Submission to Draft regulations and Regulatory Impact Statement for social services

Submission to Draft regulations and Regulatory Impact Statement for social services

20 July 2023

down arrow

Safe and Equal welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the consultation on the Draft Regulations and the Regulatory Impact Statement on the Social Services Regulation.

As the peak body for specialist family violence services, this submission will focus solely on the issue of the timing of the introduction of the regulations, that FSV/DFFH should be bound by regulations through their operation of the Orange Door and the difficulty for services to determine costs when the compliance regime is unlikely to be established until well into the first half of 2024.

In addition to the feedback provided in our submission, Safe and Equal also endorses the recommendations in the following submissions:

  1. Submission on Draft Regulations and Regulatory Impact Statement for Social Services (VCOSS)
  2. Submission in response to the Draft Regulations and Regulatory Impact Statement for social services (NGO representatives of the Social Services Regulations Taskforce)
  3. Djirra_Social Services Regulatory Scheme submission 11 July 2023.

Page last updated Thursday, July 20 2023


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Safe and Equal’s submission to the MARAM 5-year evidence review

Safe and Equal’s submission to the MARAM 5-year evidence review

26 June 2023

down arrow

Safe and Equal is pleased to provide a submission to the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework’s (MARAM) 5-year evidence review.

Allen and Clarke are appointed to undertake the legislated review, which aims to:

  • assess whether the approved framework reflects the current evidence of best practices of family violence risk assessment and family violence risk management. 
  • recommend if any changes are required to ensure the approved framework is consistent with those best practices. 

The MARAM framework, practice guides and associated tools have resulted in improvements in risk assessment and risk management practice across the service continuum. Our member consultations, historic and current work on MARAM have demonstrated that there remain opportunities to strengthen and amend them to truly meet current best practice.

Subequently, Safe and Equal’s submission outlines a number of recommendations relating to accessibility, intersectionality, working with children and young people, evidence-based risk factors, risk assessment and safety planning tools. We look forward to the outcome of this important review, to ensure victim survivors receive a best practice response wherever they seek support. 

Page last updated Monday, June 26 2023


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Victorian Disability Family Violence Crisis Response Initiative

Victorian Disability Family Violence Crisis Response Initiative

Tuesday 20 June 2023

down arrow

The expansion of eligibility criteria means victims of family violence who have disability-related needs including mental health, chronic health or ageing issues or have a temporary injury resulting from family violence can now access the Disability Family Violence Crisis Response Initiative. Broader criteria means more support is available to more women and children, but the future is uncertain.

“When Henry was removed from the house it took eight weeks to get someone to come in and do something as basic as give me a shower. They removed my carer but didn’t put anything in place to back that up.”

– Witness statement of Melissa Brown, Royal Commission into Family Violence1

Women with disabilities are particularly at risk of violence because of their experience of discrimination on the basis of both disability and gender. Research shows that women with disabilities experience violence at a higher rate and for longer periods of time than women without disabilities2. In fact, over one-third of women with disabilities experience some form of intimate partner violence3. They also encounter significant barriers to receiving appropriate services and adequate justice responses to their experiences of violence4.

In cases where the woman’s intimate partner is her carer, reporting the violence means she faces losing disability supports in addition to experiencing violence. Moving to ensure safety has more implications for women with disabilities than for other women; it can mean changing support providers and requiring assistance to manage a new environment. Despite the greater risk of family violence and the level of supports required, women with disabilities are under-represented in the family violence system.

Since 2011, the Disability Family Violence Crisis Response Initiative (DFVCRI) has provided immediate crisis supports to women and children with a disability who are experiencing family violence. These practical supports include attendant care, equipment hire, Auslan interpreters and transport costs associated with a disability.

As Melissa Brown’s witness statement above to the Royal Commission into Family Violence (RCFV) demonstrates, access to the DFVCRI has been limited. In some cases, the woman’s disability didn’t fit the narrow definition in the Victorian Disability Act (2006) in others, increased awareness of the Initiative could have helped.

Fortunately, the RCFV recognised the need to make a specific recommendation to extend eligibility to a wider group of women and children whose disability fell outside the Act5. As a result, the DFVCRI can now assist women and children who are experiencing family violence and have disability related needs including mental health, chronic health or ageing issues or have a temporary injury resulting from family violence.

The fund was created due to a recognition that disability services are not designed to respond to crisis needs. While Victoria’s new Flexible Support Packages support disability services to respond to family violence needs, they can’t offer the dedicated disability advice and liaison available through the DFVCRI.

The Disability and Family Violence Liaison Officer is located at Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre, and can help workers across the state assess whether a woman or child’s experience falls within the extended criteria for immediate supports. They can also provide secondary consultation and advise about longer term disability supports after the 12 week period, including flexible support packages. 

More information

Disability and Family Violence Liaison Officer, Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre

Short-term funds can be provided for up to 12 weeks to a maximum of $9,000 per person. During this period, a family violence worker will work with the woman to develop a longer term plan to address the family violence risk.

1:… 2: Woodlock D, Healey L, Howe K, McGuire M, Geddes V and Granek S: Voices Against Violence Paper One: Summary Report and Recommendations (Women with Disabilities Victoria, Office of the Public Advocate and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, 2014): 3-4: Ibid; 5: Recommendation 178 states that “the Victorian Government extend eligibility for the Victorian Disability Family Violence Crisis Response to assist people with disabilities who are victims of family violence and are not eligible for services under the Disability Act 2006 (Vic) but who nevertheless require assistance. Such eligibility should apply when these individuals do not have access to alternative supports.” 


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Agency and choice are key to recovery from family violence

Agency and choice are key to recovery from family violence

Tuesday 18 April 2023

down arrow

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

Author: Louise Simms, Executive Director – Policy, Communications and Engagement

Safe at Home responses – centred around supporting victim survivors of family violence to remain in their current home – are critical in our efforts to ensuring the family violence service system can meet the unique needs of every person experiencing abuse and can promote autonomy and choice on the road to recovery. 

Family violence is unique in the community services context. It is the only social issue whereby the agent of risk is another person; someone who is actively making choices to cause others to experience fear and danger. Perpetrators use violence to gain and maintain power and control, and they adapt their tactics based on the strategies victim survivors put in place to protect themselves. 

This is the operating context for family violence services – we call it ‘dynamic risk’. The role of the family violence system is to identify, assess and manage family violence risk. To do this effectively, our systemic responses should be just as dynamic.

Safe at Home, as a principle and a commitment, can be a powerful driver of flexible responses aimed at achieving whatever ‘safe at home’ means for each victim survivor.

With no two individual experiences of family violence the same, service responses – including Safe at Home responses – must be flexible to meet people wherever they are on their journey to safety. This flexibility, and the restoration of agency and choice, is critical for victim survivors’ long-term recovery. 

But what does it mean to truly meet a victim survivor where they are? 

While all experiences of family violence are different, something all victim survivors can relate to is the erosion of their sense of self. This kind of abuse chips away at a person’s autonomy and their ability to make decisions – something that can take years to rebuild, long after the immediate threat has been resolved. Many victim survivors talk about the experience of having a perpetrator tightly control or remove every possible freedom in their lives, and the impact this has on their confidence and their capacity to leave an abusive relationship and regain independence. When a service system is inflexible and unable to provide choice or autonomy for its users, it mimics the power and control of family violence and can make it very difficult for victim survivors to feel safe and secure. 

In many ways, this replication of a ‘power over’ dynamic and removal of individual agency is embedded in the way our family violence system is structured and funded. The system is focused on minimising risk and is not set up to restore choice and autonomy as a priority. Most policymakers have never accessed the systems they design, and the result is a system that does not respond to victim survivors as experts in their own needs and safety – something we must consistently challenge if we want to see change. 

One of the ways we can do this is by expanding the approaches available to enable victim survivors to remain safe in their own homes, if this is what they want to do. How we do this can look incredibly different – it can mean safety and security adaptations and so much more. For example, it could be creating opportunities for financial literacy and supporting access to employment, because, as we know, financial and economic stability is crucial for a victim survivor’s recovery from abuse. It could be ongoing, long-term counselling, or increased access to legal support. 

With family violence the number one driver of homelessness among women and children in Australia, this is not only about offering flexibility and choice, but about preventing homelessness in an already over-stretched housing system. 

Systemic and structural barriers exist across the family violence service landscape, including within Safe at Home responses. Programs can only do so much to keep victim survivors safe and hold perpetrators accountable without a whole-of-system effort to bring together a wide range of community services, as well as police and justice responses all working towards a common goal. Part of this is the recognition that what enables a Safe at Home response looks different for everybody. 

Anything the service system can do to restore a victim survivor’s sense of agency in their safety and recovery is valuable and should be prioritised. Much of this can be supported by meaningful engagement with people’s lived experiences of family violence and of accessing support services. By embedding lived expertise in system and service design, we can shift to a ‘power with’ approach, remain accountable and identify areas for improvement, while also creating opportunities for victim survivors to engage with the system as consultants, advocates and leaders. 

Agency, autonomy and choice are key elements in someone’s recovery from family violence. When, at its core, a family violence system does not view those who use it as the experts in their own safety needs, it renders victim survivors unable to make decisions about their lives and hinders an integral component of their recovery. 

Family violence is complex, and the way we respond to it requires nuance and a long-term, concerted effort from our service system via a wide range of responses. Safe at Home responses are an integral part of this, though they are by no means the only response. We need to view being ‘safe at home’ as a guiding principle that informs the structure of our family violence system, one that is equipped to provide flexible and tailored responses that centre the expertise and agency of all victim survivors. 

Page last updated Tuesday, April 18 2023


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Being brave with Elizabeth Morgan House

Being brave with Elizabeth Morgan House

Monday 30 May 2022

down arrow

From Kalina Morgan-Whyman, CEO, Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women’s Service Inc. 

This National Reconciliation Week, we are reminded that we need to ‘Be brave. Make change.’

It has never been more important for Aboriginal women and children to have allies in our ongoing efforts to advocate for their human rights. The statistics are shocking: 

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 5 times more likely to be victims of homicide than other Australian women. More than half (55 per cent) of these homicides are related to family violence.    
  • Aboriginal women constitute 34% of the female prison population and are only 2% of the general population.    
  • 87% of Victorian Aboriginal women in prison are themselves a victim of sexual, physical or emotional abuse.  
  • Aboriginal children are taken from their families by child services at 8 times the rate of non-indigenous children.   

Getting help is difficult because of a lack of cultural appropriateness in many services, and fears from Aboriginal women that access to support leads to interacting with a system that would remove their child or lead to further violence. Everyday, our case workers are supporting women and children through a system that discriminates and further traumatises them. Aboriginal women and children need culturally appropriate services so they are safe and can heal.  

We are seeing how Aboriginal women are treated in the news at the moment, with the latest coronial enquiry into an Aboriginal woman’s death in custody. We hear stories of a lack of medical care and inhumane treatment all the time. Aboriginal women incarcerated in Victoria receive grossly inadequate healthcare. This failure is causing preventable and treatable illnesses to become chronic, and in too many cases, is directly resulting in the deaths of Aboriginal women.  

There must be change. 

Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women’s Service (EMH) is Aboriginal-led, for Aboriginal women and children. We remain the only high-security refuge for Aboriginal women in the state, with accommodation for just four families at one time – not nearly enough to accommodate the referrals received.  

EMH is committed to advancing the International Human Rights principles for our women and their children. The safety of women is paramount, and we seek to address power, systems, structure, gendered inequality and discrimination that exists and impacts our Aboriginal women. 

EMH is taking up the challenge with an ambitious agenda to provide leadership in this space. There are ways you can help: 

Donate to us here:  

Add Aboriginal women’s voices to your work – contact us to find out how.  

Follow us across social media and help spread the message that Aboriginal are strong, resilient, wise and brave. Reach out to find more ways to partner with us. 

National Reconciliation Week Promotional Banner

Page last updated Monday, May 30 2022


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Fast Track Response Program Wrap-up

Fast Track Response Program Wrap-up

Tuesday 12 April 2022

down arrow

Last week, Safe and Equal held their end-of-program forum and final workshop for round 3 of the Fast Track Response program.

Fast Track is an intensive leadership program that helps professionals in the prevention and response sectors advance their careers by building skills in leadership, advocacy, partnerships and program design. 

A cohort of 21 professionals completed the course in round 3, with representatives from Berry Street, Centre Against Violence, Drummond Street Services, Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women’s Services (EMH), Family Life, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand, Safe Steps, WAYSS Ltd, and WRISC Family Violence Support.  

The end-of-program forum was a great success, attended by Fast Track participants, mentors, and staff from Family Safety Victoria and Safe and Equal. The forum opened with a discussion between Tania Farha and participants around leadership, what participants valued from the program, and future hopes for leadership within the sector. Each participant then presented the workplace project logic they had designed during the program. The learning outcomes covered in each weekly module alongside the mentorship program supported participants to identify and design their projects, the presentation of which showcased the hard work invested and the strengthened capacity of participants. 

Workplace projects presented included: 

  • A project to connect each Aboriginal Team within the Orange Doors, to improve referral pathways and strengthen connections between teams across Victoria 
  • An audit to understand the type of barriers services face to effective and timely collaboration, followed by the implementation of targeted interventions to address these barriers (such as networking events and cross-sector meetings), and the development of processes for a formal feedback loop to monitor and review these barriers and interventions  
  • A project to encourage greater contribution from all team members in meetings, not just from management. This project aimed to address the need for a healthy, positive team culture where staff feel safe and supported to speak up and share ideas.  

Forum attendees were very impressed with all workplace project presentations, with Family Safety Victoria and the Safe and Equal Practice Development Advisor expressing interest in staying updated on the programs’ status and outcomes. 

“I just wanted to say a quick thank you for the last 10 weeks, I cannot believe how fast it went! I was really surprised at how relevant, specific and targeted the course content was, it was challenging without being overwhelming and I am thankful for the opportunity to be part of it.”

– Fast Track response program participant

This was the final funded response round for 2022, and upcoming courses are yet to be confirmed. You can add yourself to the waitlist for future Fast Track programs or for other potential leadership development opportunities here 

Page last updated Monday, April 11 2022


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Victorian Emergency and Disaster Response

Victorian Emergency and Disaster Response

Tuesday 21 December 2021

down arrow

This blog post shares key updates and links regarding Victorian emergency management. These include Victoria’s revised State Emergency Management Plan (SEMP), SEMP roles and responsibilities and the new Emergency Recovery Resource Portal (ERRP). The table provided outlines key contacts in emergency and disaster for members to use and share with their local community and clients.

Victoria’s revised State Emergency Management Plan (SEMP) 

The SEMP details the state emergency management arrangements for the mitigation of, response to, and recovery from emergencies. It informs all levels of planning across Victoria – state, regional and municipal.  

The 2021 Review was undertaken across a six-month period and included comprehensive engagement with the emergency management sector, government departments and supporting agencies. 

The SEMP Roles and Responsibilities document (linked below) lists an extensive range of emergency and disaster support including fire, flood, and animal welfare. 

The State Emergency Management Plan Roles and Responsibilities is a web-based section of the State Emergency Management Plan (SEMP) which includes a detailed Roles and Responsibilities section.  

The Victorian Government has launched a new Emergency Recovery Resource Portal (ERRP) 

The new portal provides emergency recovery guidance and information for practitioners from communities and agencies supporting recovery in Victoria. 

Over 50 resources from a wide range of sources are now available in the ERRP, to inform and guide recovery activities and decision making. Greater access to these resources will better enable community-led recovery and resilience practices. 

The portal is part of the Victorian Government’s response to the Inspector General for Emergency Management (IGEM). It was co-created by people and practitioners from across government and the community. 

We encourage our members to share the table below with their local community or clients, particularly in the lead-up to bushfire season in Victoria. An additional resource produced by Better Health Channel in consultation with The Department of Health outlines services that you can call for immediate help1. 

In an emergency, always call triple zero (000) on any phone that has reception, even if the phone is locked you can drag the ‘Emergency SOS’ slider to call emergency services. If you have a hearing or speech impairment, dial 106 to use the text-based emergency services network on a teletypewriter.  

VicEmergency Hotline 
Call 1800 226 226 
Flood, storms, tsunami or earthquake
Victorian State Emergency Service (SES) 
Call 13 25 00 
Workplace emergencies
Worksafe Victoria 
Call 13 23 60
Medical issues
Nurse On-Call
Health information helpline provided by registered nurses.
Call 1300 606 024
Gas and electrical emergencies
To report gas emergencies, call the emergency number on your gas bill for assistance at any time. 

To report fallen electrical power lines and power outages contact your electricity supply company. 

Call (03) 9203 9700  

Maternal and Child Health Line
Family health line for child health, maternal and family health and parenting advice provided by maternal and child health nurses.  

Call 13 22 29

Red Cross Information Line
Find a bushfire relief centre or locate affected family and friends. 

Call 1800 727 077 

Support for accessing phone services
Call the National Relay Service(if you are deaf or find it hard hearing or speaking with people who use a phone) on 1800 555 677 and if you don’t speak English, call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 13 14 50. 

Page last updated Tuesday, December 21 2021


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Wrapping up the 16 Days of Activism

Wrapping up
the 16 Days of Activism

Friday 17 December 2021

down arrow

Safe and Equal are incredibly thankful to have partnered with Respect Victoria to deliver this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence grassroots initiative. Read on to learn more about how this year's grant recipients engaged their local communities to Respect Women: Call it Out.

This year, Safe and Equal partnered with Respect Victoria to award 113 grants of $1200 to a wide range of community organisations, who delivered activities and events designed to engage their communities in preventing and responding to gender-based violence. Some of the amazing examples of how these community organisations applied their grant funding include: 

44 grants for social media campaigns 

for print/traditional media campaigns

43 grants to support webinars, seminars, and workshops 

30 grants to support public art installations and exhibitions 

18 grants to run trainings on primary prevention and other topics 

15 grants to create and screen videos 

13 grants for arts/cultural events and activities 

We would like to extend our enormous gratitude to all who have been instrumental in making this campaign happen. Thank you to Respect Victoria for their funding and guidance, as well as to our Project Advisory Group members (Municipal Association of Victoria, No to Violence, Women’s Health Services Council and Victorian Council of Social Services) for their advice, expertise and support, which helped make this year’s campaign a success. 

It has been a big year, and an immensely challenging one at that. We recognise that many of you have been working within a sector that has been disproportionately impacted by the unforeseen challenges of a global pandemic, whilst balancing lockdowns, caring responsibilities and redirected work priorities, amongst many other uncertainties.  

We’d like to thank each and every one of you for the enthusiasm, creativity and commitment demonstrated during this year’s 16 Days of Activism campaign. Your collective efforts are the driving force for change, and we are so thrilled to be working alongside you towards these common goals. 

Image provided by Didi Bahini Samaj

Page last updated Friday, December 17 2021


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Meet our Fast Track participant Krissy Nicholson

Meet our Fast Track participant Krissy Nicholson

Thursday 25 November 2021

down arrow

We recently spoke to Krissy Nicholson, a Family Violence Prevention Officer from the City of Casey, about her experiences with the primary prevention stream of the Fast Track program.

Why did you join the Fast Track Program?

I wanted to deepen my knowledge and expand my family violence prevention practice with a group of supportive likeminded professionals.

What have been the key takeaways from Fast Track for you?

Fast Track allowed me the space and time to reflect on core components of family violence prevention and focus on how to put this evidence base into practice. My favourite session was focussing on Intersectionality, where I was provided additional tools and resources to ensure it is prioritised in my work. I also loved the extensive list of resources available and the opportunity to work alongside a great group of people across the sector. The mentorship program was an added bonus!

Since starting Fast Track, how do you think you’ve developed as a practitioner?

This program enabled me to consolidate my learnings and strengthen the theory that supports my work. It has provided an opportunity for me to learn from experts and think about how to apply learnings into my own practice. I have also loved the mentor process in which I have space and time to really dissect and discuss some of the more nuanced complexities in this work.

What’s next for you?

I am very excited to be working with a team to develop the City of Casey’s new Gender Equality and Family Violence Prevention Strategy. I am looking forward to embedding the learnings and resources from the Fast Track course into its development.

What advice do you have for someone new to primary prevention?

Prevention work is inspiring, diverse, challenging, and empowering. However, we are playing the long game. Change takes time so celebrate small successes and look after yourself along the way. Build and utilise networks, have patience, and also have a sense of humour.

Learn more about the Fast Track program here.

Page last updated Thursday, December 2 2021


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Meet our Fast Track participant Kerry L

Meet our Fast Track participant Kerry L

Thursday 25 November 2021

down arrow

We recently spoke to Kerry, a Family Violence and Disability Practice Leader from Berry Street, about her experiences from the response stream of the Fast Track program.

Why did you join the Fast Track Program?

I felt I had reached a level in my current practice where I had adequate skills and experience to move into a leadership role within the sector. The Fast Track intensive leadership program, is one of its kind as it is tailored to the Family Violence Sector and suited my professional development needs. The program provided the unique opportunity to be linked with an experienced specialist mentor for the duration of the program and offered regular expert presenters who shared knowledge and insights relevant to program sessions. I found the duration and times set for the program attractive as it was manageable whilst I continued to work full time.

What have you been able to achieve since completing the Fast Track program?

I was successful in my application for a leadership role as the Family Violence & Disability Practice Leader at Berry Street. As part of my final assessment, I developed a Program Logic which I presented to our Practice Development Team who were supportive of implementation.

I have developed my thinking in relation to engagement with external organisations and utilise this knowledge to promote and advocate inclusive practice for people experiencing family violence and sexual assault with lived experience of disability.

I have also put into practice my learnings regarding the importance of data collection and developed processes to collect and collate data.

Since starting Fast Track, how do you think you’ve grown as a leader?

My confidence has grown, and I understand how to advocate on behalf of myself, my team, programs, and people in the community using evidence and data. I have been able to consider how to implement frameworks and models in my current role as Family Violence and Disability Practice Leader and promote capacity building within Specialist Family Violence and Sexual Assault Services.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I am excited about my future and what I will achieve. The Fast Track intensive leadership program has provided me with a strong foundation around feminist leadership, policy and partnerships to compliment my practice experience. I am very grateful I had the opportunity to complete the program.

I highly recommend anyone considering an application to the Fast Track intensive leadership program to apply. The facilitators are experienced, and the delivery of the program is thoughtful. There are numerous learning opportunities covering various topics. Fast Track delivered a safe space to share expertise, resources, insight, thoughts and challenges between participants, facilitators and guest speakers. Each person contributed invaluable insight to support our learning and the connections made between participants was an added bonus!

Learn more about the Fast Track program here.

Page last updated Thursday, November 25 2021


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

A new peak body for the family violence sector

A new peak body for the family violence sector

Wednesday 17 November 2021

down arrow

Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) and the Domestic Violence Resource Centre (DVRCV) have united to form Safe and Equal, Victoria’s peak body for family and gender-based violence.

For more than three decades, Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) and the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) have been two key organisations in the establishment and coordination of the specialist family violence sector in Victoria.   

In 2019, the Boards of both DV Vic and DVRCV identified the possibility of a merger to further strengthen our capacity to support systems reform and connect strengths and resources for greater impact.  

After comprehensive consultation with staff, members and other stakeholders, the Boards and members of DV Vic and DVRCV voted to merge in March 2020, representing an exciting new chapter in the extensive histories of both organisations. 

On 17 November 2021, we launched our new visionary name and brand with our Board, members, key stakeholders and partners. Combining over thirty years of experience in advocacy and innovation for change in the family violence sector, DV Vic and DVRCV are proud to unite as Safe and Equal, the peak body for specialist family violence services supporting victim survivors in Victoria.   

“Following the Royal Commission into Family Violence, the Victorian specialist family violence sector has been subject to major and ongoing reforms,” said Safe and Equal Chair Stacey Ong.  

“It became clear that by bringing together the skills and expertise of both organisations, we could increase and strengthen our capacity to support specialist services through these changes and into the future.”

Safe and Equal will continue to work with practitioners and leaders to bring grassroots issues into the public arena, coordinate and participate in advocacy and action to reform policy and improve the service system, and scale up and embed practice development and innovation across the sector.  

“The roles of DV Vic and DVRCV have always been highly complementary, with closely aligned visions, purpose and values, and frequent collaboration in advocacy and campaigning,” said Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha.

“This merger provides the specialist family violence sector with a peak organisation that has more reach than ever before, across the continuum of prevention to recovery.”

The new name, Safe and Equal, was selected after extensive consultation and feedback from victim survivors. It is a bold statement in support of the organisation’s vision: a world beyond family and gender-based violence, where women, children and all people from marginalised communities are safe, thriving and respected. 

Visit our new website at 

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following video may contain images of people who have died.

Page last updated Wednesday, November 17 2021


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

“Silence means trauma”

“Silence means trauma”

Friday 15th October 2021

down arrow

Every year, over 110,000 Australians experience pregnancy or infant loss. To acknowledge and remember all babies lost and the grief and trauma experienced by their families, October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, with October 15 known internationally as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day.

