Our history

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Safe and Equal exists because of the activism, leadership and expertise of the leaders, practitioners and survivors who have come before us demanding safety and equality.

The refuge movement in Victoria

Family violence has long affected our community, extending trauma and loss across every level of our society. 

In the aftermath of World War II, there was growing awareness of ‘wife-beating’ or men’s violence against women within domestic relationships.

Family violence was not recognised as a crime until 1975, and before this there were no dedicated services or support for victim survivors. During the 1960s and 1970s, amid the growing women’s liberation movement, grassroots feminist activists began to come together to organise refuges for women who wanted to escape this violence.  

  • Victoria’s first refuge was established in 1974.  
  • Sixteen refuges had been set up by 1979 – including dedicated services for Aboriginal women and for Italian women. 
  • By the late 1980s, there were more than 30 refuges established. 

This swell of collective action was driven by a group of courageous and visionary women who wanted to dismantle patriarchal power and create a safer world. A core group of leaders within this movement came together to form the Victorian Women’s Refuge Group (VWRG) in 1976, later known as Victorian Women’s Refuges & Associated Domestic Violence Services (VWRADVS).

The history of the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria

Members of VWRADVS were instrumental in the 1987 launch of the Domestic Violence and Incest Resource Centre (DVIRC). 

  • Starting with one worker and a typewriter, DVIRC grew to become the Victorian centre for family and gendered violence resources, research, campaigning and advocacy.
  • Originally established as a feminist collective, DVIRC was renamed Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) and appointed its first CEO in 2009.
  • By this time DVRCV was a registered training organisation, delivering the first family violence specialist training in the country. It had also established the Partners in Prevention network, supporting primary prevention practitioners working with schools to deliver respectful relationships education initiatives. 
  • The organisation grew its impact and reach, as the resource and training work expanded into a statewide provider of family violence workforce capability building. 

The history of Domestic Violence Victoria

In 2002, VWRADS worked with the Victorian Government to establish a policy position within the family violence sector.

  • This marked the beginning of what would become Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic), a very small but influential lever for advocacy and systemic reform. 
  • As it transitioned from a collective of grassroots organisations to a peak body for Victorian specialist family violence services, DV Vic drove systemic reform and established its role within statewide coordination, specialist practice development and policy reform. 

Building momentum for change

The momentum of this activity was fuelled by the ongoing family and gendered violence raging across the community. 

  • Between 2010 and 2015, there were a series of widely publicised family and gendered violence murders that left the community shocked and demanding change.
  • This resulted in the 2016 Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence, a watershed moment that led to unprecedented investment and reforms within the Victorian family violence system.
  • DV Vic and DVRCV were key contributors to the Royal Commission and have partnered with government in the proceeding years to implement the systemic reforms recommended by the Commission.  

For more than three decades, DVRCV and DV Vic have been key organisations within a broader social movement to drive the widespread prevalence of family violence into the public domain as a priority issue. In partnership with our member organisations, victim survivors, community leaders and government partners, both organisations led the establishment and coordination of the specialist family violence sector in Victoria.

A future free of family violence

DVRCV and DV Vic worked in close partnership over the decades.

  • Our functions have been informed by each other’s skills and expertise, our respective roles in the Victorian family violence system have been complementary, and our organisations frequently shared positions in advocacy and campaigning.
  • As the sector moved into a new phase of systemic reforms, the boards of our organisations identified that a merger would lift the ability of the peak to listen to and support the work of frontline services, reflect members’ experience and the voice of lived experience in policy, advocacy and systems reform work.
  • Following a robust consultation process DVRCV and DV Vic members and board members voted in favour of an organisational merger in 2020.
  • Combining our strength, energy and resources for greater impact, the merge represents a new chapter in the long histories of our two respected organisations.

Safe and Equal is the new peak body for specialist family violence services responding to victim survivors in Victoria in 2021. With a new name and united vision, we are working towards a world beyond family and gender-based violence, where women, children and all marginalised communities are safe, thriving and respected.

History booklet

We pay thanks to current and former DV Vic, DVRCV, DVIRC and VWRADVS staff, Board members, and members for their commitment and work over the decades.

Thank you to everyone who shared reflections with us for the development of this history zine.

DV Vic & DVRCV History Timeline


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin