Ending the cycle of family violence, poverty, and homelessness

Ending the cycle of family violence, poverty, and homelessness

Parity Magazine – Poverty and Homelessness Edition

October 2023

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This article was published in Council to Homeless Persons’ Parity: “Poverty and Homelessness” October 2023 Edition.

Authors: Tania Farha, CEO, Safe and Equal

Key contributors: Ella Longhurst, Policy and Research Officer; Kim Hay, Policy Advisor; and Melanie Scammell, Media and Communications Advisor.

Over the last few years in Victoria, we’ve seen enormous shifts in the way we respond to family violence. Eight years on from the Royal Commission into Family Violence, there have been significant improvements in areas such as risk assessment and management, information sharing and family violence legislation.

However, when it comes to improvements in recovery initiatives – specifically, economic well-being and housing for victim survivors – we still have a long way to go. 

Financial security and safe, accessible housing are two of the most critical pillars in the journey to recovery from family violence. Without them, victim survivors often find themselves trapped, unable to safely escape their perpetrator and rebuild their lives without risking poverty and homelessness. 

These experiences of family violence, poverty and homelessness are inextricably linked and cyclical, impacting a victim survivor in multiple, overlapping ways.  

For many victim survivors, economic abuse features prominently in their lives. Its prevalence is high, with some research suggesting it occurs in some form in around 50 to 90 per cent of cases. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2022 Personal Safety Survey1, one in six Australian women (around 1.6 million) have experienced economic abuse by a partner. This can include things like denying access to household funds, stopping a victim survivor from earning their own money, or controlling all spending and financial decisions. 

The impact of economic abuse on a victim survivor’s financial security and independence is significant and can impact them in a myriad of ways, even after separating from the perpetrator. I’ve seen many cases where a perpetrator has incurred enormous debts in a victim survivors’ name, hidden assets, or weaponised court systems to keep their victim in debt or in poverty. The impacts of this economic and systems abuse can be extreme and are not just economic – they can also impact Family Court proceedings or custody arrangements, further traumatising a victim survivor and her children. 

These tactics are so successfully weaponised by perpetrators because they keep a victim survivor in a constant state of economic distress and fear, and with no money and nowhere else to go, forces them to be financially dependent on and unable to safely leave their perpetrator. 

Financial and economic abuse thrives because of the significant economic inequity that exists more broadly for women. Rigid gender stereotypes that prioritise cis-male privilege and authority are designed to keep women and other marginalised groups in entrenched and inescapable poverty. Women continue to remain disproportionately in lower-paid occupations, and in part-time or casual work.2 They also experience significant pay discrimination, being paid less on average for the same full-time roles across every industry and occupation in Australia.3  

Concerningly, 30 per cent of retired women have no personal income, compared to 7 per cent of men.4 As a result, older single women are now the fastest growing cohort of people experiencing homelessness,5 many of whom are victim survivors of family violence. 

Unfortunately, for people who experience additional forms of structural oppression due to race, disability, age, sexuality, or socio-economic status, the risk of poverty and homelessness is even higher. The risk further increases for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, who are further disadvantaged by ongoing institutional and systemic racism and discrimination. 

The ability to achieve financial equality is an essential component of any individual’s economic wellbeing and independence, and, for victim survivors, is crucial in enabling a safe exit and long-term recovery from abuse. A key part of this is having access to safe and affordable housing options.  

However, the current state of housing in Australia is putting even more strain on people experiencing family violence, with a critical lack of suitable housing and crisis accommodation available. This is well known by our state and federal governments yet has reached crisis levels, with family violence now the leading cause of homelessness for women and children in Australia.6 

In Victoria, our dedicated refuge system can only support around 160 households, meaning hundreds of victim survivors, including children, end up being placed in unsafe and unsuitable motel accommodation, many for weeks at a time. I recall a specialist family violence service deeply concerned about a victim survivor they were supporting who had been placed in unsafe motel accommodation with her children for more than 50 days. While the service was doing everything they could to support their client, without a place to call home, there was little hope of moving beyond crisis interventions and into recovery.  

Beyond refuge and crisis accommodation, Australians across the board are feeling the impacts of a deeply unsustainable housing system – and these issues are exacerbated for people experiencing family violence. With private rental properties prohibitively expensive and a social housing system buckling under significant demand and long wait times (despite family violence being a factor for prioritisation), there is little to no access for victim survivors. This leaves many with an impossible choice: do they remain in an abusive home, or do they escape and face homelessness?  

Additionally, even if a victim survivor is supported to remain in their own home, the absence of affordable housing options can mean their perpetrator is unable to find suitable accommodation, making them more likely to attempt to return and perpetrate abuse. 

Without immediate government action and investment into bolstering the systems and structures that are meant to support victim survivors to escape abuse, develop economic freedom and recover from violence, these cycles will never be broken. 

This is not new information – our sectors have been fiercely advocating for these changes for decades. While there have been wins, we are yet to see the bold and brave long-term initiatives and investment to make meaningful and lasting change.  

What is needed? Firstly, we need to address the ongoing housing crisis in this country. We need an immediate increase to crisis accommodation capacity, mandates to support victim survivors to access affordable private rentals, ongoing investment into initiatives that enable and support victim survivors to remain safe in their homes (and housing options for perpetrators of violence), and significant investment in and prioritisation of the development of more social housing properties. 

We also need an immediate overhaul of our social security system to ensure it is respectful, accessible and inclusive. This means increasing social security payments beyond the poverty line with a particular focus on parenting payments for single mothers and those on job seeker, eliminating cruel and punitive compliance and mutual obligation measures for victim survivors, and eliminating additional barriers to accessing financial support for women on temporary visas, who are ineligible for many existing income and housing support initiatives.  

Finally, we need substantive structural change to disrupt the gender pay gap and workforce inequality, including increased wages for female dominated industries, and initiatives to support victim survivors to find meaningful and long-term employment. 

Every victim survivor deserves the right to live a life free from violence. To have that chance, they must be supported to reach economic independence, financial security, and have access to safe, long-term housing options. Otherwise, many will be forced to remain in unsafe and potentially fatal relationships to avoid a lifetime cycle of poverty and homelessness.  

Footnotes

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021–22, Personal Safety Australia, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-and-justice/personal-safety-australia/latest-release
  2. Morgan A and Boxall H 2022, ‘Economic Security and Intimate Partner Violence in Australia During the COVID-19 Pandemic’, ANROWS, http://anrowsdev.wpenginepowered.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Economic-insecurityand-IPV-during-the-C19-RR2.pdf
  3. Workplace Gender Equality Agency 2021, The ABS Data Gender Pay Gap, https://www.wgea.gov.au/data-statistics/ABS-gender-pay-gapdata#:~:text=Australia’s%20national%20gender%20pay%20gap,earned%2C%20women%20earned%2087%20cents
  4. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020, ‘Retirement and Retirement Intentions, Australia’, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/retirement-and-retirement-intentionsaustralia/latest-release#income-at-retirement
  5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2022, Specialist Homelessness Services Annual report 2021–22, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialisthomelessness-services-annual-report
  6. Council to Homeless Persons 2022, Homelessness and Domestic and Family Violence, https://chp.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Homelessness-and-Domestic-and-Family-Violence.pdf

Page last updated Thursday, January 18 2024

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2024-25 Victorian State Budget Submission

2024-25 Victorian State Budget Submission

19 December 2023

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The last eight years in Victoria have been a time like no other for the specialist family violence sector. We have seen the impact government investment and prioritisation can have on improving our family violence system across the continuum. While we have come a long way, the work is not yet done.

Across the state, specialist family violence services are under severe pressure, with levels of demand reaching unsustainable levels and some victim survivors are facing wait times for case management support. Despite this, nearly $50 million dollars of funding to the family violence sector is due to lapse in June 2024. 

Safe and Equal is calling on the Victorian Government to make this funding ongoing, as one of four critical areas to prioritise in the 2024-25 State Budget: 

  1. Sustainably fund the specialist family violence response sector 
  2. Increase safe and affordable housing to facilitate recovery from family violence 
  3. Continue funding to embed the Multi Agency Risk and Assessment Management (MARAM) Framework across prescribed workforces 
  4. Maintain primary prevention work 

Family and gender-based violence is preventable. Ending family violence in a generation doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. It’s a huge task, one that takes renewed commitment and investment, alongside ongoing, coordinated action across all parts of our community and all levels of government. It is our hope the Victorian Government will prioritise addressing these critical gaps and issues, so every Victorian has the chance to live a life free from violence. 

We call on the Victorian Government to invest in the areas we have highlighted throughout this submission. These priorities have been drawn from the Measuring Family Violence Service Demand and Capacity report and our consultations with members and people with lived experience.  

Page last updated Tuesday, December 19 2023

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Response to the Inquiry into the rental and housing affordability crisis in Victoria final report

Response to the Inquiry into the rental and housing affordability crisis in Victoria final report

11 December 2023

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Safe and Equal welcomes the Final Report of the Inquiry into the rental and housing affordability crisis in Victoria, released last week by the Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee. While the scope of the report is broad, it recognises the significant impacts an absence of safe and secure housing can have on victim survivors of family violence, and the difficult choice victim survivors are often faced with - to remain in an abusive home or face homelessness.

The housing crisis in Victoria is putting enormous pressure on many people in the community – particularly those experiencing or at risk of family violence. Family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women, children and young people across Australia1. In Victoria specifically, 44 per cent of people seeking assistance from specialist homelessness services during 2021-22 did so due to family violence2. Furthermore, the increasing cost of housing and rising costs of living are further compounded for victim survivors by the deep and lasting financial impacts of family violence, including specific experiences of economic abuse3. 

Safe and Equal made a submission to the inquiry earlier this year. We are pleased to see the report include our recommendation that the Victorian Government commit to building 60,000 new social housing dwellings by 2034. We strongly support the report’s focus on the creation of new social homes, alongside increased support for private rental schemes, such as the Private Rental Assistance Program, and further examination of tax concessions such as negative gearing by the Commonwealth Government.  

The recommendations in this report articulate a plan to address the housing affordability crisis in Victoria. However, to end homelessness among victim survivors, these recommendations alone will not get us there. With victim survivors waiting an average of nearly two years for social housing4 and just 109 private rental properties across Victoria classified as affordable for single people earning minimum wage5, we need the Victorian Government to take immediate action to ensure every person escaping violence has timely access to safe and affordable housing options.  

Combined with the recommendations listed in this report, we need  initiatives that enable and support victim survivors to remain safe in their own homes, such as increased access to family violence financial counsellors and legal assistance, increased access to income through well-paid employment opportunities and increased social security payments; expanded ways to keep perpetrators accountable, and increased housing for perpetrators so more victim survivors can feel that staying safe in their home is a viable option. 

We thank the Committee for this report and encourage the Victorian Government to implement the report’s recommendations and take urgent action to ensure all victim survivors having a safe place to call home. 

Read the Final Report here.

Footnotes

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘Specialist homelessness services annual report 2021-22’, 8 December 22. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialist-homelessness-services-annual-report/contents/clients-who-have-experienced-family-and-domestic-v
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘Specialist homelessness services 2021-22: Victoria’, Accessed 15 November 2023. https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/5b974c8a-85d2-4f3e-8573-c14deec7a559/hou331_factsheet_vic.pdf.aspx
  3. 23% of Australian women have faced direct economic abuse from a cohabiting partner: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2022, Personal Safety Survey 2022https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-and-justice/personal-safety-australia/latest-release#cohabiting-partner-violence-emotional-abuse-and-economic-abuse
  4. The Guardian, ‘Victorian domestic violence victims wait two years for public housing, data shows’, 1 November 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/nov/01/victorian-domestic-violence-victims-wait-two-years-for-public-housing-data-shows#:~:text=Data%20from%20the%20latest%20Department,waiting%20time%20was%2011.1%20months
  5. Anglicare Australia, ‘Rental Affordability Snapshot report 2023’, pg. 97. https://www.anglicare.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Rental-Affordability-Snapshot-Regional-Reports.pdf

Page last updated Monday, December 11 2023

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Nurturing hope during the 16 Days of Activism

Nurturing Hope

during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence

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⏲️ Reading time: approx 15 minutes

🎧 This piece includes audio and video (with transcripts) from our hopeful contributors.

To maintain a movement, we need hope. And this movement, to end family and gender-based violence, is one we must work to maintain hope for.

It is preventable. We can get there. Working together to individually and collectively maintain hope is crucial in our efforts to create a world free from family and gender-based violence, where everyone is safe, thriving and respected.

We are not meant to do this work alone, nor are we required to rely on self-care and individual resilience…in moments when hope is hard to grasp, it is possible to borrow the hope of others.

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Vikki Reynolds

PhD, RCC

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that takes place from 25 November (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day). 

Throughout the campaign, communities across the globe engage in a range of activities, events and advocacy efforts to draw attention to the prevalence of gender-based violence, and to promote initiatives that work towards its eradication. 

To commemorate this year’s campaign, we wanted to explore the concept of hope in family violence work. To support this, we asked colleagues from across the sector to share what hope looks like to them, and how they maintain hope in their work to end family and gender-based violence. 

This article centres the personal stories and experiences of many different people, who have varied feelings and opinions about hope. We want to acknowledge that the work we all do can be hard – and for many, the world feels particularly heavy right now. It’s our intention for this piece to serve as an act of collective care and for it to exist beyond the 16 Days of Activism, to help us continue our mission to end family and gender-based violence. 

In late 2022, the Centre Against Violence facilitated an art program with survivors of family and sexual violence. Over the course of a year, participants worked with therapists and artists to produce works of art that gave voice to their experiences and celebrated their strength. When it came time to exhibit the works at a local gallery in the Ovens Murray region of Victoria in August of this year, opening night was quickly booked out. 

“The hope in the room was incredible,” reflects Centre Against Violence CEO, Jaime Chubb. “All the artwork showed experiences of intense sadness, isolation, and trauma – yet all of the women who created them were strong and excited for the future.” 

For those who attended the exhibition, many of whom work exclusively in the crisis space, being able to step back and see what recovery could look like was a powerful – and hopeful – experience. 

“Seeing this allowed me to remember that ‘recovery’ isn’t just about becoming safe or moving on from the violence,” says Jaime. “Recovery can actually be about learning how to live with the story and the memories, and building a life that acknowledges the experiences and celebrates the enormous strength it took to survive.” 

Advocacy work in the family and gender-based violence space is a journey marked by highs and lows, victories and setbacks. Achieving long-term structural and societal change can often be challenging, and at times, progress feels frustratingly slow. As individuals, seeking out and maintaining a sense of hope in our work is not just important, but crucial. Sometimes, it is the only thing that gets us out of bed, out the door, and keeps us here when things get tough – which can be often. 

Nurturing and maintaining hope in our efforts to address family and gender-based violence is an active pursuit. The things we see and experience that remind us that the outcomes we are working towards are possible and worth continuing to fight for are uniquely individual. 

Hope stretches beyond expressions of unconstrained optimism, beyond passively waiting for the world to improve. It does not exist in isolation, nor to placate or minimise the very real despair, anguish and frustration experienced by those advocating for meaningful change, and by those who are subject to multiple and intersecting layers of systemic marginalisation and discrimination. Conversely, hope is often driven by these feelings – as an inner rebellion, a way for us to channel our emotions into action. Hope can be angry. It can be fierce. It can be an act of defiance against detractors. 

Hope doesn’t preclude feeling sadness or frustration or anger or any other emotion that makes total sense. Hope isn’t an emotion, you know? Hope is not optimism. Hope is a discipline… we have to practice it every single day.

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Mariame Kaba

American activist, grassroots organiser and educator

Listen to Safe and Equal life member Keran Howe on finding hope in the collective:

Read the transcript
Keran Howe: “Knowing we’re part of a chain that stretches back through the history of women’s wisdom and persistence in the struggle for justice. And that will stretch forward, as other women continue with passion – and compassion. That gives me a certainty of what’s possible, if we keep on working together to build a better, fairer, safer world.”

Individual experiences of hope within family and gender-based violence advocacy do not exist in a vacuum. Each moment, each experience, each choice made to maintain and nurture hope is interconnected, an expertly woven tapestry driven by what has been, and what can be. 

The movement to eliminate family and gender-based violence in Australia as it exists today is informed by a long line of people who have come before us; individuals and groups who sought to radically change the way Australia viewed family and gender-based violence. These change-makers – from the grassroots activists who created Australia’s first women’s refuges in the 1960s and 1970s, to the First Nations and LGBTIQA+ activists still working to dismantle the significant discrimination and marginalisation their communities experience to this day – form a collective that spans generations and will continue far beyond our lifetimes.  

For Joe Ball, CEO of Switchboard, hope stems from reflecting on this rich history of collective advocacy, and all that has been achieved against incredible odds. 

“Change is always possible,” he says. “I know this because I have witnessed so much change for the better in my own lifetime for LGBTIQA+ people. I am a huge fan of history, and it tells us that even things that seem like completely intractable structures can crumble; whether that is the Berlin Wall or discrimination against transgender people. If it is built and controlled by people, then it can be transformed.” 

In outer-western Melbourne, this idea of change and transformation is very real for Djirra, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation providing support to Aboriginal people who have experienced family violence. Earlier this year, Djirra opened the doors of Djirra in the West, a service located in Melton – which has the highest rates of family violence incidents in north-west Melbourne. 

For Antoinette Braybrook, CEO of Djirra, the launch was a full circle moment – and a reiteration that change is always possible. “[My] family has been in the Melton area for more than 50 years. We were the first – and only – Aboriginal family for many years,” says Antionette. “Today, this western corridor is the fastest growing Aboriginal population, [yet] here was a clear gap in dedicated, culturally safe services for our people. We knew the demand was there in the west – and that meant Djirra [had to] be there too.” 

For the team at Djirra, opening the Melton space is the first step in expanding services across Victoria, and ultimately, forms part of their aim of transforming the lives of Aboriginal women across the state. This idea of the potential to work together for transformation – no matter how complex, or how slow moving – isas a driver of why we do the work that is echoed by many. 

“Over the years, I have realised that in order to create a new and better world, we cannot only focus on what needs to be dismantled, but [we must find] ways of mobilising and working together to imagine what we will build in its place,” says Maria Dimopoulos, Board Chair of Safe and Equal. 

“Like so many around me during the late 1980s and early 1990s, I joined the feminist movement and; dedicating myself to raising diverse voices that could attest to the histories, strength, resilience, endurance, vision, and survival that are part of the experiences of migrant and refugee women,” says Maria. 

“When migrant and refugee women are involved and their voices truly heard, they change the face of gender and intersectional equality. They alter assumptions, expand horizons and push boundaries.” 

It is this incredible sense of the collective that so often fosters hope. It is the feeling we are a part of something bigger than our individual selves and experiences; and that, as a connected force, real change is possible. This spreads far and wide: across communities, across the sector and across the continuum, from prevention, to early intervention, to response and recovery. 

“Our community experienced a homicide of a woman recently,” says Margaret Augerinos, CEO of the Centre for Non-Violence. “This was tragic and extremely distressing for many… [but] coming together during a community vigil to express our collective grief also supported us to express hope that gendered violence is preventable. 

We left with a concrete understanding that we are not alone; that we all have a part to play… that we all can take efforts to inform and influence others around us,” she describes. “Out of tragedy came understanding, hope and renewed commitment to working together.” 

“As practitioners working to prevent family and gender-based violence, we’re in the business of social change – and this isn’t an easy business,” says Marina Carman, Executive Director of Primary Prevention at Safe and Equal. “But wow, you meet some great people…and what gives me hope is seeing all those little lightbulb moments – both for ourselves and the people we’ve changed – and knowing each one is part of a growing sea of lights.” 

“I am extremely moved by the unlikely heroes, the underdogs, the people who speak up when they have everything to lose,” says Joe Ball. “The first person who dissents to injustice, the survivor who seeks to remedy a system that failed them, the family member who dedicates their life to change after their loved one is killed, the person who doesn’t want vengeance, even when they have every reason to. I look at all these people and I am filled with hope that human beings can be miraculous, especially – or perhaps because of – the darkest times.” 

[Hope is] intersectional feminism, recognising the power of victim survivors in their hopes, resistance and collective strength.

Through amplifying diverse voices and fostering solidarity, we can together work towards a society that values social justice and wellbeing for all, dismantling oppressive structures in the process.

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Bree Hewatt

Practice Development Leader
Berry Street

When we step back to look at the wider picture, it’s clear we’ve come a long way. There have been incredible changes to the way Australia recognises and responds to family and gender-based violence in the last few decades – and particularly, in the last eight years. 

Despite this, we know much more needs to be done – as a collective, and particularly for those who are trying to nurture hope amongst incredible oppression and marginalisation. 

“Even with the failed referendum, I still have hope for change,” says Antoinette Braybrook. “Our women are strong, courageous and resilient, and deserve better. This is why Djirra creates spaces where women’s business and collective wisdom can be celebrated, where there’s strength and healing in cultural identity. And most of all, where women are self-determining individually and collectively.” 

“It’s important to not lose sight of the appalling rates of violence against Aboriginal women,” adds Antoinette. “But where the hope comes is that we have the solutions, and we have the wisdom to make real change.” 

“Elizabeth Morgan House was established by strong and staunch Aboriginal women,” says Kalina Morgan-Whyman, CEO of Elizabeth Morgan House. “We strive to honour them every day in our work to uphold the rights of women and children to live a life free from violence,” she adds. 

“We have a commitment to providing the space and support so every woman can heal and not be defined by acts against them, outside of their control.” 

Watch Nadia Mattiazzo, CEO of Women with Disabilities Victoria, share what makes her hopeful in her work: 

Read the transcript
Nadia Mattiazzo: “What makes me hopeful in my work, and it’s a recent development, is the release of the Royal Commission Report – the Disability Royal Commission. We spent a number of years listening to and hearing the stories of women with disabilities speaking to the people and to the commission, and now we have their stories out there in the community as part of the report. I think it’s a really good opportunity for the nation to come together, and to implement the recommendations of the report, as opposed to individual states or individual sectors of individual states trying to do small pieces of work. I’m really looking forward to what the recommendations – and the implementation of those recommendations – hold.”

For disability rights activist and Safe and Equal life member Keran Howe, hope comes from working within an ever expanding and evolving sector – one working to be more inclusive of all people who experience violence. 

Listen to Keran Howe: 

Read the transcript
Keran Howe: “Witnessing changes that we’ve created together. The greater knowledge that now exists about women with disabilities experiencing violence. The growing commitment of family violence services to open their doors and respond to women with disabilities and join us in addressing our rights.”

“Our work as allies must always be grounded in humility, collaboration, and accountability,” says Maria Dimopoulos. “In our spheres of influence, we need to interrupt social and political injustice by challenging the practices and policies that protect privilege and keep it in place.” 

“We can use our own privilege to ensure that power is more equitably shared,” says Maria. “We can shine a light on every program, every action and endeavour we are engaged in, asking: Whose voices are being sought out and heard? Who decides what is important, right, beautiful, true, and valued?” 

“Hope in action is working with other specialists, protecting that moment in time when a victim survivor reports family violence.

In that moment, she is believed, she matters. Nothing is more important than her safety. In the crisis response bubble, we are left wanting equality and safety more than ever before for those who report – and for those who never will.”

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Rhonda Cumberland

Consultant
On For Change

The things that keep us engaged in family and gender-based violence advocacy are as wide and varied as the things that brought us to the sector in the first place. For many, being able to recognise the connections between the impacts of our day-to-day work and the bigger, broader picture of long-term structural change is where hope lies. 

“[It’s] being able to see positive changes in the lives of the women and children we work with,” says Kalimna Andy, Manager of Family Violence Services at Elizabeth Morgan House. 

“I am inspired by the resilience and strength displayed by our women and feel honoured they trust myself and Elizabeth Morgan House to walk along-side them to overcome the many advertises they face.” 

Nicole Du Toit, Advanced Family Violence Practice Leader at WAYSS, agrees. 

Watch Nicole Du Toit share what keeps her hopeful in her work: 

Read the transcript
Nicole Du Toit: “What keeps me hopeful in my work is the ability to have an impact on women and/or children’s lives. Whether that be from the crisis point, to recovery, it’s enabling women to have that self-determination and autonomy to make choices in their lives, to have control over where they go or how they keep themselves safe…that’s often taken away from them. And sometimes, it’s finding those little wins or silver linings that you are having a lot of change.”

For Pania Craik, Team Leader of Family Violence at Quantum Support Services, hope comes from the strength and resilience of victim survivors. 

“When women and children first come into our service, we often experience the hope that they are holding onto – the hope to live a life free of family violence and its impacts,” says Pania. “[As we begin] walking alongside someone in their journey, we often see that hope turn into empowerment – and that is why we do what we do.” 

“For me, the hope usually comes from children and young people,” says Jaime Chubb. “[The] best moments involve seeing them smile, their excitement at finding out they get a house, their resilience to start again, their ability to still love and forgive,” she says.

“My office sits next to our reception area – the difference to a young person’s demeanour when they are greeted and treated with respect and compassion still gives me goosebumps.” 

When survivor advocate Conor Pall had the opportunity to speak at this year’s Walk Against Family Violence in Melbourne, he chose to focus on hope – and the meaningful action required to turn hope into real change for victim survivors.  

“Hope is weaved throughout our stories,” said Conor. “It was in every submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence seven years ago. Victim survivors wrote in in the hundreds – sharing stories of survival and the failings of the system. 

“Each story was different – but each was bound by a common thread – hope. This hope lives within every one of us… a story. A principle – that everyone has the right to safety and freedom. Freedom from violence, safety from the people who use it, [and the] space to heal and recover from its impacts.” 

Listen to survivor advocate Marie Allen on what hope means to her: 

Read the transcript
Marie Allen: “Being a survivor of family violence, the hope for action in that was when I finally had enough of the family violence, and how I could see it was ruining my health, destroying the development and growth of my daughters, and everything felt like we were walking with a big, dirty, dark cloud over us. Having the strength to take that hopeful action to get away…my hands couldn’t stop shaking, my body shouldn’t stop shaking, but I kept moving forward to deliver that action – to escape from family violence. It was so, so difficult. But that’s where that hope and taking action for that hope worked for me.”

We’ve always gotta remember, being a survivor of family violence, it’s always there, but at the end, we always find a way to move on. The scars will always be there, but we always find ways to move on, and look for more hope, and action that hope.

Listen to Keran Howe:

Read the transcript
Keran Howe: “I’ve worked for many years in the areas of preventing and responding to violence against women. What’s made me hopeful? Well, I guess a certain amount of questionable optimism has kept me hoping and working for change, year in, year out. And, of course, working with women who are faced with crushing situations – but are not crushed – and who keep on trying to make things better for themselves and their children.”

Nurturing hope when things are hard

This work is hard. Working to challenge gender inequality and the deeply ingrained beliefs and behaviours that allow this violence to thrive is hard. Working to support victim survivors in an underfunded and overwhelmed system is hard. Sharing lived experiences of violence to advocate for change is hard. These barriers can be incredibly overwhelming – particularly when it’s difficult to see progress. Finding – and nurturing – hope during these times can not only feel challenging, but impossible. 

But if we have learnt anything from our time with colleagues during this year’s 16 Days of Activism, hope is always there – we just need to be deliberate about how we seek it out. We can adjust what it looks like in any given moment or any given context. And if others are struggling to see it, we can take the opportunity to share it. 

Hear from Nadia Mattiazzo:

Read the transcript
“There are often instances when it’s really hard to feel hopeful, or to acknowledge hope. I find that there is hope everywhere, so even if you are working within a space…there is something small that happens that gives you hope. You run with that, you pick that up, you encourage that. You talk about that to other people you acknowledge that to the individual or the group. I think that then sets continuing hope.”

The idea of recognising and celebrating each step forward – even if painfully slow – is pivotal to nurturing hope when things are hard, says Margaret Augerinos. 

“It is important to acknowledge change is slow and incremental,” she says. “Honouring hope in a small way is also about honouring intention. Even if change is slow to come, we do our work with a strong belief that what we do matters and makes a difference.” 

“For me hope sometimes needs to be an action,” says Jaime Chubb. “I feel more hopeful when I feel like we a moving forward – even if it’s in a tiny way.”  

“Fostering hope within the challenging context of family violence is undoubtedly difficult, but my commitment to a holistic approach is key to supporting the women on their healing journey,” says Kalimna Andy. 

“Taking a holistic perspective recognizes that healing is a multifaceted process, addressing not only the immediate challenges of violence but also the broader aspects of well-being, cultural connectedness, social and emotional support.” 

Keran Howe believes hope can be found in reflection – looking back and recognising how far we’ve come, and the systemic changes that have occurred as a result of decades of fierce advocacy.  

Listen to Keran Howe:

Read the transcript
Keran Howe: “Seeing the reforms that we’ve effected – that fires my belief that change does happen, even if it is so slow and sometimes feels like we are going backwards.”

Watch Nicole Du Toit: 

Read the transcript
Nicole Du Toit: “I think you honour hope in small ways by finding the silver lining, finding the small win. Anything positive that comes out of it should be the way you honour the hope and continue to do what you do.”

Looking to those we advocate alongside – nurturing hope as part of a collective – is also pivotal. Margaret Augerinos finds a sense of hope in new or emerging advocates. 

“[It’s] seeing and experiencing the passion and commitment that young people entering our sector have for ending gendered violence and working towards social equality,” she says. “The future is bright.” 

Jaime Chubb agrees. “Honouring hope also means seeing the people in our work – it can become overwhelming to only see the big picture of family violence all the time,” she says. 

For Pania Craik, being part of the collective also means being a source of hope for those who need it. 

“I sometimes remind myself that we could be the last bit of hope others have,” she says. “One quote I love reads, ‘Don’t lose hope: when the sun goes down, the stars come out’, and I think this would resonate with a lot of people.” 

Stories from survivors give me hope – their resilience, their hope for the future, their strength.

Thinking about future generations, and how they might view gender, power and intersectionality differently … the fact that change is always possible, and that in times of crisis there is the possibility of real shifts and structural changes too.

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Kellie

Sessional Advisor
Safe and Equal

Creating meaningful change through family and gender-based violence advocacy is a long game – far beyond our lifetimes. There’s no denying the work is hard, and keeping hope alive can be difficult. But it’s important to remember that hope is often found in unexpected places. It’s in the smallest of moments, in the tiniest of wins. It’s in leaning into the collective as a form of self-care. 

“We honour hope in our sector when we defend specialisation, when we practice solidarity, when we disagree, when we listen to our BS radar, when we laugh at the same thing, when we advocate harder, when we persist,” says Rhonda Cumberland. 

Keeping hope alive is something we can focus on individually and collectively. We also need our systems and governments to come to the table and contribute to the momentum of collective hope. Keeping family and gender-based violence on the agenda with adequate funding, workforce pathways and support, ensures we can continue to do this critical work and maintain our hope within that.

“We cannot forget how much the pursuit for safety costs victim survivors; costs us, as a nation,” says Conor Pall. 

“We need our government to continue its bold leadership post-Royal Commission”, he says. Yes, the 227 recommendations have been acquitted. Yes, we have made so much progress. But people are still experiencing violence at rates higher than before. Our work is not done. We need to continue the momentum we have created.”  

Momentum from our nation’s leaders, combined with the momentum in our own work, from primary prevention and early intervention through to response and recovery, is critical to realising our collective vision of ending family and gender-based violence. 

“I think for our work, hope needs to be really broad,” says Jaime Chubb. “Its heavy to spend your day thinking about and responding to some of the worst things that humans can do to each other.” 

“But there are so many beautiful and hopeful moments in the world, we should take the time to focus on them in our work. We also need to maintain the hope for our own lives – our families and children, our friends, our communities.” 

 A very big thank you to all who generously contributed their thoughts and wisdom to this piece, and to our broader 16 Days of Activism social media campaign. Alongside these contributions, ‘Nurturing Hope’ was written and curated by Melanie Scammell, Media and Communications Advisor at Safe and Equal. 

Page last updated Thursday, December 7 2023

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Setting the Scene: Impacts of the Reform Agenda

Setting the Scene: Impacts of the Reform Agenda

Monday 4 December 2023

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This address was presented by Safe and Equal CEO, Tania Farha as part of the Leading Change in Family Violence Symposium on Monday 4 December 2023. It formed part of the session alongside Deb Tsorbais (Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare), Setting the Scene: Impacts of the Reform Agenda.  

Thanks, Michael, for that introduction, and I would like to thank Berry Street, The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, and VACCA for partnering with us, Safe and Equal, on this forum today. Particular thanks to Berry Street for all the logistics and arrangements to get us here. 

I’d like to thank Uncle Colin for his Welcome to Country. I too wish to acknowledge that we are all meeting here on unceded Wurundjeri land and pay my respect to elders past and present and acknowledge any First Nations people joining us here today, including Aunty Muriel, Kalina Morgan-Whyman and our other Aboriginal colleagues in the room. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.   

I’d also like to recognise all victim survivors, including those here today and those who are sadly no longer with us. It is for you all that we do this work. 

My name is Tania Farha, and I am the CEO of Safe and Equal, Victoria’s peak body for specialist family violence services that provide support to victim survivors. I’m proud to also say that we have recently moved to open our full membership to specialist organisiations working across the continuum from primary prevention to recovery, and I look forward to strengthening our role as a peak advocating with and for the family violence sector as a whole.   

Thank you to Minister Ward for being here with us today. And whilst we have met one on one, I haven’t had a chance to welcome you to the role publicly and say that we in the family violence sector are really looking forward to working with you. We certainly welcome the Victorian Government’s new strategic narrative “Strong Foundations,” and consultation on the third and final Family Violence Action Plan, as announced this morning. Listening to you this morning, Minister, I think I can safely say we are in sync on the way forward – but also on the challenges we have in front of us. I know you are committed to working with us in the sector to get to where we need to be by collecting the right data, agreeing on the right outcomes and making sure we have the right investment to truly prevent and respond to family violence in the best way possible. 

Over the last 8 years in Victoria, it has truly been a time like no other for our sector. We’ve seen unprecedented reforms and investment in Victoria’s family violence system and primary prevention, as a result of the 227 recommendations that came from the Royal Commission into Family Violence in 2016. 

The Minister has spent some time talking about the incredible reform agenda we’ve seen in the last eight years; and whilst I will touch on a few key points, I really want to talk about what we as a sector think we need to prioritise right now to ensure our system is inclusive and accessible and can respond appropriately to all people who experience family violence, but also work towards a future where this violence no longer occurs. I’m pleased to see the focus on this in the Strategic Narrative. 

In 2016, the Royal Commission released its final report, including 227 recommendations that provided Victoria with a detailed roadmap for achieving long-term systemic change in the family violence system.   

Significantly, the Victorian Government committed to implementing all the recommendations, originally investing $2.7 billion to support this. We have, of course, seen nearly $1 billion more since then. There’s no overstating the importance of government support – particularly from the then Premier, Daniel Andrews – to implement these recommendations.  

In part, the reform of the service system in Victoria post-Royal Commission has been driven by the need to focus on:  

  • lived experiences of family violence and how the system can meet victim survivor needs;   
  • intersectionality, cultural safety and meeting the needs of different communities; and   
  • self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.   

And whilst there has been a strong focus on all of these elements, with Dhelk Dja being one of the most significant outcomes of the reforms, we still have a way to go in mainstream services to ensure our responses are supporting and allying with the self-determined actions and outcomes of Dhelk Dja and Closing the Gap. That will be a strong focus for us moving forward, working with colleagues and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations. 

We must make sure we have a system that can respond to everyone and, where necessary, have specialist services that can not only respond to those most complex cases, but work with the broader sector to build the capability and understanding required to ensure culturally responsible service.  

We have made some advances with the inclusion of lived experience of family violence into policy making, system building and continuous improvement – but we are not there yet! We need to continue our journey by bringing together the expertise of our survivor advocates, the lived experience of our own workforce and the many views of the victim survivors who use and navigate the system, so we can really understand what good client outcomes mean for them.   

We have also seen significant progress in working with clients with disability through the family violence disability practice leads, with funding for eight of these positions now provided to continue building capability across the sector. 

We have made some way with access and inclusion for LGBTIQ+ communities and we are working with advocates, including from the trans community, to make sure that our services are appropriate and safe for them. 

We have also made some progress with multicultural communities through the Working Together partnerships, but we still really need to focus efforts for these communities. We need to make sure we can reach and respond to multicultural communities in a way that does not put undue and unfair pressure on grassroots organisations to provide the support they most need.  I am looking forward to talking and working with the Minister more about this in the coming year. 

One of the most significant reforms that came out of the Royal Commission’s recommendations was the review and re-development of Victoria’s Common Risk Assessment Framework.

The outcome of this has become what is now known as the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework, or MARAM – and has really driven the shared understanding we now have across the service system, of how we assess risk, ensure safety, and make sure survivors’ needs are met.  

We must continue our investment in this critical part of the reforms. MARAM and the information sharing schemes are the gel that enable the system to connect and ensure line of sight of the victim survivor’s experience. They are also the foundation of the capability that sits at the heart of family violence practice. 

But we still have some way to go.  By mid-next year, we will see the introduction of a MARAM tool dedicated to the risk, safety and needs of children and young people. This will be an important lever for us to build the capability we need across the specialist family violence system. It is also a fantastic opportunity for us to work closely with our colleagues from child and family services to make sure we are all responding to children and young people in the way they need it, regardless of their entry point into the system. We will be hearing from young people today and a bit more from Deb, but I think it is safe to say we have heard time and time again from them that they want responses that meet their particular needs and recognise them as survivors in their own right. We also know that we must include them in any efforts to prevent this violence from happening in the first place. 

Addressing this is absolutely a priority moving forward – and I am pleased to see the focus on children and young people is a key priority in Victoria’s strategic narrative, including tailored prevention and early intervention efforts. 

Now that the Orange Door network is fully rolled out, and with many other innovations taking place, it is time to focus on integrating all the components- that is, the Orange Doors and the partner services – into a streamlined system. This is where the hard work starts. It is great having the components but if they are not working harmoniously together, then victim survivors will not see the benefit of this significant reform. 

So, what do we need for this? We need quality data across all parts of the system: data that can be connected to tell the story of what is happening, where we can see both client outcomes and system outcomes, and the gaps where things aren’t working so well.  

We also need to make sure that all parts of the system have the sustainable funding and resources they need to do the job and to invest in and retain the workforce the system needs. We as a sector need to continue building the evidence base to demonstrate what sustainable investment is, and what it is delivering.  

We also need to make sure we have the relationships in place to work together. We must – particularly specialist family violence services, services for people using violence, and child and family services – recognise and respect our individual roles and expertise, but also work together for the benefit of those who need us. 

In order to do this, we must continue to build our workforce to meet the requirements and demand of the system. We must make sure our workforce skills and capability match the roles being performed in the system; and that individual members of the workforce see themselves as part of the broader system. We know people are attracted to this work because of their passion, but we need to make sure we have diverse entry pathways, means of building skills and capability, good and targeted supervision, mentorship and ongoing professional development, to deliver the services that are required. We must invest in them.  

I am really pleased to see that Recommendation 209 (the mandatory minimum qualifications required for family violence workers) is being reviewed to ensure it is achievable and relevant for those wanting to enter the system. This must be accompanied by a focus from us in the family violence system to be clear on jobs, roles and functions that are required, and making sure these are fit-for-purpose. 

We also need to ensure we are building and supporting the workforce in primary prevention. This is, of course, a very different workforce: one that has specialisation at its core but is also focused on spreading and embedding prevention across the state in a variety of locations, organisations, settings and communities. We need a better view of the diversity of primary prevention work being undertaken in a range of sectors that contribute collectively to addressing the gendered drivers of violence, and the overlapping drivers such as racism, homophobia, transphobia, and so on.  This will allow a stronger collective view of the entire prevention system, and where and how our efforts are best targeted. 

The prevention workforce has distinct needs in terms of professional development, mentoring and peer support – which I’m pleased to say Safe and Equal continues to provide, alongside others, through our Partners in Prevention network. I look forward to contributing to stronger visibility and understanding of primary prevention work and the inspiring people doing it, as Safe and Equal continues to grow its role in this space. 

In terms of prevention, we know that this is long-term work, changing minds and attitudes on a large scale. The new National Plan commits to generational change – but we must back this with funding and action. While attitudes are generally slowly going in the right direction, it isn’t fast enough – and backlash and resistance means we’re even going backwards in some areas (most worryingly amongst young people). We need long-term core funding for key sector organisations, and programmatic funding to sustain and build on what we’ve done and what we’ve learned works. Sustainable funding is vital to ensure what is already a skilled and knowledgeable workforce can sustain and grow its work – and the relationships that are so important for primary prevention work can be built and maintained. I welcome the focus on prevention in the new strategic narrative, and, as a peak with membership across the continuum, I hope that Safe and Equal will now play a critical role in implementing the specific actions in the forthcoming Industry RAP, as well as shaping what comes next in the third and final Rolling Action Plan.   

Speaking of the National Plan, this is an important part of the work we will do in Victoria moving forward. I know the Commissioner, Micaela Cronin, will be talking about her priorities and the national commitments, so I will leave that to her – but I just want to say, we need state and commonwealth governments working closely together on this. We have already seen the tragedy of at least 53 women – one more just yesterday – and countless children significantly impacted by violence (in fact, there is no count for children yet) across the country this year – and it is not even the end of the year. We know that violence increases over the festive season – last year, we saw 10 deaths leading up to the end of year break.  This is only what we know by informal counts – there is likely to be so many more deaths that are not counted, including suicides, which haven’t even been taken into consideration. This is a crisis; I have no doubt of that. And in any crisis, we need state and territory governments to work together. It was good to see the Prime Minister announce a commitment to formally count family violence deaths recently, but we need more that that – we need investment and support from the commonwealth to end this violence.

You cannot speak of good outcomes without mentioning crisis accommodation and housing in family violence. We need to ensure we can accommodate women in crisis accommodation that is fit-for-purpose and where we can start the journey of working closely with all survivors to ensure positive outcomes. Motels will not give clients what they need, or access to the services they require, we know that. But we must find a way to reduce our reliance on them and invest money where we need it most. Without access to housing, and without income and economic security, it is nearly impossible for a victim survivor to safely leave a violent relationship and rebuild their life.The result is that many victim survivors face an impossible choice: escape the violence and face being homeless or remain in an abusive home.   

We know the Minister for Housing, Harriet Shing, is keen to work closely with us and Minister Ward to address this issue. We also know that the Victorian Government continues to negotiate with the commonwealth to make sure Victoria gets it fair share – and we will do what we can to support you.  This is not an easy issue to solve, but we must continue to prioritise housing for those who need it most.  We must also find a way to keep victim survivors in their own home safely – whether this is immediately after an incident, or after they have received the refuge and help they need – it must a priority. We spoke about this at the recent conference on homelessness hosted by CHP, a key ally in this work. 

Looking to the future, I am hopeful and optimistic. We already have done so much. We have experienced a significant period of intensive reform, and now is really the time to consolidate and get our system functioning so it can meet the needs of every person who comes to us. We also need to increase our efforts in early intervention and primary prevention to make sure violence does not manifest, escalate or indeed happen at all. I look forward to working with the Minister and all of you here today to make that happen.  

I’d now like to hand over to Deb Tsorbaris from the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, with whom we work with closely, who will dive a little deeper into how we can best work together to support children and young people moving forward. 

Thank you.  

Page last updated Monday, December 4 2023

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Urgent call for National Cabinet focus on family and gender-based violence deaths

Urgent call for National Cabinet focus on family and gender-based violence deaths

Tuesday 21 November 2023

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Dear Prime Minister

We are writing, as peak bodies, networks and organisations representing more than 200 specialist service providers and others working to end family and domestic violence across the country, to express our deep grief and outrage at the recent reports of the murders of women by their partners or former partners.

Unofficially, we know that nearly 50 women have had their lives taken by violent perpetrators this year, but there is no official count for these deaths. The true number of people killed by partners and family members is likely to be much higher, as the deaths of people from some communities are less likely to be reported widely. Right now, in the Northern Territory, there is an inquest looking into the deaths of four Aboriginal women, and at least another four people have been killed since it started. We know this is only the tip of the iceberg, and that the impact of this violence is felt by children, family members and many, many more.

This is a national crisis, and we are writing to request that you table this issue for urgent discussion at National Cabinet.

The Commonwealth has made a commendable commitment – to end violence against women and children in one generation. Despite this, this is still not on the agenda at the highest political levels.

The scale and scope of the family violence crisis in this country calls for bold, enduring action and the piecemeal initiatives outlined in the First Action Plan associated with the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032 fall short. Put simply, if we want to end this violence, the approach outlined in current national policy is not going to get us there.

Achieving the cultural and systemic change required to eliminate family and gender-based violence is by no means impossible. And we are seeing movement in the right direction – attitudes towards gender equality in Australia are slowly improving, though attitudes towards violence aren’t changing fast enough. Globally we are seeing explicit efforts to roll back progress on gender equality and there are critical areas where attitudes are stalled in Australia, or even moving backward. This is most concerning when we see it happening amongst young people, when we are aiming for generational change.

We need to address the gender inequality that is at the core of this violence and change the norms, beliefs and behaviours that allow it to happen in the first place. We desperately need to change the community attitudes that tolerate and condone violence. We need to make sure that risk is picked up early and addressed as soon as possible, as well as ensuring that all people experiencing or at risk of violence can access the support they need, when they need it.

To be sure this happens, we need our political leaders to feel the outrage that we do and to put this issue on the highest political agenda for consideration – Australia’s National Cabinet. Without this, family and gender-based violence will never receive the attention, investment and urgent action it requires.

Yours sincerely

Tania Farha
Chief Executive Officer
Safe and Equal

Safe and Equal

Delia Donovan
Chief Executive Officer
Domestic Violence NSW

Domestic Violence NSW

Beck O’Connor
Chief Executive Officer
DVConnect

DV Connect

Olive Bennell
Chief Executive Officer
Nunga Mi:Minar Inc.

Nunga Mi:Minar Inc.

Alina Thomas
Chief Executive Officer
Engender Equality

Engender Equality

Alison Evans
Chief Executive Officer
Centre for Women’s Safety and Wellbeing

Centre for Women's Safety and Wellbeing

Amie Carrington
Chief Executive Officer
Domestic Violence Action Centre

Domestic Violence Action Centre

Ending Violence Against Women Queensland

Ending Violence Against Women Queensland

CC: The Hon. Katy Gallagher MP, Minister for Women; the Hon. Amanda Rishworth, Minister for Social Services, The Hon. Justine Elliot MP, Assistant Minister for Prevention of Family Violence

Page last updated Thursday, November 23 2023

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Response to National Autism Strategy

Response to National Autism Strategy

30 October 2023

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Safe and Equal recently responded to the consultations for the development of a National Autism Strategy being undertaken by the Department of Social Services.

Safe and Equal recognises the lack of research at the intersection of family violence and autism and the need to fill these critical information gaps to ensure that our prevention activities and responses for victim survivors are inclusive and appropriate for people with autism.

Page last updated Tuesday, October 31 2023

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Submission to the Independent Review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme

Submission to the Independent Review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme

30 August 2023

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Safe and Equal recently responded to the Independent Review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Safe and Equal recognises that the lack of clear policies and processes about family violence within the NDIS is resulting in insufficient and inconsistent responses for victim survivors with a disability that can potentially leave them in unsafe situations or without the appropriate supports while in crisis. Alongside these challenges victim survivors are facing structural barriers to accessing the NDIS and are not receiving cohesive and integrated supports across the NDIS and family violence workforces.

Page last updated Wednesday, August 30 2023

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Submission to the Senate inquiry into the Worsening Rental Crisis in Australia

Submission to the Senate inquiry into the Worsening Rental Crisis in Australia

28 August 2023

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Safe and Equal recently responded to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs inquiry into the Worsening Rental Crisis in Australia.

Safe and Equal recognises that current lack of affordable housing options, inclusive of rental properties, inhibits victim survivors’ safety and recovery as they continue to face uncertainty and the risk of homelessness when considering whether or not to leave abusive partners or family members.

Page last updated Monday, August 28 2023

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Submission to the Inquiry into the Rental and Housing Affordability Crisis in Victoria

Submission to the Inquiry into the Rental and Housing Affordability Crisis in Victoria

5 July 2023

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Safe and Equal welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Inquiry into the Rental and Housing Affordability Crisis in Victoria. As the peak body for specialist family violence services, this submission will focus solely on Part 7 of the Terms of Reference, for which Safe and Equal holds relevant expertise, and will conclude with three priority recommendations.

The housing crisis in Victoria is putting enormous pressure on many people in the community – particularly those experiencing or at risk of family violence. The current lack of affordable housing options inhibits victim survivors’ safety and recovery as they continue to face uncertainty and the risk of homelessness when considering whether or not to leave abusive partners.

Homelessness and family violence are inextricably linked, with family violence the leading cause of homelessness for women and children in Australia. Homelessness as a result of family violence often leads to a lifetime of disadvantage, discrimination and poverty. This is particularly true for children, as research demonstrates that children who experience homelessness are more likely to experience homelessness as adults. All victim survivors of family violence deserve a safe place to call home, and the current housing affordability crisis is forcing victim survivors to choose between violence and homelessness.

While recommendations on how to manipulate the housing market to become more affordable is outside the scope of Safe and Equal’s expertise, we support calls to action related to this in the statement made by the Victorian Housing Peaks Alliance, of which Safe and Equal are a member. Within this submission, we have made recommendations to mitigate the effects of the housing affordability crisis on victim survivors of family violence to make the vision of all victim survivors of family violence having a safe place to call home a reality.

Page last updated Friday, July 7 2023

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Family violence a workplace issue for Are You Safe at Home? Day 2023

Family violence a workplace issue for Are You Safe at Home? Day 2023

Thursday 25 May 2023

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Violence against women impacts around one in six female workers, highlighting family violence as a critical workplace issue.

Established in 2020, Are You Safe at Home? is a national awareness raising initiative designed to break down the fear and stigma associated with talking about family violence by providing clear information about what to look out for, what supports are available, and how to start a conversation if you’re concerned someone you care about is experiencing abuse.    

Following the recent introduction of universal paid domestic and family violence leave across Australian workplaces, the focus of Are You Safe at Home? Day 2023 was to shine a spotlight on the significant role colleagues and employers can play in recognising and responding to family violence. 

This year, Are You Safe at Home? Day amplified the need for a cultural shift across all workplaces, to destigmatise conversations about family violence at work and to provide the tools and skills to recognise the signs of family violence and respond safely. To kick off the 2023 campaign, Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha joined Future Women’s Sally Spicer for a conversation on Instagram Live to discuss Are You Safe at Home?, the crucial role workplaces can play, and tips for what to do and what not to do when starting a conversation about family violence. 

The panel discussion

Are You Safe at Home? Day Panel at EY

“It’s a human right to be safe – and it’s an OHS right to be safe at work.” 

Katie Alexander, Survivor Advocate 

Hosted at EY in Melbourne’s CBD, Safe and Equal alongside Thriving Communities Partnership held a morning tea attended by over 60 business leaders and sector experts, for a robust discussion on how to create sensitive and responsive workplaces for employees at risk of experiencing family violence. 

The morning commenced with a Welcome to Country from Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Diane Kerr and an opening address from David Larocca, Oceana CEO and Regional Managing Partner at EY, who highlighted that Are You Safe at Home? Day is a reminder that conversations on family violence are not just the responsibility of governments, but everybody in the community – including workplaces. 

David’s address was followed by an in-depth panel discussion hosted by Ciara Sterling (CEO, Thriving Communities Partnership), featuring insights from: 

  • Rosie Batty AO, family violence advocate 
  • Katie Alexander, survivor advocate 
  • Caroline Wall, Head of Customer Vulnerability, Commonwealth Bank 
  • Tania Farha, CEO Safe and Equal 
  • Professor Kyllie Cripps, Director Monash Indigenous Studies Centre 

The discussion gave guests the opportunity to listen to and reflect on stories shared by panelists on what meaningful and effective change in an organisation can look like. 

The panel spoke to the significance of family violence as a workplace responsibility. Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha reflected on the results of the recent National Community Attitudes Survey (NCAS), saying, “There’s still almost 50% of Australians who think family violence is not happening in their own community.” Head of Customer Vulnerability at Commonwealth Bank, Caroline Wall highlighted the parallels between the statistics and workplace environments – that it is confronting to consider that within any business, there may be a large number of people experiencing family violence, as well as a number of people perpetrating it. 

“I knew there was gossip. I knew there were career opportunities I was overlooked for, because I was viewed as a weak link.” 

Survivor Advocate Katie Alexander on the impact an unsupportive and unsafe workplace had on her career progression. 

Are You Safe at Home? Day Panel

Survivor Advocate Katie Alexander shared her powerful story of both positive and negative experiences as a victim survivor in the workplace. Katie called for lived experience advocates to be included across the spectrum of employer responses – in the development of organisational policies and procedures, on the Board, as well as in workplace education and training. Katie also highlighted the need for choice and control in how a victim survivor discloses family violence at work, and the options presented to them.  

This was reiterated by Professor Kyllie Cripps from Monash University, who spoke of the multitude of different aspects that form an individual’s identity and the way they interact with the world. Due to systemic discrimination and marginalisation, the options for many people seeking family violence support can be limited. Kyllie encouraged business owners to take an intersectional approach to experiences of family violence in the workplace, saying, “we have to be mindful of the individual in front of us and what they’re carrying.”  

The need to go beyond leave provisions and to embed cultural shifts within a workplace was then discussed. Tania stated that without this shift, staff can never feel safe enough to disclose and seek support. Rosie highlighted that leadership from the top-down is key, as well as fostering a workplace culture of respect and equality for people to feel safe and able to do their best work. “At the crux of all of this is respect. When you feel respected, valued, and appreciated, you thrive,” said Rosie. 

As the panel took questions from the audience and gave their final thoughts, the key message was clear: all organisations can make a difference, but it requires nuance, consideration, action and reflection. 

The webinars

Simultaneously, Safe and Equal hosted three webinars across South Australia and Northern Territory (in partnership with Northern Territory Council of Social Services and Embolden Alliance), Victoria and New South Wales (in partnership with Domestic Violence NSW) and Western Australia (in partnership with Centre for Womens Safety and Wellbeing). Over 240 attendees from across Australia joined us throughout the day.

Logos: NTCOSS, Embolden, DVNSW, Centre for Women's Safety and Wellbeing

Emma Morgan, Strategic Projects and Engagement Manager, and Rebeca Carro, Lived Experience Program Officer, explored what family violence is, what the signs are, and how to have safe and respectful conversations with colleagues about family violence.  

The webinar also included a powerful interview between Bec and Olga, exploring Olga’s particular experiences of being supported and not supported in their workplace while they were experiencing family violence and what that meant for their journey to safety. 

Resources shared throughout these webinars included: 

Are You Safe at Home? Day 2024

We will be back for Are You Safe at Home? Day on 10 May 2024. Keep up to date with the campaign by subscribing here 

Want to know more?

Continue your learning with our free Are You Safe at Home? eLearn  

The Are You Safe at Home? eLearn is self-paced and takes 20 minutes, so it fits into a busy work schedule. It’s designed to equip you with the skills to recognise and respond to family violence. Register for the eLearn here 

 Supporting Safe and Equal Workplaces  

To learn more about how Safe and Equal can work with your organisation to recognise and respond to family and domestic violence, please visit our website or reach out to Robyn Stone, Business Partnerships and Engagement Advisor, at robynstone@safeandequal.org.au.  

Make a donation  

We all have a role to play in ending family violence in our community. Your donation can strengthen our work in preventing and responding to family and gender-based violence. Make a secure donation to Safe and Equal using your credit card on the GiveNow website. Donate here.   

Start the conversation  

Most importantly, you don’t have to be an expert to support someone experiencing family violence. You can start small by opening up the conversation, listening and offering support. You can ask the question, ‘are you safe at home?’. 

Page last updated Thursday, May 25 2023

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Safe and Equal responds to the 2023-24 State Budget

Victoria’s family violence response stays the course, but no end in sight for housing crisis

Wednesday 24 May 2023

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In a difficult economic context, the Victorian Government is ‘staying the course’ on responses to family violence.

In the years since the Royal Commission into Family Violence, we have seen incredible investment into major reforms. 

Building on the investment from previous years, and in a context that tightens spending across critical community services, the 2023-34 Victorian Budget does include $77 million to continue delivering support for victim survivors of family violence and sexual assault and perpetrator intervention initiatives over the next four years. This includes ongoing funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to deliver family violence and sexual assault services and the establishment of a collaborative crisis accommodation model for people at high risk of family violence with very high support needs.  

A further $23 million towards providing access to specialist legal assistance in seven new family violence courts is also welcome.  

Even with this investment, there are persistent gaps, barriers and pressure points that remain in the family violence system due to increasing demand and need.  

Disappointingly, this budget contains no notable investment into increasing access to social and affordable housing. 

Last year, we welcomed the announcement of funding for two new refuges as well as upgrades to existing locations that would increase capacity within Victoria’s stretched specialist family violence emergency accommodation system. 

But victim survivors are getting stuck in crisis accommodation, with nowhere safe and affordable for services to move them into long-term. This year’s budget papers show that people experiencing family violence are facing an average wait time of 20 months for priority public housing, up from last year’s already unacceptable 17 months. Due to a critical lack of suitable options, many victim survivors of family violence are facing an impossible choice between homelessness and abuse. 

Until the government commits to developing more social housing properties and investing long-term into initiatives that enable people to remain safely in their own homes, access to safety and recovery for victim survivors will continue to be limited. 

The Victorian Government made an ambitious commitment to rebuild our family violence system and backed this with incredible investment in the years since the Royal Commission into Family Violence. These reforms have laid the foundations for a system that can give victim survivors a voice, a home, and a timely and clear pathway to recovery. 

Victoria has led the way in preventing and responding to family violence, but we have a long way to go to ensure a flexible and accessible system that works for everyone.  

We look forward to continuing to work with the Andrews Government to realise the vision of a Victoria free from violence.  

Page last updated Wednesday, May 24 2023

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Safe and Equal responds to the 2023-24 Federal Budget

Safe and Equal responds to the 2023-24 Federal Budget

Friday 12 May 2023

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Safe and Equal welcomes the ongoing investment in and support of women’s safety initiatives delivered in the 2023-24 Federal Budget and acknowledges this as a step toward achieving the ambitious goal of ending family violence in one generation as outlined in the new National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children.

The new budget reflects the Albanese government’s commitment to supporting Australians during a time where many are doing it tough; and we are hopeful further funding announcements tied to the new National Plan’s first Action Plan (due for release later this year) will provide the bold and visionary investment required to address family and gender-based violence across the country. 

Of particular note in this budget is the announcement of a further $326.7 million across four years (with $19.4 million per year ongoing) to deliver women’s safety initiatives under the National Plan, including: 

  • $159 million over two years from 2023–24 to extend the Family and Domestic and Sexual Violence Responses National Partnership Agreement with state and territory governments and to continue to address service gaps to and support frontline service delivery   
  • $38.2 million to extend the current Escaping Violence Payment and Temporary Visa Holders Experiencing Violence Pilot to January 2025 
  • $12.1 million over four years from 2023–24 to develop and distribute social media resources for young people on consent and to support community-led sexual violence prevention pilots. 

 These funding announcements are welcomed and ensure that some important frontline services for victim survivors are safeguarded against funding cuts for the next two years. 

We are also pleased to see the Government commit $194 million over five years to support the dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan under the National Plan which is still in development, including: 

  • $145.3 million over four years from 2023–24, including a provision of $128.6 million in the Contingency Reserve, to support activities which address immediate safety concerns for First Nations women and children who are experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, family, and domestic and sexual violence   
  • $23.2 million over four years from 2023–24 to support families impacted by violence and at risk of engaging in the child protection system, through programs aimed at early intervention and recovery and supporting families   
  • $17.6 million over two years from 2023–24 to deliver on family safety initiatives under the Action Plan  
  • $7.8 million over four years from 2022–23 (and $4.0 million in 2027–28) to support the development of a standalone First Nations National Plan for Family Safety. 

This announcement shows a commitment to the development and delivery of this dedicated Action Plan, and we hope to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities having the resources and remit to design and deliver the activities to end family violence within their communities. 

Additionally, we welcome the commitment to address the indexation of community services wages, which are expected to increase by $242 million in 2023-24, and by around $4 billion over the four years from 2023 to 2027. While we’re looking forward to knowing more detail about this commitment, we’re hopeful it represents an intention to deliver real wage growth to workers in community services, and that services are funded appropriately to do this. 

While this builds on announcements in the Albanese Government’s first budget, much more needs to be invested into women’s safety initiatives, from primary prevention through to response and recovery. We hope to see additional commitments across the continuum with the release of the first Action Plan, including: 

  • Increased investment in long-term primary prevention actions and programming, as articulated in the National Plan 
  • The development of a long-term strategic plan focused on building the size and capacity of the prevention workforce 
  • Funding to coordinate interstate prevention activities 
  • Commitment from both state and federal government to long-term, adequate funding for specialist family violence services, who continue to grapple with increasingly unsustainable demand and limited resources. 

Additionally, we would like to see the government invest in more formal processes and guidance for working with survivor advocates in the design, delivery and evaluation of women’s safety initiatives. While new funding committed in the previous budget was welcome, meaningful engagement with lived experience is crucial and requires greater prioritisation and further investment. 

There are a range of welcome announcements prioritising housing and social security in this budget, including the abolition of ParentsNext, an investment of $1.9 billion over five years to extend eligibility for single parenting payments, and an additional $67.5 million in 2023-24 to boost homelessness funding to states and territories. The increase of $40 per fortnight for people on income support payments is welcomed and long-overdue, but just the start.  

These targeted measures will provide victim survivors with better access to housing and income support, which we know are critical to achieving long-term safety and recovery. However, while increases announced in this budget are a win, they continue to fall short of what is required to combat the rising rates of housing insecurity, homelessness and poverty that more Australians are facing. 

Achieving the cultural and systemic change required to prevent and end family violence in one generation is an ambitious goal, but certainly possible. It requires bold and visionary investment in the initiatives we hope to see outlined in the National Plan’s first Action Plan and dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan. 

Safe and Equal commends the Albanese Government for the focus and prioritisation of women’s safety and gender equality initiatives in this year’s budget, and we look forward to continuing together on the path to realising the vision set out in the National Plan. 

Page last updated Friday, May 12 2023

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PiP Member Spotlight: Sam House from City of Kingston

PiP Member Spotlight: Sam House from City of Kingston

Monday 24 April 2022

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This month, we spoke to Sam House, Social Policy and Planning Officer from City of Kingston, about her vital work with Active Kingston, supporting local clubs to promote gender equality and diversity, including through upcoming initiatives with Proud2Play.

Social media handles: www.linkedin.com/in/samhouse01 
Length of time a PiP member: Over five years 
List of PiP activities attended: Various in-person and online events, including the PiP 2017-18 seminar series with guest speaker, Dr Marion Frere – my then-CEO in the Office for Prevention and Women’s Equality. 

A headshot of Sam House

What is your professional background? How did it lead you to prevention work?  

My introduction to working in the prevention of family violence space was serving as the Secretariat of the Victorian Government’s then-Indigenous Family Violence Partnership Forum and later, in a policy officer role within the Office for Prevention and Women’s Equality – Respect Victoria Establishment Team (then Department of Health and Human Services).  

I moved to local government, coordinating a 12-month community-led, place-based project with the City of Kingston which engaged cultural and faith diverse community leaders in training to prevent family violence and promote gender equality in their organisations and communities. From there, I’ve been leading Council’s work to prevent family violence, including the implementation of their Prevention of Family Violence Action Plan 2019-2021 and more recently, Year 2 and 3 annual actions to prevent family violence under Kingston’s Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2021-2025. 

When did you become passionate about gender equality?  

Personally, it was probably when I wasn’t allowed to join the same Scout troop as my older brother because I was a girl and they didn’t have any female leaders. This led to the recruitment of their first female leader and my pioneering as the first female Scout of that unit!  

Professionally, it was my role in helping establish Respect Victoria and gaining a deeper understanding of the research and evidence-base around the overwhelming and disproportionate rates of men’s violence against women and children in Victoria. I am a passionate advocate for the role we can all play to challenge gender inequality (and other social justice inequities), which drive family and gender-based violence. 

(I think the recent implementation of Gender Impact Assessments across public sector agencies, including teams and departments not normally engaged in this space, will be instrumental in helping embed an intersectional lens in program and service delivery, and advance gender equality in Victoria)!  

Tell us a bit about what you’re working on now: 

We recently briefed Council on key outcomes of its 16 Days of Activism campaign for 2022, which included an engaging webinar on ‘Equality and Respect in Sport: Promoting gender equality on and off the field’ (recording available here). We’re continuing to work with Active Kingston on how we can support local clubs to promote gender equality and diversity, including through upcoming initiatives with Proud2Play.  

Our free online (and hardcopy) primary prevention toolkit has also launched, developed with the Kingston Family Violence Working Group. The toolkit includes a poster series in English and eight other languages and a set of social media tiles that promote equality and respect across a range of settings (see www.kingston.vic.gov.au/services/health-and-support/prevention-of-family-violence > ‘Promoting equality and respect). 

What skills do you use in your role?  

Brief writing, presentation skills, project management, time management, stakeholder engagement and coordination, understanding of the policy and legislative landscape in Victoria and within our region, and active listening to ensure Council is adequately responding to community need.  

What do you like about working in primary prevention? What drew you here? 

I believe primary prevention is such as an important part of the work to end family violence in Australia and ‘stop it before it starts’. I like that primary prevention can empower people as advocates in this space, with increased knowledge and capability to recognise and challenge the underlying drivers of family and gender-based violence and contribute to positive change.  

What have you found useful in the work that Safe and Equal & PiP do to support prevention workers?  

Previous training workshops to build the foundations of understanding family violence 101 have been valuable for groups such as our internal Family Violence Staff Support Officers. Safe and Equal’s leadership around the statewide 16 Days of Activism has also been incredibly valuable to supporting key initiatives in Kingston.   

What advice do you have for someone new to the PVAW sector?  

To quote Change Our Game Ambassadors, Lauren Foote and Mel Jones OAM, who were such valuable contributors to our recent 16 Days of Activism webinar, ‘Ripples [of this work] can spread pretty far’, ‘The dividends will probably show long after we are in these positions but that as we know is the way of social change sometimes’. 

Whose work do you admire?  

I admire the work of many women who are leading and advocating in this space at the national and state level, including author Jess Hill, Kit McMahon (WHISE), Amy Prendergast (Respect Victoria), Dr Ramona Vijeyarasa (architect of the Gender Legislative Index), Dr Manjula O’Connor (Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health and author) and our male allies, including Dr Michael Flood (XY Online) and AFL player and Our Watch Advocate, Ben Brown.  

Join the 3,400+ practitioners who are influencing social change in Victoria. Subscribe to receive our monthly Partners in Prevention bulletins and stay up to date on upcoming events and activity.

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Page last updated Monday, April 24 2023

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Achieving Safe at Home responses for victim survivors: programs and policies

Achieving Safe at Home responses for victim survivors

Programs and Policies

Tuesday 18 April

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This article was published in Council to Homeless Persons’ Parity: “Safe at Home” March 2023 Edition.

Authors: Courtney Wamala, Personal Safety Initiative Coordinator and Kate Mecham, Policy Manager – Safe and Equal

The concept of a Safe at Home response for family violence victim survivors was developed in recognition that, when a victim survivor wishes to stay in their current home and it is safe for them to do so, they should not be required to leave following an incident of family violence.  Instead, the perpetrator should be held accountable and removed from the property.

Research into homelessness and family violence has demonstrated that providing victim survivors with a Safe at home response is crucial to enabling them to maintain some stability following the experience of family violence and can reduce homelessness among victim survivors. 1 In order to support victim survivors to remain safely in their homes, a full system approach needs to be applied to remove the perpetrator from the property, keep them in view and ensure that they are being held accountable for their behaviour. This full system approach requires family violence support services, housing services, the police, the court system, child protection and any other relevant services (e.g., mental health, alcohol, and other drugs etc.) to come together and consistently turn their attention to the perpetrator, how their actions are impacting on the victim survivor’s safety and to seek to address that behaviour.  As part of the full system approach, and to assist victim survivors to remain safely in their homes, specific programs have been developed and implemented in Victoria, including the Personal Safety Initiative (PSI) and the Flexible Support Packages (FSP) programs.

The PSI and FSP programs were funded and implemented in Victoria following the Royal Commission into Family Violence after it was identified that one of the ways to support victim survivors to remain safely in their homes would be through the implementation of security responses in the home and provision of brokerage to support this.

The PSI program provides targeted security advice and responses for victim survivors of family violence. There are 17 PSI Coordinators across the state, each with extensive knowledge of family violence and security responses that can be implemented to assist victim survivors. Victim survivors can be referred by a case manager to the PSI program for a safety and security audit to be conducted on their home, which will then identify security measures that should be installed on the home based on the perpetrator’s behavior and the layout of the property. Security measures can be installed on a property that the victim survivor shared with the perpetrator or on a new property if the victim survivor was required or chose to relocate. Security measures that may be recommended include but aren’t limited to security doors, CCTV, technology sweeps of devices, bug sweeps of homes and cars, dash cameras, additional locks, and personal safety devices. Brokerage to fund the installation of these security items can be provided through the FSP program.

FSP providers are also located in regions across the state of Victoria and work closely alongside the PSI Coordinators – in some cases they are located in the same agencies. Brokerage provided by the FSP program is not limited to funding security items. Rather, the program was created to provide victim survivors (both adults and children) with a brokerage program that is holistic and can fund any items that will aid with their recovery from family violence, such as food vouchers, counselling sessions, educational costs, housing costs and legal costs. In the context of safe at home responses, having access to this flexible brokerage money can be critical to help a victim survivor establish themselves in their home independent of the perpetrator.

PSI and FSP are great initiatives to support victim survivors who wish to remain safely in their homes. However, these programs can only do so much. Rates of homelessness among women and children remain high and family violence continues to be the main reason that women and children report they seek support from a homelessness service. 2 As noted above, a whole system approach needs to be applied to aid with the safety of victim survivors. However, research conducted by McAuley Social Services on safe at home responses3 found that in addition to needing a whole of system response, there are systemic and structural barriers that impact on victim survivors’ ability to stay safe in their homes and get on the path to recovery from family violence.

First, the justice system needs to provide a stronger and more consistent response when holding perpetrators accountable for their actions and behavior. Too often victim survivors face barriers when reporting ongoing incidents of family violence and breaches to Intervention Orders, resulting in either the perpetrator not being charged or charged inappropriately. Many victim survivors also find it difficult to find legal support, further compounding the challenges they face when dealing with the justice system. There are limited legal support options available for victim survivors and these supports can be expensive. Lack of access to legal support significantly reduces the likelihood that victim survivors will get just outcomes, increases the chances of perpetrators weaponising the legal system against them, and significantly increases the stress and trauma experienced by victim survivors.

Second, the current programs in place to work with perpetrators are not providing the results needed. These programs are rarely well coordinated with victim survivors and victim survivor programs. More research and evaluation of effective programs needs to be developed to improve the way services work with perpetrators. Strengthened links and collaboration with victim survivors and victim survivor programs is also needed to ensure the work being done in perpetrator specific and allied services is contributing to victim survivors feeling safer. Alongside this, strengthened coordination across allied services, such as alcohol and other drug and mental health services, which have contact with perpetrators is also needed. These services have a valuable role in information sharing to inform safety planning for victim survivors and reinforcing a whole of system response to keep perpetrators accountable for their behavior, not collude and demonstrate that violence is unacceptable. This can help ensure that the work being completed with the perpetrator within perpetrator specific programs is reinforced.

Third, many victim survivors face economic barriers to staying safely in their home. We know that women are more likely than men to be under employed, in insecure work, working in lower paid, traditional female dominated industries, and paid less than their male counterparts in similar roles.4 We also know that during the COVID-19 pandemic, women were more likely to lose their jobs and that women’s rates of employment have been the slowest to bounce back. 5 This economic exclusion, coupled with the high costs of housing and the impacts of financial abuse as part of family violence, results in many victim survivors being unable to afford to stay in their home without the perpetrator’s additional income. This can lead to victim survivors defaulting on mortgage payments or accruing rent arrears and potentially ending up homeless. Moving into cheaper private rental properties or social housing are rarely options due to the lack of affordable housing and long social housing waitlists. If we want more victim survivors to be able to stay safely in their homes, we need economic reform that increases income support payments to livable levels and increases access to well-paying jobs for women. We also need systemic reform to the housing market and policy to make housing more affordable and we need significant and sustained investment from all levels of government into expanding the volume of social housing stock.

To increase victim survivors’ ability to remain safely in their homes, if they wish to do so, we need a whole of system reform that continues to fund programs like PSI and FSPs and brings a wide range of community services, together with police and courts to work toward victim survivors’ safety and perpetrator accountability. We also need government policies that intentionally and actively seek to reduce the systemic and structural barriers that still prevent many victim survivors from being able to stay in their homes and put them at risk of homelessness.

No single solution on its own will enable a safe at home response. It requires sustained political will at all levels of government and an ability to think of solutions beyond the homelessness and family violence sectors. However, in Victoria, we already have many of the ingredients we need for success: family violence literacy, common risk assessments and information sharing to keep the perpetrator in view are all increasing. Many of the reforms that came out of the Royal Commission into Family Violence have laid the groundwork for us to strengthen safe at home responses. Family violence and homelessness among victim survivors is preventable. Ensuring people experiencing family violence can remain safely in their homes is a critical part of that puzzle.

Footnotes

  1. Department of Families, Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (2008) The Road Home: A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness – A White Paper Ch 3 Turning off the tap p 33 https://apo.org.au/node/2882; The Victorian Government (2016) The Royal Commission into Family Violence Ch 9 A Safe Home http://rcfv.archive.royalcommission.vic.gov.au/Report-Recommendations.html
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Specialist Homelessness Services 2020-21: Victoria https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/7b4924b3-a48b-4150-9fac-7de836dcccfd/VIC_factsheet.pdf.aspx
  3. McAuley Community Services for Women (October 2021) Family Violence, homelessness and ‘safe at home’: Data state of knowledge
  4. Equality Rights Alliance Women’s Voices for Gender Equity (2019) National Plan on Gender Equality: Economic Wellbeing http://www.equalityrightsalliance.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/19703-ERA-Economic-Wellbeing-web.pdf
  5. Wood, D; Griffiths, K; Crowley, T. (2021) The Grattan Institute. Women’s Work: The Impact of the COVID Crisis on Australian Women https://grattan.edu.au/report/womens-work/

Page last updated Tuesday, April 18 2023

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Personal Safety Survey and National Community Attitudes Survey Results 2023

Personal Safety Survey and National Community Attitudes Survey Results 2023

What have we learned and what do we still need to know?

Thursday 30 March 2023

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  • 1 in 4 women has experienced violence by an intimate partner or family member since the age of 15 
  • 1 in 4 women has experienced emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner, since the age of 15 
  • 1 in 5 women has experienced sexual violence, since the age of 15 

Source: Personal Safety Survey, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2023. 

Author: Marina Carman

In March this year, the reports on the latest rounds of two major national surveys about family and gendered violence were released. Safe and Equal’s Executive Director of Primary Prevention, Marina Carman, takes us through the results of both surveys, why they are important, and the data gaps that remain. 

  • The Personal Safety Survey (PSS) is conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. It is based on earlier surveys focussed on women, but has been conducted population-wide in 2005, 2012, 2016 and in 2021-22. A total of 11,905 people completed the latest survey, drawn from a random sample of households. The survey includes people aged 18 and over, with questions about the nature and extent of violence experienced since the age of 15.  
  • The National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS) is conducted by ANROWS. It began in 1987, and is conducted every four years. The 2021 survey included 19,100 people aged 16 and over, through a random selection of phone numbers. The survey includes questions about how participants understand violence against women, their attitudes towards it, what influences their attitudes, as well as attitudes to gender equality and preparedness to intervene. 

Both surveys are conducted periodically (every four years), and use roughly the same questions each time. So they give us a snapshot at particular points, and allow for tracking of broad societal level changes. These surveys are key sources of data to inform reporting against indicators in the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032. 

Why is this important? 

Statistics can be a powerful way to convince people about a social problem, and particularly to argue for the prioritisation of government policy and investment. Numbers that quantify how many people experience family and gendered violence are critical for gaining attention and arguing the need for change. Meanwhile, numbers that tell us about attitudes towards violence are important in tracking progress in changing attitudes that drive violence, and helping us prevent it in the future. 

But numbers only tell part of the story. They give us a greater understanding of family and gendered violence, but we also need to understand how best to use them, and their limitations as well. 

When using and quoting statistics, the best available data will be the most ‘representative’ data. The most representative data is population-level data – and it is expensive and time-consuming to collect and analyse – so it’s extremely valuable. 

What do we know from the PSS? 

In the 2023 release, many measures of experiences of violence against women were stable, but levels of violence by cohabiting partners and sexual harassment were down. The survey was completed during the pandemic when many people were either locked down or working more from home. 

The sample size is significantly smaller (11,905 down from 21,250 in 2016). The ABS notes on methodology suggest that this was due to resource issues and additional requirements introduced to keep participants safe (private interviews). But the sample is still large and representative. 

Any changes downward in prevalence are good but reported levels of violence against women are still high. In addition, other research and data have suggested an increase in family and gender-based violence during the pandemic, so it is currently unclear what these results mean in terms of trends over time. In any case, we need sustained action to drive change home over the long-term. 

What do we know from the NCAS? 

Results from the 2021 survey of the NCAS show that understanding and attitudes regarding violence against women and gender inequality have improved slowly but significantly over time. Improvements in understanding of violence against women and rejection of gender inequality are closely related to rejection of violence against women, though the latter has improved more slowly. 

Attitudinal rejection of sexual violence improved, and there was higher recognition of some forms of technology-facilitated abuse, stalking and behaviours that constitute coercive control. However, rejection of domestic violence has remained unchanged since 2017, and participants were more likely to recognise domestic violence than to understand that it is disproportionately perpetrated by men against women.  

In the latest survey, compared to previous ones, significantly fewer respondents recognised that men are more likely to commit domestic violence and that women are more likely to experience physical harm from domestic violence. This is a key finding in informing the targeting of future messages and interventions. 

While most respondents reported attitudes that reject gender inequality, less progress has been made with certain attitudes held by a minority (i.e. attitudes that undermine women’s leadership, reinforce rigid gender roles in specific areas, limit women’s personal autonomy, normalise sexism and deny that gender inequality is a problem). Similarly, some attitudes that condone violence against women were more likely to be reported by a minority of respondents (i.e. attitudes that minimise the seriousness of violence, shift blame onto victims and survivors, mistrust women’s reports of violence, objectify women and disregard consent). 

Women and non-binary people had higher understanding and rejection of violence against women and rejection of gender inequality than men. Other demographic factors were also examined and there were differences in responses according to gender, age, sexuality, country of birth, formal education, employment, etc. However, the contribution of demographic factors wasn’t found to be the most important thing predicting or shaping the results. 

The NCAS report outlines a detailed set of implications, many of which support the need for primary prevention initiatives aimed at reinforcing the gendered nature of violence, addressing backlash and resistance, and adopting a ‘gender-transformative’ approach to target gender norms and other drivers of violence. The NCAS is particularly useful in providing details about specific attitudes that are slower to change, and where intervention is particularly needed. 

What do we still need to know? 

The PSS doesn’t tell us enough about the experiences of a range of communities. 

  • Household sampling and telephone interviews can limit the inclusion of people without a fixed address or in care settings. 
  • Some communities may be less likely to be fully open about sensitive issues if being interviewed, compared to an anonymous survey (e.g. LGBTIQ+ communities). 
  • This was the first time the PSS asked about sexual orientation. It didn’t ask about gender diversity. It also doesn’t provide reporting of results disaggregated (separated out) by any other demographic factor other than gender. 

In the 2021 NCAS a number of improvements were made, compared to previous surveys: 

  • The survey implemented the 2020 ABS Standard for Sex, Gender, Variations of Sex Characteristics and Sexual Orientation Variables, and provided data from non-binary and gender diverse participants for the first time. 
  • It also introduced new questions about recognition of particular forms of violence targeted at people because of their migrant or disability status, gender experience, sexuality or religion. 
  • Separate reports will be released detailing results from participants by age, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants and people born in a ‘non-main English-speaking country’. 

These population-level surveys are really important – and while they can always be improved – they can’t ask and answer all questions. Surveys can tell us who experiences violence and by whom, what sort of violence and when, as well as how people think about violence at a point in time. But they can’t tell us everything – especially why or what works to change this. We have an evidence base that addresses these questions, and we need a broad and inclusive national research agenda to fill in gaps and build on this further to inform our efforts. 

How do we use statistics? 

Quoting statistics can be powerful. But it needs to be done carefully, so we’re properly acknowledging sources and representing the findings accurately. Overusing or relying too heavily on statistics can also present a negative picture, and this can make the current situation seem inevitable and even accidentally reinforce the ideas we are trying to change.  

To shift people towards change, statistics about violence need to be placed within a story that starts with a positive vision for the future, explains what drives violence against women and other forms of family and gendered violence, and ends with suggestions for action and practical solutions everyone can get behind.  

For more on statistics you can use in your work, see: https://safeandequal.org.au/resources/fast-facts-2022/ 

Author: Marina Carman 

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Latest Personal Safety Survey shows family violence remains a critical issue for Australians

Latest Personal Safety Survey shows family violence remains a critical issue for Australians

Tuesday 21 March 2023

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Safe and Equal welcomes the release of the fourth Personal Safety Survey, which shows Australia still has a long way to go to end family violence with one in four women reporting they have experienced violence from an intimate partner or family member.

The Personal Safety Survey is administered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics every four years and collects detailed information about Australians’ experiences of violence.  

The survey is a critical measure of the prevalence of family and gender-based violence in Australia and contributes to a bigger picture of what these experiences look like. 

By providing key insights into the prevalence of family violence and sexual assault, the Personal Safety Survey plays a crucial role in shaping policy and service approaches to addressing these significant community issues.  

“It allows us to see where and how progress is being made and how experiences of violence change over time,” said Safe and Equal’s Executive Director for Policy, Communications and Engagement Louise Simms. 

The survey provides a benchmark from which goals and targets can be set – including in Australia’s National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children, which relies on this data to help measure indicators of change. 

The most recent survey captured responses from 11,905 adults between March 2021 and May 2022.  This includes experiences of current and previous intimate partner violence, emotional abuse, physical and sexual abuse, stalking, and, for the first time, economic abuse.  

Key findings indicate that since the age of 15 years old: 

  • One in three women (3.1 million) has experienced physical violence 
  • One in five women (2.2 million) has experienced sexual violence 
  • One in four women has experienced intimate partner violence 
  • One in five women has experienced stalking 
  • One in four women has experienced emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner 
  • One in six women has experienced economic abuse 

The survey also shows that an estimated 2.6 million people aged 18 years and over witnessed violence towards a parent or partner before the age of 15. 

While the data shows a decline in some forms of violence and abuse, concerningly rates of physical and sexual violence have largely remained the same since the 2016 survey. 

“While any decrease in the prevalence of family violence is a good thing, we also need to recognise that this data, while crucial, is only part of the picture,” said Ms Simms. 

The Personal Safety Survey does not currently capture information about gender diversity, nor does it provide reporting of results separated out by any other demographic factor other than gender. This means we are unable to provide a deeper analysis of violence against women according to ethnic identity, country of origin, cultural or linguistic background, migration status, or religion. The survey also does not capture specific data on the experiences of First Nations people, LGBTIQA+ people or people with disability. 

Additionally, the data was captured during the pandemic, which may have had an impact on the results that may not be reflected long-term. 

“It’s important to keep this in mind when contextualising this data, as the impacts from COVID-19 may have influenced temporary changes that may not last in the long-run – only time will tell,” said Ms Simms. 

“We saw that during the pandemic, demand for specialist family violence services skyrocketed – and this has not decreased. Services are also grappling with increases in the complexity and severity of violence victim survivors are experiencing.” 

The data helps us to see that across Australia, we still have a long way to go to eliminating family and gender-based violence.  

An integral part of working towards this is to ensure specialist services are adequately funded so they can continue doing the critical work of supporting victim survivors. 

“Under current funding models, services are finding themselves stretched to their limits,” said Ms Simms. 

“Without sustained and ongoing investment, services are unable to respond to the increasing number of women and children who need support.” 

“Family violence, in all its forms, is entirely preventable. But we’ll never get there without continued investment and prioritisation from governments, including support for prevention initiatives that challenge the very community attitudes that drive this violence in the first place.” 

Media contact:

Louise Simms
louisesimms@safeandequal.org.au
0450 081 547

Page last updated Tuesday, March 21 2023

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Safe and Equal urgently requests continued funding for the Equal Remuneration Order

Safe and Equal urgently requests continued funding for the Equal Remuneration Order

Thursday 9 March 2023

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Peak body Safe and Equal, on behalf of the Victorian specialist family violence sector, has today written to Ministers asking them not to cut critical funding which is due to expire in June.

This funding is crucial to enabling community services, including specialist family violence services, to adequately pay their workforces and support people escaping violence and abuse.

In Victoria, the Commonwealth’s decision not to continue Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) funding in 2023-24 will result in a $23.6 million cut to Victorian housing, homelessness and specialist family violence services. Victorian family violence services stand to lose approximately $2 million, which will have a significant impact on the sector’s capacity to support victim survivors.

“Demand for family violence services is at an all-time high, people experiencing abuse are facing complex barriers to accessing support, and the people working in these services are still facing significant burnout and fatigue on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Safe and Equal’s Executive Director of Policy, Communications and Engagement, Louise Simms.

“Reducing our capacity further will only exacerbate the high levels of stress and risk our workforce is under and we’ll see even more people forced to leave the sector.”

The Commonwealth’s decision to cut funding is at odds with the vision that it set out in the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032, as a further reduction in capacity within the family violence sector ultimately negatively affects victim survivors of family violence.

“Our members already report holding extensive waitlists and are forced to exit clients sooner than safe, good practice would warrant, to make room for more people who are desperately waiting for a service,” said Ms Simms.

Extended wait times put victim survivors at increased risk of violence. Family violence can escalate quickly and these demand-management practices can lead to clients losing access to supports while they are still experiencing some level of risk – certainly, well before they are on a path to long-term recovery. This only increases the likelihood that they will require support again in the future.

The effects these cuts will have on the homelessness sector more broadly will further negatively impact victim survivors, as many people escaping family violence end up needing access to safe and affordable housing.

“We know that the homelessness sector is also under immense pressure at a time when housing costs and the costs of living are driving more people into homelessness and poverty. This funding cut will exacerbate homelessness among victim survivors of family violence, predominately women and children,” said Ms Simms.

The ERO was put in place to mitigate the gendered pay disparity experienced by female dominated, underpaid workforces in the community services sector, and particularly the specialist family violence sector. Cutting ERO funding directly undermines its original intention and will further disadvantage working women.

Safe and Equal is calling for a commitment to continue ERO supplementation for another year. This funding is critical for our sector and, most importantly, the people we support to be safe.

 

Media contact:

Louise Simms
louisesimms@safeandequal.org.au
0450 081 547

Page last updated Thursday, March 9 2023

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Family Law Council Consultation Submission Summary

Family Law Council Consultation Submission Summary

9 March 2023

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Safe and Equal recently responded to an online Family Law Council consultation on the experiences of children and young people moving thorough the Australian family law system.

The Family Law Council consultation sought to understand:

  1. The extent to which the family law system upholds the rights of children and young people under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  2. Whether or not particular parts of the family law system manage the participation of children and young people effectively.
  3. What, if any, changes would improve the way the family law system upholds the rights of children and young people.

Safe and Equal’s response was informed by consultation with member organisations, particularly Djirra, to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific issues were included. The points raised in our response reflect both Safe and Equal and Djirra’s concerns about the family law system, as well as those of other member organisations and stakeholders.

Based on feedback from victim survivors, our member services and other allied organisations, Safe and Equal does not believe that the Australian family law system meets its obligations and upholds the rights of children and young people under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Australian family law system does not provide space and mechanisms for children’s voices to be heard and considered in decision making processes.

The prevalence of family violence in family court proceedings has a major impact on children. Children and young people are victim survivors of family violence in their own right and can experience family violence directly or indirectly. Family law processes and decisions that expose children to a perpetrator of family violence, even if the violence has not been directly perpetrated against them, can have devastating impacts for children and their welfare. Therefore, decisions made about a child’s future must be safe and based upon family violence expertise and should afford substantially more weight to the wishes and feelings of children than current practice.

Page last updated Thursday, March 9 2023

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‘Cracking the code’ to end family and gender-based violence

‘Cracking the code’ to end family and gender-based violence

Wednesday 8 March 2023

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This day and every day, we all deserve to feel safe, included and equal.  

This International Women’s Day, we are moving beyond morning teas to spotlight the work going on across the year to bring the gendered issues that women experience to light.  

Organisations from across Victoria are working hard to build a birds-eye view of the challenges facing both people experiencing violence and the services that support them. By building evidence and our understanding, we can find and promote inclusive, sustainable solutions to modern issues and build a safe and equal future for all. 

Today we want to spotlight some of the research being done in Victoria to ‘crack the code’ to end family and gender-based violence: 

This is the work going on across the state. On an individual level, there are ways that we can help to build the bigger picture for our community and workplace decision-makers: 

  • Leveraging the research above to inform conversations and outcomes in your workplace 
  • Funding organisations to continue this important work  
  • Ensuring that emerging research captures diverse experiences 

Learn more and get involved with UN Women Australia’s #IWD2023 campaign here: https://unwomen.org.au/get-involved/international-womens-day/ 

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2023 State Budget Submission

2023 State Budget Submission

20 February 2023

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Safe and Equal calls for continued investment, collaboration and action for the specialist family violence services and primary prevention sectors in the 2023 State Budget.

The foundations have been laid for a system where every person experiencing or at risk of family violence can access the support they need when they need it. But women are still waiting too long for the help they urgently need, families are still sleeping in unsafe motels, the specialist workforce is burning out, and the system is continuing to fail people and communities.

Victoria has led the way in redesigning responses to family violence, and we need continued investment to keep building a system that works, together.

It is only through continued investment that the Victorian Government can realise the ambitious vision set by the Royal Commission into Family Violence. In particular, we are calling for a focus in this year’s State Budget on:

  1. Increasing sustainable funding for the specialist family violence sector to meet demand
  2. Growing, developing, and retaining specialist workforces
  3. Eliminating the impossible ‘choice’ between violence and homelessness
  4. Addressing key gaps and barriers in the expanding family violence system
  5. Investing meaningfully into primary prevention.

We all want to see Victoria continue to create a family violence system which gives victim survivors a voice, a home, and a timely and clear pathway to recovery.

Our work together is not done. We call on the Victorian Government to invest in the areas we have highlighted throughout this submission. Through continued investment, collaboration and action, we can create a world where family and gender-based violence does not exist.

Page last updated Monday, February 20 2023

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Midsumma Carnival 2023

Midsumma Carnival 2023

Thursday 19 February 2023

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Safe and Equal and Elizabeth Morgan House are excited to partner for this year’s Midsumma Carnival, working together to raise awareness and increase safety and support for all people who may be experiencing family violence. 

We’re co-hosting a culturally safe and affirming space at Carnival, where people can relax, yarn and learn more about inclusive family violence support services for LGBTIQA+ and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.  

What is family violence?

Family violence is when your partner, ex, carer, family member or someone you’re in a ‘family-like’ relationship with uses threatening, controlling or violent behaviour that makes you scared for your safety and wellbeing. 

Family violence experienced by LGBTIQA+ people can include a range of verbal, emotional, psychological, financial, physical, and sexual abuse, intimidation and threats. People use a wide range of abusive behaviours to maintain power and control in relationships. No matter what form it takes, family violence is never acceptable. 

Family violence occurs in all communities

Everybody deserves to feel safe and respected at home and in their relationships. However in Australia, LGBTIQA+ people are reported to experience family violence at similar, if not greater rates than those in heterosexual relationships. 

Because of biphobia, homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism and heteronormativity, there are different risks and barriers that may stop LGBTIQA+ couples, parents and young people from accessing support for family violence. Learn more about family violence tactics and barriers to support for LGBTIQA+ communities here.  

This Midsumma Carnival and beyond, we can make a difference by recognising and celebrating LGBTIQA+ people, relationships and families. We all deserve to feel safe at home.  

LGBTIQA+ people have a right to safety from family violence

If you’re a LGBTIQA+ person experiencing family violence, you are not alone. You can access support from these services:

Switchboard – QLIFE
Phone counselling for the LGBTIQA+ community between 3 pm to midnight every night.
1800 184 527

Victoria Police LGBTI Liaison Officers
LGBTI Liaison Officers (also known as GLLOs) are located at police stations throughout the state. They have been provided with extra training to support members of the LGBTIQA+ community.
Call 03 9247 6944 to find out your closest LGBTI Liaison Officer.

Suicide Call Back Service
24-hour telephone counselling to anyone who is feeling suicidal or anyone who is supporting someone who is feeling suicidal
1300 659 467

Lifeline
24-hour telephone counselling to anyone who is in crisis or feeling suicidal.
13 11 14

Safe Steps
24-hour family violence response line for anyone.
1800 015 188

Sexual Assault Crisis Line
24-hour telephone crisis counselling service for people who have experienced both past and recent sexual assault.
1800 806 292

DirectLine
24-hour drug and alcohol counselling and referral service
1800 888 236

About Midsumma Festival

Midsumma is Australia’s premier queer arts and cultural organisation, bringing together a diverse mix of LGBTQIA+ artists, performers, communities and audiences.

Their primary event, Midsumma Festival, runs over 22 days in Melbourne’s summer (January/February) each year with an explosion of queer events that centre around hidden and mainstream queer culture, involving local, interstate, and international artists. Visit the Midsumma website for the 2023 program.

Midsumma Festival 2023

About Midsumma Carnival

Midsumma Carnival is an iconic outdoor celebration that has become one of the biggest highlights in the LGBTIQA+ annual calendar. The event provides a fitting opening to a three-week Festival each year. In itself, Carnival is a huge single-day event running from 11am until 10pm in Alexandra Gardens in Melbourne’s CBD, with a massive set up and overall coordination required for delivery each year. Midsumma Carnival attracts a broad attendance across age ranges and demographics, truly celebrating a day of inclusion and diversity in all its forms. This popular annual event is free to the public. For more info, check out the Midsumma website. 

Download our Midsumma Carnival posters

'Family Violence Occurs in All Communities' Midsumma Poster
LGBTIQA+ people have a right to safety from family violence A3 poster

Thorne Harbour Health and the Zoe Belle Gender Collective developed two posters celebrating our LGBTISBQA and queer First Nations communities. Visit their website to download the posters.

Page last updated Thursday, January 19 2023

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Safe and Equal Member Forum 2022 Wrap-Up

Safe and Equal Member Forum 2022 Wrap-Up

Thursday 15 December 2022

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Safe and Equal’s Member Forum was held both in person (for the first time in three years!) and virtually across two jam-packed days, from 27-28 September 2022. 

The Member Forum is an annual opportunity for our sector to come together and consider ‘where to from here?’ – to step back, reflect, listen, and set the vision we want to see for the future of our sector. This year’s forum gave members the chance to centre lived experience and co-production approaches as we explored key priorities for the next 12 months and beyond. 

Day One
Tuesday 27 September

Following an opening address from the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence Ros Spence, we were joined by Commissioner Sue-Anne Hunter, Dr Simone Gristwood and Commissioner Meena Singh for a frank and deeply engaging conversation on how we can better centre First Nations women’s voices in mainstream family violence services. 

“Every single Aboriginal woman who has died at the hands of violence deserves to have her name heard.” 

– Commissioner Sue-Anne Hunter 

The panel discussion focused on four interconnected themes: cultural safety, self-determination, power shifting and sharing, and allyship. Panellists spoke to the importance of understanding more broadly the lack of cultural safety experienced by Aboriginal people in Australia, and how acknowledging the power non-Aboriginal people hold in all systems and spaces is key to shifting power imbalances.  

Of particular significance was the panel’s discussion of the term ‘vulnerability,’ and that the vulnerability and risk experienced by Aboriginal women is a product of being excluded and marginalised by the broader white Australian system. This system and our roles within it must be deeply understood and acknowledged in order to be challenged and dismantled. 

“Being an ally means sitting with the discomfort, sitting in the silence, reflecting and thinking why you want to be in this space…we don’t need white saviours, we need people to give up space for us.” 

– Commissioner Meena Singh 

The powerful conversations that arose from this session carried us into the first in-person workshop, where we heard from members about the changes we can make as individuals or within our organisations to support tangible shifts in the way we approach cultural safety, self-determination and allyship with First Nations people. 

Some key feedback that emerged from these discussions included: 

  • Challenging the way we prioritise white knowledge; for example, Rec 209 
  • Avoiding performative or habitual actions; taking the time to explore deeper learning and understanding 
  • Increasing resources in this space – investing time and money 
  • Challenging racist structures within the workplace; for example, observing January 26 as a day of mourning with the option to work on that day 
  • Shifting power by eliminating pre-determined ideas of outcomes or what an interaction might look like. 

These and other learnings generated from these foundational discussions will inform the peak’s ongoing advocacy agenda, as well as our partnership with Djirra. 

In the afternoon, the focus shifted to workforce sustainability. The first panel discussion was led by Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha on how we can retain expertise and continually build the capacity of our workforce in an ever-changing reform environment. 

Panellists Emma Catford, Emma King and Camille Kingston discussed the difficulties the specialist family violence workforce has faced, particularly following the pandemic. With low unemployment rates and competition for workers across the broader community sector, the challenge lies in maintaining a steady flow of people entering the specialist family violence workforce, as well as enhancing the capabilities of those who are already working within it.  

Despite these challenges, there is work being done in this space to strengthen our workforce. The panel spoke to several programs and campaigns led by government, including the Jobs Guarantee Program and the Jobs That Matter campaign. Panellists also discussed the importance of data, and using an evidence base to understand the workforce needs. 

This was followed by a workshop led by Safe and Equal’s Sector Development Unit, who facilitated a member-guided conversation on workforce challenges and ideas for future-focused solutions. Feedback included issues around pay and conditions, as well as trying to encourage school-leavers to engage in tertiary social work studies. Opportunities for solutions discussed by members included sector-wide graduate programs, paid internships, and leadership training. 

Day Two
Wednesday 28 September

Data was the focus throughout the morning of day two, with presentations on both the Measuring Family Violence Services Demand Project and Safe and Equal’s draft Client Outcomes Framework.  

We heard from member services and survivor advocates as part of a panel discussion on the significance of both projects. Key themes included the incredible significance of data as a whole-of-picture story and a way to shift the conversation from a focus on outputs to outcomes, as well as the importance of collecting feedback from the often-invisible voices of children and young people. 

“There’s a real person behind data points. It’s not just data – these are people.” 

– Mishka*, Survivor Advocate 

Following this, attendees engaged in several roundtable discussions focused on next steps in delivering a client outcomes measurement framework. Some of the feedback from these conversations included the importance of testing the framework with diverse voices including LGBTIQA+ service users, remunerating victim survivors for their time and expertise, and ensuring the framework can be implemented by services under considerable strain and demand. 

After lunch we were joined by Joe Ball and Libby Jamieson from Switchboard to discuss trans and gender diverse inclusion in family violence services. Joe and Libby gave a powerful presentation on the journey of inclusion, with Joe referring to it as “a joint project for our bodies, our lives and our rights to decide.” 

“How are you signalling your commitment to inclusion in the community, so people will come?” 

–  Joe Ball 

Following their presentation, four questions were provided for group discussion, with key feedback from members including: 

  • Shifting language traditionally used in the sector; i.e. ‘women’s refuge’ 
  • Advocating for increased funding to address inclusivity, but also looking at what can be done in the current environment 
  • The need for increased demand data for LGBTIQA+ communities 
  • Ensuring the fear of ‘getting it perfect’ doesn’t stop us from trying, as doing nothing has significant consequences for those experiencing violence who need support. 

“If services aren’t safe, people won’t look to the specialist family violence sector for a response.”  

– Libby Jamieson 

We finished the day exploring how work in the response sector can be amplified and supported by prevention efforts, featuring a conversation with Respect Vic CEO Emily Maguire and followed by roundtable discussions. These conversations produced some fruitful feedback on how the response sector can forge a deeper understanding of the different types of prevention, the complexity of prevention work in the Orange Door model, and how education and training is key to allow practitioners to transition between sectors. 

Virtual Sessions

In addition to the in-person presentations and workshops, a total of nine online sessions ran concurrently and were available to virtual attendees across both days of the forum. These sessions included: 

  • The Family Violence Media and Communications Network Meeting 
  • Case Management Program Requirements 
  • Managing Resistance to Gender Equality 
  • Key learnings from the 8th National Brain Injury Conference 
  • Safe and Equal Member Consultation 
  • Specialist Family Violence Sector Communities of Practice 
  • Rural and Regional Practitioner Session 
  • Health, Safety, and Wellbeing in the Family Violence Sector 
  • Introduction to Primary Prevention 

As was acknowledged throughout the forum, the conversations generated from each session are ongoing, with all feedback informing future activity at Safe and Equal.  

We’d like to say a huge thank you to all guest speakers and to everybody who attended both in-person and online, for sharing your expertise and enthusiasm. We hope you walked away from the forum feeling invigorated and excited for the future of our sector, and the potential for safer and more just outcomes for all victim survivors of family and gender-based violence. The 2023 Member Forum will be here before we know it, and we look forward to continuing these conversations and embarking upon new ones. 

Page last updated Thursday, December 15 2022

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Employment White Paper Response

Employment White Paper Response

7 December 2022

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This submission will focus on the future of work, and the implications of structural change, for the care economy, specifically the specialist family violence sector, as well as job security, pay equity and equal opportunities for women.

Safe and Equal welcomes the focus of the White Paper on a sustainable care industry alongside women’s economic participation, experiences of the labour market and the challenges of ensuring women have equal opportunities and equal pay. There are two foremost components to this submission: the first is, the financial policy approaches required for a sustainable and specialised family violence workforce; and the second is, economic strategies required to tackle issues flowing from the gendered nature of the specialist family violence workforce.

Page last updated Wednesday, December 7 2022

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PiP Member Spotlight: Starlady from Zoe Belle Gender Collective

PiP Member Spotlight: Starlady from Zoe Belle Gender Collective

Friday 2 December 2022

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This month, we spoke to Starlady, Program Manager from the Zoe Belle Gender Collective, about her vital work in training, educating and consulting the family violence and primary prevention sectors on LGBTIQA+ inclusive service provision.

What is your professional background? How did it lead you to prevention work?  

I’ve worked within the LGBTIQA+ sector for the last 10 years delivering training, education, and consultation on inclusive service provision and advocating for LGBTIQA+ rights, especially trans and gender-diverse rights. Over the last few years, we’ve seen significant shifts within the prevention of violence sector in developing LGBTIQA+ cultural competency and inclusion. Our understanding of the intersection of drivers of violence against women and LGBTIQA+ people has significantly developed and there are growing partnerships between our sectors.

The Zoe Belle Gender Collective (ZBGC) has been a part of this shift through our relationship with Rainbow Health Australia who have both consistently consulted with us in the development of resources, such as Pride In Prevention, but also supported our organisation to develop our capacity to work within a prevention framework.

When did you become passionate about gender equality? 

Addressing transphobia, biphobia and homophobia has always been a part of my life. So much of the violence I’ve experienced across my life has consistently been perpetrated by cis men. However, when I started dating cis men after affirming my gender identity as a trans woman/feminine person I experienced significant objectification, fetishisation, and sexual exploitation/violence.

I quickly learned that I wasn’t alone in my experience and that many of the trans women/feminine people around me who dated cis men had very similar experiences. In discussing the supports and resources available we felt that we were being left behind. We didn’t see ourselves reflected in the campaigns addressing gender-based violence, or feel that there was an understanding of the unique issues we faced.

Tell us a bit about what you’re working on now: 

I’m leading a project called Transfemme – it’s both a campaign and website aimed at promoting healthier relationships between trans women/trans feminine people and cis men. The content of the website is drawn from 30 confidential interviews I conducted in mid-2021 and covers topics such as the fetishisation and objectification of trans women/feminine people, navigating consent and pleasure, passing and beauty myths, “coming out” to family and friends, the impacts of gender stereotypes and rigid gender roles, and the impacts of shame and stigma on cis men.

Although the website is targeted towards trans women and cis men we’re hoping in the next year to create new content aimed at their family and friends, noting that transphobia is a driver of violence.

Transfemme Posters

What skills do you use in your role? 

Community development is central to my work, and building and maintaining direct relationships with both community and service providers is essential. We have an advisory group of both trans women/feminine people and cis men that drives Transfemme; in particular, there’s a collective of trans women of color who are very talented advocates.

Professionally we’re often talking about platforming people with lived experience, but we want to support the community to develop their skills and ensure their safety and wellbeing in the process. That takes time, resources and commitment. Community support, and equally our advisory groups invaluable knowledge and expertise, are central to maintaining high-quality and culturally appropriate resources and messaging.

What do you like about working in primary prevention? What drew you here? 

It’s very personal. I want access to healthy relationships like any other person in our society. Unfortunately, transphobia, stigma, and shame impact my relationships. Many of my intimate relationships are secret and hidden. Working in prevention helps me take back my power and gives me hope for the future, not just for myself but also for my community and the people I care for.

What have you found useful in the work that Safe and Equal do to support prevention workers?  

I’ve found the resources that support practitioners in understanding and responding to LGBTIQA+ people’s experiences of family violence incredibly helpful. I often hand out their tip sheet “Top tips for inclusive responses to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Gender Diverse, Intersex, Queer and Asexual (LGBTIQA+) People experiencing family violence” in our training sessions. There are significant missing gaps within resources to respond to LGBTIQA+ people’s experiences of family violence, and I appreciate the continuing efforts of Safe & Equal in being committed to addressing these gaps in their conferences and events.

My favorite resource we developed with Safe and Equal and Rainbow Door was a webinar talking about our website Transfemme and addressing cis men’s violence against trans women/feminine people. In particular, Safe and Equal prioritised the voices of trans women of colour and gave our team a platform to talk about our unique experiences.

Watch the webinar below and download the PowerPoint slides here.

What advice do you have for someone new to the PVAW sector?  

Read Transfemme and Pride In Prevention and reflect upon how trans women fit into gender equity frameworks. Collaborate and develop relationships with trans and gender-diverse organisations. Seek secondary consultation, training, or representatives from organisations such as the ZBGC.

Many of the drivers of violence against trans women/feminine people are the same as the drivers of violence against cis women. Our movements intersect, and we can learn from and support one another in our journey to drive social change.

Whose work do you admire?  

The Rainbow Health Australia team because of their ongoing commitment to support the work of Transfemme, their whole team really went out of their way to ensure our team could thrive in our advocacy. It was a real pleasure to work with people who treated us with the professional respect we deserved, were open to critical feedback and creating innovative solutions.

For more information about the Zoe Belle Gender Collective and Transfemme, contact Starlady here

Page last updated Thursday, December 1 2022

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Resources for your 16 Days of Activism 2022

Resources for your
16 Days of Activism 2022

Friday 25 November 2022

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The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual campaign that begins on 25 November and runs until International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

This year, we’re partnering with Respect Victoria to support local community engagement with the 16 Days of Activism ‘Respect Women: Call It Out (Respect Is)’ statewide campaign. We’ve been working with councils and statewide community health organisations around Victoria, and we look forward to sharing updates on their inspiring grassroots initiatives through our social media channels.

Connect with us here:

For each of the 16 Days, we’ll also be sharing a diverse range of resources from local, national, and international organisations working to eliminate family and gender-based violence. These are summarised below. We hope these resources support you in your learning and activism.

Friday 25 November - International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
Saturday 26 November - Economic Abuse Awareness Day
Check out WIRE’s Respectful Relationships & Money Conversation Kit to learn how to talk about money with partners and family members.

If you or someone you know might be experiencing this kind of abuse, what can I do?

Visit Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand’s Financial Independence Hub – a free, confidential, personalised service supporting people previously impacted by financial abuse across Australia.

Sunday 27 November - Women and gender-diverse people in leadership
Check out these leadership development opportunities for women and girls: 

Monday 28 November - Street harassment

Tuesday 29 November - Media reporting on gender-based violence

Wednesday 30 November - Consent

Thursday 1 December - Porn and gender-based violence

Friday 2 December - Aboriginal Women's Lives Matter
How can I be a better ally? 

Take time to learn about and reflect on First Nations history and the impacts of colonialism on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

If you are an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person experiencing family violence, contact these services in Victoria: 

Djirra
1800 105 303
Mon-Fri, 9am-10 pm

Elizabeth Morgan House
1800 364 297
24/7

Visit the Safe and Equal’s service directory for more Victorian family violence services.

Sunday 4 December - Equality and respect in sports

Monday 5 December - Family violence and trans and gender diverse people

  • Check out Transfemme, a website with stories, tips and resources to support healthier relationships between trans women and men.

Tuesday 6 December - Elder Abuse
If you or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse, there is support available.  

You can call Seniors Rights Victoria on their confidential helpline – 1300 368 821. 

You can also visit Compass (www.compass.info), which is a website dedicated to providing information and resources on elder abuse across Australia. 

Remember – if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call triple zero (000). 

Want to learn more?

Check out our campaign resources and upcoming events for the 16 Days of Activism campaign here.

Page last updated Thursday, November 24 2022

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Meet our Fast Track response course graduate, Kerry

Meet our Fast Track response course graduate, Kerry

Thursday 10 November 2022

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We recently spoke to Kerry, a senior specialist supervisory family violence practitioner from Berry Street, about her experiences with the response stream of the Fast Track program.

About Kerry

When Kerry joined Fast Track, she had been in a senior specialist supervisory family violence practitioner role with Berry Street, the Northern Specialist Family Violence Service in Melbourne, for about two years. Before this she had worked for many years as a specialist family violence practitioner for various organisations, in pilot projects, and in integrated family services and residential care, after completing a Diploma in Community Welfare.

Prior to completing Fast Track, Kerry progressed into a new role at Berry Street as Family Violence and Disability Practice Leader for the North Eastern Melbourne Area (NEMA). In this role, she works with the specialist family violence and sexual assault sector to help them tailor responses to the needs of people with disabilities. It includes capacity and capability building of practitioners regarding the intersect between family violence and disability, and supporting the development and implementation of Disability Action Plans. Kerry highlights this new role has provided the “opportunity to position myself in way that I can provide a disability lens” in the family violence sector, “ensuring I represent the voice of victim survivors with disability” in a variety of forums.

Planning strategically and building connections for positive change

Kerry credits some of the skills and knowledge she learned at Fast Track with helping her obtain her new role and succeed in it. “When you work as a specialist family violence practitioner, you are dealing with risk and safety and client facing work. You don’t have the opportunity to get involved in things like submitting a tender, developing programs etc. So, when I applied for this role, I was able explain what I would implement into the program, as I had just learned about them!”, she explains. Attending Fast Track and talking with other participants and mentors also gave her confidence to apply for this new opportunity. The course “helped me realise that actually I have a lot of experience that is valuable in this field. Not just family violence specific skills, but partnerships, all other transferrable skills that we spoke about in Fast Track”, she observes.

Kerry is using a variety of learnings from Fast Track in her new role. She found Fast Track helped her to reach out to a wide range of people proactively and build connections between the family violence and disability sectors. “That’s something I got from Fast Track. Marketing my role and the initiative, reaching out to people proactively”, she explains, “And it’s been successful because other professionals will say ‘Oh you’re Kerry!’ and now people are reaching out to me – from the disability sector. So that is really positive”.

Kerry is finding her new role is “a role where you can really see some changes happening – in both sectors … It’s program level and organisational level, so the changes that are being implemented are long-lasting changes”. For example, she has been able to collect and co-ordinate resources that integrate a family violence and disability lens that weren’t readily available before and share these widely through monthly bulletins. She’s excited to see that her bulletins are being forwarded to additional stakeholders who are then reaching out to her to discuss the content: “It’s really getting out there beyond what I’m doing. It’s reaching a lot of people in the sector, it’s just fantastic”. She has seen organisations taking steps to implement Disability Action Plans because of the resources and support she has provided, and she has created new networks in the family violence and disability sectors. “The feedback is that some organisations did not know each other existed, and they are now in touch”.

Kerry’s manager, Kelly, agrees that her work is having a broader impact. “Kerry’s drive and advocacy around the inclusion of people with disabilities and about the intersection of disability and family violence has raised a lot of awareness within our leadership and broader team”. Kelly also highlighted that Kerry is very proactive in creating opportunities for the family violence and sexual assault workforces to continue to improve their frameworks relating to disability, access and inclusion.  Kerry takes multiple approaches in this way, including holding events for the staffing group, and generating highly relevant information about intersections with disability.

Kerry’s new role involved developing a project plan to guide her work, which she says “was a totally new concept for me, I would have had no idea! But I could use the template from Fast Track to guide me in developing mine”. She used what she learnt at Fast Track to create a program logic model to help her think about: “What do I want to achieve short-term, medium-term, what are my long-term goals and how am I going to reach them? I’ve never had a role like that, but doing the task for Fast Track as my final assessment meant I knew how to go about that.”

Manager Kelly has also noticed Kerry’s increased knowledge about how to advance ideas, projects or plans, and greater confidence to progress things that can benefit her team or the sector. Kelly has seen Fast Track strengthen Kerry’s strategic thinking, helping her shape initiatives in ways that make them more likely to be accepted at higher levels of the organisation. For example, Kerry is supporting the Family Violence Leadership Team to create an Access and Inclusion Action Plan for people with disability, including Berry Street staff and clients “She is a real driver, which is what we need in this role – but she’s also very collaborative and seeks to invite participation from the workforce and consider the sustainability of this work. It’s a fantastic combination”.

Fast Track also highlighted for Kerry the importance of data and evidence around unmet needs, for example, when making a case for funding. This meant she could see in her new role that data about disability wasn’t being adequately captured by many family violence services – feedback she has been able to provide to working groups she is involved in.

Kerry found the mentoring through Fast Track to be a great opportunity. She was paired at her request with a mentor from her own workplace. She found this beneficial as it meant she had one-on-one time with a senior person from her organisation who, ordinarily, she would not have asked to spend this time with. It also meant her mentor could help her develop work more likely to be adopted by her organisation: “So this gave me the opportunity to book 3 hours of [the mentor’s] time and sit with her and work on this. That opportunity is precious, you just don’t get that”.

Continuing to grow

Whilst Kerry still loves case management work, she appreciates how Fast Track and this new role have given her the opportunity to think more strategically and develop new ideas she wouldn’t have had time to do while focused on case management. “I can utilise time for reflection and to think about developing new ideas to support my work. Because the work is not crisis driven, it’s given me the opportunity to think differently, I appreciate that.”

Fast Track has helped Kerry have the confidence and motivation to seek out further learning opportunities: “I feel like I’ve had so much growth … I want to keep developing and growing like this”. She was successful in a scholarship application to attend a three-day conference and she is currently attending a series of leadership workshops. She is considering doing an Advanced Diploma in Community Sector Management. Kerry explained that Fast Track and her subsequent work experience gave her “the confidence to put myself out there”, to apply for new opportunities and introduce herself to new contacts.

Overall, Kerry is strongly supportive of more people in her sector being able to attend Fast Track: “It is a hugely beneficial program. I hope funding is continued, to allow others the opportunity to participate”. Her manager, Kelly, agrees Fast Track is valuable for developing emerging leaders in the family violence sector: “Fast Track is a really important growth and retention opportunity to support emerging leaders, a critical tier of our expanding workforce. Yes, it’s benefited Kerry, but it’s also benefited our service and other services within the North East Metropolitan region”.

Applications for the Fast Track response course are now open, closing 17 January 2023. Learn more and apply here.

Page last updated Thursday, November 10 2022

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Meet our Fast Track prevention course graduate, Shweta

Meet our Fast Track prevention course graduate, Shweta

Thursday 10 November 2022

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We recently spoke to Shweta, a Health Outreach Team Leader from GenWest, about her experiences with the primary prevention stream of the Fast Track program.

About Shweta

Shweta is a Team Leader for Health Outreach with GenWest, a family violence support service helping people in Melbourne’s west. She works specifically with migrant and refugee communities. Her main role is leading a team that provides bi-lingual health education, with a focus on gender equity, women’s health promotion and primary prevention of violence.

Family violence prevention is a newer area of work for Shweta. She notes: “I had zero previous experience in this industry! I was born in India, and my professional qualifications are in marketing and communications. All my working life there I was in film and television.” After migrating from India, Shweta worked in arts marketing in Australia and communications in Indonesia.

While in Indonesia Shweta worked closely with refugees, including fundraising and education work for refugee-led organisations, and setting up a community centre for refugee women. Shweta’s experience working with refugees, and her experience of migrating to Australia, inspired her to apply for a role with GenWest supporting migrant and refugee communities. She was particularly excited to see a role seeking people who spoke her language, Hindi.

Shweta saw Fast Track advertised and asked GenWest if she could take part. She explains:

“I had the lived experience, and the leadership experience, but the gap was knowledge of family and gender-based violence. The opportunity to work at GenWest opened a whole new career pathway, and the training I received as part of my role armed me with critical sector insight and a feminist and intersectional approach to prevention. The Fast Track program came at a very opportune time for me to accelerate and augment my understanding and knowledge of this work.”

Sector knowledge and program planning for inclusive prevention

Fast Track helped Shweta gain an inside understanding of the family violence sector, including primary prevention. She found that the academic language and acronyms the sector use can be a major barrier for people who are new, particularly for people not from Australia. She explains: “First, understanding the language – that was really helpful. I also really loved understanding the frameworks, the drivers of violence and the framework that sits under that here in Australia, and the historical perspective”. She noted: “It gave me a huge sense of confidence in terms of industry knowledge”.

Shweta chose a male Fast Track mentor, which helped her learn about what’s happening in the sector around engaging with men. She found this very interesting and useful to complement her work with women from diverse cultures. “We had some really interesting conversations, as I come from a very patriarchal society … learning about the work being done in the sector around engaging with men was especially important for me”, she explains. “My mentor was extremely accessible and I will call on him again in the future.”

Shweta’s manager, Rosie, also observed how Fast Track helped Shweta build her confidence and understand how she can use her existing skills in her work to address the gendered drivers of violence in multicultural communities. She notes Shweta now has: “A greater ability to have a clear vision for her own work. She is very ambitious – both for her own career, but also what she can envision doing for the community”.

Fast Track helped Shweta significantly improve her understanding of project management. She enjoyed learning about program logic models particularly: “I had no idea what this is!” she explains, “It’s not really used in the industry I came from. That was really helpful, that structure … I’m really using what I started developing there”. Shweta was on a one-year contract initially, but her role has now been extended for two further years due to additional funding. She is using what she learned at Fast Track with her manager, Rosie, to help plan the next stages of the project. Rosie is finding Shweta’s enhanced confidence in relation to project management and planning really valuable as they create a new program together, as Shweta can now take on activities like drafting project plans and logic models.

Expanding her impact

Shweta’s manager Rosie highlights that Shweta’s enhanced confidence and capabilities after doing Fast Track are having a positive impact more widely at GenWest: “We are benefitting from her new energy and drive, especially post-lockdowns. I have benefited from her doing that course so much, she’s so enthused and confident and capable”.

Rosie noticed that Shweta is also sharing what she learned by supporting her own team to build their project management skills. Rosie explained: “So she’s savvy with her efforts, and the team is purposeful about how they are investing their resources and efforts, why they are doing things a certain way. And I am sure that has directly benefitted the community”.

Rosie also describes how Shweta has been able to apply what she learned at Fast Track about primary prevention frameworks to help culturally and linguistically diverse communities: “She has really taken those, and translated those in ways that she needed to, to apply in communities that are not Western … It’s a reminder of the opportunity that comes from something like Fast Track – this is exactly what we want to see, she is a real powerhouse!”

Shweta now describes logic models as “a great framework for my thinking”, which have helped her plan the next two years of her work at GenWest more strategically.

“The learnings from Fast Track have provided me with the language and structure to map out the direction in which we will expand the health promotion work at GenWest for migrant and refugee women”.

A future in prevention

Shweta is now working on a leadership development plan for herself and her team. Regarding her own career, she says: “Longer term, I see myself still working in prevention, definitely with migrant and refugee women”. After her current health outreach project, she would love to set up a project to help educate CALD women about gender and sexuality, topics she notes are rarely discussed in some cultures.

Overall, Shweta describes Fast Track as “an invaluable exercise” for increasing her knowledge about the family violence sector in Australia. “I feel like an insider and not an imposter anymore!” she exclaims. She observes that “the language we use in this industry is really hard. It’s such a barrier, it’s so academic … Some people who were on the course with me who are not as familiar with the space, for them it was great. And even some people who do work in the sector, there was still language they weren’t familiar with too!” She found that the facilitator was inspiring, the mentoring was excellent, and she enjoyed networking with the other participants on the course. Rosie also agrees that Fast Track is a valuable program for the sector, and hopes that GenWest can put forward other staff members to participate in the future.

Applications for the Fast Track prevention course will open in 2023. Learn more and join the waitlist here.

Page last updated Thursday, November 10 2022

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Safe and Equal’s response to the Federal Budget October 2022

Safe and Equal’s response to the Federal Budget October 2022

Friday 4 November 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the Albanese government’s first budget and acknowledges the tough financial circumstances in which it is being delivered.

This budget is an important first step towards implementing the new National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children. The Federal Government has committed $1.7 billion over 6 years towards women’s safety initiatives, including: 

  • $1.3B dedicated to response initiatives, including $39.6M to meet increased demand for the Escaping Violence Payment and $12.6M for a pilot program to assist victim survivors of family violence on temporary visas 
  • $169.4M over 4 years from 2022-23 (and $55.4M per year ongoing) to provide an additional 500 frontline family violence workers across Australia 
  • $13.4M over 4 years from 2022-23 to develop a 10-year National Housing and Homelessness Plan 
  • The establishment of a $10B Housing Australia Future Fund, including $100M for crisis and transitional housing options for women and children fleeing violence 
  • $225.2M in funding for primary prevention activities focused on stopping violence family and gendered violence from occurring in the first place 

While a much-needed increase in investment into family violence response and prevention initiatives is welcomed, we know that what’s been announced in this budget is not enough to achieve the agenda of the National Plan.  

Critical gaps remain in funding for areas of frontline service delivery and housing, which must be addressed if we are to achieve the National Plan’s ambitious goal of eliminating family violence in a generation. 

This includes increasing investment into meaningfully quantifying what funding is needed to deliver sustainable services and meet national demand for family violence support. It also involves implementing mechanisms to ensure funding provided enables long-term employment contracts for family violence workers and pay at a level commensurate with the specialist skills and qualifications required. 

We need more sophisticated data collection and analysis, to build a whole of system view and move towards measuring and improving outcomes for survivors.  

Additional investment is also critical to meet the crisis and long-term housing needs of all victim survivors, including women on temporary visas and other priority cohorts who suffer some of the worst housing outcomes.  

This budget is a good starting point for investment into long-term primary prevention efforts. Achieving generational change to prevent and ultimately end family and gender-based violence is going require investment from all levels of government to match the scope and scale of work – and the expertise needed to do this over time. 

Eliminating this violence is possible, and it will take sustained and purposeful investment across a range of initiatives. The first Action Plan associated with the new National Plan, and the next Federal Budget in May will provide ample opportunities to address these gaps and deliver additional funding to achieve safe and fair service responses for all victim survivors of family and gender-based violence.  

We look forward to continuing to work with the Federal Government to develop the action plans and deliver on the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children. 

Page last updated Friday, November 4 2022

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PiP Member Spotlight: Jodie Leahy from Nillumbik Council

PiP Member Spotlight: Jodie Leahy from Nillumbik Council

Friday 28 October 2022

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We spoke to our Partners in Prevention network member Jodie Leahy about her work in driving gender equity advocacy at Nillumbik Shire Council, and what she has found useful throughout her primary prevention career.

What is your professional background? And how did it lead you to prevention work.

I completed my Bachelor of Social Work at Victoria University. There I learnt about feminist and structuralist theory. My working background was in the response sector, I then moved into prevention around 9 years ago.

In 2014, I was a Social Worker at a council, and I started representing the council at the primary prevention networks. I was drawn in by the collective action, and the amazing work that people were implementing across their different settings. Prevention is really hopeful work.

Coming from response and building my knowledge of prevention and the health promotion model, it’s been great to see more of a connection between response and prevention work. Back then we didn’t have ‘Change the Story’, so seeing the evolution of this work has been really interesting.

Was there anything about those networks that inspired you?

I think the collective action, the amazing work that people were doing. When I first started, I wanted to get to know as many prevention workers as possible and build that peer support network.

When did you become passionate about gender equality?

I think I always was, but I didn’t have a name for it. In Uni, I enrolled in women’s studies and thought “This is what I’ve been looking for, this makes total sense.” Over the years my understanding has grown through listening, watching, reading and having many passionate conversations.

Raising my children – a daughter and a son – has made me even more passionate. They know mum advocates for equity. With the support of my partner, we are raising them to be passionate about gender equality and social justice. I also love how much they continue to teach me!

Tell us a little bit about what you’re working on now.

In 2019, Nillumbik Council received funding under Free from Violence.

15 gender equity advocates, including myself, were trained in Gender Equity 101. We then went out to our team meetings and introduced this topic to the whole organisation. We wanted gender equity as a permanent part of the agenda. It was about building conversation.

The next time we recruited advocates we got more people from the infrastructure area, including the depot and engineers, they presented to teams about our journey of gender equity, unconscious bias, gender, and intersectionality. It created a good understanding of this work and why we’re doing it. It also created multiple touch points to reach community, which wouldn’t be possible with one person.

The advocates are now being trained to complete Gender Impact Assessments to build capacity across Council and embed this practice as part of what we do.

It’s no longer just me doing this work within the organisation and I see that as progress. We have a whole team of staff across the organisation championing this work.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence – Nillumbik Shire Council

Gender Equity in the Early Years – Nillumbik Shire Council

What skills do you use in your role?

In my work, I use a lot of relational skills. Building connections and collaborative partnerships is important to me. I’m very open to learning and appreciate that we’re all learning together and supporting each other. Humour is also big focus for me, I like to have fun with my work.

What do you like about working in primary prevention?

In the primary prevention sector, you’re not in it alone. You may feel alone at the start, but once you build your support network around you, you realise you are part of a community and it’s very rewarding.

What have you found useful in the work that Safe and Equal and PiP do to support prevention workers?

I’ve really appreciated the opportunities to network, PreventX has been useful to hear what other people are doing and to be inspired. I’ve found the range of resources useful. Every month, I update our council intranet with new resources to share with the equity contact person in each team. This keeps gender equity and primary prevention on the agenda.

What advice do you have for someone new to the people sector?

Take the time to learn – you don’t need to know it all instantly. We’re all learning as we work in this space. You can get support by building up the network around you.

It’s important to have organisational care and support in this work, and important to have people you can debrief with when you need it because it’s emotional work and it has its challenges.

Whose work do you admire?

I admire all the people that work alongside me fighting for social justice and the amazing women who have gone before me. What I learn from them helps me in my work.

Page last updated Friday, October 28 2022

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Five-year legislative review – Submission to the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor

Five-year legislative review – Submission to the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor

15 September 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Family Violence Reform Monitor’s Independent legislative review of family violence reforms.

We understand that this review is primarily focused on reviewing Parts 5A and 11 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (the Act), and that this encompasses the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme (FVISS), the Central Information Point (CIP) and the Multiagency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) framework. As non-legal experts, our capacity to comment specifically on the Act is limited. However, as the peak body for specialist family violence services in Victoria and given our specific involvement in the MARAM and Information Sharing Sector Capacity Building Grants, we are in a unique position to comment on the extent to which the intention of the legislation is being realised through implementation and practice. We are also well placed to identify the emerging issues and barriers to successful implementation of the Act and where there are opportunities for improvement.

In preparing this submission, we have widely consulted with our members, including managers and senior practitioners working in The Orange Door sites, Disability Practice Leadership and the Risk Assessment Management Panel (RAMP) community of practice. Safe and Equal hold funding from the MARAM and Information Sharing Sector Capacity Building Grants. The expertise and knowledge of Safe and Equals MARAM and Information Sharing Advisor, the associated community of practice, and the historic knowledge of the reforms held by Safe and Equal member organisations and staff also inform this submission.

We heard consistently through our consultations that the family violence reforms, and in particular the MARAM framework and FVISS have provided a valuable authorising environment and common language for consistent and collaborative practice. However, it is a challenging task to effectively differentiate between the efficacy and impact of the legislation and the implementation of this legislation which is supported by practice guidance, frameworks and tools. Despite these challenges, we know that inconsistent implementation and interpretation of the legislation results in failure to realise the intent of the reforms.

With this in mind, this submission is structured around main themes which emerged from consultations with our member organisations and communities of practice regarding strengths and challenges of aligning to and implementing the MARAM and FVISS, as well as engagement with the legislation itself. These themes include the critical need to centre the voices and experiences of victim survivors from marginalised communities to ensure that the system is safe for everyone, implementation and finally the interface between the Act and other legislative and systemic frameworks. Within each theme, we highlight strengths and challenges and make recommendations for potential improvements and further investigation.

Page last updated Thursday, September 15 2022

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Submission to the Inquiry into children affected by parental incarceration

Submission to the Inquiry into children affected by parental incarceration

11 May 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Inquiry into Children of Imprisoned Parents. As the peak body for specialist family violence services that provide support to victim survivors in Victoria, our response to this inquiry centres the devastating and long-term impacts of family violence on children and their incarcerated family members.

The majority of women and gender diverse people in prison are survivors of violence and trauma (experienced either in childhood or as an adult) and up to 70% of women in prison are parents. Victoria is experiencing a dramatic and unacceptable increase in the number of women being incarcerated (137.82% over the previous decade), including a dramatic rise in the number of unsentenced women entering the prison system on remand (43% of the total number of women in prison in 2020). Women risk losing housing, employment and custody of their children while imprisoned. Even short periods of imprisonment due to remand can result in catastrophic implications for women and their children, furthering the legacy of family violence, trauma and structural disadvantage.

Concerted and urgent measures to address the drivers of women’s incarceration are required to stop Victoria’s “prisons functioning as a substitute for social and community infrastructure.

Page last updated Wednesday, May 11 2022

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Safe and Equal responds to announcements in the Victorian Budget 2022/23

Safe and Equal responds to announcements in the Victorian Budget 2022/23

Wednesday 4 May 2022

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We welcome the investment into expanding refuge and crisis accommodation capacity, with the establishment of two new core and cluster refuges, six new Crisis Accommodation Program (CAP) properties, and upgrades to three existing refuge properties.

This investment will only go so far towards addressing the critical shortage of specialist crisis accommodation for people experiencing family violence in Victoria.

Safe and Equal CEO, Tania Farha said, “We hope this is just the start, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Victorian Government to significantly increase refuge capacity to ensure that all victim survivors who need it can access secure, specialist family violence crisis accommodation.”

In this incredibly lean budget, we also welcome an $18.7 million crisis case management uplift aimed at meeting increasing family violence demand, as part of a broader $43 million package for victim survivor programs.

This is, however, a short-term investment and will not create the sustainable footing our services need to support people experiencing family violence on their journey to safety.

“To deliver the best quality services to victim survivors of family violence, the specialist family violence sector needs a sustainable funding increase that enables services to respond not just to skyrocketing demand, but also increasingly complex support needs and a rapidly changing service environment,” said Ms Farha.

This budget does not include any commitment towards specialist family violence workforce capability building, which makes it difficult for the sector to quickly attract, recruit and skill up more workers. Ongoing issues around sustainability, increasing demand and funding shortages have resulted in high levels of staff turnover and burnout, with recruitment and retention of this specialist workforce a critical challenge. While an uplift in funding to meet demand is certainly welcome, increasing capacity means finding new people and skilling them up to hold significant caseloads, complexity and risk.

Ms Farha said, “In a very difficult year, we’re pleased to see some funding going where it’s really needed. Workforce shortages remain an unresolved challenge and something we will be keen to work with other community services and the Government to address this year.”

We welcome the continuation of funding for Respect Victoria and hope the government’s ongoing investment strategy will continue to reflect the need for concerted, coordinated efforts and activity across the prevention continuum.

The Victorian Government has demonstrated national leadership in its approach to preventing and responding to family violence since the Royal Commission. We look forward to continuing to work together to establish a sustainable system that can both stop violence before it happens and provide every victim survivor with the support they need to escape and recover from family violence, when they need it.

Download the Safe and Equal response to the State Budget 2022 here.

Page last updated Wednesday, May 4 2022

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Safe and Equal Response to the NHHA Issues Paper

Safe and Equal Response to the NHHA Issues Paper

3 March 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Productivity Commission’s review of the effectiveness of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA).

Housing, homelessness and family violence are inextricably linked. Family violence is one of the biggest drivers of homelessness and base funding for the specialist family violence sector is currently funded under the NHHA. In Victoria, the specialist family violence system has undergone significant reform following the Royal Commission into Family Violence in 2016. Despite unprecedented investment in the family violence system, unfortunately, housing outcomes for victim-survivors of family violence have not improved. Forty-seven percent of people seeking support from a homelessness service in Victoria do so due to family violence.

The NHHA is an important policy mechanism by which funding for social housing and homelessness services, including specialist family violence services, flows from the Commonwealth Government to the states and territories. It establishes that the Commonwealth and state governments have a mutual interest in ending homelessness and improving housing affordability. This and past agreements have been successful in providing critical resources to the homelessness sector, including specialist family violence services, and, to some extent, have been successful at growing and maintaining social housing stock. It is vital that we continue to have such agreements between the Commonwealth and state governments.

However, the desired outcomes of the NHHA have not been achieved. In fact, by most measures, things have gotten worse. It is therefore timely for the Productivity Commission to conduct this review. Within our submission, we make four recommendations on how to make the next and future NHHAs stronger and more effective. These are:

  1. Develop a National Housing and Homelessness Strategy to sit above the NHHA,
  2. Take a gendered approach to a National Housing and Homelessness Strategy and
    the NHHA,
  3. Improve data collection relating to priority cohorts, specifically victim-survivors of
    family violence and those experiencing intersecting forms of marginalization, and
  4. Increase the quantum of funding delivered through the agreement to truly meet
    demand for social housing and homelessness support services.

Page last updated Thursday, March 3 2022

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Submission to the Social Housing Regulation Review Interim Report

Submission to the Social Housing Regulation Review Interim Report

3 March 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Social Housing Regulation Review Interim Report.

Housing, homelessness and family violence are inextricably linked. Therefore, as the peak body for specialist family violence services in Victoria, Safe and Equal has a special interest in making sure social housing meets the needs of victim survivors and supports their safety. Proper regulation is one mechanism to help achieve this.

The Panel has taken a broad view of regulation and the Interim Report touches on several topics outside of Safe and Equal’s remit and expertise. We therefore will not be commenting on every aspect of the Interim Report, but rather seek to share our thoughts on relevant proposals from a family violence perspective.

Safe and Equal commend the panel for a thoughtful interim report that is focused on fundamentally improving the way social housing is delivered and provided to social housing tenants. We look forward to continuing to work with Panel to ensure social housing regulation can produce the most positive outcomes for current, prospective and future social housing tenants, particularly those who are victim survivors of family violence.

Page last updated Thursday, March 3 2022

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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

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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

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Welcome step in ensuring Victoria’s future social housing supply

Welcome step in ensuring Victoria’s future social housing supply

Friday 18 February 2022

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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

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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

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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

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Safe and Equal 2022 Budget Submission: Calling for a sustainable footing for the specialist family violence sector

Safe and Equal 2022 Budget Submission: Calling for a sustainable footing for the specialist family violence sector

Tuesday 18 January 2022

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Safe and Equal, Victoria’s peak body for specialist family violence services calls for an urgent uplift in funding for the specialist family violence services sector in the 2022 State Budget.

Whilst the significant amount of investment in improving Victoria’s family violence system following the Royal Commission is much welcomed, a range of complex factors are creating clear gaps and pressure points. These must be addressed immediately to ensure every victim survivor can access the support and safety they need at the time they need it.  

In Victoria, specialist family violence services are not funded at a level that meets increasing demand. The lack of funding not only impacts victim survivors but also results in high levels of staff turnover and burnout, with extreme difficulties recruiting and retaining experienced staff. 

Workers face constant job insecurity due to short-term contracts and are often paid less than those working in other community sectors. Increases in community awareness and pathways to support have further increased demand for services, creating rising pressure within the system as services struggle to keep up with an ever-growing client base, and an unprecedented number of high-risk and complex cases due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic that require more time and resources. 

“The demand for specialist family violence services is at an all-time high and the lack of funding is having a significant impact on not only the capacity of these services to support victim survivors, but the wellbeing of the workers who support them.Although the impact of COVID has contributed to strain on these services, the identified gaps and needs outlined in our submission should not come as a surprise to the state government. Specialist family violence worker capacity, emergency accommodation and services for children and young people are historical issues that require urgent attention.” – Tania Farha, CEO, Safe and Equal.

With current Victorian refuge capacity limited to accommodating 160 households at one time, and growing numbers of victim survivors requiring emergency accommodation, the availability of flexible crisis, transitional and long-term housing is integral to managing complex risk and keeping victim survivors safe from their perpetrators.   

It’s so difficult [for] the workers to be able to support [victim survivors] in that space when they have no stability and no safe space to sleep, or they don’t know where they are going to be next week.” – Team Leader, specialist family violence service.

A lack of clarity, consistency and resourcing in response to children and young people experiencing family violence is also a critical gap that must be addressed. Funding and structural limitations and a lack of minimum standards means the system is struggling to provide tailored, specialist responses to children and young people as victim survivors in their own right.  

The complexity of family violence work means it is vital the sector maintains a high-quality, specialist function. This includes the retention of a highly skilled and healthy workforce, the embedding of lived experience across all system responses, and peak body support and coordination to support workforce development, access and inclusion, and data capabilities.  

Safe and Equal’s budget submission to the Victorian Government calls for urgent funding to support several areas: 

  1. An uplift of core funding for all specialist family violence services to sustain and respond to increasing demand.  
  2. A 20% increase in funding levels allocated to infrastructure costs to enable all specialist family violence services to meet the prerequisites of contemporary community organisations.  
  3. The immediate implementation of a fit-for-purpose, flexible costing model. 
  4. An immediate increase in crisis accommodation places to enable 320 households to be accommodated on any night.  We also call for the prioritisation of 1000 dwellings for victim survivors of family violence to be built immediately as part of Victoria’s Big Housing Build, and a greater proportion of new social housing to be set aside for victim survivors of family violence in recognition of the proportion of people seeking support from supported housing services as a result of family violence.   
  5. Immediate funding to boost the specialist support provided to children and young people experiencing family violence. This includes the creation of a best practice framework for supporting children and young people along with additional 17 specialist practitioners to champion and lead best practice approaches to working with children and young people.  
  6. The creation of an ongoing Healthy Worker Fund (HWF) to support the health and well-being of the specialist family violence workforce.  
  7. The creation of an Embedding Lived Experience Fund (ELEF) to support the uptake and implementation of the Experts By Experience Framework.   
  8. Additional resourcing for sector coordination, capacity building and professional development to support innovation, best practice and sustainability of specialist family violence services.  

If adequately funded, the areas outlined above will enable the specialist family violence sector to respond to not just increasing levels of demand and client complexity but to a rapidly changing service environment stemming from the unprecedented level of government and systemic reform.   

View the 2022 Budget Submission here.

Page last updated Tuesday, January 18 2022