To commemorate Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day we spoke to Rebeca ‘Bec’ Carro, a member of DV Vic/DVRCV’s Expert Advisory Panel who has experienced pregnancy and infant loss. Bec is an experienced survivor advocate, published writer and campaigner. Since the Royal Commission into Family Violence, Bec’s advocacy experience includes TV appearances, radio hosting, roundtables, public speaking engagements, as well as federal and state campaigns. Recently, Bec was part of a successful campaign that saw a national legislative change to maternity/paternity leave in recognition of stillborns.

You are the stars that steer my life by

You are everything that is good and holy to me

When I see a beautiful sunrise or sunset, that is you

When I see the lake or the forest or a flower, that is you

You are in the trees, the wind and the sunshine

You are all around me and in me

You are forever my babies born with wings.

Poem by Rebeca Carro

When Bec first started dating her perpetrator in 2005, their relationship moved quickly. After moving in together, the physical and emotional abuse started almost straight away. Six months in, Bec was surprised to find herself pregnant. She later found out her perpetrator was routinely sabotaging her birth control methods – a form of reproductive abuse.

As Bec’s pregnancy progressed, so did the violence – until seven months into her pregnancy she was rushed to hospital. Devastatingly, her baby had passed away.

“I blamed myself. I believed what he said to me, that it was my fault, I was crazy. I had to hide it and lie to the hospital staff, saying I fell down the stairs even though he pushed me. You learn to be so convincing that they don’t ask the extra questions. I was all alone; it was incredibly traumatic.”

Bec is not alone in her experience. According to the Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework (MARAM), family violence often commences or intensifies during pregnancy and is associated with increased rates of miscarriage, low birth weight, premature birth, foetal injury and death. Data collected from the 2012 Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey indicated that over 400,000 women in Australia had experienced violence by a partner during pregnancy.

Family violence during pregnancy is widely regarded as a significant indicator of future harm and for this reason, it is listed in the MARAM as one of the evidence-based risk factors that may indicate an increased risk of a victim being killed or almost killed. For Bec, this risk was very real. The violence and coercive control continued after the loss of her baby, and she found herself terrified to fall pregnant again due to the risk of significant harm from her perpetrator.

“I told myself I would never go through that again…I was so scared to have another child due to the trauma I experienced. Trying to hide the fact I was on the pill was really difficult and risky – he wanted me to get pregnant, but I saw pregnancy and trauma as totally linked. I saw pregnancy as trauma.”

Bec endured 10 years of ongoing and escalating abuse, making multiple attempts to leave the relationship until she was able to escape for good in 2015.

In 2019 Bec met her current partner, Steve. He provided a sense of safety and stability she had not experienced in a relationship before. When Bec fell pregnant in her 40s with twins, she felt ready again. Things seemed perfect.

“I was over the moon. I felt like I had dealt with the trauma and PTSD and was at a stage where I could embrace the pregnancy, embrace the baby inside me. I was in a great space.”

Tragically in June of 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bec’s babies were stillborn.

“It was unbelievable. How could this happen to me? Having stillborns is such a traumatic experience as it is – but to experience this at a point in my life when I thought everything was perfect, I was ready…not being able to take these babies home made all my trauma resurface.”

Desperate for answers, Bec was devastated to learn the autopsy was inconclusive. Feeling lost and unsure how to work through her grief and trauma, Bec started researching stillborns in Australia. She found that every day in Australia, 6 babies are stillborn each day – a statistic that has remained relatively unchanged since 1999. In 2018, there were 9.2 perinatal deaths for every 1,000 births.

Despite the statistics, Bec found losing her twins – a boy and a girl who she named Isaac and Grace – was an incredibly lonely experience.

“I thought there would be more support out there for pregnancy loss, but there wasn’t. I felt so alone, and I had no answers.”

Bec felt a distinct lack of support and awareness both times, but particularly during her first experience in 2005 when the links between pregnancy and infant loss and family violence were not as commonly known by practitioners.

“Family violence was not really spoken about, there was a lot of shame around it. Practitioners also didn’t have the knowledge; they didn’t have the education to ask the extra questions. I am so grateful now that practitioners today are more informed, they ask those extra questions, they investigate further.”

Bec feels strongly that the ongoing trauma she experienced as a result of family violence may have contributed to her later pregnancy loss – a risk factor she believes needs more research and focus. Another gap is the lack of a specialist, targeted network or service within the family violence sector to support women who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss. Despite pregnancy being one of the most high-risk times for women to experience death or serious harm from family violence, no such service exists.

More than anything, Bec hopes her story can help others who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss to realise they are not alone. She hopes by sharing her story and advocating for change, it will help reduce the shame associated with both family violence and losing a child.

Bec’s advice for family and friends who are unsure how to approach the subject? Be kind, and approach with empathy and understanding. Don’t ask whether they want to ‘try again’ – acknowledge the loss and offer support. Above all – normalise the conversation. For Bec, the silence surrounding pregnancy and infant loss makes it impossible to move past the grief.

“It’s traumatic. Silence means trauma, it means heartache. It means my babies didn’t exist. And they did.”


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

16 Days of Activism, expanding conversation and building momentum

16 Days of Activism, expanding conversation and building momentum

Monday 11 October 2021

down arrow

Domestic Violence Victoria and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DV Vic/DVRCV) are partnering with Respect Victoria to deliver this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence grassroots initiative. Learn more about the initiative and how your organisation can get involved.

The United Nation’s international campaign – 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence – takes place each year from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) until 10 December (International Human Rights Day). Learn more about the origins of 16 Days here.  

Since 2019, Respect Victoria has delivered their 16 Days of Activism campaign supported by local councils and community organisations across the state. This year’s theme is Respect Women: Call It Out (Respect Is), encouraging Victorians to call out sexism and harmful gender stereotypes, in order to prevent violence and create a more safe and equal society. Check out last year’s campaign on the Respect Victoria website. 

Expanding community conversations 

To support the delivery of the 16 Days of Activism initiative, Respect Victoria is funding DV Vic/DVRCV to connect and build the capacity of community organisations and local councils to engage with the campaign.  

“We are thrilled to be able to support our colleagues at DV Vic to develop and deliver the grassroots element of this year’s 16 Days of Activism campaign” 

– Respect Victoria Acting CEO Amy Prendergast 

This year’s campaign is supported by a cross-sector Project Advisory Group with members the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), No to Violence (NTV), Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS), and the Women’s Health Services Council. 

“We’re pleased to be working alongside Respect Victoria and partners across the local government, women’s health, social services and perpetrator intervention sectors to support specialist family violence services, local councils, and other community organisations in this grassroots campaign.

Engagement across Victorian communities is critical to expanding the conversation and building momentum to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women, before it occurs.” 

– DV Vic/DVRCV CEO Tania Farha 

Start planning your 16 Days campaign 

DV Vic/DVRCV is hosting a range of capacity-building activities available to all councils and community organisations interested in engaging with the campaign, including weekly newsletter updates, a Prevention & Communications Helpdesk, online events to support 16 Days campaign engagement, and a resource kit 

Grassroots initiative support fund 

series of small grants will be distributed by DV Vic/DVRCV to Victorian community organisations and councils, to develop and promote local initiatives and engage audiences across the state. The support fund aims to reinforce the existing collaborations with local councils and organisations, while also strengthening the campaign’s reach and inclusivity with tailored communications and supports.  

With 95 applications already approved, you still have time to submit an application to our call for funding! Get in quick, as grants are awarded until all funding is allocated. Start your application here. 

Upcoming webinars 

DV Vic/DVRCV will facilitate two webinars to provide both support fund recipients and community organisations with practical advice, ideas, tips and a forum to discuss how to run successful 16 Days of Activism campaigns.

Planning your 16 Days of Activism Campaign 

Our first webinar, held on Wednesday 27 October 2:00 – 3:30 pm, will provide practical advice on how to run a successful campaign, including tips on managing inclusion and accessibility, and how to engage local leaders in discussions about primary prevention of gender-based violence.

16 Days of Activism – Online Campaigns and Managing Resistance 

The second online event, held on Wednesday 3 November 2:00 – 3:30 pm, will dive into how to run an engaging and successful 16 Days of Activism campaign in the online environment and feature a deep dive into encountering resistance in online spaces.

Register here for our upcoming events, or to learn more about the 16 Days of Activism, visit our website.

The Prevention and Communications Helpdesk 

Subscribe here to receive regular email updates with case studies of participating council and community organisation activities ahead of and during the 16 Days of Activism. For any queries on the 16 Days of Activism Initiative, reach out to our Prevention and Communications Help Desk by emailing


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Wrapping up the Women’s Safety Summit

Wrapping up the Women’s Safety Summit

Friday 17th September 2021

down arrow

The National Summit on Women’s Safety took place virtually on the 6th and 7th of September 2021, following several preparatory roundtable discussions the week prior. Bringing together delegates from across Australia, the Summit was an opportunity to air some critical issues around women’s safety and family violence.

However, much of the meaningful discussion occurred outside of the formal program, instead taking place in the lead up, surrounding and post the Summit itself. The message, however, is clear, a little less conversation, a little more action is what is required to make tangible steps towards ending family, sexual and gender-based violence.  

Tania Farha, CEO of DV Vic/DVRCV attended the Summit as the Victorian delegate and shares the sentiment that the time for action is now. You can read more about Tania’s experience and thoughts surrounding the event in her recap here.

Fair Agenda – Joint Statement 

Leaders in family violence and survivor advocates have responded to the Women’s Safety Summit in a joint statement that has been endorsed by survivor advocates and some of Australia’s leading organisations. Along with the statement are twelve calls for action that hundreds of organisations and thousands of individuals across the country have come together to support. The twelve calls for action are only a starting point for government commitments but are deemed critical for the next National Plan. 

We are in a moment of national reckoning, in which survivors have spoken out and shone a spotlight on gender-based violence. This moment demands national leadership.

DV Vic/DVRCV is proud to join hundreds of organisations and thousands of individuals in the call for transformative action in the next National Plan. Support our joint statement with Fair Agenda here. 

Housing; a clear gap

The Everybody’s Home campaign has written to Prime Minister, Scott Morrison to address the clear gaps when it comes to housing for women and children escaping family violence. The lack of accommodation and access to long-term affordable housing, means many women and children are forced to return to violent homes. They are demanding that more focus, budget and resources be placed on providing women with safe and affordable long-term housing. Backing their demands is a comprehensive report by Equity Economics, No Where to Go shows that the social and societal benefits of providing housing for women far outweigh the cost of the housing itself.  

You can read the full Statement on Housing for Women’s Safety. 

Show your support and act now by signing the petition.

The Summit in the spotlight 

Coverage during and post the Summit has been widespread and further highlighted the thoughts of many survivor advocates and sector organisations, that it’s going to take more than just a two-day summit and well-intentioned words to end family violence in Australia. 

Survivor advocate’s response to lack of inclusion in an open letter 

The Summit failed to meaningfully include or engage with the expert voices of people with lived experience. There is still a long way to go in creating real, long-term change, particularly amongst our country’s most powerful structures and systems.

The next National Plan must be relevant to everyone in our community. That means listening to and engaging with lived experience in all of its diversity, and recognising that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must lead responses for their communities. Victim survivors of gender-based violence must be involved in decisions that impact upon their lives.

Family Violence Advocate Cathy Oddie‘s blog post includes a powerful open letter from a national collective of victim survivors and survivor advocates.

Statement from Delegates

The panel discussions, along with those conversations had at roundtables, fed into the Statement from Delegates released shortly after the Summit. As the lead delegate for Victoria, I was truly impressed with the strength of responses and feedback I received from the Victorian delegation, the majority of which was incorporated into the final Statement of delegate priorities for the next National Plan. The Statement is more broadly representative of, and articulates, what we know, and what needs to change.

Strength in unity expressed in a joint letter

In a joint letter to the National Federation Reform Council Taskforce on Women’s Safety, some of Australia’s leading peak bodies, advocates and organisations representing and working in specialist family, domestic and sexual violence services have come together to highlight core priorities in the lead up to the next National Plan.  

You can read the joint letter here.

Catch up on the Summit

The virtual event was live-streamed and was accessible to the public over the two days. If you weren’t able to tune in, the highlights can be accessed via the Social Services website.


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

A little less conversation, a little more action

A little less conversation, a little more action

Tuesday 14 September 2021

down arrow

Tania Farha, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria and the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, reports on the discussions and learnings from the National Summit on Women's Safety.

I recently attended the two-day National Summit on Women’s Safety which took place virtually on 6 and 7 September 2021, following several preparatory roundtable discussions the week prior. Bringing together delegates from across Australia, the key purpose of the Summit was to generate discussion and share learnings that will inform actions within the next iteration of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children (the current National Plan ends in mid-2022).

The Summit is a critical part of developing the next national agenda, and while it is commendable that the Commonwealth chose to push on to present the Summit in a COVID setting and in a timely manner, the format left too much out. The lack of consultation with and inclusion of key groups both leading up to and during the Summit was a significant missed opportunity for meaningful engagement and conversation. In particular, the expert voices of those with lived experience, the specialist family violence and sexual assault sectors, and diverse and marginalised communities were limited, and in some cases, absent altogether in what was a very narrow agenda.

“It is imperative that Commonwealth strategies for ending family, sexual and gender-based violence consider and recognise the unique specialist expertise and experience of these groups, through timely consultation, engagement, and investment. National policy will not be able to respond to the reality of what is happening across Australia until we do this.”

For Victorian delegates and attendees, conversations at the Summit felt like only scratching the surface, particularly when we consider recent advancements to Victorian service system design and primary prevention infrastructure. Despite many challenges that persist, the way the specialist sector, victim survivors and government have come together in Victoria to progress a post-Royal Commission reform agenda is laudable. At the very least we can share the learnings of our endeavours with the Commonwealth. This sentiment was echoed by Minister Williams in her impressive closing remarks, where she spoke with determination on behalf of the Victorian sector and called for the Federal Government to commit to meaningful action, including advancing primary prevention and addressing the housing crisis on a national scale. I felt our Minister had really listened to the voices of Victorian delegates and advocated for genuine and constructive change in the way the Commonwealth addresses family violence, sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence.

There were some meaningful conversations. In particular, the panel discussion on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ experiences of family, domestic and sexual violence provided delegates with the opportunity to understand the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities leading the design and implementation of prevention and response work for their communities. The panelists spoke with strength and honesty when discussing how the previous national plan had failed them.  They spoke about the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people leading tailored and culturally appropriate responses, including Aboriginal community controlled organisations with specialist family violence experience, such as Djirra, and called for this to shift in the next National Plan.

The panel discussions, along with those conversations had at roundtables, fed into the Statement from Delegates released shortly after the Summit. As the lead delegate for Victoria, I was truly impressed with the strength of responses and feedback I received from the Victorian delegation, the majority of which was incorporated into the final Statement of delegate priorities for the next National Plan. The Statement is more broadly representative of, and articulates, what we know, and what needs to change.

“If anything, the Summit has confirmed my resolve to continue advocating alongside and on behalf of Victoria’s specialist family violence sector, as well as with our partners in primary prevention.”

It is important we remain solutions-focused and continue to advocate for centering the voices and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with lived experience expertise, people from diverse communities and experts working in our services. DSS has now opened up a consultation for submissions – there is still the opportunity to influence the outcome of the successor National Plan and the first action plan, which is due before the end of the year.

We must keep writing, keep talking, keep advocating for meaningful engagement and sustainable, long-term action.

DV Vic/DVRCV is proud to join hundreds of organisations and thousands of individuals in the call for transformative action in the next National Plan. Support our joint statement with Fair Agenda here. 


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Practitioner Profile: Libby Jamieson from Switchboard

Practitioner Profile: Libby Jamieson from Switchboard

Tuesday 27 July 2021

down arrow

We spoke to Libby Jamieson about her role as Teleweb Program Manager at Switchboard, a community-based not for profit organisation that provides peer based, volunteer run support services for LGBTIQA+ people, their families, allies and communities.

Can you tell us a bit about your career in the family violence sector? What inspired you to make the move to The Rainbow Door?

My commitment to working in the family violence sector consolidated when I went to work at WIRE, in the role of Training Coordinator. Building upon existing models, I continued to develop and deliver the support worker training course that many people in the family violence sector have completed as a pivotal part of their practical training. Part of that training included the delivery of RTO accredited units Recognise and Respond to Family Violence. I worked as a Team Leader in the phone room and supported the trainees and workers to apply theory to practice. My time working at WIRE developed my understanding of the response system for survivors and highlighted the service and knowledge gaps for marginalised groups, particularly LGBTIQA + communities.

Wanting to bring this knowledge of family violence prevention and response in a very practical way to serve my community, I started working at Switchboard managing the Vic partnership of the Teleweb service Qlife, the national LGBTIQ peer support service in 2018. I played a key role establishing the After-Hours Service of With Respect as part of the LGBTIQA+ specialist family violence service consortia with Thorne Harbour Health, Transgender Victoria and Drummond Street Services.

In June 2020 Switchboard was funded by Family Safety Victoria, Department of Premier and Cabinet and Department of Families, Fairness and Housing to provide a service response to COVID-19. We weren’t sure what was going to happen in terms of COVID-19, but we were acutely aware that family violence and mental health would be key areas that would spike across all communities.

Rainbow Door is a peer-led family violence response that works towards developing pathways with mainstream and LGBTIQA+ services to address gaps and barriers to service access. Combining the extensive family violence and cross sectoral knowledge of our staff, we were able to develop and roll open the Rainbow Door in less than 3 months. It was a phenomenal team effort to provide a service long overdue for our community. It has been busy since day one.


What does a typical day on Rainbow Door look like?

Rainbow Door is a unique helpline service as we have the flexibility and capacity to offer single session work, provide holding support and short-term case management. We work with all ages, genders and sexualities using feminist, non- oppressive, non- racist and intersectional frameworks.

Of note is that our work in family violence and sexual assault can be with either victim survivors or perpetrators of violence. Rainbow Door provides comprehensive Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) for both victim survivors and those using violence and causing harm. We provide warm referral pathways for continued supports whenever possible.

We assist people with identifying and finding the right mental health counselling for them, LGBTQIA+ where possible, provide resources and referrals, and develop holding support plans until those links to longer-term services are established.

We offer information about housing and homelessness services, connect people with NDIS supports, work with older people experiencing isolation and young people exploring gender and sexuality, and provide secondary consultations for services and individual professionals keen to better support their LGBTQIA+ clients.

“We are aware of the lack of service options for our communities and operate a no wrong door policy. We may not always be able to provide exactly the resources needed because they may not exist, but we always attempt to create alternative options and smooth the way for easier pathways and access to mainstream services.”


What do you find challenging about your role?

Finding enough hours in the day to meet the needs of people in our community to access a service that is culturally safe, timely in its response, and not based in an urban centre. Our communities in regional and rural areas can be extremely isolated and lack of access to appropriate services means they are doubly disadvantaged.

“One of the toughest and most frustrating parts of our work is when supporting cisgender gay, bi, queer men, trans men and non-binary people experiencing family violence and intimate partner violence and trying to access crisis support, and accommodation for them, is a significant challenge.”


Obtaining an appropriate crisis service response when they have accompanying children in their care is almost impossible. There unfortunately still exists a patriarchal hetero-normative lens, which creates barriers to service access for these people.


What do you love most about your role?

The conversations. The ones with people who have never spoken about the family violence they experience because they thought no one would believe them, or it would be too difficult to explain their circumstances, their relationship/s their gender identity or sexuality.

The gentle chats with parents of trans and gender diverse kids who call to talk about their fears and concerns and to get support and validation from the team about how to better support their loved ones.

The conversations with workers in the sector who reach out to us to check that they are doing and saying the “right thing” and are so keen to learn how to work better and understand more about how to be a supportive worker to their LGBTIQA+ clients and be strong allies.

The complex calls with folk who are in crisis and are immediately relieved to speak with peers who understand the barriers to service access and have found creative ways through those barriers. We learn so much from them.

“Those who have never contacted a helpline but reach out to us because they want to talk to a peer, someone who gets them. To be listened to, to be heard, and to be understood is often the first step toward safety and healing and it is such a fundamental human need.”


What has been a highlight in your role?

Working with the team to develop the service model and have it up and running in such a short period of time during lockdown was both rewarding and stressful in equal measure. It gave me some extra grey hair that’s for sure! The highlight is that Rainbow Door has been able to offer supports to people who have never contacted a helpline. People have been able to access free or affordable mental health supports and many of those who contact us have never accessed mental health supports before.

Another major highlight has been recruiting incredibly skilled and passionate workers to staff the service. The service that they provide is excellent and inspiring, witnessing the work they do is humbling. We talk to people on some of the worst days of their lives and respond with compassion, care, and skilful practice.


What is the biggest piece of advice would you give practitioners in ‘mainstream’ specialist family violence services supporting a victim survivor from the LGTBTIQA+ community?

We encourage asking questions – about gender identities and sexualities, our lives and who we are – to develop a deeper and broader understanding of appropriate ways to support us. Build on your already highly developed skills, reflect on unconscious biases, and develop more nuanced thinking around particular risk factors for LGBTIQA+ people.

It really helps to recognise that as a marginalised community that intersects with other marginalised communities, people do not always feel safe engaging with mainstream services and supports. Continuing to listen to us and reflexively adapting service responses to support us, all go a long way to minimise barriers, enhance service practice generally, be more inclusive, and improve access for our diverse LGBTIQA+ communities.

Page last updated Tuesday, July 27 2021


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Practitioner Profile: Madeleine from Annie North

Practitioner Profile: Madeleine from Annie North

Tuesday 13 July 2021

down arrow

We spoke to Madeleine from Annie North, a women’s refuge and family violence service in Victoria's Loddon region, on her role as Client Services Practice Coordinator.

Can you tell me a little bit about your role?

Being from a small organisation, I wear a few different hats. My current role is Client Services Practice Coordinator, which means I am a Team Leader for our client services staff. Within that, we have three small teams: the Case Management, After-Hours, and Therapeutic teams.

I am responsible for recruitment, training, day-to-day oversight of the staff, staff reviews, and providing clinical supervision. I am also part of the management team, which encompasses strategic operations to work towards the strategic plan, and quality-related duties. I look at client feedback to determine how we can improve the services, making sure that we are meeting accreditation standards and updating procedures. So, I cover a broad range of roles.

What led you on to a career path in family violence?

When I finished my university degree, I had originally pictured myself in child protection services. And then I realised that might not be for me, but I wanted to support children. That was one of the things that attracted me to a position in refuge.

“At Annie North, we have always seen the children as clients in their own right and brought out their voices. As a refuge, we get to see kids in a way that a lot of other organisations may not get to. We are part of their day-to-day life.”


I applied for a job at Annie North back in 2008, as a Case Manager. Since then, I have had different roles including case management, intake, and team leader. My current role focuses on practice leadership rather than direct client work.

Over that time, I have seen the organisation really grow and develop new programs. We have taken on the regional After-Hours Crisis Response service for Loddon region and built a secure core and cluster facility. That has been exciting, there is always something new.

Can you describe a day in the life of a Client Services Practice Coordinator at Annie North?

Our team starts the day off with a morning check-in with the after-hours worker. The after-hours worker responds to family violence incidents in the local region overnight. This may involve bringing in an on-call support worker, advocating with police, or finding accommodation.

Then we plan our day. We respond to any crisis or client need that has arisen overnight. My day is often full of other meetings, such as case management or therapeutic team meetings – to plan, review client feedback, identify any gaps and ways to improve things. I provide supervision for staff, meet with external services over Zoom, or arrange guest speakers to come and talk to the team. I am often called upon to provide guidance to team members. I have to be pretty adaptable in my role.

What have been some of the highlights and challenges of your role?

A highlight has been moving into management. I have had the opportunity to have a look behind the scenes at the work involved with meeting accreditation standards and implementing different reforms. Keeping procedures and practice up to date is time consuming and a lot of work goes into supporting the work of the Client Services team.

Transitioning from a team member to being a leader has been a massive area of growth for me. It is not something I would have pictured myself doing earlier, but it’s been great and it’s definitely where I see myself now.

“I quite enjoy having the big picture and seeing how our different teams fit together and where our organisation fits within the sector. When I review files and write up case studies, I can step back and have a look at the work that we are doing and see that it is meaningful.”


Working in a small organisation is rewarding, because we all know each other well, and it is really supportive. There is a great energy at Annie North.

Are there any highlights or challenges working in a regional setting?

The advantage of working in a regional setting is that the services collaborate well. It’s helpful for our clients that we can do case management and have other local services come to the refuge to support them. Even prior to the MARAM reforms, because of the size of Bendigo, some of the cross-organisational partnerships have been in place for a long time and have been working brilliantly.

Some of the challenges of supporting women from regional and rural areas can be around being on our guard for potential conflicts of interest working with women from our local area. When a woman comes into the refuge that we know from school or through childcare, we must be aware of the impact that has on their privacy. We also need to be mindful that women might know each other as they come into refuge, the community is closely linked. So that’s something that we’re regularly navigating.

What has been the impact of COVID-19 on your team and your clients?

Like everyone, it has been really hard here. One of the impacts for our refuge clients was that most services moved to remote delivery. So, the wraparound support services pulled back, and we saw many clients’ mental health really, really struggle. Especially, seeing Aboriginal people disconnected from their community, from Sorry Business and other events. It was heartbreaking.

We have experienced staff shortages with people caring for children at home or taking sick leave when they have a cold. Becoming short staffed can happen quickly and can be quite disruptive for clients. That’s an ongoing impact.

We noticed that the referrals to the after-hours service picked up as well. Due to the shift to remote service delivery, there were system gaps and clients were not feeling supported by services in the same way. It was a challenging time and it has been an emotional drain for clients and for workers.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to start a career in the family violence sector?

I always recommend studying social work. I didn’t realise how beneficial it would be until I’d worked in the field. Looking back on so many of the subjects I studied, I can see how it all fits together. When social work students come through and share what they’re learning, it’s an exciting time.

When I started in the family violence sector over a decade ago, the word “feminist” was not a very familiar label for me. There can be misconceptions about what it means to be a feminist. I am proud to call myself a feminist and work in a feminist organisation.

But this is a time when family violence and women’s experiences are talked about openly, intelligently. There are new programs and new funding to support our work. There’s a lot of energy in the sector- it’s a great time to join the field.

Page last updated Tuesday, July 13 2021


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Practitioner profile: Nitika from Safe Steps

Practitioner profile: Nitika from Safe Steps

Thursday, 24 June 2021

down arrow

We recently spoke with Nitika, an Intake and Assessment Worker at Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre, about her role.

This is my first role after my social work degree.

I commenced my employment with Safe Steps as an Intake and Assessment worker in March 2019 following the completion of my Masters of Social Work degree. In 2020, whilst working part-time at Safe Steps, I started another part-time role as a Case Manager with InTouch, which is a specialist family violence service that works with women from migrant and refugee backgrounds. However, over time it became difficult to manage two highly demanding jobs at the same time and I decided to return to Safe Steps in a full-time capacity at the start of 2021. I have recently also started a causal role with VICSEG New Futures training as a Family Violence Trainer.

I didn’t have family violence in mind when I was doing my degree.

I completed my final social work placement at Centrelink and that’s where my interest in family violence services started growing. What drives me to work every day is the desire and passion to help and to be there when someone needs that immediate support. I consider myself a small part of a big puzzle that clients have to navigate through while they’re trying to get out of their abusive and violent relationships. I believe that I help my clients put together some of the pieces of that puzzle at the very start of their journey out of their abusive relationships and that’s what drives me to work – being there in the initial stages of someone’s journey.

A typical day for me as a crisis response worker.

My typical day at Safe Steps mainly involves answering crisis phone calls, actioning referrals and responding to emails from clients and other service providers. While I’m answering phone calls or responding to emails, I provide a crisis response to clients including immediate psychosocial and emotional support and psycho-education. As an intake worker, I predominantly undertake family violence risk assessments, create safety plans, organise crisis accommodation, refer clients to their local family violence services for ongoing support and case management programs and liaise with other services providers. This can include advocating to the police to help someone collect their belongings from their home, with hospitals to assist with discharge planning or with housing services to secure accommodation access for clients. As a part of my role, I also provide secondary consultation to external stakeholders including Child Protection, schools, disability service providers, employers and other community workers, providing them with advice on how they can best support their clients. Or it could be a call from friends and family who wants to know what they can do to support someone they know who is going through an abusive relationship.

There are challenges in my role, particularly burnout.

The most challenging aspect of my role is that it is highly demanding and can lead to burnout. The constant exposure to clients’ trauma can become overwhelming at times. However, improved self-awareness, maintaining a good work-life balance, pursuing my hobbies, regular debriefing and supervision, and accessing EAP support have proven to be quite beneficial in managing my stress and burnout.

Apart from burnout, I find it quite challenging that access to support and services is limited for clients with temporary visas, particularly housing, welfare payments and employment and education opportunities. It means that some women on temporary visas may not leave their abusive relationships due to a lack of support options available to them and continue to experience family violence which is heartbreaking. There is definitely a need for more advocacy and support in this area so that women on temporary visa experiencing family violence can be better protected and supported.

There are times when I have been shocked by the details of the actual family violence.

You never know what to expect. What I didn’t expect when I graduated was how bad the details of the violence were going to be. I am still sometimes in disbelief that someone would treat someone else the way they have. However, with time and experience, I’m less shocked with details than I used to be when I started working in the sector.

As an individual, I have grown a lot.

Working in the family violence sector, I’ve grown as a person and professional. I think I have more of an understanding of how the world operates – what’s okay, and what’s not okay. I have used the knowledge gained working in the sector to support friends and family with their relationship issues.

There are multiple factors within this complex system and sometimes I feel there are not enough options for everyone. I particularly find it challenging when I feel I’m unable to meet client’s expectations and that’s hard to sit with.

I have realised that there are limitations to what I can do for someone and often seek comfort in the concept of ‘Radical Acceptance’- it is what it is. I’m trying to focus on what I’m able to do and the difference I’m able to make to someone’s circumstances within the capacity of my role.

Page last updated Thursday, June 24 2021


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

New integrated service delivery model resource pack for family violence organisations and referral partners

New integrated service delivery model resource pack for family violence organisations and referral partners

Monday 21 June 2021

down arrow

Developed by Social Ventures Australia and organisations in the family violence sector, a new set of resources and information has been developed that highlight the benefits of integrated service delivery, provides practical advice and learnings for organisations seeking to work in this way, and offers tools and templates to help with implementation.

Integrated service delivery is a coordinated approach that puts clients at the centre by bringing together all the services needed to support their recovery journey – be it legal advice, financial counselling, housing, or employment.

Following a multi-year project led by Social Ventures Australia in collaboration with the sector, this resource pack has been developed documenting an integrated service delivery model and sharing learnings, perspectives and practical advice from organisations working in this way. The resource packs include comprehensive documentation of the integrated service model and a summary report.

Funded by CommBank Next Chapter, the project is the result of extensive engagement with social sector organisations working to improve outcomes for victim survivors, including McAuley Community Services for Women, WEstjustice, EDVOS, Muslim Women Australia’s Linking Hearts program, Domestic Violence Victoria, Homelessness NSW and InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence. The work was also informed by the perspectives of victim survivor advocates through Women’s Health East.

The resources identify the benefits to victim survivors, including an increased likelihood of engagement, long-term recovery and independence, alongside how the approach helps service providers and the broader system (including funders) deliver more streamlined and effective support. Critically, it also supplies a set of resources that explore how to deliver integrated service delivery, including the stages of establishment, setting up a partnership and key success factors.

“[When engaging with individual services] too often you are repeating your story over and over again; it takes so much energy to re-tell [your] story and really wears you out,” says victim survivor Megan*.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is just to have that one place to go and to know you are safe, know everything is going to be dealt with”

The collaborative project also provides resources for service providers to advocate to government and funding partners who can support this way of working, along with a suite of practical tools including example surveys, position descriptions, templates, checklists, case studies and more.

“We want to create a system where all staff are competent in supporting clients, where victim survivors receive consistent, quality, informed support from whichever service they go to, when they need it and from whoever they deal with – it doesn’t depend on one individual or one organisation.”

– Team leader at a specialist family violence service

Page last updated Monday, June 21 2021


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Mandatory qualifications requirements for specialist family violence practitioners

Mandatory qualifications requirements for specialist family violence practitioners

Wednesday 2 June 2021

down arrow

We recently spoke to DV Vic and DVRCV’s Sector Development Advisor, Renae Leverenz about the upcoming rollout of Recommendation 209 from the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence.

Renae shared insights into how the mandatory minimum qualification requirements – rolling out from 1 July 2021 – will impact new and current practitioners and the specialist family violence sector.

What has driven the change in mandatory minimum qualifications for specialist family violence practitioners?

RL: This new policy has been introduced as part of the Victorian Government’s response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Recommendation 209 specifically called for the introduction of mandatory minimum qualifications for specialist family violence response practitioners.

The policy has been designed to recognise and cherish the expertise already within the sector and support existing workers to stay through an ongoing exemption.

What are the key considerations for practitioners entering the workforce?

RL: There are a few points I would emphasise to new practitioners:

The first is that the mandatory minimum qualification is just that – a minimum. So, there may be other skills, knowledge, or experience that an employer is looking for alongside the qualifications. There are also transition arrangements in place to work towards the minimum qualification, so read any advertisement carefully before making any assumptions (positive or negative).

The second is that although having a Bachelor of Social Work makes it easy to tick a checkbox that an applicant meets the mandatory minimum qualifications, it is by no means the only pathway to entry. There is a wide range of qualifications and training that can be spliced together to make up the mandatory minimum qualification. The policy doesn’t limit you to the one pathway.

The third point is that for those who have a related qualification or those who have five years of relevant professional experience, there is a five-year transition period for them to work towards the minimum qualification. That option will remain available until mid-2026.

Finally, people with significant cultural knowledge or lived experience have an important role to play in the sector. For those who bring cultural expertise or lived experience and have faced barriers to education, you can be supported to enter the sector through an ongoing pathway.

How will this change impact existing practitioners?

RL: Those employed as specialist family violence practitioners in Victoria prior to 1 July 2021 are exempt from being required to meet the mandatory minimum qualifications. This exemption will remain in place as long as they are not absent from working as a specialist family violence practitioner for more than four years.

This means that existing practitioners can still take long service leave, carer’s leave or other breaks without losing that exemption, as long as they return to that work within the four-year timeframe. And obviously the exemption stays with them if they change employers or move around Victoria – it is the absence of practising in such a role that is key here.

How will the mandatory minimum qualifications benefit Victoria’s specialist family violence sector?

RL: I think the change formally recognises that undertaking family violence work requires a high level of expertise and knowledge. This policy will ultimately strengthen the sector by demonstrating the professional nature of specialist family violence work and increasing its visibility.

Without wanting to take anything away from the variety of qualifications that people could use as a basis for meeting the equivalent qualifications, it will provide a very clear career pathway for those studying social work to consider.

It will mean that family violence electives will become more attractive to students in a diverse range of courses as they keep their career options open, and ultimately contribute to more graduates with knowledge and understanding of family violence.

How will this change impact specialist family violence services?

RL: From a recruitment perspective, complying with the new policy might mean that the selection process takes a little longer than it currently does, at least while the sector gets used to the change.

From a service perspective, the change will ensure that practitioners have a consistent and strong foundation of knowledge and cultural understanding in responding to family violence.

What supports are available during the upcoming transition?

RL: If they have any concerns about the introduction of Rec 209 or are confused about the details in the policy, they should get in touch with me at

There are details about the policy on the Vic Government website, and a toolkit for recruiters is also on its way. There will be several information sessions run over the coming months for practitioners and for recruiters so that we can help ease you through the transition.

Find out more about the Mandatory minimum qualifications for specialist family violence practitioners policy and frequently asked questions for practitioners and employers.

Page last updated Wednesday, June 2 2021


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Let’s not pretend things are simpler than they are…

Let’s not pretend things are simpler than they are…

down arrow

DVRCV's CEO Emily Maguire responds to the recent commentary that specialist family violence practitioners and advocates are not doing enough to end violence against women.

As someone who has worked towards ending violence against women for the last 15 years – and who has been fortunate enough to learn from women who were doing this work decades before me – I have been somewhat perplexed by the recent commentary about why men perpetrate violence against women, and what can be done to stop this incredibly prevalent form of violence.

In recent weeks, I have seen incredibly simplistic articulations of complex public policy and reform in this area – “until we change attitudes, close the gender wage gap, and achieve greater gender equality, domestic abuse will continue to thrive” – that don’t represent the evidence nor the work of those in my field.

“I have witnessed the approach articulated by specialist family violence practitioners and advocates – all with a lifetime of experience – being reduced to the simplified narrative that “changing sexist and violence supportive attitudes are the [be all and end all] cure” to men’s violence against women.”

And, most recently, I have seen suggestions that there is a belief in this country that “reducing violence against women is something that can or should wait decades”.

Nobody I have ever spoken to through my work – politicians, advocates, practitioners, and those working with men who use violence – has ever suggested that reducing violence against women is something that should wait decades. I don’t believe that anybody currently working in my field thinks we can wait even one more second to do better at preventing violence against women and supporting the thousands of women who experience it on a daily basis. Advocating for this after all, is a core part of our work.

What we are all struggling with is the very real complexity of this issue and how to communicate about it, and how to articulate it in public policy and legislative reform. We are also struggling to address the resistance and backlash to this issue that comes from many quarters and, as always, we are struggling with a lack of ongoing, adequate funding to support prevention, early intervention and response.

The work of Our Watch is focused on preventing violence against women before it even occurs by addressing the structures, norms and practices in our society, our institutions, our organisations and even in our relationships and families. Our Watch’s Counting on Change document helps people understand how long primary prevention work takes and what it costs, as well as how to build awareness and understanding of the complexity of the issue and the sustained effort that will be required if we are to see a tangible and sustainable shift to the prevalence of violence against women in Australia.

Counting on Change articulates only the time it will take to reduce violence against women if primary prevention efforts are supported, funded and sustained. But primary prevention is only a third of the puzzle. It was never designed to articulate how long reducing (and ultimately ending) violence against women would take if we had the three magic elements:

  1. primary prevention activities that reached every member of the Australian public
  2. early intervention efforts for women and men who were at high risk of experiencing/perpetrating violence
  3. a connected, well-resourced response system that wraps around both victims and perpetrators.

It’s also important to remember that the whole puzzle would comprise of many different pieces including:

  • specialist support services for women, children and young people who are victims of violence
  • activities that are designed to hold men to account for their violent behaviour and support them to change
  • an effective justice system that supports perpetrator accountability and prioritises the safety of women and children
  • a well-resourced housing system that means both victims and perpetrators have somewhere suitable to live
  • human services supports to address the mental health and physical health impacts of violence for both perpetrators and victims, and
  • longer term supports (such as education, social connection, universal health care) that enable Australians to be healthy, safe, secure and thrive.

The problem is, doing all these things together – prevention, early intervention and response – is incredibly complex, incredibly expensive and something that is as a result, hard to sell to the voting public. This doesn’t excuse politicians – many of whom have shown significant leadership in this space – from action but it does show why many have been reluctant to play the leadership role we need them to.

The most unhelpful thing we can do at this critical point in time when it finally feels like we have social and political momentum – not only around ending violence against women but in addressing gender inequality, sexual harassment and gendered discrimination – is to pit the work of those preventing violence against women with the work of those who are supporting victim survivors, holding the perpetrators of violence to account and supporting them to change their behaviour. It doesn’t support our cause, inadvertently or otherwise, to undermine the efforts of those who have been working for so long (and with significant success, I might add) to support women, to increase funding, to achieve social and cultural and structural change.

I am not suggesting we all sit down, shut up and be grateful for what we are given as feminists, advocates and social campaigners. But I think it’s important to remember that where the pace of social change is slow – just like it was with smoking rates, and reducing the road toll – that it’s only by being in this together, no matter where you live, what you look like, how much you earn or who you vote for – will we actually achieve any real change.

We owe that change to the women who have been murdered; to those who have narrowly escaped murder; to the children and teenagers where family violence is the undercurrent of their lives; and to all the women who are, as we speak, living with or experiencing the impacts of men’s violence.


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Q&A with Lucy from Safe Steps

Q&A with Lucy from Safe Steps

Tuesday 11 May 2021

down arrow

Recently we spoke to Lucy who works at Safe Steps as a family violence crisis response support worker. Here she gives us some insight into her role, its challenges and what it offers a new graduate venturing into the sector.

What led you onto a career path in family violence?

This is my first job in the sector since completing a Master of Public Policy. I didn’t intentionally set out on a career in family violence but after completing my university placement at Gender Equity Victoria, the seed was sown. Family violence is very much grounded in politics, sociology, and psychology, and because I’d studied politics at university, and loved it, the work really resonated with me.

I applied for this role at Safe Steps because I wanted to have on the ground experience and work in an organisation that deals directly with clients and other services. In the future when my knowledge base is stronger and I’m more confident and experienced in the sector, I’d like to move into a policy role.

What skills do you need to work as a family violence crisis response support worker?

You need to be very flexible, have good time management skills and an ability to prioritise and juggle competing demands. You also need to have good organisational skills. My role involves providing support to the case management and the intake and assessment teams. It’s very logistical and administrative, and involves everything from paying invoices, data entry, to doing more hands-on work like booking accommodation, sourcing material and items for clients.

Can you describe a day in the life of a crisis response support worker?

Safe Steps is a crisis service so no one day is like the next. Mornings typically involve sourcing emergency accommodation for our clients. We review on a day-by-day basis because a client’s case plans can change so quickly.

The rest of the day involves everything from invoicing, getting food vouchers and material aid to women and children in accommodation. I also work closely with the case managers to resolve any issues that arise at the hotel. This can be as simple as a client needing more pillows, or it might involve working on a crisis situation that is happening for her where she is staying.

What have been some of the highlights and challenges of your role?

The highlight has been learning firsthand about the nature and complexities of family violence. Hearing and learning about client’s experiences and listening to the incredible knowledge from the case management team and our managers is so rewarding.

My main challenge is learning how to create more boundaries with my work. As a support worker you get a lot of requests so it’s important to know how and when to respond appropriately to them. It can also be challenging hearing about what our clients have been through, as well as negotiating the relationship between other services in the sector.

What has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Safe Steps clients?

Women and children were in our service a lot longer than they normally would be because there were limited exit options for them. We also had women reaching out for the first time and the complexity of clients increased. We also had an expectation that there’d be a lot more calls, but the reality was that it was difficult for some women to make those calls because they didn’t have the space and time away from their perpetrators to reach out to us. This led to Safe Steps establishing a new online webchat function. We’ve had some incredible outcomes with that, it’s brought women into our service who normally wouldn’t access it. It’s also been incredibly useful in providing basic information to women and doing safety planning with them.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to start a career in the family violence sector?

You just need to be passionate and compassionate, and have resilience. It is a sector that values a broad range of skills and experience whether that’s academic, lived or cultural. Just put what you have on the table and be open to connecting with others in the sector. It’s definitely rewarding.

Page last updated Tuesday, May 11 2021


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Inquiry into Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence

Inquiry into Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence

Thursday 8th April 2021

down arrow

Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) and the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) welcome the release of the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs on the Inquiry into Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence.

The report finds that while progress has been made in the wake of the National Plan to reduce violence against women and their children 2010–2022, we are yet to see a significant and sustained reduction in family violence. The committee has found there is much work still to be done across all levels of government, service systems and community to achieve the objectives of the current National Plan, and the 88 recommendations contained in the report are slated to inform the development of the next National Plan.

DV Vic and DVRCV commend the report’s support for an integrated whole-of-service-system response to family, domestic and sexual violence across jurisdictions, and commitment to preventing this violence before it occurs. In particular, we welcome the recommendation that all Australian schools and early education settings implement age-appropriate respectful relationships education.

The report speaks to the importance of the next phase of planning to adopt a consistent shared definition of family violence, which reflects the diverse experiences and voices of all victim survivors including children, LGBTIQA+ people, people with a disability, and older people. We welcome this expanded and more inclusive understanding of family and gendered violence. We are pleased to note the inclusion of a recommendation that mandatory family violence training for NDIA staff and disability service workers, as well as a suite of recommendations related to legislative and service changes to better support victim survivors on temporary and migration visas.

We welcome the recommendations relating to national data collection across the breadth of the service system, a critical element for setting and tracking tangible outcome measures. The success of these initiatives will require significant consultation with specialist family violence services and victim survivors to ensure that appropriate and accurate measures are embedded and implemented, and we look forward to supporting this work.

Specialist family violence services continue to face rising demand for support, and we welcome the recommendation to increase baseline funding for these services, in addition to funding increases received during the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to urge federal and state governments to consider any increases to funding in the context of multi-year funding agreements, in order to support sustained impact, and stability for both victim survivors and the specialist family violence workforce.

DV Vic and DVRCV reiterate our position that care must be taken not to fall into the trap of producing stand-alone or siloed responses. Reducing violence against women and children is a long-term, intergenerational goal requiring sustained, scaffolded, and coordinated actions and investment. We look forward to working with federal and state governments towards a national, integrated whole-of-service-system response to preventing and responding to family violence and the forthcoming development of the next National Plan.


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

“Let’s get this done”

“Let’s get this done”

Wednesday 31 March 2021

down arrow

March 2021 marks five years since the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence handed down its landmark report. The report included 227 recommendations to reform the state’s family violence prevention and response system, to improve outcomes for victim survivors.

The Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre (MGFVPC) recently hosted a five-year anniversary event, to reflect on what has changed in that time and where our continued efforts should focus.

It was a wonderful event and those present on the night reflected that it felt like a reunion of sorts, coming back together after 12 months of COVID-19 restrictions.

Boonwurrung Traditional Owner Carolyn Gheran Yarraman Steel Briggs opened with a Welcome to Country, emphasising the importance of traditional laws that govern how people interact with each other on country. She noted this includes the law of knowledge, where we have a responsibility to obtain knowledge and pass it down to future generations. It also includes the law of respect – respecting the past and respecting the laws of those whose land we are on.

In her opening address, former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon reflected on Aunty Carolyn’s directions to respect the past. Dr Nixon recalled that at the time of joining the police force 50 years ago, the public did not want to know about family violence and violence against women. Police at the time were instructed to stay out of ‘private matters’, despite the obvious prevalence of family violence throughout the community.

Dr Nixon noted that many of those in attendance were to be credited for the changes that have happened since that time because of their continued focus on family violence.

“They keep getting knocked over, but they come back,” she reflected.

Associate Professor Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Director of the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre, facilitated a panel discussion featuring:

  • Tania Farha, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria
  • Jacqui Watt, CEO of No To Violence
  • Professor Muriel Bamblett AO, CEO of Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency
  • Eleri Butler, CEO of Family Safety Victoria
  • Lauren Callaway, Assistant Commissioner, Family Violence Command, Victoria Police
  • Tracey Gaudry, CEO of Respect Victoria

Panellists spoke of the world-leading nature of the reforms that have taken place since the Royal Commission, noting that many around the world are watching Victoria with interest. The Multi Agency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) Framework and Central Information Point (CIP) for sharing information between services were mentioned by several panellists as developments of significant impact in the march towards a truly integrated system.

Also named as key innovations were the Orange Door Support and Safety Hubs, the Dhelk Dja agreement for Aboriginal self-determination, and the establishment of Respect Victoria dedicated to primary prevention.

Regarding changes amongst the Victorian community, Ms Farha (DV Vic and DVRCV) observed that more people now know where to go for family violence support. Similarly, Ms Gaudry (Respect Victoria) noted that family violence is now front of mind in our community, with research showing Victorians consistently rank the issue among the top three concerns in the state. Ms Watt (NTV) stated that we have seen “power gradually shifting”.

Professor Bamblett (VACCA) commented that she felt proud of the work that has been led by the Aboriginal community and noted that Aboriginal women and children have increased access to Aboriginal-led therapeutic and trauma-informed approaches.

Family Violence Command Assistant Commissioner Lauren Callaway highlighted several changes within Victoria Police, including significantly improved family violence training for new recruits, a Family Violence Centre of Learning at the Police Academy for training across all levels of policing, the introduction of Family Violence Investigation Units and a specialist Family Violence Task Force.

Assistant Commissioner Callaway also noted that police data showed a rise in family violence reports during the second Victorian COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. Ms Farha observed an increase in family and friends reporting family violence incidents on behalf of loved ones during the lockdowns, indicating improved community awareness of the issue.

Whilst much has been achieved, all panellists were quick to point out that there is much work still to do.

The need for improved family violence data was a common theme, to measure what is or is not working. Panellists spoke of the need to centre the voices of victim survivors, to improve responses to children as victim survivors in their own right, to pivot to the perpetrator, to address housing shortages, and to ensure the system is safe for all victim survivors of family violence, including LGBTIQ people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Perhaps the most powerful words of the evening though came from Jennifer, Chair of the Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council (VSAC). Jennifer reminded us of the urgency of this work – that while we can be grateful for the changes that have been made, we should be impatient for more; that it is not enough when victim survivors can still have courts weaponised against them, when they continue to stay in relationships because there is nowhere safe for them to go. She noted that survivor advocates do not want to be consulted “down the line, later in the process” but rather as part of the thought process, as it occurs.

“Change occurs because we invest, we invest and then we invest some more.”

– Sharon Pickering Dean of Arts, Monash University

“Let’s get this done,” Jennifer concluded and was met with great enthusiasm across the room. “For the one who died this week, for the one who will die next week, let’s get this done.”

To close the event, Minister for Family Violence, the Hon. Gabrielle Williams addressed the group via video. She observed that the reform process cannot simply be about ticking off recommendations, but that we must build a system – not a sum of disparate parts – that we must build a strong evidence base embedded with lived experience. As Eleri Butler (FSV) noted, “Family violence is not inevitable… it is preventable with the necessary public and political will and resources… we have a really good chance in Victoria of ending family violence for good in our lifetime.”


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Making transgender people’s experiences of violence visible

Making transgender people’s experiences of violence visible

Monday, 29 March 2021

down arrow

Transgender people face structural and social discrimination that increase their chances of experiencing domestic and family violence. Intimate partner violence against transgender people is underreported, under researched and not well understood.

What we do know is that rigid gender norms, transphobia, and hetero-cis-normativity put transgender people at increased risk of abuse in their relationships. This is particularly the case for trans women who have relationships with cisgender men. We recently spoke with Starlady, Program Manager at Zoe Belle Gender Collective, about how her current prevention project is attempting to create greater awareness and change.

Can you tell us about your transgender advocacy work and about the current project you are working on?

Starlady: Social justice advocacy and activism have been my life’s mission. My transgender advocacy is an extension of that. As someone who identifies as trans, this work is deeply important to me. There is still so much stigma and a lack of understanding about being trans in the community, and our community is suffering. The Transgender Family Violence Primary Prevention Project that I’m currently working on is attempting to address that. One of its aims is to increase the family violence sector’s understanding of the drivers and issues impacting the relationships between trans women and cisgender men. We will be drawing upon interviews with trans women and cis men to create a website to support both of them. There will also be some focus on the importance of supportive families in addressing trans shame and stigma.

How do rigid gender and sexual norms impact on trans women’s experience of relationships?

Starlady: Trans women can have issues with their partners controlling how they look, how they sound, and what they do with their bodies. There is often of pressure on them to look hyper feminine for example. Some trans women may be coerced or pressured into taking hormones or having feminisation surgery. It vital that the partners of trans women are supportive of their gender autonomy, to ensure that they feel supported and affirmed with their individual choices in regards to their social, legal and/or medical affirmation.

Whilst many trans women and their cis male partners identify as heterosexual, their relationships are often seen as homosexual and invalidated or seen as inferior. We can misgender trans people through proscribing them sexual identities that do not match their gender identity. In doing so we may also stigmatise their cis male partners who often have internalised fears of being labelled homosexual. Families of cis men can place pressure on them to marry or date cis women who can have biological children, all to the detriment of their relationships with trans women. There appears to be direct links between transphobic beliefs and actions of the families of cis men and increased risk of violence being enacted towards trans women from their partner.

What have you found talking to trans women about their experiences of relationships with cis men?

Starlady: Firstly, we need to acknowledge the real and ongoing impacts of trans misogyny on trans women. That the intersection of transphobia and misogyny exacerbate the risk of trans women experiencing intimate partner violence and increases the barriers to access to services for support.

To understand trans women’s experiences of relationships we need to be aware that they are an incredibly diverse community. People don’t fully understand that. For example, not all trans women want to transition medically or they may not have access to surgeries such as facial feminisation. Being feminine also means different things to different people.

Experiences of trans misogyny can differ depending upon what medical interventions they’ve had or not had, and whether they pass [as a cisgender woman] or are read as trans.

Due to stigma and discrimination many trans women find it difficult to enter a relationship and, when they do, they often feel less deserving and feel they may have no other options except to accept bad behaviour because they think ‘at least I have a relationship, at least I feel loved’.

How does transphobia and trans misogyny increase the risk of intimate partner violence?

Starlady: It’s more difficult for trans women to access relationships because of transphobia. There’s so much pressure on those relationships from society that they’re more likely to break down. Trans women have to do excessive amounts of emotional labour when they are in a relationship with cis men, often because of the shame and stigma that their partners might be experiencing. There’s a lot of work that goes into supporting their male partners and helping them navigate the discrimination that their partners experience from their friends and family, all on top of the discrimination that they themselves face. It’s a heavy burden. This shame can be a trigger point for men enacting violence.

Trans women also talk about being objectified and seen as a fetish. Trans women of colour have spoken about this intersecting with racism and being fetishised because of their race as well.

What are some of the risks and vulnerabilities for trans women in their relationships?

Starlady: They have to navigate their safety in different ways, often because their relationships are more hidden. There is more risk around hidden relationships.

Navigating disclosure of their trans identity in their relationships is also another area of risk. For trans women who pass, often their greatest risk is around points of disclosure and not knowing how their partner will respond. They will be struggling with questions like: ‘How do I disclose? At what point do I disclose? Do I disclose at all? And if so, how do I do that safely?’

Whilst for trans women who don’t pass and are read as trans, it’s less likely that they will be able to meet men in public because there’s more shame around it.

How can a prevention focus help trans women’s experience of relationships?

Starlady: Preventing intimate partner violence against trans women needs an approach that focuses on cis men as much as it does for trans women. Many cis men in these relationships don’t have any appropriate services or programs that can help them deal with their shame and stigma which can impact badly on their relationships. The capacity of the family violence sector and men’s services in particular needs to be built. This is crucial.

Men’s behaviour change programs do not target the specific needs of cisgender men who have relationships with trans women. If other men have misogynous, transphobic and homophobic views then it would be an unsafe environment for these men to access. This can then have harmful consequences for trans women in their relationships.

“Until we deal with transphobia in a prevention space and change our approach to service delivery, we’re going to continue to see this violence.”

Contact Starlady at for more information on the Transgender Family Violence Primary Prevention Project. Read her Trans Visibility Day call to action.

Page last updated Monday, March 29 2021


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

DV Vic/DVRCV and No To Violence joint statement

DV Vic/DVRCV and No To Violence joint statement

Monday 15 March 2021

down arrow

The peak bodies for Victorian specialist family violence services have today issued a joint statement in support of people across Australia sharing their experiences of sexual violence and seeking stronger institutional responses across all parts of our community.

"This story is broader than any individual, any specific workplace or any one incident. The reaction we have seen to recent survivor accounts is telling. We have seen those with power deflecting responsibility, rather than reflecting on the toxic culture that allows violence to occur and then relies on shame to keep victim survivors silent."

The recently-merged Domestic Violence Victoria and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria have united with No To Violence to support calls for reform.

“We must listen to and believe victim survivors,” said DV Vic/DVRCV CEO Tania Farha (pictured).

“And we need to do much more than listening and believing. We must shift the structures and systems that allow sexual violence to occur. They are the same structures and systems that so often fail victim survivors when they come forward,” Ms Farha added.

Ms Farha highlighted the multiple barriers survivors face when reporting abuse, which often result in a decision not to pursue a formal complaint.

“Condoning disrespect and discrediting survivors’ experiences are at once the symptoms and the causes of the epidemic of gendered, sexual and family violence in this country. All of us have a role in changing that.”

Jacqui Watt, CEO of No To Violence, pointed out the alarmingly high rates of men’s violence in Australia.

“While media and the public may be tempted to question any one victim survivor or set of allegations, there is no question whatsoever about how prevalent this abuse is. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 figures show one in three girls and women over 15 have experienced physical or sexual violence – or both. What public attention seldom highlights is how many men have used these forms of violence – this needs to change.”

Ms Watt also highlighted the need to acknowledge the culture that enables these forms of abuse, and the importance of embedding accountability across all workplaces and communities.

"Sexual violence is a manifestation of disrespect and gendered power imbalances that permeate our homes, workplaces and online spaces. We must listen to people when they call out disrespect, and we must call on everyone to challenge sexism when they see and hear it among friends and colleagues."

DV Vic/DVRCV and No To Violence acknowledge that recent media coverage and public conversation may be harmful and distressing for people who have or are currently experiencing abuse of any kind.

“Support is available. Specialist services are here for you, and will believe you,” Ms Farha said.


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

DV Vic and DVRCV statement

DV Vic and DVRCV statement

Wednesday 3 March 2021

down arrow

Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) and the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) welcome the public release of the final report of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System and the commitment made by the Victorian Government to implement the 65 recommendations made by the Commission.

The report finds that the current mental health system is failing many people and sets out an ambitious reform agenda for a redesigned mental health and wellbeing system in Victoria.

While the recommendations do not speak directly to family violence, the report focuses on several elements which have the potential to improve outcomes for victim-survivors of family violence:

  • Moving away from a crisis-driven model to community-based models of care and addressing the ‘missing middle’ of the current mental health system. This is of particular significance for victim survivors of family violence and trauma, who are more likely to need more extensive support than is available to them through the current system.
  • Centering the voices of people with lived experience in the redesign and development of the new system and embedding structures to support this into the future.
  • Embedding trauma-informed mental health treatment responses.
  • Integrated approaches to system design and delivery.
  • Reducing barriers to accessing mental health services and increasing the range of service options available to make the system more accessible and inclusive.
  • Increased investment in the mental health workforce and service system to meet existing and forecast increasing demand.

DV Vic and DVRCV CEO Tania Farha said she hopes to see this work approached in a systematic and comprehensive way that considers the reforms required across both mental health and family violence service systems, in order to ensure better safety and wellbeing outcomes for all Victorians.

‘DV Vic and DVRCV will continue to read and reflect on the Commission’s report and recommendations, with a focus on the implications for Victoria’s coordinated response to family violence. We look forward to working with the Victorian Government to ensure the redesign of the mental health system is undertaken in a family violence and trauma-informed way, that complements and leverages the significant family violence reforms currently underway.’


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Q&A with Women’s Legal Service Victoria

Q&A with Women’s Legal Service Victoria

Friday 26 February 2021

down arrow

Women who experience family violence are ten times more likely to have legal problems and 16 times more likely to have family law problems than other community members.

Women’s Legal Service Victoria (WLSV) are at the forefront of providing critical family violence legal response to victim survivors, whilst also helping build the capability of the specialist family violence workforce. We recently spoke with WSLV to learn more about the legal support they provide and how their Critical Legal Issues Map (CLIM) training is helping family violence practitioners identify and better respond to their client’s legal needs.

What are some of the legal issues that adversely impact victim survivors of family violence?

WLSV:  Our service provides legal advice and representation to women experiencing disadvantage in the areas of family breakdown and family violence. This includes family law, intervention orders and family violence, and child protection as well as the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT). With that being said, we also acknowledge that family violence can take place in any relationship where a power imbalance exists.

Women experiencing family violence often have multiple pressing matters that must be dealt with in different courts, in different legal areas and under different laws. It can be really complex. Many women escaping family violence are living with limited assets and serious debt, yet are walking away from securing fair financial outcomes because our court system is too costly and complex.

If a woman’s issues aren’t dealt with promptly and appropriately it can impact adversely on her safety and wellbeing. On the other hand, if a woman is ill-informed and rushes into legal proceedings or makes other legal arrangements, that can create problems for her as well. One example of this relates to arrangements for finances and property after separation, and the potential for a woman to be exposed to financial abuse if she is not fully informed of her legal rights. There is often a misconception that shared property only includes real estate or money in the bank but it’s actually much more than that. Superannuation, investments, cars, and tools of the trade are considered property as well.

Debt also has to be taken into account in property settlements, whether the debt is in the victim survivor’s name, in joint names, or in the other party’s name. It’s important to get legal advice about property as soon as possible because there are strict time limits to approaching a property settlement which many women don’t know about, particularly if they are in a state of crisis or trauma.

Legal assistance is an integral part of family violence response. How does WLSV provide legal support for victim survivors experiencing violence?

WLSV: We assess eligibility to take matters through casework on a case by case basis, in accordance with our guidelines. In the event that we can’t take a matter on for casework, we will provide appropriate legal referrals out.  We accept referrals through partner organisations, community workers and other practitioners working with women experiencing family violence. We also have in-house financial counsellors and social workers that work alongside our lawyers. We have a policy team as well, and an education and engagement team. If a client appears to meet our initial criteria, we can then make an appointment with her to assess her case and provide preliminary advice.

We also provide a duty lawyer service at the Melbourne Magistrates Court for Family Violence Intervention Order matters and at the Children’s Court in Moorabbin for child protection matters. Our duty lawyers can provide free advice, representation and referrals.

How has WLSV responded to other issues that women have experienced through COVID?

WLSV: COVID turned everything on its head, and we had to adapt really quickly to continue providing legal and other help to women. We also still needed to conduct court hearings. Before COVID access to legal help and courts was entirely in-person. That all had to move online which was a huge shift.

“Factoring in how to address safety and access to justice issues was a challenge during COVID. For our clients this meant continuing to get the advice that they needed without putting their safety at risk.”

To do this we collaborated to assist the family violence legal assistance and services sector, and the courts to establish systems that victim survivors could access. This enabled us to keep in contact with the clients by phone and make online appointments.

We also worked on a regular basis with the Federal Circuit Court, as well as other women’s legal services across the country, to respond to the influence COVID was having on parenting disputes and the safety of women and children. This work led to the development of the National Online COVID List, which was set up to efficiently hear and manage urgent parents’ disputes that were being caused by COVID.

Additionally, we rapidly converted our training into an online format which we’ve had really positive feedback on. The unexpected upside of this is that we’ve been able to reach more practitioners, especially those working in regional Victoria. Clients benefit from this as well by having more practitioners trained.

Can you tell us about the Critical Legal Issues Map (CLIM) and how it can support specialist family violence practitioners in their work? 

WLSV: Despite the high level of legal need in the community we found that those who most needed it weren’t going to lawyers for advice. Many people are overwhelmed by the law or simply don’t know where to begin the process of seeking help. When people don’t take action, that’s when they receive the poorest outcomes.

“Family violence practitioners are often the first point of contact for people experiencing violence, which makes them well placed to play a crucial role in identifying critical and urgent legal issues.”

Our CLIM training is open to and will be useful to professionals working with victim survivors of all genders. The specifics of the training will help them understand the essentials of family violence law, child protection law and family law, as well as understand the difference between legal information and legal advice.

The training and practice manual takes complex legal concepts and processes and breaks them down into step-by-step guidelines that family violence practitioners can follow when working with victim survivors. We take participants through an ‘intake decision tree’ that outlines questions that require immediate legal attention, how to triage and prioritise what needs to happen next. We also take participants through a ‘casework decision tree’ that helps them identify important legal issues that require non-urgent attention, how to prevent unintended safety risks and legal crises over time. We use lots of case studies so they can practice and be prepared for the types of issues and questions that clients might present with.

The CLIM has also been designed to align with MARAM so that practitioners can easily integrate the questions and information in the map with their risk assessment and safety planning.

Find out more about Women’s Legal Service Victoria and its services for family violence practitioners and women experiencing family violence. To contact WLSV’s intake lawyer phone (03) 8622 0600 Monday to Friday from 9am-5pm. Free phone legal advice can be accessed through Victoria Legal Aid’s Legal Help service.

Page last updated Friday, February 26 2021


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

How perpetrators use technology as a tool for abuse

How perpetrators use technology as a tool for abuse

Thursday 4 February 2021

down arrow

Technology plays a crucial role in daily life, but as technology becomes more accessible, it can provide people who use violence with more ways to monitor and track victims.

In a recent survey of frontline family violence workers, more than 99% said they had clients who had experienced technology facilitated stalking and abuse.

These tactics often leave victim survivors feeling like they can’t leave an abusive relationship and overwhelmed by the sense of control. In particular, stalking behaviour – relentlessly monitoring or contacting someone in an effort to control them – greatly impacts a victim survivor’s mental health and poses a significant risk of serious harm.

The survey by WESNET found that easy access to video surveillance technology, increased use of location settings on devices, and advances in GPS technology provide perpetrators with more ways to track and monitor where victims are.

According to the survey, almost one in three victim survivors of family violence have been tracked using GPS – an alarming 245% increase from the previous survey conducted in 2015.

Pre-loaded smartphone features that allow people to locate their phone, can also be used to track a victim survivor’s location wherever they are. Perpetrators can easily access this information using a shared login. Victim survivors are often coerced into sharing account details with the perpetrator – otherwise they’re accused of having ‘something to hide’.

One practitioner reported that “Once they have the password to your email, perpetrators can access almost everything.”

Perpetrators also use shared bank accounts to get location information from transaction details, often in real time.

Security settings on technology platforms alert users of changes to accounts. But these alerts also mean the perpetrator is aware if the victim survivor tries to change the settings, making them feel trapped.

And it doesn’t end when the relationship ends. 

Following separation, when a perpetrator has rights to contact or spend time with children, they can use apps such as FaceTime to abuse victims.

According to one survey respondent, “Perpetrators are frequently insisting on having contact with children by FaceTime (in court orders) then use that time to question the child about their whereabouts, what their mother is doing and where their mother is, or coerce the child into showing the mother on video.”

There has also been a 347% increase in children being given a device that the perpetrator then uses to contact and control their mother, and a 254% increase in the use of children’s social media for the same purpose.

The impact on victim survivors is devastating, with many experiencing high levels of fear as a result of the technology-facilitated abuse. One survey respondent reported:

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

For many, the fear of using technology makes it much harder to keep in contact with friends, family and services, which can cause significant impact on their lives and increase their sense of isolation.

In some cases, victim survivors have returned to their abuser because they felt they could not escape control.

It’s a challenge for those responding to family violence.

The study found that specialist family violence workers are more aware of technology-facilitated abuse than they were five years ago, but still find it hard to keep up with new tactics used by perpetrators.

And while frontline workers feel there has been an increase in police taking reports of technology abuse seriously, the response often depends on the officer.

One practitioner said:

“Unfortunately police often underestimate perpetrators’ abilities to stalk women and doubt the veracity of their reports. Police often don’t understand the technology themselves and don’t believe perpetrators are capable of doing these things. They also appear to not have the will to fully investigate these matters and lack resources and knowledge of how to gather evidence such as ISP addresses which could prove it was a perpetrator engaging in the behaviour.”

Find out what to look out for and steps to increase safety online on the Technology and family violence page.

This information is sourced from the Second National Survey of Technology Abuse and Domestic Violence in Australia – a national survey of 442 specialist family violence practitioners published in 2020. It is a follow-up survey to the 2015 ReCharge study, conducted by DVRCV, Women’s Legal Services NSW and WESNET to investigate technology-facilitated abuse in Australia.


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Funding to improve court and justice services

Funding to improve court and justice services

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

The funding also includes:

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

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

Read the media release.

Page last updated Wednesday, December 16 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Final Orange Door locations announced

Final Orange Door locations announced

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Page last updated Tuesday, December 15 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

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

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

Monday, 15 July 2019

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

Page last updated Tuesday, December 15 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Practitioner profile: Ashleigh Shanahan

Practitioner profile: Ashleigh Shanahan

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about the role of collaboration across different sectors?

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

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

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

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

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

What drives you to work in the family violence sector?

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

Page last updated Wednesday, December 9 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Protecting Australia’s gun safety framework

Protecting Australia’s gun safety framework

Tuesday 8th December 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The role of firearms in family violence is well known.

According to the Women’s Legal Service Qld:

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

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

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

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


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

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

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

Monday, 7 December 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Page last updated Monday, December 7 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

More perpetrators misusing technology to abuse victims

More perpetrators misusing technology to abuse victims

Monday, 30 November 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

Impact on victim survivors

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

One survey respondent reported:

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

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

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

Other key findings

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

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

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


About the research

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

Find out more

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

Page last updated Monday, November 30 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Further investment in family violence reforms

Further investment in family violence reforms

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

down arrow

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

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

The investment includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Page last updated Wednesday, November 25 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

State budget response

State budget response

Wednesday 25th November 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Reflecting on a year of change

Reflecting on a year of change

Thursday 19th November 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tania Farha


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

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


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Are you safe at home?

Are you safe at home?

Tuesday 27th October 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

Social media toolkit

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


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Crime Data Captures Record Spike in Family Violence

Crime Data Captures Record Spike in Family Violence

Monday, 26 October 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

What has contributed to the spike? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can we anticipate moving forward? 

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

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

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

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

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

Page last updated Monday, October 26 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Funding to Strengthen Aboriginal-led Family Violence Responses

Funding to Strengthen Aboriginal-led Family Violence Responses

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the government media release here.

Page last updated Wednesday, September 30 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Male peer relations and disrespect towards women

Male peer relations and disrespect towards women

Wednesday 9th September 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

The socio-ecological model

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What you can do:


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Five New Orange Door Hubs to Open Across Victoria

Five New Orange Door Hubs to Open Across Victoria

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit for more information about the Orange Door network. 

Page last updated Tuesday, September 1 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

The power of advocacy: one survivor’s story

The power of advocacy: one survivor’s story

Monday 24th August 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

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

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

Thursday, 6 August 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about engagement and consultation processes? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download DV Vic’s new Code of Practice.

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

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

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

Page last updated Thursday, August 6 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Survey Captures FV Practitioner Experiences During COVID-19

Survey Captures FV Practitioner Experiences During COVID-19

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

More frequent, more severe violence

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

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

Enhanced tactics of control

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

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

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

Additional barriers to support

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

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

Another shared:

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

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

Overcoming challenges posed by lockdown 

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

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

Implications for professionals’ wellbeing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Page last updated Tuesday, August 4 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

WISHIN: a safe home for every woman

WISHIN: a safe home for every woman

Monday 3rd August 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How has COVID-19 impacted WISHIN’s clients?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

MARAM Resources, Training & Implementation Update

MARAM Resources, Training & Implementation Update

Tuesday 7 July 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

Resources to support MARAM risk assessment and management

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

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

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

MARAM training for experienced family violence practitioners

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

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

MARAM training for non-specialist services

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

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

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

Information sharing entities database

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resources to support MARAM alignment

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

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

An update on reform implementation

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

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

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

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

Page last updated Tuesday, July 7 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Funding to Better Equip GPs to Respond to Family Violence

Funding to Better Equip GPs to Respond to Family Violence

Monday, 6 July 2020

down arrow


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

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

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

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

Closer to home: Royal Commission Implementation 

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

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

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

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

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

GP responses even more crucial during COVID-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

Page last updated Monday, July 6 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

A message from our CEO, Emily Maguire

A message from our CEO, Emily Maguire

Thursday 25th June 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Condoning violence against women

Condoning violence against women

down arrow

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

What does condoning violence against women mean?

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

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

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

The socio-ecological model

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

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

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

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

Condoning violence against women takes many shapes and forms.

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

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

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

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

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


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Men’s control of decision making

Men’s control of decision making

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The socio-ecological model

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What you can do:

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

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

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

[3] ibid


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

New Family Violence Jobs Hub for a Growing Workforce

New Family Violence Jobs Hub for a Growing Workforce

Thursday, 28 May 2020

down arrow

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

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

Finding your calling 

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

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

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

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

Growing the workforce 

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

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

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

To check out the Job Hub, click here.

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

Page last updated Thursday, May 28 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Funding Boost for Legal Support Services

Funding Boost for Legal Support Services

Thursday, 14 May 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Page last updated Thursday, May 14 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Redefining family violence legal practice

Redefining family violence legal practice

down arrow

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Merger announcement

Merger announcement

Friday 27th March 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Family Courts to Fast-Track Urgent Applications

Family Courts to Fast-Track Urgent Applications

Wednesday 29 April 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Referring clients to legal support 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Page last updated Wednesday, April 29 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

DVRCV Launches Warning Signs Tip Sheet

DVRCV Launches Warning Signs Tip Sheet

Monday 27 April 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To download the tip sheet, click here.

Page last updated Monday, April 27 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Self-care and social change: a personal reflection

Self-care and social change: a personal reflection

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What self-care words of advice can you share?

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

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

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

Now more than ever.

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


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Extra Government Funding to Support Survivors during COVID-19

Extra Government Funding to Support Survivors during COVID-19

Thursday, 16 April 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Page last updated Thursday, April 16 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

WESNET Safe Phones Funding Extended

WESNET Safe Phones Funding Extended

Monday, 6 April 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

Communication During Coronavirus Pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Page last updated Monday, April 6 2020


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

The hidden disaster of the bushfires

The hidden disaster of the bushfires

down arrow

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

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

But what exactly causes this increased violence?

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

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

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

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

Gender roles, violence and bushfire disasters

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

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

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

Condoning of violence against women

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

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

Men’s loss of control

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

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

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

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

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

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


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Statement to Women’s Safety Ministers

Statement to Women’s Safety Ministers

down arrow

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

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

Dear Women’s Safety Ministers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


With the Safe and Equal monthly bulletin

Supporting Survivors of Bushfires & Increased Violence

Supporting Survivors of Bushfires & Increased Violence

Monday, 27 January 2020

down arrow

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you safe at home?” 

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

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

“What unique risks are you facing?” 

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

“Violence is never okay.”

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

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

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

“Document it.” 

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

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

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

“What other services can help?” 

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

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

“Can I provide additional support?” 

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

“Can I build my skills and knowledge?” 

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

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

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

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

Page last updated Monday, January 27 2020