we helped 357 women and 480 children.

Given the success of Mabels, we decided to apply the same practice principles to support women during the antenatal phase, another a high-risk period for women. We developed the Women Engaging in Living Safely (WELS) program. This program focuses on women accessing maternity services prior to giving birth. One day a week, the WELS lawyer is based at the hospital’s antenatal services making it possible for them to be more responsive to women needing legal advice for family violence or any other legal problem.

We have also directed our response to the more complex legal and support needs of women. Our SAGE (Support. Advice. Guidance. Empowerment) program was developed for women who would not ordinarily engage with the legal system. We coordinate a specialist community lawyer with an advocate to collaborate on intensive legal and family violence support; and link women into wraparound support services as well as co-case management.

“By bringing the lawyer, the advocate and the woman together into the appointment, she doesn’t have to repeat her story and risk being re-traumatised.”

That’s the kind of integrated approach we’re committed to establishing and embedding into everyday practice.

The interactions of clients through these programs, and the relationships with and expertise of the practitioners have taught us a lot about how to prepare and implement policies that mitigate the risk to women accessing our service. More recently, due to COVID-19 we have needed to adapt these policies for our broader service, including our intake and legal teams. Having relationships like Health Justice Partnerships in place has meant we’ve been able to respond to some of the challenges of providing family violence legal assistance remotely. For example, this has made developing risk assessment tools and ways to mitigate risk for our clients much easier. We now have a series of resources that other legal services can use when delivering family violence work remotely.

An earlier version of this article featured in the December 2019 edition of the Advocate.


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Merger announcement

Merger announcement

Friday 27th March 2020

down arrow

Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) and the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) will merge in 2020-21 to become a new entity.

This will bring the peak body for the specialist family violence sector together with Victoria’s only specialist family violence Registered Training Organisation, combining our strength, energy and resources for greater impact.

A vote by Members of Domestic Violence Victoria was declared in favour of the merger on 26 March, marking the final approval required following earlier decisions by the Boards of both organisations to proceed with a merger. The vast majority of Members represented at the meeting voted in support of the merger.

The prospect of merging has been discussed a number of times in the past decade and DVRCV and DV Vic already work in close partnership. Our respective roles in the Victorian family violence system are highly complementary; our functions are informed by each other’s skills and expertise, and we frequently take shared positions in advocacy and campaigning.

Both organisations enter this merger with the bigger picture in clear sight: Driving the social and cultural change required to end all forms of family violence and violence against women demands new ways of working and joined-up resourcing.

Under a new name and united purpose we will extend our reach and engagement with members and stakeholders alike, and will build the capability of current and emerging workforces to prevent and respond to family violence. Our specialist expertise in family violence and violence against women remains critical to the effective delivery of the Royal Commission’s reforms and we will be positioned to lead and create the transformative change required.

The decision to merge follows 12 months of consultation and due diligence. There is a plan for a staged transition in 2020-21, including development of a new organisational name and brand. We will continue using our existing organisation names until the merger is formalised.

For updates on the merger, sign up for our enewsletter.


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Family Courts to Fast-Track Urgent Applications

Family Courts to Fast-Track Urgent Applications

Wednesday 29 April 2020

down arrow

From today, Victorians who are experiencing increased family violence risk as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will have their applications prioritised and fast-tracked through the Family Courts.

Once lodged, urgent applications will be triaged by a dedicated registrar and heard by a judge in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court within 72 hours.

Urgent applications concerning supervised contact with children arrangements, or children being unable to travel between carers due to current border restrictions, will also be fast-tracked.

The Courts have taken this action after recording a surge in urgent applications over March and April. The Family Court of Australia saw a 39% increase in urgent applications, while the Federal Circuit Court recorded a 23% increase.

Some women’s legal services have also reported an increase in people seeking help since the lockdowns have been enforced.

Will Alstergren, Chief Justice of the Family Court and Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court, said the new system is designed to ensure cases requiring urgent attention during this volatile period are identified and dealt with more quickly.

“It is important that these urgent COVID-19 applications are closely managed on a national basis so that they can be heard as swiftly as possible given the unprecedented circumstances we are facing,” he said in a statement. 

In order to simplify the process, parties will be able to lodge their paperwork electronically and attend their hearing using teleconferencing software.

These new measures will be in place for at least three months.

Referring clients to legal support 

If you are supporting someone who is experiencing violence and wishes to access legal advice or apply for an intervention order, let them know that both legal services and courts are still operating during the pandemic.

The Women’s Legal Service provides free confidential legal information, advice, representation and referral to women, and will continue to provide all of its legal services during the COVID-19 pandemic, although some will be delivered in a modified format.

Victoria Legal Aid and community legal centres are still offering legal advice over the phone and their duty lawyer services are still operating at Magistrates’ Courts across Victoria.

Djirra’s Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Service is also still providing phone support to victim survivors plus representation in court matters.

For information and advice on how to effectively refer a client to legal support and other support services, see this MARAM resource on the Victorian Government’s website.

To see the Family Court of Australia’s full media release, click here.

If you are experiencing violence, require any support, or know someone who does, contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Safe Steps (1800 015 188). 

Page last updated Wednesday, April 29 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

DVRCV Launches Warning Signs Tip Sheet

DVRCV Launches Warning Signs Tip Sheet

Monday 27 April 2020

down arrow

Frontline essential workers are carrying our society in many ways at the moment. Being among the few who still have regular face-to-face contact with members of the general public, they also have the opportunity to provide critical support those who may not be safe at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recognising this untapped potential, the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) has developed a tip sheet resource outlining the warning signs or indicators of family violence all essential workers can look out for.

The tip sheet also provides practical advice on what to do if you suspect someone is experiencing abuse, including where to refer victim survivors for specialist help and support.

As captured in the tip sheet, there are many signs of family violence we can all look out for, some of which are specific to the COVID-19 context.

According to DVRCV CEO, Emily Maguire, these signs may include “fear when a partner is mentioned or anxiousness to please or appease a partner. There may also be physical signs – like bruises, cuts or other injuries, with unlikely-sounding explanations or none at all.”

The tip sheet resource has been released at a very pressing and volatile time, with experts anticipating the COVID-19 public health crisis and associated social-distancing and lockdown measures will result in increased and escalated domestic abuse.

“Family violence can increase by up to 100 per cent during times of major crisis,” Ms Maguire explained.

“Research shows this happens as a result of stereotypical gender roles resurfacing in the home, out of sight, limiting women’s independence and autonomy, and because violence or abuse may be ‘excused’ with statements like ‘he’s just stressed.’”

On top of that, family violence risk can be further compounded by the additional, unique strains the pandemic is placing on relationships and family dynamics.

“Financial, employment and housing insecurity coupled with sustained periods of isolation from other people may exacerbate violence. Often, people living with family violence will blame themselves for what’s happening to them and may be reluctant to tell anyone,” Ms. Maguire added.

Now more than ever, it is crucial that those working in front-line essential services, who still have contact with members of the community, are equipped with the knowledge to recognise family violence and respond appropriately.

To ensure it reaches as many people working in essential services as possible, DVRCV are urging all professionals to share this resource with the essential workers in their own networks – whether that be colleagues, family members, or social media contacts.

The tip sheet can be accessed and downloaded via the Lookout website at

DVRCV is working hard to develop more resources to support professionals responding to family violence during this time. Check  The Lookout’s COVID-19 and Resource Hub for new additions.

To download the tip sheet, click here.

Page last updated Monday, April 27 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Self-care and social change: a personal reflection

Self-care and social change: a personal reflection

down arrow

During the current pandemic, self (and social) care are more important than ever. Whilst its importance cannot be underestimated, the concept of self-care has not been an easy one for feminism as a movement to grapple with. As someone who has dedicated her life to creating systemic change for women and children, Fiona McCormack reflects on her own personal and professional struggles with self-care.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Audre Lorde’s famous quote resonates well with me. It means different things to people, depending on your level of privilege. In our sector, it is something we are constantly confronting.

