Feedback for the Draft National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022 – 2032

Feedback for the Draft National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022 – 2032

28 February 2022

down arrow

Safe and Equal welcomes the opportunity to comment on the draft National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032 and we note the work and effort it has taken to get to this point.

National strategies are critical if we ever hope to comprehensively address our society’s most wicked problems. To reduce, and ultimately end, family violence and violence against women and children, we need all parts of our community and all levels of government to commit to tangible, measurable actions, and for these to be backed by dedicated funding.

In order to do this, we need a clear overarching vision, objectives, outcomes and targets.

The National Plan should articulate the roles and responsibilities for each level of government in addressing family violence and violence against women. It should identify the drivers of violence, and the systemic and structural barriers to accessing support and safety, and attribute responsibility for addressing these to the appropriate level of government. Concrete actions and targets should flow from this.

The National Plan must clearly articulate what the Commonwealth Government’s overall plan is to end violence against women and children, and this must include specifics. The National Plan must also articulate a mechanism for how progress will be measured and evaluated. The evaluation of the previous plan and consultation reports that informed the development of this draft have not been publicly released, so we are unable to comment on whether the draft accurately reflects and builds upon these learnings.

It is critical that the Evaluation Plan and Outcomes Framework mentioned in the draft are developed in consultation with the specialist sectors and people with lived experience, and that they are made public to ensure accountability for this plan’s implementation. The Commonwealth Government has committed to open and transparent engagement with victim-survivors and the community in developing this National Plan. We call on the Government to revise this plan to articulate a concrete plan forward for how we as a nation will address family violence and violence against women and children.

Page last updated Monday, February 28 2022


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Welcome step in ensuring Victoria’s future social housing supply

Welcome step in ensuring Victoria’s future social housing supply

Friday 18 February 2022

down arrow

Victoria’s peak body for specialist family violence services, Safe and Equal, and Victoria’s state-wide family violence service, Safe Steps, welcome the Victorian Government’s announcement today of a new Social and Affordable Housing Contribution Fund.

This fund, expected to raise over $800 million and provide 1,700 new social and affordable homes annually over the next ten years enables sustained, ongoing investment to increase Victoria’s social housing supply. 

“Many victim-survivors of family violence exit our emergency accommodation into homelessness services due to lack of affordable housing,” said Rita Butera, CEO of Safe Steps. “Lack of access to housing is also a key reason why many victim-survivors are not able to leave situations of violence or return to violence,” she said.

Tania Farha, CEO of Safe and Equal said, “We look forward to working with government on ensuring priority is given to victim-survivors of family violence and that social housing providers that work with these groups are included as part of the funding. It is absolutely vital that a specific allocation is provided for the too many victim-survivors of family violence so they can be safe from violence and rebuild their lives.”

Both said they hoped some of this fund would also be allocated to increase the number of refuges.

“Social housing is so critical for the people we work with, and this fund will go a long way in delivering these. However, demand for emergency accommodation and refuge continues to outpace supply,” said Ms Butera.

Ms. Farha added, “It is really important that we look at the crisis end as well as the pathways to longer-term housing.”

Page last updated Friday, February 18 2022


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Meet Safe and Equal’s new Board Chair

Meet Safe and Equal’s new Board Chair

Tuesday 15 February 2022

down arrow

Safe and Equal is excited to announce Maria Dimopoulos AM has been appointed Board Chair, commencing in February 2022.

Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha welcomed the appointment. 

“Maria is a lauded human rights advocate and champion of diversity and gender equality. Her extensive experience and expertise, particularly around the rights and meaningful inclusion of women from migrant and refugee backgrounds in policy and system reform aligns strongly with our strategic goals and purpose,” said Tania. 

Maria has made significant contributions to policy development, research and community education, including as a member of the federal Access and Equity Inquiry Panel and as the inaugural Chairperson of the Harmony Alliance – Australia’s national coalition of migrant and refugee women. Maria has also contributed to state and federal family and gender-based violence prevention and response strategies, including as part of the National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children which oversaw the development of the First National Plan to End Violence against Women and their Children. She has undertaken extensive research with diverse communities and organisations and has been published in the Feminist Law Journal, Family and Domestic Violence Clearinghouse, and the Australian Institute of Criminology. She is also the co-author of the book Blood on Whose Hands? The Killing of Women and Children in Domestic Homicides, published by the Women’s Coalition Against Family Violence. 

“I look forward to supporting the great work of Safe and Equal, in particular the partnerships with First Nations communities and organisations,” said Maria. 

“I am committed to governing Safe and Equal with an intersectional feminist lens as a way to expose uneven power relations and structural oppressions, in order to support gender equality and social justice.”  

A recipient of Member (AM) of the Order of Australia and an inductee to the Victorian Honour Roll of Women, Maria was formerly Special Advisor, Multicultural Communities, for the Department of Justice and Community Safety. She is also a Board member of the Coronial Council of Victoria, Reconciliation Victoria, the Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre, and the National Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity.  

Maria takes on Chair responsibilities from Stacey Ong, who has led Safe and Equal’s Board as Interim Chair since September 2021. 

“I am proud to have worked as part of the Transition Board and with the staff of Safe and Equal as Interim Chair for the last five months. I look forward to seeing Safe and Equal and the sector move into the next period and welcome Maria’s expertise and leadership,” said Stacey.  

“The staff and Board would like to thank Stacey for her governance and leadership, particularly through the final stages of the merger and launch of Safe and Equal,” said Tania.  

“We are excited to continue our work across the continuum of prevention to recovery, to achieve our vision of a world beyond family and gender-based violence where women, children and people from marginalised communities are safe, thriving and respected.”  

Page last updated Tuesday, February 15 2022


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Current Scheme Implementation and Forecasting for the NDIS: Response to the Terms of Reference

Current Scheme Implementation and Forecasting for the NDIS: Response to the Terms of Reference

February 2022

down arrow

Safe and Equal welcomes the opportunity to contribute to this inquiry on the Current Scheme Implementation and Forecasting for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Given our central position in the Victorian family violence system, we are well placed to provide insights into the unique and complex experience of family violence for people with disabilities and the provisions victim-survivors need to access support and safety.

This submission will focus on the intersection between the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and specialist family violence services, as these are two service systems that victim-survivors with disabilities are likely to encounter if they report family violence or seek help.

This submission will outline the prevalence of family violence against people with disabilities and the need to embed a family violence and trauma-informed lens throughout the NDIS, before responding directly to section (b) in the Terms of Reference.

Page last updated Tuesday, February 1 2022


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Reflecting on the establishment of Safe and Equal’s Expert Advisory Panel

Embedding family violence lived experience

Reflecting on the establishment of Safe and Equal’s Expert Advisory Panel

Tuesday 1 February 2022

down arrow

Following the development and release of the Family Violence Experts by Experience Framework, Safe and Equal began work in 2021 to prioritise embedding the voices of those with lived experience within the organisation. A key step in this work was the establishment of the peak’s first survivor advocate advisory mechanism, the Expert Advisory Panel.

As we commence our second year of working with the Expert Advisory Panel, it is timely to reflect on how we have implemented principles of the Experts by Experience Framework in our organisation, and what we have learned along the way.


The Experts by Experience Framework is based on the belief that responses to family violence will be most effective and safe if they are informed and developed in partnership with victim survivors. 

The recognition that victim survivors hold valuable knowledge and expertise about family violence and the service system is reflected in key Safe and Equal documents, including our Strategic Plan and the Code of Practice. 

To support staff to understand and recognise the value of lived experience and how it connects to their work, we undertook surveys and workshops in an effort to determine organisational readiness for engagement with lived experience and survivor advocacy. These spaces provided staff with the opportunity to share and discuss their fears and excitement for this work, and highlighted gaps where more work was required to build capacity and inform our pathway forward. They also provided us with more understanding of the different sources of lived experience in the sector – including the lived experience of clients, survivor advocates and the workforce. 

These tools will form part of an ongoing process, particularly as new staff commence within the organisation.  


