‘Ask. Listen. Believe’ to help end family violence on Are You Safe At Home? Day

‘Ask. Listen. Believe’ to help end family violence on Are You Safe At Home? Day

Thursday 9 May 2024

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Family violence is a national crisis – and we all have a role to play in ending it. 

This is the goal of Are You Safe At Home? Day 2024 – held on 10 May each year, the national awareness-raising day aims 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. 

This year alone, a woman is being killed by a man every four days, in what are entirely preventable acts of violence. 

Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha says that while ongoing commitment, investment and action from government is essential to addressing this crisis, we cannot disregard the crucial role people in the community play in recognising and responding to abuse.

“We know that many people experiencing family violence – including some of the women who have been tragically murdered this year – never had contact with police or the service system more broadly,” said Ms Farha. 

“It’s often the people in our community – our family, friends, neighbours, and even work colleagues – who will be the first to notice something is wrong, and who are in a unique position to help. It’s so important we know what to do if we’re worried about someone.” 

Are You Safe At Home? Day provides a chance for people in the community to get comfortable with starting what can be a difficult and confronting conversation. 

“Many people have been asking what they can do to help end family violence – and this is something they can tangibly do right now,” said Ms Farha. 

“By learning to recognise the signs of family violence and start conversations – both with people who might be experiencing abuse, and people who might be using violence – we can remove some of that stigma and fear, and help victim survivors find safety, support and recovery.” 

The main message of this year’s Are You Safe At Home? Day is ‘Ask. Listen. Believe’. By asking someone if they are safe, listening without judgement, and believing someone when they disclose abuse, we can make an enormous impact. 

“Old stereotypes around what family violence looks like are a very outdated, dangerous and narrow perception of what abuse is,” says Survivor Advocate Kym Valentine. 

“Abusers now utilise more covert methods of abuse as a tactic to remain under the radar. That’s why it’s important for us to be able understand that family violence comes in many forms, recognise the different types of abuse and be able to respond safely.” 

 The Are You Safe At Home? website features a suite of accessible tools and resources to help people feel more comfortable and confident to recognise signs of family violence and offer support, including a one-page guide to starting a conversation and links to support services in each state.  

“Learn how to be a safe person for someone to disclose to. Look at the Are You Safe at Home? website to learn how to do that. You can not only change a life, but save a life,” says Ms Valentine. 

Meaningful change won’t happen overnight, says Ms Farha, it will only come with time, investment and deep engagement from all. 

“There’s no one quick solution to ending family violence – it’s an extremely complex issue that requires a fully-funded and comprehensive response, from all levels of government and the broader community,” she said.  

“It’s a collective responsibility that we all have, to ensure every person in this country can be safe, respected and valued – and able to live free from violence.” 

 

CONTACT INFORMATION  

Louise Simms
Executive Director Policy, Communications and Engagement 
Safe and Equal
+61 450 081 547
louisesimms@safeandequal.org.au 

Page last updated Thursday, May 9 2024

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Victorian Budget 2024-25: Staying the course on family violence, but more needed for long-term change

Victorian Budget 2024-25: Staying the course on family violence, but more needed for long-term change

Tuesday 7 May 2024

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In an incredibly tight budget environment, the Victorian Government is continuing to stay the course on strengthening systemic approaches to addressing family and gender-based violence.     

We were pleased today’s release of the 2024-25 Victorian Budget did not include cuts anticipated by the specialist family violence sector, with $72 million of lapsing funding uplifts continued for a further two years. 

While this extension is indeed a welcome relief, short-term, piecemeal funding does not provide the security needed for frontline family violence services, which are experiencing higher levels of demand than ever before.  

Family and gender-based violence is a national emergency. People experiencing abuse and the specialists working to support them are distraught, outraged, and exhausted – and while funding extensions are far better news than cuts, they do little to respond to the escalating crisis.  

Beyond funding for victim survivor services, the continuation of support for primary prevention initiatives is heartening to see, particularly when we know this is long-term work requiring sustained investment. 

We welcome the commitment of $39 million over four years for the continued delivery of Respectful Relationships Education in schools. This includes a partnership with Safe and Equal to support ongoing primary prevention workforce development. 

Today’s announcements also included a continuation of $18 million in uplift funding over two years to women’s health services providing preventative health promotion and education, and $42 million over three years towards further research into prevention initiatives, and continued delivery of perpetrator case management programs.  

What we need now is bold, enduring action. We keenly await further announcements from the Victorian Government off the back of recent National Cabinet discussions and meetings between the Premier and specialist service sectors. We remain hopeful for an enduring, comprehensive approach to addressing family violence that includes continued investment into primary prevention, enhanced focused on early intervention, permanent uplift for crisis services and long-term recovery support for adult and child victim survivors. 

There is no quick fix to end family and gender-based violence; we know meaningful change will take time. This is a national crisis that requires a sustained commitment from all levels of government – because without it, we will continue to see more tragic and preventable deaths. 

Page last updated Tuesday, May 7 2024

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Safe and Equal response to National Cabinet Announcement

Safe and Equal response to National Cabinet Announcement

Thursday 2 May 2024

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People experiencing family and gender-based violence, and those working to address it, are distraught, outraged and exhausted. 

As the peak body for this sector in Victoria, we are heartened that men’s violence has finally made it onto the National Cabinet’s agenda, yet remain devastated at what it has taken to get there.  

We welcome the priorities agreed yesterday by National Cabinet, including the need to strengthen perpetrator accountability, build prevention efforts and focus on the impact of family violence on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.  

We also welcome the actions the Albanese Government has announced, including exploring responses to serial perpetrators; strengthening perpetrator information sharing; limiting children and young people’s exposure to online pornography; and exploring opportunities to strengthen national consistency and drive best practice approaches across jurisdictions.   

Family and gender-based violence is complex – and addressing it requires a robust, thoughtful, and sustained response. While the actions announced yesterday are welcome, they are simply not enough to create the positive change needed to protect victim survivors and prevent further harm.  

The justice system is not the only mechanism for perpetrator accountability. More research and evaluation is required to build on existing practice and show us what really works to make people accountable for their choice to use violence, and to stop them making these choices again and again. Equally, primary prevention work cannot just be limited to the online space – sustained prevention initiatives are needed across the entire system.  

We are disappointed yesterday’s announcements did not include more funding for frontline services supporting victim survivors. While the Leaving Violence Program (previously piloted as the Escaping Violence Payment) provides a maximum payment of $5,000 during crisis to escape violence, this is a limited intervention and will not be effective without longer-term assistance. Women and all victim survivors deserve sustained frontline family violence service support, affordable and safe housing, and a consistent livable income – including in the form of social security – to find safety and security, and to recover. Additionally, we are concerned that the current eligibility requirements for the Leaving Violence Program exclude people experiencing types of family violence beyond intimate partner violence, leaving many people without support.  

Finally, while we welcome the necessary focus on family violence and the longer-term exploratory work set out by National Cabinet, we know that more needs to be done, right now. Specialist family violence services are facing unprecedented and unsustainable levels of demand. We need an immediate commitment to funding which allows our sector to attract and retain the skilled workforce we need to do this complex work, and to provide the necessary support to keep victim survivors safe.  

We also call on the government to provide women and all victim survivors with their basic needs: safe and affordable housing, and social security payments that reflect a liveable income. Without this, there will be more tragic – and preventable – deaths.   

Page last updated Thursday, May 2 2024

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PreventX: How we can prevent family and gender-based violence right now

PreventX: How we can prevent family and gender-based violence right now

Tue 2 April 2024

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As part of the PreventX 2024 conference, Safe and Equal hosted an in-person event for participants to pitch their innovative solutions and visions for the future of prevention in Australia. The below is a transcript of the welcome and introduction provided by Marina Carman, Executive Director of Primary Prevention.

I’d like to welcome you all here tonight on behalf of Safe and Equal. We hope that you enjoyed the last two days of the PreventX conference. We’re really pleased to be able to present this in-person event as part of the conference.

We’re here tonight to hear some wonderful pitches from practitioners about the next big things in primary prevention. But just to warm up the stage, I wanted to start by giving my own three-minute pitch – about why working in prevention is something that more people should do.

So, here goes:

Are you passionate about changing the world?

Do you want to end family and gender-based violence?

Well – imagine getting paid to do all that!

You’ll get to work with some amazing people, who are committed to social change, just like you. And we’re a bunch who really like interaction, and lots of it – conferences, events, networking, meetings – actually, maybe a few too many meetings.

Anyway, it’s a good thing – because we’re up and out there all the time, changing minds and changing systems that enable violence. You can join the Partners in Prevention network, and a bunch of others like the MAV network and regional women’s health partnerships. So really, you’ll never feel alone – and you won’t be able to escape a community of practice, even if you try.

I’m not going to kid you – it’s not always an easy job. You’ll end up in rooms where you hear attitudes and opinions that make you wither on the inside. You’ll be told that we’re all equal now, so why do women keep complaining? You’ll be told men have it so hard these days, because they have to worry about consent.

Your difficult job is to be curious and delve further to see if you can shift those ideas.

Sometimes, you have to give up and move on. But so often you’ll see the attitudes shift as people realise that there’s a different and better way to look at things. And don’t worry – we’ll arm you with lots of cool statistics, messaging strategies, and a few handy legal and regulatory frameworks. Plus, we have this really great national framework called Change the Story, and a bunch of evidence-based frameworks specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, women living with disability, LGBTIQ+ communities, and refugee and migrant communities. And we’ll word you up on all the technical bits – like drivers and socio-ecological models and stuff like that.

It might seem a bit complicated – but don’t be phased. Upstream drivers are really simple: you change ideas and you change society so that violence is no longer a choice. It takes a long time, but you get to see change every day, in small ways – and that’s the best bit.

There are so many choices about where you can do this work. There’s schools, councils, workplaces, universities and TAFEs. There’s family violence services, sexual violence services, women’s health services, sexual health services, community services, and many more. We’re all across the state and the country – not just metro – and we work with and for a range of communities. You can be a trainer, policy officer, group facilitator, network convenor, project manager, and so many more.

Many of us describe ending up in prevention as ‘an accident’, so you won’t be out of place. We come from lots of different backgrounds: public health and health promotion, international development, communications, political science, even some theatre and fine art majors (you’ll be able to pick those ones). Also, it’s a growth industry. More and more people are choosing prevention.

So get into it, and give it a go!

Page last updated Tuesday, April 2 2024

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State budget cuts mean thousands of victim survivors to miss out on family violence support

State budget cuts mean thousands of victim survivors to miss out on family violence support

Tuesday 19 December 2023

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Nearly $50 million in funding for Victoria’s specialist family violence sector is due to be cut next year, despite services experiencing higher levels of demand than ever before. 

In its 2024-25 State Budget Submission, Safe and Equal is calling for the Victorian Government to continue this funding as a priority, alongside increased investment for safe and affordable housing and primary prevention initiatives to stop violence before it starts. 

Funding scheduled to lapse in June 2024 includes $25.4 million for specialist family violence accommodation services, as well as $18.8 million for family violence case management. 

Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha says the loss of this funding will further reduce the amount of support available to people experiencing family violence, and poses a significant threat to the safety and wellbeing of victim survivors across the state. 

“Any reduction in funding will have very real impacts on how many victim survivors can access critical support each year,” said Ms Farha. 

“We estimate around 4,000 adults experiencing family violence will miss out on case management support if this funding is not renewed, and many more children. 

“Additionally, more than 200 specialist workers could lose their jobs, and many refuges may no longer be able to provide support 24/7. 

“This will absolutely put people’s lives at risk.” 

Safe and Equal’s budget submission is supported by findings recently released as part of the Measuring Family Violence Demand and Capacity Report, which shows high caseloads and inadequate funding for specialist family violence services are leading to workforce shortages and notable wait times for victim survivors – with some waiting up to 29 days to receive specialist support. 

“Services have been telling us for a long time that current funding levels aren’t enough to meet increasing demand, and the specialist workforce is continually under pressure,” said Ms Farha. 

“If the Victorian Government does not renew the funding that enables this complex and critical work, this will be deeply concerning, and will no doubt have enormous repercussions for victim survivors.” 

Ms Farha says that sustainably investing in services to support victim survivors is key to achieving the vision of a Victoria free from family and gender-based violence, where women, children and all people from marginalised communities are safe, thriving, and respected. 

“I cannot stress this enough – if we want to improve outcomes for all people experiencing family violence, we need to ensure that specialist services are adequately resourced to do their work – and that’s exactly what our state budget submission is calling for,” said Ms Farha. 

“Because everyone experiencing or at risk of family violence should be able to access the support they need, when they need it.”  

Page last updated Tuesday, December 19 2023

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Safe and Equal responds to the introduction of standalone non-fatal strangulation offences in Victoria

Safe and Equal responds to the introduction of standalone non-fatal strangulation offences in Victoria

Thursday 19 October 2023

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On 18 October 2023, the Victorian Government introduced the Crimes Amendment (Non-fatal Strangulation) Bill 2023 into Parliament.

The Bill includes two streams of offences:  

  1. a five-year intentional non-fatal strangulation offence which does not require proof of injury and includes a consent defence; and  
  2. a ten-year non-fatal strangulation offence with intent to cause injury.  

As the peak body for specialist family violence services in Victoria, Safe and Equal welcomes initiatives that bring attention to non-fatal strangulation, as it is deeply connected to family violence risk, serious injury, and significant harm to victim survivors’ psychological and physical wellbeing.  

Over the last few years, we have provided advice to the Victorian Government to ensure that efforts to address non-fatal strangulation take the holistic approach needed to safeguard victim survivors, hold perpetrators to account, and minimise unintended consequences.  

The effectiveness of any legislation comes down to its implementation and we are committed to working with the Victorian Government and the broader service system to ensure the roll-out of these new offences achieves the best outcomes possible for victim survivors. 

Responding effectively to family violence requires robust, collaborative responses from all parts of the community and service system – and should not be limited to a justice response. Alongside the introduction of this legislation, we recommend the Victorian Government invest in:  

  • upskilling relevant workforces (including the specialist family violence workforce, medical and hospital workforces, and Victoria police) to respond to the presentation of strangulation, and to provide appropriate long-term health and other supports 
  • society-wide awareness raising and education approaches.  

Criminal justice responses do not necessarily lead to perpetrator accountability or victim survivor safety, and perpetrators can continue to abuse victim survivors in multiple ways; including prior to a trial process, from prison, and via the justice system itself. Therefore, we also urge the government to implement processes and programs that can hold perpetrators to account outside of the criminal justice system.  

Further detail on the introduced offenses can be seen here. 

Page last updated Thursday, October 19 2023

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Is someone you know in an abusive relationship? Here’s 6 things you can do.

Is someone you know in an abusive relationship? Here’s 6 things you can do.

Friday 8 September 2023

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With 1 in 4 women in Australia having experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15*, the chances of you knowing someone who has experienced family violence is high. But as individuals, it can be hard to know how to help. Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha explains what family violence can look like and gives us 6 tips for supporting our loved ones who may be experiencing abuse.

This year, 35 women have already been killed by men’s violence in Australia^. This is unacceptable, and signals that we have a long way to go to eliminate family and gender-based violence in this country.  

For many of us, this can often feel overwhelming and frustrating. Why aren’t we doing more? Is it completely hopeless? Will this never end? 

But the reality is, it doesn’t have to be like this. Family violence is entirely preventable. And as individuals, we all have a part to play in preventing it. 

Of course, government plays a significant role. We need ongoing commitment and investment from all levels of government, to increase funding for the specialist family violence services who support victim survivors, and for prevention initiatives to stop violence before it starts. This is crucial. 

But as individuals, we also have an important role to play. 

Recently, I spoke to the team at Future Women as part of their outstanding podcast series, ‘There’s No Place Like Home.’ The series focuses on the warning signs of domestic violence, and what friends and family can look out for. 

As discussed in the podcast, for many victim survivors it is the people closest to them who will be the first to notice something isn’t right. It is these people – the best mates, the work colleagues, the next-door neighbours – who are in a unique position to offer support and make a difference. 

Maybe you’ve seen some concerning signs, things that feel like red flags. But maybe you don’t know what to say, or how to help.  

The first thing I would say is don’t ignore that instinct. Chances are, your gut is right.  

But what if you’re not sure it’s family violence? 

 

Family violence isn’t just physical abuse. 

Family violence can take many forms – physical, emotional, financial – and it’s common for a victim survivor to experience several of these.   

But there’s one term that people have been talking about a lot lately, and that is coercive control. 

Coercive control is a phrase that has become more commonly used in recent years but can be tricky to understand. Basically, coercive control is a pattern of abusive behaviours and tactics used by a perpetrator to gain power and control over a victim survivor. 

Some examples of how coercive control can manifest in many different and overlapping include: 

  • Isolating someone from their family and friends  
  • Controlling what someone wears 
  • Gaslighting, constant criticism and humiliation  
  • Jealous and possessive behaviours, like constantly accusing someone of cheating or being flirtatious 

Because abusers can be very good at hiding or masking their behaviour, coercive control can be quite difficult to clearly define or see from the outside. It can be as subtle as a look or a word. An action that seems harmless on the surface can cause a victim survivor to feel incredibly fearful. It’s this feeling of fear that an abuser will use as a way to exert control.  

So – you’ve noticed something is wrong and you want to do something about it. But what do you do? 

 

1. Start small.

One of the most common things we hear from friends or family members is that they are really worried about their loved one but have no idea how to bring it up. Much of this fear is rooted in feeling like they’ll say the wrong thing, that they’ll upset the person or cause them to retreat.  

While this can be a risk, it’s really important to say something if you are concerned. Abusers are banking on everybody staying silent and looking the other way. It’s this silence that allows the violence to thrive.  

You can start small by finding a time to talk with them alone, in-person, and preferably out of their own home, in case their abuser is using spyware to monitor them. Invite them for a walk or to your place for a coffee. 

It can be awkward to start the conversation, so I’d suggest checking in with them. You can ask how they’re feeling, or how things are going at home. If you feel ready, you can gently share some of the things that have been worrying you. Some examples include: 

“I’ve noticed [your partner] calls and texts you a lot, and you seem stressed when you’re talking to him. Is everything okay?” 

“I’ve been worried about you. I’ve noticed some things in your relationship that are concerning me. Can we talk about it?”  

Even if the conversation doesn’t go the way you planned, at the very least you have planted a seed. Your friend will know that someone is noticing what is going on, and cares about their well-being. 

 

2. Boost their confidence. 

Perpetrators of family violence are experts at eroding a victim’s self-esteem, to the point where they might feel like they deserve the abuse, or that what’s happening to them is normal. 

Think about it this way – if someone is constantly putting you down and making you feel worthless, eventually you might start to believe it. Over time it can become extremely difficult for a victim to see clearly that what is happening to them is not okay, and that it’s not their fault. 

I like to tell friends and family members who are worried that their biggest job is to bring some of that confidence and self-worth back – so the person experiencing family violence can start to see that they deserve a life free from abuse.  

That seems like a big task, but it can be done in little ways. Remaining judgement-free and gently reminding the person that what is happening isn’t their fault is a good start. 

Tell them they’re important to you – that you care about them, and they don’t deserve what is happening to them.  

Even if they don’t believe you at first, over time these few small actions can make a huge difference. 

 

3. Don’t say, ‘why don’t you just leave?’ 

There are a few reasons for this.  

First and foremost – one of the most high-risk times for a victim survivor is just before and during the first few months after they leave a violent relationship. Women are at most risk of being killed or seriously injured during this time. It’s important that if your loved one wants to leave, they have a safety plan in place (more detail about this below). 

Additionally, part of building up someone’s confidence and self-esteem is to support them to take control of their choices and actions. The ability to make their own decisions is precisely what their abuser is taking away from them.  

Victim survivors know what they need to be safe, and they’re the experts in managing their own risk. Sometimes safety looks like remaining in the relationship with some supports in place, or until they can safely leave. 

While you might feel frustrated that your friend hasn’t immediately left the relationship, you need to trust that they know what’s best for them at that moment. 

 

4. Listen to what they need and offer practical support. 

It can be hard to not immediately jump in with suggestions of what you would do if you were in their shoes. But again – part of building up their confidence and self-esteem is listening and respecting their autonomy.  

Ask them, ‘what can I do to help?’, or ‘what do you need from me?’. 

Offer support with practical things, like childcare or running errands. This can give your friend the space to breathe and consider their next steps.  

Help them make a safety plan. It can include things like: 

  • A code word that they can use to let you know they need police assistance 
  • Teaching their children to run to a neighbour if the house isn’t safe, or how to dial 000 and ask for police 
  • An overnight bag filled with clothes, medications and copies of keys that they can grab if they need to leave quickly 
  • Keeping copies of their important documents at your house 

You can let them know about specialist family violence services that are available and offer to help them make contact. You can call national hotlines like 1800 RESPECT, or find a service in their local area. If you’re unsure of what services are available, a good place to start is the list of services on the Are You Safe At Home? website. 

If they’re employed, you can let them know they are entitled to 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave – this came into effect this year, and everybody is entitled to it, even casual employees. 

 

5. They don’t want to talk? Don’t push them. 

Talking about abuse is really hard. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of shame and stigma that exists around family violence. There’s also a lot of fear – many victim survivors are terrified if they talk about the abuse, their perpetrator will find out. 

For whatever reason, if your friend isn’t ready to talk or acknowledge what is happening – this is okay. 

Don’t pressure them if they’re uncomfortable. Even though you might be really worried, or think you’re being helpful, you may inadvertently make them close off to you. 

If you sense it’s not the right time, or that they don’t want to talk, just let them know you care and you’ll be there when they’re ready. 

 

6. Look after yourself. 

There’s no way around it – this stuff is really hard and can take an emotional toll. It’s scary and upsetting to know someone you care about is being abused. It can feel overwhelming and draining. But remember – you’re not expected to ‘save’ your loved one or solve the family violence on your own. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed, there are services available to support friends and family members too. You can always call 1800 RESPECT or Lifeline if you need to talk. 

And if you’re not ready to bring up the family violence, that’s okay. Don’t underestimate the power of showing your loved one that you see them, they matter, and you care.  

 

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, always call triple zero (000). 

If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, there are services that can provide support and advice. 

For support across Australia, contact 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit 1800respect.org.au 

For more information on support services in your state, visit Are You Safe At Home?.  

To learn more about the warning signs of domestic violence, and what you can be looking out for, listen to season two of Future Women’s podcast, There’s No Place Like Home. 

To learn more about how you can implement a tailored and accessible domestic and family violence leave policy in your workplace, check out Safe and Equal’s workplace family violence services. 

*Personal Safety Survey 2021-22, Australian Bureau of Statistics

^Destroy the Joint, 2023. NB: There is limited data available on family violence deaths, so this figure is likely higher. This figure also does not include children, several of whom we know have been killed due to men’s violence this year. 

Page last updated Friday, September 8 2023

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Safe and Equal supports the call for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament

Safe and Equal supports the call for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament

Tuesday 22 August 2023

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As the peak body for specialist family violence services in Victoria, Safe and Equal is committed to walking alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services and communities, and listening to what Aboriginal people say is needed to address inequality and injustice.

Ahead of the Voice to Parliament referendum this year, Safe and Equal stands in solidarity with First Nations peoples and supports the call for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.  

We acknowledge and respect the diversity of viewpoints held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around the referendum and recognise the Uluru Statement of the Heart as one way forward, with voice one element of this. We support an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament alongside other meaningful action, including treaty negotiations, truth-telling processes, implementing the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and funding Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations adequately to meet the service and support needs of their communities. 

Safe and Equal respects First Nations people’s rights to self-determination and cultural safety. Now and always, we stand strongly opposed to racism, denial of history and wilful blindness to ongoing inequality and injustice. No matter the outcome of this referendum, we will continue to listen to, stand with and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their efforts towards justice, equality and control of their own lives and futures. 

Read our full statement on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament here. 

 

Want to learn more?  

Read more about the Voice to Parliament at Reconciliation Australia 

IndigenousX regularly publishes features and opinion pieces on the Voice to Parliament, from First Nations writers like Celeste Liddle and Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts. You can find all articles here. 

Read statements on the Voice to Parliament from the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, and Mallee District Aboriginal Services. 

Check out news coverage and explainers on the Voice to Parliament referendum from SBS News, The Guardian, The Conversation and ABC News. 

The Guardian Australia has launched a special podcast series on the referendum as part of their Full Story podcast feed, titled The Voice Ask Me Anything. Episodes are released fortnightly – you can find them all here. 

Page last updated Tuesday, August 22 2023

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More needed to address family and gender-based violence in government’s new Action Plan

Commitment and investment welcomed - but more is needed to address family and gender-based violence in government’s new Action Plan

Tuesday 22 August 2023

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Safe and Equal welcomes the Commonwealth Government’s release of the First Action Plan 2023-2027, as the first of two Action Plans under the 10-year National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032.

After the 2023-24 Federal Budget was released earlier this year, we held out hope that the first Action Plan would include the bold and visionary planning and investment required to meaningfully address family and gender-based violence across the country. 

There are tangible actions across the Action Plan that build on initiatives announced in the Federal Budget, alongside other promising actions to support all victim survivors, such as: 

  • Commitments to support victim survivors on temporary visas, including extension of the Temporary Visa Holders Experiencing Violence Pilot, expansion of the Family Violence Provisions for visa applications and extended funding for visa support services.
  • Continued funding and expansion of supports for victim survivors through Services Australia, including the continuation of crisis payments for victim survivors, alongside initiatives to support a more integrated response and to address some of the structural barriers victim survivors face when engaging with Services Australia.
  • Initiatives to embed trauma-informed and culturally safe response models to support victim survivors through the family law system, including funding to extend the Lighthouse Project (a risk screening and management program in the Federal Court and Family Court of Australia) to all 15 primary family law registries. 

While there are many positive initiatives within the Plan, most of these appear to come with short-term funding and no clear, long-term strategy. With at least 35 women murdered in Australia already this year, the scope and scale of the family violence crisis in this country calls for significant, enduring and coordination action, and the piecemeal initiatives listed as part of this Action Plan fall short. Without a bold and strategic plan to permanently change the structures and attitudes that allow violence to thrive, the government will struggle to deliver on their ambitious goal of ending family violence in one generation.   

Put simply – if we want to end family and gender-based violence, this Action Plan is not going to get us there. 

Initiatives to address specific challenges in preventing and responding to family violence in this Plan are either inadequate or missing altogether. This includes actions to address our nation-wide workforce shortage across all areas of prevention and response. Committing long-term investment towards trained and supported prevention and response workforces is integral to achieving the outcomes outlined in the Action Plan.  

Similarly, there is a distinct lack of tangible measures to meaningfully embed the voices of lived experience, and to centre the experiences of children and young people in system design and reform.  

While the Action Plan contains an entire action for housing and homelessness initiatives, these fall short of the significant investment required to address the critical lack of safe and accessible housing options for people experiencing family violence. We hope that the National Housing and Homelessness Plan currently in development will address this, alongside the structural issues contributing to rising rates of housing insecurity, homelessness and poverty across Australia.  

There is also nothing in the Plan to meaningfully address economic insecurity, which is critical to achieving long-term safety and recovery for victim survivors. This includes a lack of information as to the coordination, support and amount of funding required to implement whole of school respectful relationships education across Australia in consistent and evidence-based ways. 

Performance indicators outlined in this Action Plan – including the goal of reducing family violence homicides by 25% – are welcomed, but insufficient on their own. We look forward to seeing the Performance Measurement Plan referenced and encourage the Commonwealth to work with specialist sectors to determine what the useful measures of success against the Plan would be. 

Achieving the cultural and systemic change required to eliminate family violence in one generation is by no means impossible. However, it requires our governments to be bold and brave in considering what is required right now to get where we need to be – and to fund this accordingly. 

We look forward to continuing to work with the government to implement the First Action Plan, as well as working in solidarity with First Nations communities to ensure the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan makes the impact it has set out to achieve. 

It is our hope that the Commonwealth Government will implement more long-term and visionary initiatives in future, so we can fully realise the commendable vision set out in the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032 and ensure that every person experiencing family violence can access the support and safety they need, when they need it – and ultimately prevent this violence from occurring in the first place. 

Page last updated Tuesday, August 22 2023

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Workplaces in the spotlight for Are You Safe At Home? Day 2023

Workplaces in the spotlight for Are You Safe At Home? Day 2023

Wednesday 10 May 2023

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“Support from a colleague or my workplace would have given me the confidence to leave sooner, and I wouldn’t have had to do the thing I was afraid of the most, all alone.”
- Louise*, Survivor Advocate

We all deserve safety, respect and the opportunity to thrive, wherever we live, work and play. 

But for many of us, home is not always safe. Our workplace could be the only refuge or place to seek support.  

That is why this year’s Are You Safe At Home? Day is shining a spotlight on the significant role colleagues and employers can play in recognising and responding to family violence. 

With one in three Australian women having experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner since the age of 151 , chances are there’s a survivor of gender-based violence amongst every group of people we know – and workplaces are no exception.  

“Violence impacts around one in six female workers, so we know family violence is a critical workplace issue,” said Tania Farha, Safe and Equal CEO. 

“It’s crucial we include workplaces in conversations about family violence, because they’re part of the solution.” 

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.   

Safe and Equal launched Are You Safe At Home? in 2020, during Victoria’s first pandemic lockdowns.  

During this time, specialist family violence services noticed that calls to support helplines from victim survivors stopped – because they were trapped at home with their perpetrator, there was no safe way to reach out,” said Ms Farha. 

“Instead, they saw calls from friends, family members and even co-workers increase. These were people who were really worried about someone but weren’t sure what to do – and that’s what Are You Safe At Home? is about – giving people in the community the tools and support to be able to recognise and respond to family violence. 

Since then, Are You Safe At Home? has expanded beyond a pandemic response. 2022 saw the launch of Are You Safe At Home? Day, which is now an annual event on 10 May.   

“This initiative is important because it not only provides tips on how to recognise the signs of family violence and sensitively open up conversations with affected individuals, but it also equips co-workers and loved ones of those experiencing family violence with practical knowledge of available services and supports,” says Survivor Advocate Rachel Croucher. 

We know that many people experiencing family violence will never contact police or services,” said Ms Farha. 

“Their friends, family and colleagues are often the first line of support – they see things that others don’t and can pick up on some of the more subtle signs that something isn’t right.” 

Are You Safe At Home? Day provides an opportunity for people in the community to get comfortable with starting what can be a difficult and confronting conversation. 

To support this the Are You Safe At Home? website features a suite of accessible tools and resources to help people feel more comfortable and confident to recognise the signs and offer support. 

“It can be really overwhelming to know what to say, what to do or where to start. You may worry that you’ll be interfering if you step in, or that you might say the wrong thing,” said Ms Farha. 

But you don’t have to be an expert. By starting small and opening up the conversation, asking ‘are you safe at home?’, and by listening and offering support, you can make a world of difference.” 

For Survivor Advocate Martina, when a friend asked whether everything was okay at home it was life changing. 

“This friend asked the right questions and pointed out to me that my abusive partner was gaslighting me and emotionally abusing me and that I deserved better,” said Martina. 

“All it took was one simple question, but it literally saved my life.” 

For Domestic Violence Advocate Carol-Ann Fletcher, remaining non-judgemental and supportive of the victim survivor is crucial. 

“The best thing you can do is let them know you love them and will be there for them, regardless of whether they choose to leave or stay with their abuser,” said Ms Fletcher. 

These considered responses extend to the workplace. A supportive and respectful workplace culture can be a lifeline for people experiencing abuse. 

The recent introduction of paid domestic and family violence leave across Australia is an incredible step forward in recognising that family violence is a workplace issue, and that employers have a responsibility to support people at work when things aren’t safe at home. 

However, according to sector experts, these leave provisions must be supported by structures and policies that promote a supportive and respectful workplace culture, one that challenges the attitudes and behaviours that promote gender inequality – a key driver of family and gender-based violence. 

All businesses should prioritise the development and implementation of tailored and accessible domestic and family violence workplace policy – and this needs to be underpinned by a safe and equitable workplace culture,” said Ms Farha. 

“We’ve heard stories from victim survivors about both the practical and emotional support workplaces have provided, which have been a vital part of their journey to safety,” said Ms Farha. 

“Sometimes that has been long term emotional support and checking in about safety, both from colleagues and managers; sometimes it has been support to relocate to another work site; sometimes it’s been providing access to a safe and accessible car park for victim survivors who are being stalked.” 

A key message for the community, Ms Farha says, is that family violence is entirely preventable.  

“But the reality is, we need ongoing and coordinated action across all levels of government and the community if things are ever going to change,” said Ms Farha. 

“While no individual can eliminate family violence on their own, we all have a role to play in this.” 

This 10 May, we’re asking all Australians to start the conversation – because we all deserve to feel safe at home. 

For more information, please visit www.areyousafeathome.org.au. 

 

For confidential information, counselling and support for both victim survivors and their loved ones, contact 1800 RESPECT (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). 

For Victorians who need family violence crisis support, contact Safe Steps on 1800 015 188 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).   

For people who are using violence who want to get help, contact the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.   

(*not their real name) 

Page last updated Wednesday, May 10 2023

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Ochre Ribbon Week

Ochre Ribbon Week

Friday 17 February 2023

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This week is Ochre Ribbon week, an Aboriginal-led advocacy campaign running each year from 12 until 19 February.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women deserve to be safe in their relationships and communities. 

Ochre Ribbon Week raises awareness about the devastating impacts of family violence on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. 

Statistics indicate that Indigenous women experience disproportionate levels of violence – both structural and interpersonal – and face significant barriers to seeking support. 

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) Report, three in every five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have experienced physical or sexual violence. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are also 32 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence, and 11 times more likely to die due to assault, compared to non-Indigenous women.  

These statistics are shocking, and highlight how colonisation, systemic discrimination, structural inequality and racism intersect with gender inequality to increase and intensify First Nations women’s experiences of violence. 

At Safe and Equal, we recognise the critical work of Aboriginal community-controlled organisations in the specialist family violence sector and beyond, and we’re working to amplify First Nations women’s calls for action to end the violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, especially women and children.  

As 2023’s Ochre Ribbon Week comes to a close, we want to highlight the messages and advocacy from Djirra’s social media campaign, which includes information and education on Ochre Ribbon Week, National Apology Day, and what family violence can look like: 

You can show your support by following and listening to Djirra and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations on social media, including: 

Page last updated Friday, February 17 2023

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Paid Domestic and Family Violence Leave: beyond the legislation

Paid Domestic and Family Violence Leave: beyond the legislation

Thursday 16 February 2023

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Everybody should feel supported to thrive at work, especially when things are unsafe at home.

You may have seen it on the news or heard about it at work: the Australian Government has introduced 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave into the National Employment Standards. 

What is paid domestic and family violence leave?

In short, paid domestic and family violence leave provides employees with paid time away from work so they can deal with the impacts of family violence. 

The leave is legislated and mandatory – meaning all employers have to offer it to their staff by the allocated deadline. For businesses with over 15 employees, this legislation came into effect on 1 February. For small businesses, the deadline to implement domestic and family violence leave is 1 August. 

The leave is referred to as ‘universal’ – meaning it is available to all employees, including casuals. It will also be available upfront – instead of accruing leave over time, an employee can access all 10 days of leave as soon as they need it, with the leave ‘resetting’ each year on an employee’s start date anniversary. 

The introduction of these leave entitlements shows how much Australians recognise the impact family violence has on the community, and the key role workplaces have in being part of the solution. 

Family violence is a workplace issue

We know that family violence is a prevalent and complex social issue, one that has devastating and long-lasting impacts on all parts of people’s lives. 

It also has a significant impact on the economy, costing Australia an estimated $1.9 billion per year. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, between 55% and 70% of women who have experienced or are currently experiencing violence participate in the workforce. That’s around one in six female workers. It’s safe to say most – if not all – workplaces will employee someone who is impacted by family violence. 

Given these figures and how much time we spend at work (most women employed in Australia work over 20 hours per week), there’s clearly a crucial role for employers in preventing and responding to family violence. 

Going beyond leave entitlements

The introduction of paid domestic and family violence leave can make a world of difference to someone experiencing abuse. It means they will be able to keep their jobs while taking the steps they need to keep themselves safe.  

To be able to take paid time off to attend an appointment with a specialist family violence service, go to court to obtain an Intervention Order, or arrange a lease and move house, means a victim survivor has a real chance at safely escaping abuse and can begin their journey to recovery.  

The introduction of this leave is an important and long overdue change – but there is a lot that workplaces will need to consider beyond just making it available to staff. 

In Monash University’s 2021 report Safe, Thriving and Secure: Family Violence Leave and Workplace Supports in Australia, access to paid domestic and family violence leave is highlighted as an important part of a broader framework of workplace responses to family violence. The report describes the significant work required across Australian workplaces to embed a culture and policy environment that is safe and respectful and supports victim survivors to thrive in their jobs. 

Employers will need to consider how leave can be requested and accessed discreetly; for example, under the legislation this form of leave cannot be displayed on a payslip. Both employers and colleagues need to be prepared to respond safely and effectively when someone in the workplace shares that they are experiencing violence. This includes knowing what specialist support is available and approaching the conversation with sensitivity, while maintaining privacy and confidentiality.   

More broadly, it’s critical employers cultivate a compassionate, trauma-informed and supportive culture within the workplace to ensure victim survivors feel safe and able to disclose abuse. This involves ongoing training for all levels of staff that supports an increased understanding of family violence, how to be an active bystander, and staff rights and responsibilities in relation to an accessible domestic and family violence leave policy. 

These skills are complex and nuanced and require time and consideration to embed properly. If you’re thinking about how to implement domestic and family violence leave in your workplace, there are lots of supports available. 

Workplaces have a real opportunity to support the big-picture change that’s needed to eliminate family and gender-based violence. Employers who develop a trauma-informed understanding of family violence, and prioritise a workplace culture of support, safety and respect will not only increase staff retention, performance and engagement, but will give victim survivors the best chance of recovering and thriving.  

For more information on how you can implement a tailored and accessible domestic and family violence leave policy in your business, check out Safe and Equal’s workplace family violence services. 

Page last updated Thursday, February 16 2023

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Safe and Equal responds to the Victorian Government’s acquittal of the Royal Commission into Family Violence recommendations

Safe and Equal responds to the Victorian Government’s acquittal of the Royal Commission into Family Violence recommendations

Saturday 28 January 2023

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As the Victorian Government today announced the acquittal of all recommendations from 2016’s Royal Commission into Family Violence, we reflect on the landmark achievements and progress made in the past seven years and set our sights forward on the continued commitment and investment required to realise the Royal Commission’s vision: a Victoria free from family violence.

Since the Royal Commission published its 227 recommendations in March 2016, we have seen unprecedented investment into Victoria’s family violence system.  

Based on a robust and comprehensive evidence base, the Royal Commission’s findings and recommendations cemented Victoria as a world leader in the prioritisation of eliminating family and gender-based violence. It provided the Victorian government, specialist family violence sector and the broader community a once in a lifetime opportunity to fundamentally change the way we respond to family violence and improve the safety and wellbeing of all victim survivors. 

Now, nearly seven years on, we have seen great progress on several significant reforms, with the foundations in place for a whole-of-system response to family violence in our state. 

“The Royal Commission into Family Violence signalled a monumental shift in the way we approach family violence in Victoria, and we commend the government for committing to all the recommendations and its overarching vision,” said Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha. 

“But our work isn’t done. As we celebrate these important achievements, we must continue to stay the course for change and maintain our focus – which is to eliminate family violence completely.” 

Significant achievements from the Royal Commission include the establishment of the MARAM Framework as a consistent and comprehensive risk assessment across the system; the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme; the creation of the Support and Safety Hubs in the form of the Orange Door Network; and the establishment of the Dhelk Dja: Safe our Way – Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families 10-year plan.  

Additionally, the Royal Commission provided the opportunity for people with lived experience to share their stories, shining visibility on the voices of victim survivors and advocates and centering their expertise in system design and reform.  

“The Royal Commission would never have been established without the tireless efforts of people with lived experience and those who support them – including the advocacy of Rosie Batty, and the CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria at the time, Fiona McCormack,” said Ms Farha. 

“The voices of lived experience are much more visible and continue to inform system improvements today, which is in large part due to the efforts of those who so bravely spoke out during the Royal Commission.”  

In celebrating these achievements, we can see the impact government investment and prioritisation can have on improving Victoria’s family violence system, across the continuum from prevention through to response and recovery.  

We can also see that more remains to be done, particularly to address the prevention of violence and the recovery of victim survivors. To fulfill the vision of the commission ongoing, we need to focus on an accessible, sustainable and seamless service system that can respond to all levels of demand and need,  increased access and availability to safe and affordable housing, and an increased investment in addressing the deeply ingrained attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that allow violence against women to thrive. 

“We know family and gender-based violence is entirely preventable,” said Ms Farha. 

“It’s a huge task, one that takes renewed commitment and the ongoing, coordinated action of all parts of our community and all levels of government. But it is possible.” 

As we reflect on and acknowledge the significant impact of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, Safe and Equal look forward to continuing to work in partnership with government, specialist services and those with lived experience to increase systems integration and inclusion, and to provide a coordinated response that meets the needs of all victim survivors and holds perpetrators to account. 

Page last updated Saturday, January 28 2023

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Preventing violence against women top of the agenda for the 16 Days of Activism in Victoria

Preventing violence against women top of the agenda for the 16 Days of Activism in Victoria

Wednesday 23 November 2022

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The 16 Days of Activism is a platform to call for change, and to remind us all that preventing violence starts with changing the culture that allows it to happen.

Respect Victoria and Safe and Equal are thrilled to partner on the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence campaign in Victoria, supporting more than 100 community events and initiatives across the state.

Kicking off on Friday 25 November, the campaign encourages individuals, families, and communities to lead with respect and take small steps towards equality to help prevent violence against women.

“The 16 Days of Activism is a platform to call for change, and to remind us all that preventing violence starts with changing the culture that allows it to happen,” said Respect Victoria CEO Emily Maguire.

“Violence against women is preventable, and it’s a challenge that belongs to all of us.”

“We will never eliminate family and gender-based violence unless we address the attitudes and behaviours that allow this violence to thrive – this is where prevention is key,” said Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha.

From Bendigo to Sunbury, Mildura to Whittlesea, organisations, community groups and councils are getting involved from across Victoria to take a stand against violence.

On the agenda are conversations that cover topics like men and masculinity and women in sport, art installations designed by young people that focus on gender equality, events for kids and families centred around respect and equality, and health education sessions.

“The diversity and breadth of events taking place this year is exciting and reflects just how important eliminating gender-based violence is to Victorians,” said Ms Farha.

“Engaging Victorian communities in these events highlight that we all have a significant role to play, that challenging and calling out gender inequality is everybody’s responsibility.”

“The 16 Days of Activism gives us all an opportunity to think about how we can take steps towards equality in our homes, relationships, workplaces and communities,” said Ms Maguire.

“This could look like talking to your kids about the gendered stereotypes they may face, choosing to have a chat with a mate if they make a sexist joke, or having an open conversation with your partner about how the housework is divided up,” said Ms Maguire.

The 16 Days of Activism campaign will run from Friday 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and finish on Saturday 10 December (Human Rights Day).

Find a calendar of Victorian events, plus resources and toolkits for organisations and individuals on the Safe and Equal website.

Join us at the Walk Against Family Violence on Friday 25 November – walk in the city, or walk in your local area. Find out more and register on the Safe Steps website.

Watch ‘Stories of Respect’ campaign videos on Respect Victoria’s website which encourages men to work together to break down stereotypes about gender.

Page last updated Thursday, November 24 2022

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Safe and Equal responds to the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032

Safe and Equal responds to the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032

Monday 17 October 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the launch of the second National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children, and its significant aim to end violence in one generation.

The new National Plan, running across 10 years from 2022 to 2032, is Australia’s united response to address one of our society’s most complex and critical problems.  

Ending family and gender-based violence – which is entirely possible – requires ongoing commitment, dedicated resources, and clarity of roles and responsibilities across all levels of government and throughout the community. A National Plan that recognises the importance of specialist service providers and professionals, one that promotes consistent standards and tangible, measurable outcomes to support and strengthen system capacity and capability in preventing and responding to family violence and sexual assault, is crucial. 

Significantly, the new National Plan clearly articulates the essential leadership role that specialist family violence services play in working with victim survivors and perpetrators, as well as building a robust evidence-base and informing policy development and system design. 

“Our specialist workforces are the frontline responders to the wicked scourge of family violence across Australia,” said Safe and Equal Chief Executive Officer Tania Farha. 

“Their expert understanding of the drivers, dynamics, risk factors and impacts of family violence is extremely nuanced and integral to effective, inclusive and trauma-informed responses to victim survivors.” 

“I have seen first-hand the impact these highly skilled professionals have on the safety and wellbeing of the victim survivors they support. It is crucial that all levels of government prioritise the sustainable resourcing of our sector, so they can continue to do this critical work,” said Ms Farha. 

The development of the second National Plan, which has involved consultation with specialist experts, allied sectors and people with lived experience, brings together approaches from all parts of our community and all levels of government to show that everybody has a role to play when it comes to eliminating family and gender-based violence. Importantly, the Plan also highlights the necessity of addressing the gendered drivers of this violence through targeted primary prevention initiatives. 

“Unless we address the underlying causes, we will continue to respond to the symptoms rather than stopping this violence from happening in the first place,” said Ms Farha. 

“We cannot eliminate violence in one generation without a concentrated focus on tackling the deeply ingrained attitudes, beliefs and structures that drives gender-based violence.” 

The second National Plan is a significant milestone in itself, but its implementation is where the hard work begins. We look forward to working collaboratively with governments, specialist services and with victim survivors to develop the first five-year Action Plan, which will set out in more detail what needs to happen to achieve these significant goals.

We have a real opportunity to change the course of our nation – let’s get to work. 

View the National Plan here.

Page last updated Monday, October 17 2022

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Change takes time: Safe and Equal calls for a continued focus on family violence in their 2022 Victorian Election Platform

Change takes time: Safe and Equal calls for a continued focus on family violence in their 2022 Victorian Election Platform

Wednesday 7 September 2022

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Ending family violence is complex. Even with the incredible investment into improving Victoria’s response to family violence in recent years, barriers and gaps still exist.

“The Royal Commission into Family Violence laid the groundwork for some significant changes to the way we prevent and respond to family violence in Victoria,” said Louise Simms, Safe and Equal Acting Chief Executive Officer.

“But change takes time. If we want to end family violence, we need renewed commitment and ongoing action from government.” 

Safe and Equal, Victoria’s peak body representing specialist family violence services, is calling on all parties to commit to these five key priorities ahead of the 2022 Victorian election: 

  1. Investing more in specialist family violence services to meet escalating demand 
  2. Growing, developing, and retaining specialist workforces  
  3. Eliminating the impossible ‘choice’ between violence and homelessness  
  4. Addressing system gaps and barriers to make services accessible for all 
  5. Investing meaningfully into primary prevention 

 “Eliminating family violence is going to take ongoing, coordinated action,” said Ms Simms. 

“We’re seeking commitment from across the political spectrum to address these issues and ensure that every person experiencing family violence in Victoria can access the support and safety they need, when they need it.” 

Read the full Election Platform here. 

Page last updated Wednesday, September 7 2022

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Breaking down the ABS report ‘Domestic Violence: Experiences of Partner Emotional Abuse’

Breaking down the ABS report ‘Domestic Violence: Experiences of Partner Emotional Abuse’

Wednesday 31 August 2022

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According to a new report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 3.6 million Australians have experienced emotional abuse from a partner.

In the report Domestic Violence: Experiences of Partner Emotional Abuse, the ABS provides an analysis of data from the 2016 Personal Safety Survey (PSS), identifying key characteristics that are associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing emotional abuse from a partner. 

Let’s break this down.  

What does the ABS mean when they refer to ‘emotional abuse?’ 

According to the report, the ABS defines ‘emotional abuse’ in the PSS as specific behaviours or actions that: 

“…are aimed at preventing or controlling [a person’s] behaviour, causing them emotional harm or fear. These behaviours are characterised in nature by their intent to manipulate, control, isolate or intimidate the person they are aimed at. They are generally repeated behaviours and include psychological, social, financial (also known as economic abuse), and verbal abuse.”

Examples of emotional abuse as defined by the ABS include: 

  • Trying to stop a person from contacting their friends, family, or community 
  • Constantly putting someone down 
  • Limiting a person’s access to household money 
  • Threatening to remove access to a person’s child/children. 

With this definition in mind, the data collected in the PSS found that an estimated one in four women (or 2.2 million) have experienced emotional abuse since the age of 15, from either a current or former partner. 

Does this differ to coercive control? 

The term ‘emotional abuse’ is often used interchangeably with coercive control, but they are not the same. Coercive control is not a separate form of family violence – rather, it is a part of all family violence, including emotional abuse. 

Think of it this way: coercive control is a pattern of abusive behaviours and tactics used by a perpetrator to gain power and control over a victim survivor. It is not a ‘standalone’ type of family violence. All forms of family violence can be used by a perpetrator to gain and maintain power and control. 

It’s also important to remember that when we talk about family violence, we are talking about patterns of abusive behaviours that are used to control someone in a family, family-like or intimate relationship, and to make that person feel afraid for their safety and wellbeing. It can take many forms – not just physical or sexual abuse. Similarly, all forms of family violence can be separate, or can occur together. 

The behaviours defined by the ABS as emotional abuse include a range of tactics associated with other forms of family violence, such as financial abuse. 

With that in mind, what does the ABS data say? 

Women with disability, single parents and people experiencing financial stress were more likely to experience abuse 

The report highlighted several characteristics that were linked with higher rates of emotional abuse. 

For instance, women aged between 30 and 54 experienced the highest rates of emotional abuse, while women aged over 65 were less likely to experience abuse. 

6.3% of women with disability or a long-term health condition had experienced partner emotional abuse, compared to 4.1% of women without disability or a long-term health condition.  

Women who were single parents of children under 15 years old were more than twice as likely to experience partner emotional abuse, compared with women from all other household types. 

Both men and women living in households who had experienced cash flow problems within the last 12 months were more than twice as likely to experience partner emotional abuse as those who did not experience cash flow issues. Similarly, women living in households that were unable to raise $2000 in a week for something important were almost twice as likely to experience partner emotional abuse. 

The most common emotional abuse experienced was threatening and degrading behaviours 

76% of women who had experienced emotional abuse by a current partner had experienced that abuse in the form of threatening or degrading behaviours. 41% had experienced abuse in the form of controlling financial behaviours. 

Significantly, of the 1.7 million women who experienced emotional abuse by a previous partner, 88% experience threatening or degrading behaviours, and 63% experienced controlling social behaviours. 

The data from this report further highlights that regardless of what forms it takes, family violence is always underpinned by power and control. Coercive and controlling behaviours are found across all types of family violence, not just emotional abuse. 

Find out more about different forms of family violence here. 

For more information on family violence, including how you can seek support for yourself or a loved one, visit Are You Safe at Home? 

Page last updated Wednesday, August 31 2022

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Supporting communities to help end family violence: Safe and Equal launches ‘Are You Safe at Home?’ videos

Supporting communities to help end family violence: Safe and Equal launches ‘Are You Safe at Home?’ videos

Wednesday 24 August 2022

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Conversations about family violence are important - and we want to spread the word that anyone can make a difference simply by listening and offering support.

That’s why we’ve created for our Are You Safe at Home? initiative. These short animations, which are available in 15 community languages, have been created to support family, friends and colleagues of people who are experiencing family violence.  

‘Family and friends are often the first ones to know something isn’t right. They play a crucial role in identifying and responding to family violence in the community,’ said Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha. 

‘We know that starting the conversation can be hard, which is why these videos and resources are so important. They’re simple but powerful tools to help people support loved ones who are experiencing abuse.’ 

We need your help! 

Media has the power to reach so many different communities – including people who may not know what family violence is, or what they can do to help their loved ones.  

We are asking for your support to help raise awareness across Australia – through sharing the videos on your digital channels, social media, or by linking to the Are You Safe At Home? website at the bottom of any articles you publish on family violence. This is an invaluable way for your readers to access information and support. 

Please reach out via media@safeandequal.org.au if you have any questions, or if you would like to work with us on an upcoming story. 

Page last updated Wednesday, August 24 2022

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Safe and Equal responds to proposed consent legislation reforms

Safe and Equal responds to proposed consent legislation reforms

Thursday 11 August 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the recently proposed reforms to consent legislation in Victoria. These amendments mean that, legally, consent for sexual activity must be actively sought and can be withdrawn at any time. Significantly, this would mean the law recognises that consent cannot be given if coerced under fear or force.

The introduction of this legislation is an important and historical moment in Victoria, and an incredible step forward in upholding the rights of victims of sexual violence.  

“By amending these laws, the Victorian Government is sending a clear message to victim survivors: that they’ve been heard, they are believed, and they deserve better legal recourse,” said Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha. 

“It also sends the message to perpetrators that sexual assault in all forms will not be tolerated by our justice system.”  

Family violence and sexual assault are inextricably linked. Family violence is an ongoing pattern of power and control which results in a victim survivor living in constant fear for their safety. These proposed changes recognise this, and acknowledge that consent cannot be freely given when there’s a threat of family violence. 

“Perpetrators of family violence use a range of complex tactics to maintain control over victim survivors,” said Ms Farha.  

“These tactics, known as coercive control, completely erode a victim survivor’s sense of safety and identity and instil a permanent sense of fear – that’s why these changes are needed.” 

The implementation of this legislation must be supported by broader awareness raising, professional development and education for young people. We know this is on the agenda and urge the government to prioritise the full scope of work needed. 

Changing the law is just one step in recognising and responding to sexual assault and family violence. There’s more work to do, including implementing the rest of the recommendations outlined by the Victorian Law Reform Commission in the Improving the Response of the Justice System to Sexual Offences Report. 

We commend the Victorian Government for prioritising what is an incredibly complex area of law reform and look forward to working together to create stronger outcomes for victim survivors of sexual assault and family violence and, ultimately, preventing this violence before it occurs. 

We also acknowledge that these reforms would not have been possible without the tireless advocacy of many victim survivors – to them, we say thank you. 

Page last updated Thursday, August 11 2022

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Response to the Inquiry into children affected by parental incarceration report

Response to the Inquiry into children affected by parental incarceration report

Tuesday 9 August 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the release of the final report from Victoria’s Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee’s inquiry into children affected by parental incarceration.

The report details how shockingly invisible these children are within the system, and the significant harms they experience when deprived of the opportunity to grow up with their parents. The Inquiry’s findings make clear the lack of appropriate community support available to children and families affected by parental incarceration, and the failure of the justice system and courts to consider the rights and needs of children when making custodial rulings. 

Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha commended the Committee’s recommendations for longer-term, sustainable funding for organisations that support these children and families. 

Organisations that support children and families of incarcerated parents do significant and highly-specialised work. It’s great to see their vital expertise acknowledged and prioritised in the report, she said. 

We welcome all recommendations contained in the report, and are particularly pleased to see the following: 

  • Legislative reform should be enacted to reduce the growing prison population in Victoria. 
  • That the Victorian Government implement systemic data collection processes to identify the number of children impacted by parental incarceration, including the children of parents on remand. 
  • That Victoria Police, in collaboration with legal and community stakeholders, implement a review mechanism for family violence matters capable of identifying instances where a victim survivor may have been misidentified as the primary aggressor in an incident and provide information about a process for the withdrawal of criminal charges. 
  • That the Victorian Government actively and continuously consult with children and families affected by parental incarceration in designing and implementing appropriate systemic changes and improved supports for this cohort. 
  • That the Victorian Government develop a long-term sustainable funding model to resource community organisations that support children affected by parental incarceration and their families. 

Importantly, the Committee’s findings highlight that family violence is a significant driver of women’s imprisonment. Without appropriate support for women and mothers experiencing family violence, we will continue to see unfathomably high rates of incarceration, and the increased risk of harm to children.

Even short periods of imprisonment can result in catastrophic implications for women and their children. We can’t ignore the links between structural gender inequality, family violence and the rising rates of women in Victoria’s prisons.

– Tania Farha, Safe and Equal CEO 

The report further highlights the improvements to systemic data collection required to address the invisibility of children and young people whose parents are in prison. As we simply don’t know how many Victorian children currently have a parent in prison, we cannot offer appropriate supports, or work to improve the system to better meet their needs.  

Notably, this report was released on National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Children’s Day (4 August). We know that women, and in particular Aboriginal women, are the fastest growing cohort in Victorian prisons. As the report states, 20 per cent of Aboriginal children will experience parental incarceration, compared to 5 per cent of non-Aboriginal children.  

These statistics are unacceptable and require urgent action. We recognise the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the face of ongoing colonisation, racism and discrimination, and acknowledge that these factors lead to the over-incarceration of Aboriginal people. 

We are heartened to see such considered and actionable recommendations, despite the undeniable complexity of the issues detailed in the report. We look forward to working with the Victorian Government and our colleagues in the justice sector to achieve meaningful and long-lasting outcomes for these children. 

Read the full report here.

Page last updated Tuesday, August 9 2022

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Family violence, homelessness and pregnancy: Keeping the perpetrator in view

Family violence, homelessness and pregnancy: Keeping the perpetrator in view

Wednesday 3 August 2022

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This op-ed, written by Safe and Equal's Policy Manager Kate Mecham, first appeared in Volume 35 of Parity Magazine, Australia's national homelessness publication.

A note on language: Safe and Equal recognises that family violence impacts people across a diversity of gender identities, social and cultural contexts, and within various intimate, family and family-like relationships. Consequently, we predominately use the gender-inclusive terms ‘victim survivor’ and ‘perpetrator’ to acknowledge the complex ways family violence manifests across the community. Importantly, the term ‘victim survivor’ refers to both adults and children who experience family violence, recognising that children and young people who experience family violence are victim survivors in their own right. However, where references are being made specifically to the experiences of women, we use gendered language to accurately reflect this. As this article refers to people who are pregnant — who are predominantly women, I have chosen to use gendered language in this article.

As the peak body for family violence services in Victoria, Safe and Equal is very pleased to sponsor this edition of Parity and draw attention to the interconnections between pregnancy, homelessness and family violence.

We know that pregnancy and immediately post-birth are times of increased risk of family violence. In the case of intimate partner violence, as relationship dynamics begin to change with the impending birth of a baby, family violence may start for the first time or it may escalate if already present, putting both mother and baby at risk. For young people who are pregnant, family violence risk may be present in the form of intimate partner violence and/or from their family of origin who may not be supportive of the pregnancy, further complicating the level of risk experienced and the types of supports needed to support young mothers and their children.

It is common for women and young people to find a new impetus to leave family violence when they become mothers, or when it becomes clear that their children are also being affected by the violence. Violence against themselves may be tolerated, but violence against their children is not. Thus, pregnancy creates both an opportunity and risk — an opportunity to engage with victim survivors of family violence to talk about safety, and a risk as pregnancy is already a time of increased risk that increases again at times of separation or when planning to leave.

We know that family violence is the leading cause of homelessness among women and children. Many mothers are faced with the dreadful choice of remaining in a violent relationship or taking their children and leaving only to be faced with the very real prospect of becoming homeless. Family violence is also the leading cause of youth homelessness, as many young people who experience family violence leave home to escape. For young women experiencing homelessness, the risk of family violence, sexual assault and pregnancy increases.

‘No woman should be forced to make the choice between putting herself and her children at risk of homelessness or continuing to experience family violence’.

This nexus of pregnancy, family violence and homelessness is why this edition of Parity is so important. Research on the experiences of women who are pregnant and homeless has demonstrated that a vast majority of these women have experienced family violence. In the mix of pregnancy, medical needs, homelessness, possible drug or alcohol addiction and/or mental illness, where is the perpetrator?

When working with women who are pregnant and homeless, these critical questions must be asked. Is this woman a victim survivor of family violence? Is attempting to leave family violence the reason they are homeless? Are we recognizing and supporting both the woman and her children’s acts of resistance and efforts to stay safe in the face of violence? Where is the perpetrator? Is the system keeping them in view? Do services know where they are, what they are doing, and how their actions may have impacted and still be impacting the mother and child?

Are we viewing mental illness or substance abuse through a trauma‑informed lens, which may reveal that these issues are a response to family violence‑related trauma? Are we recognising that, for some of these women and children, family violence may still be occurring? That this trauma is not an event they have left behind, even if they are being linked in with other services?

If the abuse, violence, coercive control and resulting fear are ongoing, recovery from family violence is not possible. Are we able to acknowledge what a mammoth task it may be for the mother to effect certain changes in her life at this time? Are we able to adjust service expectations accordingly, with a view to keeping both mother and child safe and — ideally — together?

In such scenarios, it is critical that we shift our focus to the perpetrator of family violence and assess to what extent their actions are the root cause of many other issues someone who is pregnant and homeless may be experiencing. If the family violence risk from the perpetrator was removed, how might the health, wellbeing and safety of each woman and her baby be improved?

Fortunately, Victoria is starting to make this shift. The introduction of the family violence Multi Agency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) framework is supporting non-specialist family violence services who work with victim survivors of family violence to better assess the safety needs of both adult, child and adolescent victim survivors. The Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme (FVISS), Child Information Sharing Scheme (CISS) and rollout of the Central Information Point (CIP) all are enhancing services’ abilities to share risk-relevant information about perpetrators and victim survivors to better inform risk assessments, safety planning and holistic service delivery.

These reforms are still in the early days of implementation, and their full effect on outcomes for victim survivors, including women who are pregnant and homeless who have experienced family violence, is still yet to be felt. But they are also not enough on their own. Even when fully implemented, much will rely on the expertise and experience of individual practitioners to be able to utilise these tools effectively. It is, therefore, necessary that sectors are resourced to support their staff to use these tools and work collaboratively with other sectors to answer these critical questions through multiple practice lenses to get the best picture of what a client needs.

We also need housing.

Homelessness cannot be solved without housing. No woman should be forced to make the choice between putting herself and her children at risk of homelessness or continuing to experience family violence. We cannot reasonably expect anyone to address mental illness or substance abuse issues when they are homeless, managing a pregnancy and faced with the prospect of bringing a baby into the world without a safe place to live. We also need more crisis accommodation for young people who are independently fleeing family violence, either from an intimate partner or family of origin, to stop the intergenerational impact of family violence.

The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence very clearly found that children experience the effects of family violence prior to birth. Yet the service infrastructure and amount of safe, affordable, long‑term housing to support women who are pregnant and experiencing family violence and homelessness remains insufficient to address their needs. We are immensely pleased that attention is being drawn to this group of women and children and look forward to the ensuing conversation about what is needed and how to best support them.

Page last updated Wednesday, August 3 2022

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Fast Track Prevention Program Wrap-up

Fast Track Prevention Program Wrap-up

Wednesday 27 July 2022

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In the last week of June, the Fast Track prevention program held their end-of-program forum and final workshop for round 3.

Fast Track is a 10-week online program that supports professionals in the prevention and response sectors advance their careers by building skills in leadership, advocacy, partnerships, and program design.  

A cohort of 24 practitioners completed the course from a range of organisations and regions across Victoria. The final workshop focussed on advocating for change, with Emily Maguire (CEO, Respect Victoria) and Diana Sayed (CEO, Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights) joining us for a panel discussion. The level of engagement throughout the program was high, with participants feeling a real sense of camaraderie and reinvigoration to continue their work in prevention.  

I have enjoyed this course immensely! I have not only learned a lot but have practical knowledge and skills to apply to my practice in Family Violence Prevention work and have made some great long-time relationships/networks with amazing people from the course. Thank you so much for the opportunity!

-Fast Track prevention program participant

The end-of-program forum was a success, attended by Fast Track participants and managers, mentors, and staff from DFFH and Safe and Equal. The forum was an opportunity to connect and celebrate participants’ hard work, with presentations showcasing enhanced knowledge and skills that they can apply in their workplaces. The session begun with a discussion between Tania Farha and participants around leadership, what participants valued from the program, and future hopes for leadership within the sector. The scaffolded learning outcomes covered in each weekly module alongside support from their mentors enabled participants to identify and design a workplace project to implement back in their organisation. Some workplace project logics presented at the forum included: 

  • Building a rural gender equity workforce; train the trainer model
  • Supporting multicultural and faith communities to prevent family violence, and
  • Embedding gender equality into teaching practice for the community education sector.

The Fast Track program is now entering an evaluation phase; we have partnered with Lirata and look forward to conducting a thorough evaluation of the program and sharing the analysis and findings later in the year. Discussions are currently in progress regarding the future funding of Fast Track, to join the waitlist for upcoming prevention leadership development opportunities, please click here 

Page last updated Wednesday, July 27 2022

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#SeenAndBelieved: LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day 2022

#SeenAndBelieved: LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day 2022

Friday 27 May 2022

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Saturday 28 May is LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day – an opportunity to raise awareness and increase visibility of domestic, family and intimate partner violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex, queer, and asexual people.

What began as a Brisbane-based awareness day in 2020 is now a national initiative – one that centres the voices of LGBTIQA+ communities and aims to educate allies, organisations and the general public about the systemic discrimination, erasure and additional barriers LGBTIQA+ people face when trying to seek domestic violence support. 

For Elvis Martin, a youth advocate and member of Safe and Equal’s Expert Advisory Panel, LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day is a reminder of the work that is still needed to ensure all LGBTIQA+ people can access safe and inclusive support. 

“Because so many people view family violence as something experienced by cisgender heterosexual women, perpetrated by cisgender heterosexual men, it can be really hard for anyone outside of that binary to be seen and acknowledged as a person experiencing violence,” he said.

“This makes it very difficult to access support – if we don’t realise that what we are experiencing is family violence, and the system isn’t recognising it, we fall through the cracks.” 

Research indicates that people who identify as LGBTIQA+ experience family violence and intimate partner violence at similar rates to those who identify as heterosexual. Private Lives is Australia’s largest national survey of the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQA+ people, conducted by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) at La Trobe University. The third edition of the survey, released in 2020, found that more than two out of five survey respondents reported experiencing intimate partner violence, and two out of five survey respondents reported experiencing family violence, predominantly from parents and older siblings.  

The survey also highlights the unique circumstances in which LGBTIQA+ people may be subjected to violence, including rejection or abuse after ‘coming out’ to family members. As a young person, Elvis’ experience of family violence directly intersected with experiences of homophobia and discrimination. 

“For a long time, I did not know that what I was experiencing was family violence,” he said.  

“I didn’t know what to think – I would just tell myself that I was experiencing ‘conflict’ with my family. I did not see it as family violence until someone else named it.” 

After recognising that what he was experiencing was family violence, Elvis realised there were further systemic barriers for LGBTIQA+ people seeking support that other communities may not face.  

“For starters, there are not many LGBTIQA+ specialist family violence services, and many people don’t know who or where they are,” he said. 

“Adding to that are the ongoing experiences of systemic discrimination and prejudice LGBTIQA+ communities are subjected to. This can increase our distrust of services, so even if we know a mainstream service is there, we might be hesitant to reach out.” 

Challenging systemic discrimination and prejudice is key to the theme of this year’s LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day – #SeenandBelieved. For Elvis, having people name the violence and ask about his safety was life-changing.  

“Just having someone say that to me made me feel seen and believed. It gave me the confidence to seek professional support, which was something I was unable to do previously,” says Elvis. 

“But we can’t just rely on professionals – because there are less LGBTQIA+ family violence services, the community has a really important role in supporting each other,” he adds. 

“Just being there for someone who is experiencing family violence is so important. You don’t have to tell them what to do, just be there for them, don’t judge them, and let them tell you what they need.”

After overcoming some very difficult circumstances, Elvis now uses his lived experience to educate others in the community and amplify the voices of the LGBTIQA+ community. It is his hope that with initiatives like LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day, more people will feel supported to disclose abuse and reach out for help, and services will become safer and more inclusive for LGBTIQA+ people. 

“There is so much power in having these conversations. The more awareness we raise, the more our experiences are validated, the more we feel seen and respected, and the more government and policy makers must listen and change.” 

For more information on LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day, visit https://www.dvafoundation.org/. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, you can contact Rainbow Door on 1800 729 367 (10am – 5pm, every day) or QLife on 1800 184 527 (3pm-midnight, every day) for LGBTIQA+ peer support, information and referral, or 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 (24 hours, 7 days).

Page last updated Friday, May 27 2022

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International Day Against LGBTIQA+ Discrimination

International Day Against LGBTIQA+ Discrimination

Tuesday 17 May 2022

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Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia, also known as IDAHOBIT. The date commemorates when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from the Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems on 17 May 1990.

IDAHOBIT reminds us we must stand with and celebrate LGBTIQA+ people and communities across the globe, raise awareness and acknowledge there is still significant work required to eliminate LGBTQIA+ discrimination. People who identify as LGBTIQA+ experience family violence and intimate partner violence at similar rates to those who identify as heterosexual. However, LGBTIQA+ people face systemic discrimination, erasure, and additional barriers to accessing tailored family violence support. 

Safe and Equal stands against homophobia, biphobia, intersexism and transphobia. We recognise the ongoing violence and discrimination that LGBTIQA+ people face on a daily basis, particularly in the context of family violence, and continue to advocate for change. We celebrate the wisdom, strength and humour of LGBTIQA+ communities, and strive to make our organisation an inclusive space where everyone is welcomed and valued. 

There is a lot of work occurring across the organisation to promote and support LGBTIQA+ community partnerships and collaboration. Recently, we partnered with Switchboard to develop a tip sheet to help practitioners responding to family violence provide LGBTIQA+ inclusive support.  

Last week, we joined with gender equity and women’s safety organisations across the nation to speak out in support of inclusion, dignity and respect for trans women. This Fair Agenda initiative is in response to the disturbing attempts by some political candidates to foster division by attacking the rights of trans women to participate in community and professional sports. We are deeply concerned about this divisive, hate-filled debate and its potential to fuel increasing violence against trans women and girls. You can read the joint statement and add your support here 

We are also proud to be working towards achieving our Rainbow Tick accreditation, which ensures Safe and Equal is a safe, inclusive and affirming organisation and employer for LGBTIQA+ communities.  

Finally, we are excited to be co-hosting an upcoming webinar with Switchboard and the Zoe Belle Gender Collective, to commemorate LGBTIQA+ DV Awareness Day on Thursday 26 May. The webinar is an opportunity to learn how we can better respond and support trans women of colour who are experiencing family and intimate partner violence.  

These are all important steps, but there is much more work to be done to ensure our sector can provide safe and inclusive support to all LGBTIQA+ people. 

If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can support and advocate for the LGBTIQA+ community, for IDAHOBIT and beyond, take a look and share content from Minus18 and Switchboard, two organisations doing critical work towards supporting and creating space for LGBTIQA+ people. There’s also a page on the Safe and Equal website that provides more information on how services can support LGBTIQA+ people experiencing family and domestic violence, including a list of specialist services and programs. 

Page last updated Tuesday, May 17 2022

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Start a conversation to end family violence

Start a conversation to end family violence

Tuesday 10 May 2022

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Today (May 10) is Are You Safe At Home? Day – a chance to start a conversation to end family violence.

When the first round of Melbourne lockdowns occurred in March 2020, people experiencing abuse found themselves stuck at home with their perpetrators 24/7 – without the respite that work, socialising and daily life had otherwise provided. Calls to helplines dried up as women were unable to reach out for support without alerting their perpetrator. 

During this time, family violence services started reporting an increase in ‘third parties’ – friends, family members and neighbours – contacting them with concerns about someone in their life.  

It was from these circumstances that Safe and Equal developed Are You Safe at Home? – a campaign to reduce the stigma and fear associated with asking the question, and to support communities to feel more comfortable identifying and responding to family violence. 

Expanding to a national campaign in 2022, the new Are You Safe at Home? website provides people experiencing abuse with information about what family violence is, ways to stay safe, and where to find support. Asking the question can be tough, so the website also includes information for friends, family and community members on how to respond appropriately if you suspect someone you know is experiencing family violence, centered around asking, ‘are you safe at home?’. 

‘For someone experiencing abuse, having someone ask about your safety can be incredibly meaningful. To have someone actually name what you’re experiencing as violence, believe you and offer non-judgmental support can be life-changing.’

– Tania Farha, Safe and Equal CEO

This morning’s live-streamed event to launch the very first Are You Safe at Home? Day provided an opportunity to centre the voices of lived experience and learn about the significant role individuals can play in the fight to end family violence.  

Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, Gabrielle Williams, gave a powerful opening address that articulated the significance of community engagement and support in preventing and responding to family violence. 

‘Where people are, is where this conversation needs to be. It’s as simple as that,’ she said. 

Minister Williams went on to acknowledge the importance of awareness-raising campaigns in further educating the public, saying ‘the community at large has more of an understanding of what family violence is, due in large part to campaigns like this.’ 

Following Minister Williams’ address, MC and AFLW Richmond player Akec Majur Chuot facilitated a discussion with Elvis and Mishka* two survivor advocates who both have had experiences with being asked ‘are you safe at home?’. 

For Elvis, who experienced family violence related to his identity as a young LGBTQIA+ person, being able to name what he was experiencing as family violence was complex and difficult. 

For a long time, I thought family violence was only experienced by women in intimate partner relationships,’ he said.

‘If someone would have asked me…I might have opened up about my experience and maybe that would have fast-tracked my recovery.’ 

Mishka* shared her similar experience with being unable to recognise that she was experiencing family violence, but had supportive work colleagues who were able to name the violence and provide pathways to safety. 

‘Quite often the last person to realise they are a family violence victim is the victim themselves….my colleagues knew I was a family violence victim before I did,’ she said. 

Both Elvis and Mishka* highlighted the importance of bystander intervention – particularly of being non-judgemental and asking the individual experiencing violence what they need for support. 

‘If you see a red flag, it doesn’t do any harm to call it out and ask the question…you’ve planted a seed,’ said Mishka*. 

‘Just be a good listener. Be there for someone, listen to what they are going through,’ added Elvis. 

Both advocates advised that having regular check-ins, offering practical support and remaining patient and understanding can really make all the difference. 

‘What my colleagues did was slowly build me up, and show me I was valued and cared about, and that the violence was not my fault,’ said Mishka*. 

‘That gave me the strength to save myself, to get myself safe.’ 

Safe and Equal would like to thank Elvis, Mishka*, Akec and Minister Williams for providing their advocacy and support in the launch of Are You Safe at Home? Day. 

Click here to view the livestream of the Are You Safe At Home? Day event.

For more information and resources, please visit www.areyousafeathome.org.au. 

 

*names have been changed. 

Page last updated Tuesday, May 10 2022

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Are You Safe At Home? Five words that can start a conversation to end family violence

Are You Safe At Home? Five words that can start a conversation to end family violence

Monday 9 May 2022

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When Jennifer* was in a decades-long abusive relationship, it was her mother Susan’s* unwavering love and practical support that gave Jennifer the confidence to seek help and safely leave.

For Mishka*, a simple but powerful question from her manager started a journey to safety she never thought possible. 

When the first round of Melbourne lockdowns occurred in March 2020, people experiencing abuse found themselves stuck at home with their perpetrators 24/7 – without the respite that work, socialising and daily life had otherwise provided. Calls to helplines dried up as women were unable to reach out for support without alerting their perpetrator. 

During this time, family violence services started reporting an increase in ‘third parties’ – friends, family members and neighbours – contacting them with concerns about someone in their life. 

It was from these circumstances that Safe and Equal developed Are You Safe At Home? – a campaign to further educate and support communities to start the conversation to end family violence.  

Are You Safe At Home? provides people experiencing abuse with information about what family violence is, ways to stay safe, and where to find support. Asking the question can be tough, so the Are You Safe At Home? website also includes information for friends, family and community members on how to respond appropriately if you suspect someone you know is experiencing family violence, centered around asking the question, ‘are you safe at home?’. 

‘By asking ‘are you safe at home?’, you’re saying ‘I see you, I believe you, I care.’ The person may not act on it right away, but you’ve planted a seed that there is another option, and that support is there when they are ready,’ said Jennifer*. 

‘My ex was convicted of serious offending, but what got me safe and out wasn’t the system, it was good bystanders. It was my colleagues, my boss, people who saw red flags when I couldn’t, and said and did lots of little things. The sum of those little things made a life changing difference. That’s why I’m still alive,’ said Mishka*. 

‘We must not underestimate the crucial role family, friends and community members can play in identifying and responding to family violence, and supporting loved ones to safety,’ said Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha.  

‘By providing clear information about what to look out for, what supports are available, and how to start the conversation, the Are You Safe At Home? campaign is designed to break down the fear and stigma associated with talking about family violence in the community,’ said Ms Farha.  

In 2022, the Are You Safe At Home? campaign is expanding with the launch of the very first Are You Safe At Home? Day on Tuesday 10 May. 

Hosted by Safe and Equal, the live-streamed event provides an opportunity to centre the voices of lived experience and learn about the significant role individuals can play in the fight to end family violence. You can access the livestream here 

‘For someone experiencing abuse, having someone ask about your safety can be incredibly meaningful. To have someone actually name what you’re experiencing as violence, believe you and offer non-judgmental support can be life-changing,’ said Ms Farha.   

‘This May, we’re asking the public to ask the question and start the conversation – because we all have the right to feel safe at home.’ 

(*not their real names) 

www.areyousafeathome.org.au

Page last updated Monday, May 9 2022

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Meet Safe and Equal’s new Board Chair

Meet Safe and Equal’s new Board Chair

Tuesday 15 February 2022

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

Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha welcomed the appointment. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Page last updated Tuesday, February 15 2022

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

Embedding family violence lived experience

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

Tuesday 1 February 2022

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

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

Recognise 

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

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

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

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

Safety 

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

Expert Advisory Panel member

 

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

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

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

Value 

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

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

Transparency 

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

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

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

Expert Advisory Panel Member

 

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

Accountability 

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

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

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

Support 

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

Expert Advisory Panel member

 

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

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

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

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

Expert Advisory Panel member

 

Trust 

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

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

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

Expert Advisory Panel member

 

Reciprocity 

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

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

Inclusion 

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

Expert Advisory Panel member

 

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

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

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

Expert Advisory Panel member

 

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

Sustainability 

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

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

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

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

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

Page last updated Tuesday, February 1 2022

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Responding to Children and Young People’s Experience of Family Violence

Responding to Children and Young People’s Experience of Family Violence

Monday 31 January 2022

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As the specialist family violence sector continues to develop and evolve, children and young people impacted by family violence still need urgent and dedicated support.

Held virtually on 10 November 2021, ‘Responding to Children and Young People’s Experience of Family Violence’ was the final session in Safe and Equal’s 2021 Specialist Family Violence Leadership Group Forum.

The session provided an opportunity for leaders in the sector to hear directly from young people impacted by family violence, and to further explore what it really means for our sector to recognise and support children and young people as victim survivors in their own right.  

Youth advocate panel discussion: working with young people in their own right 

Setting the scene for the morning was the youth advocate panel discussion moderated by Tash, a survivor advocate and member of Safe and Equal’s Expert Advisory Panel. The five youth advocate panelists, Apryl*, Elvis, Liam*, Millie* and Kaitlyne, provided unique insight into how systemic responses can evolve to be more inclusive and responsive to children and young people, based on their experience and expertise.  

When discussing what it would look like for a service to work with a young person in their own right, panelists described the feeling of being ‘invisible’ in services and being seen as an extension of a parent rather than as an individual person. There are different, individual support needs required for children and young people, and services need to directly engage with them to ensure their needs are prioritised and seen as separate to the needs of adults, as well as other children and young people. Family violence can impact each child or young person differently – even those within the same family. 

The panel discussed gaps in the current service system, particularly around the lack of dedicated funding or support available for victim survivors turning 18, for young people from diverse cultural backgrounds, and for young LGBTIQA+ people experiencing family violence. Panelists described how complicated and overwhelming it can be to navigate services and environments, which can feel like a full-time job. They recommended a more holistic approach, where services consider the intersectionalities that impact young people and provide warm referrals and support accordingly.  

The importance of staff training, sector collaboration and the inclusion of lived experience within service frameworks was also highlighted by the youth advocates as integral to creating meaningful, ongoing change. The panel discussed how essential it is that children and young people see themselves reflected at all levels of an organisation, including as Board members.  

Prioritising the needs of children and young people in system reform  

In her keynote address, Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People Liana Buchanan noted that this event was the first time children and young people had been brought together with the specialist family violence sector in this way. 

Calling for the ongoing prioritisation of children and young people in public policy and service design, Commissioner Buchanan reflected on the immense work that has been done in this space, particularly following the Royal Commission into Family Violence, but acknowledged that there is much more to be done.  

“We cannot afford to take such a long time to improve responses to children and young people who are experiencing family violence.”

Liana Buchanan, Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People

 

Break-out room discussions 

Break-out rooms during the forum provided an opportunity for participants to reflect on specialist family violence responses to children and young people and consider future directions in policy and system reform. Key needs and priority advocacy areas that emerged from these discussions include: 

  • Increased funding and resources to support children and young people 
  • Tools, resources and training for services to create a safe and supportive environment for children and young people 
  • Advocacy for stronger responses to children and young people within our sector 
  • Embedding of lived experience to ensure services are accessible 
  • Increased investment and capacity for refuges to respond to the needs of children and young people.

We would like to thank the staff, members and survivor advocates who contributed their time and knowledge to this event. We hope to continue this conversation and build on our practice and policy expertise to provide children and young people with safe and responsive support and services. 

Page last updated Monday, January 31 2022

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Tailoring inclusive support for our communities

Tailoring inclusive support for our communities

Wednesday 26 January 2022

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Safe and Equal is proud to partner with specialist organisations Djirra, Berry Street's Y-Change Lived Experience Consultants, Switchboard, inTouch, Women with Disabilities Victoria, Seniors Rights Victoria, and Flatout to develop a suite of practitioner resources to support tailored and inclusive responses to family violence occurring across diverse communities and contexts.

Family violence is an intersectional social problem with far-reaching impacts that reinforce structural disadvantage and marginalisation across many different communities.  

While family violence can impact anyone, there are social, structural and systemic barriers caused by historic and ongoing discrimination that has seen certain groups excluded from or unable to access services, government programs, and equitable justice responses. Ageism, ableism, colonisation, criminalisation, homophobia, poverty, racism, sexism, transphobia and other forms of discrimination can all increase the severity and lasting impacts of family violence. 

To disrupt these barriers, responses to family violence must be inclusive, tailored and flexible. Victim survivors of family violence must be understood as the experts of their own experiences, with their own unique backgrounds, life experiences, perspectives, identities, strengths, hopes and needs. 

We have partnered with seven specialist organisations who support the most marginalised members of our community who experience intersecting forms of discrimination and violence, to provide practice guidance for tailored and inclusive family violence support. 

Read on for more information on each of the resources. 

Image for Safe + Equal_Djirra-18

Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 

This practice guidance has been prepared for family violence workers who are responding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing family violence. This may include women and children who are experiencing family violence in the context of intimate partner violence, and/or women and children experiencing family violence in the context of kinship relationships and arrangements. 

This self-directed learning guide has been developed in partnership with Djirra, written from the perspective of an Aboriginal writer with experiences and input from other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. It is prepared predominantly for family violence practitioners who are not Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

This practice guidance is a starting point to spark more questions, think about your own practices, and continue your learning.  

Supporting children and young people 

The voices of children and young people impacted by family violence are often invisible. This guide for family violence practitioners working to support children and young people has been co-produced with Berry Streey’s Y-Change Lived Experience Consultants – a group of young people aged 18-30 with lived experience of socioeconomic and systemic disadvantage who challenge the thinking and practices of social systems through their advocacy and leadership. 

The guide explores key considerations for supporting children and young people with lived experiences of family violence and features several practical activities you can do with children or young people accessing your service. The guide is complimented by a colouring-in activity that was also co-produced by Y-Change. The artwork and colouring-in activities were created by artist and illustrator, Chadai Chamoun.  

Find out more about Y-Change’s work here. 

Supporting LGBTIQA+ People 

People of all genders, sex and sexual orientations can experience family violence. Many lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex, queer, and asexual or aromantic people have family violence experiences that mirror those within heterosexual and cisgender families and relationships. 

Because of biphobia, homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism and heteronormativity, there are also some distinctly different risk factors and barriers to support experienced by LGBTIQA+ people.  

We’ve partnered with Switchboard Victoria to develop a tip sheet to help practitioners responding to family violence provide LGBTIQA+ inclusive support, assessment, safety planning and referrals. 

Switchboard Victoria is a community based not for profit organisation that provides a peer-based support service for LGBTIQA+ people and their friends, families and allies. 

Supporting criminalised women 

Victim survivors who have been criminalised experience high rates of family violence and trauma, and the severity and impacts of this can be significant.  

The term ‘criminalised women’ is used to encompass women who have been imprisoned, have had contact with police for other matters, and/or who engage in criminalised activities such as illicit drug use or sex work.  

Victim survivors whose experiences of family violence intersect with their experiences of being criminalised, including experiences of incarceration, may experience discrimination in the family violence response system. This can increase their risk and impact their access to safety and support. 

Flat Out is a state-wide homelessness support and advocacy service for women who have had contact with the criminal justice and prison system in Victoria. They are an independent, not for profit, community-based organisation that is managed by and for women. Flat Out is committed to co-creating safer spaces, fostering support and self-determination for sistergirls, intersex, transgender and gender diverse women. 

To support services and practitioners to provide safe and inclusive responses to criminalised women, we have partnered with Flat Out to develop a tip sheet to help family violence practitioners understand systemic harm and violence and resist systemic collusion.  

The tip sheet is accompanied by a poster for display in a service. The poster is aimed at criminalised women and seeks to empower them to access the tip sheet and provide it to a service or practitioner they are working with. 

Criminalised women informed and shaped this resource, and we thank them for generously sharing their knowledge and experiences. 

Supporting people from migrant and refugee communities 

Family violence is widespread and is not inherent to any culture, country, or community. Victim survivors from migrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking backgrounds experience the same forms of family violence as the broader community. 

Because of racism, discrimination, language barriers, and differences in cultural contexts, people from migrant and refugee communities in Australia can be disproportionately impacted by family violence because they face some distinct risk factors and experience additional barriers to support. 

inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence is a specialist family violence service that works with women from migrant and refugee backgrounds in Victoria, including women who have experienced forced marriage.  

Forced marriage is a violation of human rights, a slavery-like practice, and a form of family violence that affects many people – especially women – in our community. While forced marriage is recognised by the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic), it has been acknowledged that the family violence system needs to improve capability to identify and respond to forced marriage in the context of family violence. 

To support this, we have partnered with inTouch to co-design a tip sheet to help family violence practitioners understand what forced marriage is, the signs to look out for, and best ways to support someone who has experienced forced marriage. This practice guide draws on the position paper Forced Marriage in Australia, published by InTouch in June 2021. 

Supporting people with disability 

In July 2021, we partnered with Women with Disabilities Victoria to deliver a webinar on person-centred risk assessment with victim survivors with disability.  

Facilitated by Keran Howe, panelists from Women with Disabilities Victoria’s Experts by Experience Group, the Office of the Public Advocate and family violence practitioners contributed their diverse perspectives and experiences. Together, they explored compounding risk factors and barriers to safety that people with disability experience. 

The webinar also explored ways specialist family violence practitioners can adapt their practice to ensure people with disability feel safe, heard and supported during risk assessments.

Supporting older people 

If you are supporting someone who is older or lives with an older person, it is vital you can recognise elder abuse and respond appropriately. 

Evidence shows there is a high prevalence of elder abuse perpetrated by adult children, and this can be a complex context for practitioners to support the safety and wellbeing of elder victim survivors.  

We have developed this resource in partnership with Seniors Rights Victoria, a specialist service that provides information, support, advice, and education to help prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older people. 

Seniors Rights Victoria identified that practitioners would benefit from increased guidance to support them to identify elder abuse, and to uphold the rights and safety of older people in intergenerational households – particularly when the older person may not be the primary client of the service. 

Page last updated Wednesday, January 26 2022

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Calling for a sustainable footing for the specialist family violence sector

Calling for a sustainable footing for the specialist family violence sector

Tuesday 18 January 2022

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An unprecedented amount of investment has been made in improving Victoria’s family violence system following the Royal Commission. While this has been welcomed by the family violence sector, there remains a range of complex issues which are creating clear gaps and mounting pressure on the emerging system. As the Victorian government gears up to release the 2022 state budget, we are calling for an urgent uplift in funding to secure a sustainable footing for the specialist family violence services sector, so every victim survivor can access the support and safety they need at the time they need it.

Where are the gaps?

There are ongoing issues around service sustainability, demand and resourcing in the specialist family violence sector. Essentially, services need funding at a level that meets increasing demand.  

An increase in community awareness means more victim survivors feel comfortable seeking support, however without adequate funding services cannot keep up with this ever-growing client base. Services are having to triage cases, meaning those who are assessed as lower risk will wait longer for case management. Wait times are only increasing as we see more high-risk and complex cases, due in part to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

It is also important to note that while we know from years of anecdotal evidence that demand for family violence services is reaching unsustainable levels, meaningful and reliable data is complex and difficult to collect. Without ongoing government investment and commitment to data collection and analysis, we will never have the whole picture on demand.  

What we do know is that team leaders and managers from many of our member organisations have expressed concern at the impact demand issues are having on victim survivor safety, and staff wellbeing and mental health. Workers want to do the best for their clients but the ever-rising demand for services, and the impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in high levels of staff turnover and burnout.  

Our indicative data suggests that most specialist services are working at a significantly reduced capacity due in part to worker burnout and staff retention issues, creating added pressure for remaining staff. One specialist service reported that the number of intake and assessment staff taking mental health days increased by at least 50 per cent during 2020. Services have difficulty recruiting and retaining experienced specialist staff, meaning new and inexperienced workers are holding significant caseloads, complexity and risk. They are reporting that after two to three years, workers are moving on to other, more secure jobs outside the specialist sector – jobs that pay more and are able to provide longer-term contracts.  

System reforms arising from the Royal Commission into Family Violence, while welcomed, have meant that many services must implement significant changes to meet new industry requirements, using existing core funding. This adds extra pressure to an already buckling workforce at full capacity. 

As services grapple with unsustainable demand and resourcing issues, the lack of crisis accommodation and long-term housing remain critical system gaps that require immediate attention. Currently, in Victoria there is only capacity to accommodate 160 households in refuge. We know the need is much higher.  

This significant lack of available refuges has meant victim survivors are often placed in motels. This year, Safe Steps supported an average of 97 victim survivors in crisis accommodation each night, with some months averaging as high as 120 people per night.  

While using motels as a form of emergency accommodation has been necessary, it is not suitable for victim survivors of family violence whose lives are at significant risk. Motels are simply unable to provide the level of care and safety required.  

Another critical gap is the lack of clarity, consistency and resourcing in responses to children and young people experiencing family violence. Funding and structural limitations along with a lack of minimum standards means the system, while trying, is struggling to provide tailored, specialist responses to children and young people as victim survivors in their own right.  

What is needed?

To deliver the best quality services to victim survivors of family violence, Safe and Equal is calling for an urgent increase in funding for the specialist family violence sector. This funding must be at a level that enables the 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. 

This doesn’t just mean money for more workers to deliver more services to clients – although this is also needed. It is about investing in the longevity and sustainability of the specialist family violence sector, to ensure the best outcomes for victim survivors – both adults and children.  

It means: 

  • Longer-term staff contracts with a minimum of 3 years 
  • Longer-term program funding 
  • Increased wages for specialist family violence workers that reflect the complexity of the work, the skill set and level of qualifications required to work in the sector 
  • Increased funding to support staff professional development and wellbeing, to ensure highly skilled workers remain in the sector and do not experience burnout  
  • Immediate implementation of a fit-for-purpose, flexible costing model, and increasing funding for infrastructure costs, to enable all specialist family violence services to meet new requirements arising from reforms 
  • An immediate increase in specialist family violence crisis accommodation to enable 320 households to be accommodated on any night, the prioritisation of 1000 dwellings for victim survivors to be built immediately as part of the Victorian Big Housing Build initiative, and a greater proportion of new social housing to be set aside for victim survivors of family violence. 

For the system to be effective, all parts must be appropriately and adequately resourced to ensure people seeking support do not encounter roadblocks. There are many reforms and changes to the system in recent years that have made for a more inclusive, integrated system. These are certainly worth celebrating. However, the very sustainability of the system is under significant pressure from issues around demand and resourcing – issues that require immediate attention to ensure improvements gained over the last five years are not in vain.  

Read our submission to the 2022 Victorian State Budget.

Page last updated Tuesday, January 18 2022

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Everyone has the right to be safe at Christmas

Everyone has the right to be safe at Christmas

Tuesday 21 December 2021

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For many, the holiday season brings a sense of joy and celebration. It’s a time for reflection and festivity, a time to get together with family and friends – some of whom we may be seeing for the first time in almost two years. But for others, this is a time of fear.

December and January have long been the busiest time of year for specialist family violence support services. This is reflected in data on calls to services and police, which dramatically increased during the 2020-21 holiday season. According to Victoria Police figures, more than two thirds of all assaults reported between Christmas and New Year’s Day were related to family violence, with police attending a family violence incident every five minutes.

By the time all the presents have been opened, the food eaten, and the crackers popped this Christmas, there will have been approximately twice as many family violence assaults compared to other days in the year. These increases come on top of already alarming rates of family violence seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These numbers are staggering. Yet they don’t even paint the whole picture, as we know most people experiencing abuse will never contact the police. Many, however, will tell a friend, family member, or colleague.

So what can we, as a community, do to help? We all have a part to play in preventing and responding to family violence by looking out for friends, family and neighbours, and knowing what action to take if we are concerned someone may be experiencing abuse.

 

How do I know if it’s family violence?

Family violence is a pattern of threatening, controlling or violent behaviour that makes someone feel scared or unsafe. While it impacts people of all genders, identities, age groups, sexual orientations, cultural backgrounds and walks of life, most family violence is perpetrated by men, against women.

It’s also important to remember that family violence doesn’t always involve physical abuse. It can also include behaviours like threats, financial control, and emotional abuse. It is often cyclical – there may be periods of time without violence, and times where the violence is heightened. No matter what form it takes, family violence is never acceptable.

 

Common signs to look out for:

Someone who is experiencing family violence may not openly disclose that they are being abused, but there are often signs that indicate something is not right.

They may withdraw from loved ones or seem depressed. Their partner, ex-partner or family member may undermine their credibility, criticise or humiliate them publicly. They may seem afraid or nervous when this person is around, or may have cuts, bruises and other injuries with unlikely explanations. Perhaps they have mentioned their partner or family member’s temper or jealousy to you. Maybe you have seen their partner constantly calling, texting or monitoring their movements.

For children or young people who may be experiencing family violence, the signs can be harder to recognise. Sudden behaviour changes like difficulty concentrating, not wanting to go home, ‘acting out’ or becoming angry and aggressive at friends and family can mean there is something going on.

 

What can I do?

If anyone is in immediate danger, always call the police on triple zero (000). If there is no immediate risk, the best thing you can do is find an opportunity to speak with the person you’re concerned about alone, and approach them with sensitivity and empathy. For people experiencing abuse, being asked a simple question like ‘are you safe at home?’ can make a world of difference.

If someone discloses violence or abuse to you, it’s important you listen without judgement or criticism – the violence is never their fault. Saying ‘just leave’ is not helpful – there are many reasons why someone may be unable or unwilling to leave an abusive partner.

Help build confidence by acknowledging their bravery in sharing. Tell them that you believe them, and you want to help.

Help them make a safety plan – this could include being their emergency contact, agreeing on a code word or signal they can use if they need help, looking after copies of important documents and items in case they need to leave home quickly, or providing practical support like childcare or assistance with errands.

Let them know professional support is available – a good place to start is the list of Victorian services on the Are You Safe At Home website.

It can be scary to ask the question, but it could be the greatest gift you give these holidays.

 

For 24/7 family violence crisis support and accommodation in Victoria, contact Safe Steps on
1800 015 188.

For support and information in other states and territories, contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

For tailored LGBTIQA+ support and information in Victoria, contact Rainbow Door on 1800 729 367.

If you or someone you know may be at risk of using family violence, contact the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.

 

*This op-ed from Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha was originally published in the Herald Sun on Tuesday 21 December 2021.

Page last updated Tuesday, December 21 2021

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