On a pragmatic level, part of the challenge of self-care for people working in small non-government organisations is that they are funded at rates not aligned with self-care. The administrative costs of running an organisation are often not included in funding. Money needs to go to service delivery but the reality is, in order to support staff to deliver those objectives, you need a certain amount of administrative capacity. Without that, keeping a work-life balance becomes an enormous challenge.

Because our sector is highly gendered there’s been an expectation that, as women and carers, we can work until we completely deplete ourselves. That doesn’t wash with me. We’ve got to care for ourselves.

How have you held the space and care for yourself whilst advocating to end family violence?

Personally, self-care has been a real challenge. Early in my career I experienced a lot of stress public speaking, doing media and having challenging conversations with politicians and public servants. My anxiety and stress were related to being negatively perceived by others, about making a fool of myself. What helped me manage those stress levels was to think:

“This isn’t about me. I have a responsibility to be a voice for women and children who don’t have a voice. What would they want me to say on their behalf? What can’t they say for themselves?”

This would take me out of myself and give me hope and the courage to say things I’d never be able to say on my own behalf.

How does leadership and organisational culture and values impact on self-care?

“We have a responsibility to ensure safe and respectful workplaces where people are supported, where it’s safe to fail, where it’s safe to learn and where we don’t have to be perfect.”

What’s really critical is that we focus on the responsibility we have to those who experience violence at much higher rates because of the barriers that discriminate beyond gender. We can’t do that work externally with credibility if we’re not walking the talk internally in how we operate and treat one another.

I am really proud of the values we carried at Domestic Violence Victoria – values that have been contributed to by all the women worked there. It’s wonderful to have worked in an organisation where you’re able to live and embody the values you hold dear.

What self-care words of advice can you share?

Make a real commitment to being disciplined about your work habits is crucial. It’s not easy!

Work collaboratively and support one another. That’s been one of my biggest learnings. The reality is, no one person can achieve anything.

“We need one another and we need all of our collective skills and knowledge to effect change.”

Now more than ever.

This article features in the December 2019 edition of The Advocate.


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Extra Government Funding to Support Survivors during COVID-19

Extra Government Funding to Support Survivors during COVID-19

Thursday, 16 April 2020

down arrow

The Victorian Government has announced a $40.2 million funding package to provide crisis accommodation and support to those experiencing or at risk of family violence during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Recognising that victim survivors may not be able to safely self-isolate or recover from coronavirus in their homes, nearly half of that package will go towards providing women and children escaping violence with access to short-term crisis accommodation.

The remaining funds will be used to build the capacity of specialist family violence and sexual assault services, including aboriginal community-controlled organisations, to meet the anticipated spike in demand for support.

Although official sources have not yet recorded a spike in Victoria, reports from overseas suggest we will see a surge in family violence incidents as a result of this public health crisis and associated lockdown measures.

Similarly, research into disasters locally and overseas shows there is a greater incidence of family violence in times of crisis, such as a pandemic.

“This funding is an important recognition of the additional family violence risks that emerge during a public health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, that will result in increased requests for support from specialist family violence services,” said CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria Alison Macdonald.

As part of this funding package, specialist support services will also be supplied with new technology and protective equipment to help them adapt to working in the COVID-19 context and deliver support to victim survivors in new ways.

“Specialist family violence services will be able to respond to more people, more quickly, and with more flexibility as a result of the funding. That is exactly what is needed to respond to family violence during these pandemic conditions,” added Ms. Macdonald.

The funding announcement sends out a powerful message to victim survivors across Victoria.

In the words of the Gabrielle Williams MP, “we want the message to be loud and clear.”

“The service system is still operating, services are still available to those who need them and if you need help it is there for you.”

You can find Gabrielle Williams MP’s full media release here.

If you are experiencing violence and need to access confidential crisis support, information or accommodation please call the safe steps 24/7 family violence response line on 1800 015 188 or email In an emergency call 000. 

Page last updated Thursday, April 16 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

WESNET Safe Phones Funding Extended

WESNET Safe Phones Funding Extended

Monday, 6 April 2020

down arrow

The Federal Minister for Family and Social Services has announced that WESNET will receive $560,000 in funding to continue delivering its Safe Phones program until March 2021.

The program provides free, safe mobile phone devices to women impacted by family violence, sexual violence and other forms of violence against women. This help clients without access to a phone that’s safe to use to remain connected with others, document their abuse and communicate with the services supporting them.

WESNET also provides training to professionals on how to safely provide phones to victim survivors and support them to navigate various forms of technology-facilitated abuse.

Communication During Coronavirus Pandemic

The continuation of the Safe Phones program is arguably more crucial now than ever given the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which will result in victim survivors relying more heavily on technology to access support.

This is especially so given many organisations are shifting their approaches to service delivery due to COVID-19, providing key services online and over the phone.

According to National Director of WESNET, Karen Bentley, requests for Safe Phones have almost doubled in recent weeks.

“We are pleased to see that the Government has recognised that the Safe Phones program is crucial to assisting survivors in Australia’s pandemic response,” said Ms Bentley in light of the Government funding announcement.

Since its establishment in 2015, the program has provided over 21,400 phones to women with an average of around 600 per month.

“It’s a relief to be able to keep the program going,” said Julie Oberin, National Chair of WESNET. “But we will need to find ongoing funding for the program beyond this period, as the program is also crucial in non-pandemic times as well.” 

WESNET is still operating during the current public health crisis. If you have a client who you wish to refer to the Safe Phones program, or if you are personally experiencing technology-facilitated abuse and require support, call 1800 WESNET on 1800 937 638. 

For information and resources on how professionals and victim survivors can increase their technology privacy, security and safety visit

Page last updated Monday, April 6 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

The hidden disaster of the bushfires

The hidden disaster of the bushfires

down arrow

The period following a disaster is a complex landscape. People of all genders suffer grief and loss and are often traumatised by their experience.

Women experience increased violence after disasters like this summer’s terrifying bushfire crisis. The evidence which supports this link is strong. However, for many this violence remains a mere ‘hidden disaster’; silently afflicting women and communities long after the fire front has receded.

But what exactly causes this increased violence?

We spoke with gender and disaster expert Dr Debra Parkinson on why violence against women increases in the aftermath of bushfire disasters and what role the gendered drivers of violence have to play in the surge.

From a primary prevention standpoint, we know that there is no single cause of violence against women, but there are certain social conditions that predict, or ‘drive’ it. The evidence identifies four underpinning gendered drivers of this violence:

  • Condoning violence against women
  • Men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence
  • Stereotyped construction of masculinity and femininity
  • Male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women[1]

During times of extreme crisis, such as the recent bushfires, each of these expressions of gender inequality plays out in complex ways that further compound women and children’s vulnerability and experiences of abuse.

Gender roles, violence and bushfire disasters

Research undertaken by Dr Debra Parkinson after the 2009 Victorian bushfires showed gender roles and norms, particularly stereotypes of masculinity, become more rigid and reinforced both during and after disasters. This increases the risk of men using violence against women and their children.

According to Dr Parkinson, one example of this is how men are often mythologised as ‘heroes’ and ‘protectors’ in the post-disaster context, while women are expected to put their own needs last, behind those of husbands, partners and children – even to the extent of ‘putting up’ with family violence. The research concludes that women’s and children’s right to live free from violence is conditional upon the suffering men face post-disaster.

The result of communities reverting to traditional gender roles and looking to male “hero” figures for authority is that women become silenced and powerless. Meanwhile, men suffer under unrealistic expectations to live up to the idealistic stereotype of a strong and silent protector and provider. All of this combined creates a context and dynamic in which violence is more likely to occur.

Condoning of violence against women

In the aftermath of disasters such as bushfires, violence against women is also often minimised, downplayed or outright denied. This was the case during the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. Despite evidence showing that family violence spiked in the aftermath of the fires, figures appeared to be recorded low at the time. Dr Parkinson said this was “probably because many women felt there was a taboo around revealing their partner was violent towards them”. Additionally, many of the bushfire relief case workers were not trained in family violence so did not know how to appropriately respond to disclosures of violence.

Violence was also frequently excused in the aftermath of Black Saturday. Members of the community, among them family, health, community and legal professionals, did not want to acknowledge that some people who had been held up as heroes were perpetrating violence against their loved ones. They chose to ignore it and look away. In other cases, men’s behaviour was excused as they were seen as the key victims of the fires who had their own trauma to deal with.

Men’s loss of control

The chaos and loss caused by disasters lead to a breakdown of social norms. Homelessness and unemployment may result, co-existing with the demands of recovery and reconstruction. Increased contact between families, sometimes in shared accommodation, increases tension, and loss of control can threaten men’s sense of their role as provider and protector[2]. This loss of control, accompanied by a breakdown of social norms and reverting to stereotypical gender roles, heightens the risk of family violence. Judy – a victim survivor interviewed by Dr Parkinson following the Black Saturday bushfires – describes the link between the loss of power her partner felt and the subsequent abuse she experienced:

“Thinking it through now, the core of abuse is to do with power and control over another person, and when this monster of a bushfire came through, I think his feelings of control were threatened. He had no control, he’d lost all of his possessions, but the one thing he thought he could control was me and our relationship.”

Keeping everyone safe during bushfire disaster management extends to recognising that men are vulnerable and need help, and being willing to hear women speak of emerging family violence. These are not matters to be swept aside as we revert to traditional gender roles – such as the strong, silent men and nurturing, sacrificing women narrative.

Now is the time to take stock and learn from the lessons of Black Saturday. Only then will women, their children and communities be able to safely recover and not be further victimised by another disaster – violence against women.

For more information on violence against women and bushfire disasters visit the Gender and Disaster Pod.

2 B. Phillips, Jenkins, & Enarson, 2009 cited in Parkinson D. The Way He Tells it, 2011


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Statement to Women’s Safety Ministers

Statement to Women’s Safety Ministers

down arrow

DVRCV stands with WESNET (Women's Services Network) Inc., Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA), Fair Agenda and 68 family violence groups across Australia to request the actioning of five desperately needed changes to improve the safety of many women and children within weeks.

Read the full statement to our federal and state women’s safety ministers:

Dear Women’s Safety Ministers,

As specialists with years of experience working with and for women and children subjected to violence, we know that long-term, major reforms are needed over the coming months and years to achieve lasting improvements to safety and justice.

We also know there are key changes your governments can make immediately that will dramatically improve the safety of many women and children within weeks.

As well as committing to comprehensive reform to prevent all forms of violence against women, we urge you to action these five desperately needed changes at your meeting on Friday:

  1. Fully fund the specialist services that improve women’s safety, and hold men who use violence to account, including:
    The safety planning, risk assessment and wrap-around individual support provided by specialist women’s services,
    The safe at home programs and emergency accommodation services provided by specialist homelessness providers working specifically with victim-survivors of violence,
    The legal assistance and representation provided by specialist women’s legal services, Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, community legal centres, Aboriginal legal services, and Legal Aid,
    The perpetrator intervention, men’s behaviour change programs and fathering programs provided by accredited men’s behaviour change experts,
    The specialist and culturally-safe services that are best able to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and women from migrant and refugee backgrounds,
    The disability advocacy and domestic violence services needed to support women with disabilities to overcome the barriers to achieving safety after violence from a partner, carer or in an institutional setting,
    The safe phones program, which has been found be effective in delivering victims/survivors greater technology safety,
    LGBTIQ+ services and LGBTIQ+-specific resources, programs and targeted community education campaigns,
    Supporting community-based services to lead the conversations needed to change the attitudes and behaviours that enable violence, including empowering bystanders.
  2. Remove the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility and emphasis on shared parenting in the Family Law Act 1975, to ensure a child’s safety and wellbeing are the key considerations, so that courts are determining the best parenting arrangement for their needs and circumstances.
  3. Initiate a standard screening, risk assessment and referral process nationally, to ensure public health, social and community services are trained to identify key safety risks early for people experiencing violence in their relationships, and able to refer them to the services that can help them achieve safety and recover.
  4. Agree to institute improved AVO standards to make clear what is expected of police, magistrates and courts to hold perpetrators accountable, and ensure women and children subjected to domestic and family violence are able to rely on these orders to achieve safety and justice.
  5. Ensure victims/survivors seeking help can access free translating and interpreting services, so that regardless of their disability, cultural or language background, or geographical location, any woman reaching out for help to build a safer future is able to access the assistance she needs.

As with all initiatives for improved community safety and wellbeing, these urgent steps must be taken in a way that responds to the factors that shape people’s experiences of violence and encounters with institutions. These can include: the ongoing impacts of colonisation, race, class, sexual orientation and gender identity, ethnicity, nationality, religion, dis/ability and age, as well as the community attitudes, geographical isolation and the poor connectivity experienced by women in remote, rural and regional areas.

Further to these five immediate interventions, we note that the national alliance tasked with bringing together organisations to develop solutions, Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA), has presented comprehensive advice on the major long-term reforms needed including the Blueprint for Reform for women on temporary visas experiencing violence, and that Women’s Legal Services Australia has mapped out the steps required for Safety First in Family Law. These solutions will require meaningful and sustained investment. AWAVA, its members and allies stand ready to work with governments to design and implement these reforms together.

This national crisis cannot be solved overnight. But actioning these five changes will bring immediate and substantial improvement to the safety of many women and children currently at risk, and will save lives. We urge you to do your part.


National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance
Embolden – Alliance for Women’s Freedom, Equity and Respect (South Australian peak body for women’s domestic and family violence services)
Women’s Legal Services Queensland
Women’s Legal Services Tasmania
Ruby Gaea Darwin Centre Against Sexual Violence
Sexual Assault Support Service Tasmania
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Women’s Legal Service North Queensland Inc.
Emma House Domestic Violence service
Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services WA
North Queensland Women’s Legal Service
Equality Rights Alliance
WESNET – The Women’s Services Network
Annie North Inc
Domestic Violence NSW
Women’s Legal Service NSW
economic Security4Women
Limestone Coast Family Violence Action Group
National Rural Women’s Coalition
CASA Forum – Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault
Ending Violence Against Women Queensland
Seras Women’s Shelter Inc.
Mackay Women’s Services
Association of Women Educators
National Council of Single Mothers & their Children
YWCA Canberra
Women’s Safety NSW
Mitcham Family Violence Education and Support Service
Centre for Non-Violence
Eastern Region Domestic Violence Services Network Inc – Koolkuna
Communicare Women’s Support Services
Carnarvon Family Support Services
WRISC Family Violence Support Inc
Women’s Centre Far North Queensland
Migrant Women’s Support Program of Women’s Safety Services SA
Lucy Saw Centre Association Inc
Penrith Women’s Health Centre
Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health
Macleod Accommodation Support Service Inc.
inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence
North Shore Women’s Benevolent Association Limited
Mid Coast Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service
safe steps Family Violence Response Centre
Darwin Aboriginal & Islander Women’s Shelter
Harmony Alliance – Migrant and Refugee Women for Change
Accountability Matters Project
Domestic Violence Action Centre Toowoomba
Gold Coast Domestic Violence Prevention Centre
Domestic Violence Crisis Service Canberra
Immigrant Women’s Support Service
Sonshine Sanctuary Association
Beryl Women Inc.
Edon Place and Centre for Women & Co
Lou’s Place
Cairns Regional Domestic Violence Service
Women’s Information, Support and Housing in the North
Settlement Services International
Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health
Northern Territory Council of Social Service
Domestic Violence Victoria
Project Respect
Melaleuca Refugee Centre
Dawn House Inc
Western Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service
Bramwell House (Salvation Army)
Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria
WASH House Inc.
Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association Inc.
Immigration Advice and Rights Centre
Australian Women’s Health Network
Centre Against Sexual Assault Central Victoria
Open Support
Women’s Legal Service (South Australia)
Family Violence Prevention Legal Services National Forum


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Supporting Survivors of Bushfires & Increased Violence

Supporting Survivors of Bushfires & Increased Violence

Monday, 27 January 2020

down arrow

It has been a difficult start of the year for many Victorians as catastrophic bushfires continue to burn across the State.

The fires have had traumatic, far-reaching impacts on individuals, families and communities. Homes and livelihoods have been destroyed. Communities have been uprooted. And violence against women is likely to surface and intensify in affected regions.

Several studies have found a link between disasters and the incidence of family violence. Some women’s services have also observed the interconnection, with Domestic Violence NSW confirming last week “reports have emerged of a noticeable, emerging “uptick” in violent incidents.”

To ensure all Victorians survive this bushfire season with their health and wellbeing intact, community-facing workers must be equipped with the skills and knowledge to effectively respond to family violence in the disaster context.

So, what can you do to help? Here’s a list of some things to consider when working with those from bushfire-affected regions: 

“Are you safe at home?” 

If you aren’t already, take the time to ask women if they feel safe at home. Ensure questions about risk and safety are included in your service’s intake form.

Listen to any concerns women and their children are expressing and validate their experiences. Although these conversations can be difficult to have, ultimately, they could save someone’s life.

“What unique risks are you facing?” 

Disaster compounds experiences of family violence, creating unique risks and vulnerabilities for women and children. It’s important you are aware of these so you can assess and manage risk more effectively. See 1800RESPECT’s website for an overview of some key considerations.

“Violence is never okay.”

Research suggests that some members of the community (including service providers or family members) may excuse or downplay abuse that’s occurred during or after disasters.

After the fires, some women may also feel hesitant to report violence; internalising that others affected by the fires, including their abusive partners, are ‘worse off’ than they are.

If someone discloses family violence to you, it’s crucial you label the behaviour for what it is. Convey that family violence is a choice and is never acceptable, no matter the circumstances that surround it.

“Document it.” 

We know that family violence is already extremely under-reported. In the disaster context, even more incidents go unreported and unnoticed than usual due to additional barriers to accessing support.

Accurate data collection is important to advocate for appropriate funding and policy development. Ensure you document all violence disclosures you hear and introduce procedures that can help collect accurate family violence data. This could include encouraging your clients to use the Arc mobile app to document and track behaviours that make them feel scared, threatened or unsafe. You can download the Arc app here.

Train staff and co-workers in the importance of accurate recording and contribute to information sharing where relevant.

“What other services can help?” 

It is important to understand the limits of your role. Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone experiencing violence is to refer to specialist support services. The Lookout’s service directory can help you find relevant services across Victoria.

If you are unsure whether or where to refer your clients, speak with your supervisor or reach out to 1800RESPECT for advice and secondary consultation.

“Can I provide additional support?” 

Once a referral has been made, follow up with your client and determine its effectiveness. This check in also provides an invaluable opportunity to offer any additional support or referrals they may need.

“Can I build my skills and knowledge?” 

To build your skills and knowledge in identifying and responding to family violence after natural disasters, The Gender and Disaster Pod have developed a tailored, face-to-face training program called “Gendered Violence and Lessons in Disaster.” For further details see or contact

To support your practice, Women’s Health Goulburn North East has produced a list of practical ways to support women affected by disaster, Women and Disaster, which includes a Checklist to Keep Women and Children Safe after Natural Disasters.

The Gender & Disaster Pod have also developed a fact sheet on How to ask whether someone is experiencing violence during a disaster. This can be easily distributed to your networks and inform all responses to bushfire-affected communities.

If you are experiencing violence, require support, or know someone who does, contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Safe Steps (1800 015 188). 

Page last updated Monday, January 27 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Too many women in prisons, scant wisdom in the system

Too many women in prisons, scant wisdom in the system

down arrow

More women than ever are in Victorian prisons. Housing insecurity, tough bail laws and a system women no longer trust are just the start of a systemic failure that Flat Out's Family Violence Justice Pilot Project is beginning work to fix.

Between 2012 and 2017, the Victorian female prison population doubled. Believe it or not, this makes it one of the fastest-growing incarceration rates for women in the Western world. At the moment, the government’s response is focused on building more prisons in Victoria, when a more effective response would be ensuring that women are not being adversely impacted by bail laws that imprison them unnecessarily and that they have access to more secure housing and specialised services which are delivered with a high level of trust and a gender-sensitive lens.

These issues are compounded by entrenched, systemic racism that sees Aboriginal women account for the largest growth in the prison population. Although only 0.8 per cent of Victoria’s population, Aboriginal women are 11 per cent of its prison numbers. Flat Out’s Project Lead, Rei Alphonso, sums it up like this:

“To see more Aboriginal women in a block of cells at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre than you’d see walking free down Swanston Street is a racist disgrace.”

When we see more First Nations women in prison than we would see on a main street it begs the question: why is the system increasingly failing them?

This is the challenge for Flat Out; to consider how to engage with a broken system without further victimising those already traumatised by family violence? Given that an estimated 80 per cent of criminalised women have experienced intimate partner and family violence (and that this figure is likely underreported) why are they so underserviced in terms of support? The recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence recognised this urgency. As a specialised service that has been working with and advocating alongside criminalised women for decades, Flat Out have the foundations crucial to bridging the gaps in the service sector and are best placed to begin this restorative work.

One of the biggest barriers to accessing support services is women’s lack of trust which leads to disengagement with family violence services. In order to protect themselves and their families, women self-exclude from services. As Rei explains: ‘this comes from a conscious or unconscious belief that services won’t be able to respond to them.’ She goes on to say that: ‘we know women [who are experiencing family violence] are experts in how risk operates in their relationships, and they know how to respond to that.’ Many women prefer the known and familiar risk of staying in a violent relationship to an inconsistent, unknowable service system that can exacerbate their trauma.

For women who have been convicted with a criminal offence, however minor, the risk of engaging with services can be huge. Perpetrators are often fluent in using the criminal justice system to their advantage by leveraging it as an effective measure of power and control against women. Women with children fear child protection services becoming involved because of the real risk of losing their children. And when police become involved women can easily become incriminated. Women, especially Aboriginal women, can be misidentified as the primary aggressor which then sets off a chain of detrimental events leading to them being imprisoned. Such victim blaming only adds further insult to their injury and needs to be replaced with a genuine understanding and awareness of the barriers oppressing criminalised women.

This is where Flat Out’s expertise and specialised approach can improve criminalised women’s access to family violence services and response. To date, their focus has centred on training and capacity building in four specific actions for change:

  • delivering tailored workshops and presentations
  • facilitating two practice forums
  • presenting at panel discussions
  • producing best practice guidelines and an advocacy handbook.

In addition to these education and capability building activities, Flat Out is currently sitting on the Police Accountability Project (PAP) working group. Led by Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre, this partnership not only focuses on research and capacity building but also offers referrals and response to women seeking police accountability for duty breaches in responding to family violence.

This is only the beginning of the inroads being made into the breadth of reform needed. While Flat Out’s Family Violence Justice Pilot Project is due to finish in early 2020, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Contingent on securing funding for a second phase, plans are in place to implement a specialised Community of Practice (CoP) to respond to an identified need for more specialised support. Flat Out envisions the CoP being a foundation for two working groups — one focused on systemic advocacy and another on developing a specialised assessment tool for criminalised women experiencing barriers to service access.

To ensure women and children are safe, these initiatives need a long-term commitment by government, mainstream services, police and the criminal justice system.

‘We’re fighting an uphill battle,’ implores Rei, ‘until the government puts more money into housing than prison expansion, women and children will continue to remain unsafe.’

The evidence backs her claim, showing that more prisons do not automatically create a safer community, but what does is more specialised services, more active compassion and more than anything else, secure homes.

This article originally appeared in the Advocate, Victoria’s industry magazine providing news, interviews, articles and expert review for family violence specialists, prevention practitioners and allied professionals. Read about the December issue of the Advocate.  


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin