Addressing service level barriers

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Family violence can take many different forms and can cause significant harm to individuals and the community. Find out what it can look like and who it impacts.

Taking an anti-oppressive approach

Anti-oppressive practice involves challenging social inequalities and oppression affecting victim survivors with disability by engaging in person-centred, strength-based, activist and critically reflective forms of practice. 

In taking an anti-oppressive approach in relation to disability, specialist family violence services need to:

  • strengthen knowledge and understanding of disability
  • use reflective practice to identify what attitudes about disability exist within the service
  • adopt person-centred, strength-based approaches to practice
  • never equate disability with vulnerability
  • promote the self-determination of victim survivors with disability by providing support that is conscious of the environmental and social barriers they may experience. 

To read more about anti-oppressive practice in specialist family violence settings, see section 4.3 of the Code of Practice: Principles and Standards for Specialist Family Violence Services for Victim Survivors.

What is disability discrimination?

Disability discrimination is when a person is treated less favourably, or not given the same opportunities, as others in a similar situation because of their disability. 

The Code of Practice and anti-discrimination legislation require that specialist family violence services understand what disability discrimination is and work to remove all physical and attitudinal barriers to disability access from their service provision. Read principle 8 of the Code of Practice: Principles and Standards for Specialist Family Violence Services for Victim Survivors for more information.

Disability Discrimination Act 1992

This Act promotes equal rights, opportunities and access for people with disability in Australia and makes disability discrimination unlawful across many facets of public life. Visit the Australian Human Rights Commission website for an overview of the legislation and its implications.  

Equal Opportunity Act 2010

The Equal Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination in the provision of goods and services. The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has published information on how family violence services should comply with the Equal Opportunity Act. Read the guide.

Further reading

The Disability Discrimination Legal Service and the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit (DARU) is a great starting point for practitioners wanting to build their understanding of disability discrimination and the laws in place to protect clients with disability. It also covers how individuals can make a complaint of disability discrimination. Visit the DARU website.

Disability Action Plans

Specialist family violence services can use a Disability Action Plan to identify and address barriers that may result in direct or indirect discrimination against people with disability trying to access their service. 

Developing a Disability Action Plan requires wide consultation across the whole service and should involve people with disability as expert advisers. 

A Disability Action Plan ensures your service is as welcoming and inclusive as possible. A comprehensive Disability Action Plan will address both disability access and inclusion.

  • Disability access ensures the necessary provisions are in place for people with disability to use a service.
  • Disability inclusion ensures the service has an all-encompassing practice in which people with disability feel valued, respected and confident they can participate equally.

More information on Disability Action Plans

Workforce development opportunities

Training staff in disability inclusion and how to work with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is one way to increase the competence of family violence and sexual assault workforces and can be included in your organisation’s Disability Action Plan. 

However, staff training alone is not enough to embed disability inclusion in service delivery and practice. Other strategies are important to ensure disability inclusion is continuously improved and built upon as the service and staff change.

Below is a list of workforce development activities related to disability inclusion for family violence and sexual assault services:

DV-alert offers two-day accredited Working with Women with Disabilities Workshops. These accredited workshops aim to increase the knowledge and capacity of frontline workers to provide appropriate support to women with disabilities. DV-alert also offers a self-paced six-week online course on the same topic.


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