“I was happy you considered me although I was still experiencing family violence, because you can still be in the middle of the situation and do advocacy. My most powerful advocacy has been when my case has been active. It is disempowering when someone decides I can’t advocate. We can assess our own safety.” 

Expert Advisory Panel member


Following the recruitment process was complete and members of the Panel were confirmed, we worked with each individual to identify and understand any legal, physical, emotional or cultural safety considerations. Where risks to safety were identified, we explored what support or protections were needed to enable safe participation. These include: 

  • Using a pseudonym for external communications and/or events 
  • Not sharing email addresses publicly 
  • Reviewing any quotes or stories before publication, to ensure they are captured in a way that protects anonymity 
  • Taking breaks during meetings as required, and encouraging panel members to switch their cameras off if needed 
  • Turning comments off on social media 

As safety considerations can change over time, it is important to revisit these risks frequently. 


The Experts by Experience Framework outlines the importance of not only recognition for survivor advocate expertise, but also financial remuneration for their time and contributions. 

While there are many ways to ensure survivor advocates are remunerated for their work, we elected for members of the Expert Advisory Panel to be engaged as employees of Safe and Equal. This is due to the nature of the role, to ensure panel members accrue superannuation, and our desire to engage panel members as staff of the peak. 


Establishing transparent processes in the way we engage with survivor advocates has been a major element of this work. Having a purpose and providing clear information supports survivor advocates to make informed decisions about what they participate in, including the nature of the engagement, degree of influence, time commitment and any limitations.  

To foster transparency and clear communication, we initially chose to provide written project briefs to survivor advocates, as well as verbal briefs in meetings or on phone calls. Feedback from panel members indicated that we have an over-reliance on written communications, and that this is not always accessible. To mitigate this, we have been exploring the use of short, pre-recorded video briefs. 

“When I’m in a trauma space I’m not reading; it’s 5 bullet points at most because of limited brain storage. So, it’s a balance – enough information, but (you) don’t want to overwhelm people.” 

Expert Advisory Panel Member


Panel members also have the opportunity to review work they have provided input to, to ensure all points have been accurately represented. Where possible, we also provide feedback on how their contributions have influenced change, big or small. 


Building in processes for accountability in all aspects of this work builds trust, as well as opportunities for innovation and continuous improvement. Through surveys, group reflections and workshops, there are regular opportunities and avenues for survivor advocates to let us know what is working well, and more importantly what is not working or could be improved.  

In 2021, we undertook a ‘health check’ panel, where we heard what was working well and identified opportunities for improvement, including: 

  • Sending reminders the day before meetings 
  • Recapping old and new business at the start of each meeting  
  • Setting up a WhatsApp group for communications between meetings
  • Using different forms of communication, not just written, e.g., video, images 


“From the get-go I felt like I could be honest and open and felt safe to do so. I think that is because of a human approach, caring and holding space…I didn’t go into the space thinking I had to perform – I could be a human and that’s a huge relief.”  

Expert Advisory Panel member


Throughout the establishment of the Expert Advisory Panel, it has been incredibly important to ensure the space is safe and supportive. This has included incorporating formal and informal trauma-informed support, such as: 

  • Access to a family violence-informed Employment Assistance Provider 
  • Warm referrals to specialist services as required
  • Generating a set of shared values for the panel
  • Using a check in and check out discussion tool
  • Allowing survivor advocates to engage in ways that work for them on the day 

The wellbeing of panel members is a top priority. We have learned that making these supports readily available has enabled survivor advocates to more comfortably participate in the panel and feel safe to ‘step back’ or implement boundaries when needed. 

“Advocates can be ‘messy’. We are trying to manage our triggers but also being passionate about the work. Push into that too, ‘how do we help you on your messy days? and how do we support you on those days?” 

Expert Advisory Panel member



Identifying and addressing power imbalances and taking the time to understand each person’s motivations and values has been integral to building trusting relationships and has allowed the Expert Advisory Panel to work collaboratively and honestly with each other and with Safe and Equal. This is always a work in progress, but some strategies we have implemented to address power imbalances include: 

  • Having check-ins that all staff, survivor advocates or people in other roles participate equally in
  • Ensuring the Safe and Equal team show up authentically, model vulnerability and are honest about what they are bringing into a space
  • Being mindful of who else is in the space and not out-numbering survivor advocates, as this changes the power dynamic
  • Ensuring people who are in the meeting have a clear role and purpose, and that this is communicated clearly
  • Following through on implementation changes that the panel suggests
  • Being mindful of which voices are being heard, and which voices are not – making a concerted effort to create space for the quieter voices to be heard 

“I didn’t feel a power imbalance. I didn’t feel like I had to front up with presentation or personality that would fit. Sometimes as a victim survivor I get torn or feel I have to mask authenticity to fit in with workplace expectations. I didn’t have to battle a notion to prove you are experienced enough to do the work.”  

Expert Advisory Panel member



Partnering with and learning from the members of the Expert Advisory Panel relies on establishing trusting and authentic relationships and being open to continuous learning and improvement. We have learned it is important to approach this work from a place of mutual learning, with curiosity and without all the answers. For us, this has meant proactively seeking feedback and being open to welcoming critique, implementing suggested changes in a timely manner, and asking questions to understand.  

This process has also highlighted the importance of approaching work with the panel in a way that welcomes ‘blue sky thinking’ – panel members bring a lot of advocacy experience, but also skills and expertise in a number of different areas that add significant value to their contributions.  


“For [Safe and Equal] to welcome people with a criminal record, was a huge benefit and relief. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have applied.” 

Expert Advisory Panel member


To support inclusion of diverse voices and perspectives, we wanted to be clear and deliberate about seeking engagement from victim survivors whose voices may not usually be heard. This involved reflecting on and acknowledging the ways that gender inequality intersects with other forms of inequality and oppression, such as colonialism, ableism, white supremacy, racism, homophobia, transphobia and classism.  

In seeking engagement and insight from a broad range of perspectives, it was critical to remove existing barriers for victim survivors who experience marginalisation and systemic oppression. One example of this was around police checks. As an organisation, we were transparent of the need for selected panel members to complete a police check, however explicitly stated that a police check result would not necessarily prevent someone being successful in the role. 

“What surprised me about the process is getting appointed to the committee. It is really important to have different perspectives and acknowledge experience of LGBTIQA+ victim survivors.”  

Expert Advisory Panel member


As diverse as the panel of survivor advocates are, they do not represent the views and experiences of all victim survivors. The work to remain aware of missing voices is ongoing, as are efforts to elevate and create space for others, including working collaboratively with other survivor advocacy groups such as inTouch’s Noor and Women with Disabilities Victoria’s Experts by Experience working group. 


Like many in the specialist family violence sector trying to meaningfully embed the voices of lived experience, resourcing and sustainability remain prevailing issues. While we continue to put in place creative methods to fund this work including private sector grants, philanthropy and utilising fee for service models, of key significance is the cultural shift and genuine commitment to ensuring victim survivor expertise is at the centre of everything we do, from the Experts by Experience Implementation Plan, to budget submissions and government advocacy. 

Taking careful steps to meaningfully engage with lived experience voices has had considerable impact. Survivor advocates were pivotal in informing and leading key pieces of work within the organisation, including the Safe and Equal name and branding, shaping our submission to the Successor National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children, and co-designing and delivering a Children and Young People Forum, among many others.  

For us, the implementation process has provided ample learnings. We have learned that seemingly small projects or pieces of work can have a large influence and impact, and fostering genuine and authentic relationships is vital and enables us to know when things are challenging or not working well. We have also learned that to ensure maximum influence, we must ensure survivor advocates have the opportunity to work on a project from the beginning. 

Through these learnings, we have also discovered gaps and complexities that require more attention, including the irregular nature of hours and work for survivor advocates, and the need to create further opportunities for emerging advocates to gain experience and build capability. Importantly, more funding is needed for the sector to implement this work. 

Having the opportunity to work alongside survivor advocates is a privilege, and the individuals in these roles are incredibly generous with their experience and expertise. We look forward to continuing to partner with the Expert Advisory Panel to support work across all areas of Safe and Equal in 2022. 

Page last updated Tuesday, February 1 2022


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin