“Family violence is the most significant problem confronting our community with widespread detrimental social, health, economic and other effects”
– Commissioner the Hon. Marcia Neave AO
Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence has twelve months to develop recommendations that will influence generational change to prevent and respond to family violence. The commission is using various means to collect information to inform its work, including a call for written submissions, the deadline for which is 29 May 2015.
Women’s Health West welcomes the commission’s focus on sustainable, system-wide improvements that build on achievements to date. We are especially pleased that the Victorian Government has promised to accept all of the commission’s recommendations.
Drawing on years of experience working in both response and prevention, we worked with staff, board and partners to develop a submission. These are Women’s Health West’s 20 key recommendations for the overall approach to family violence response and prevention, for an integrated and coordinated response system, and for measuring and evaluating our efforts. To read the complete submission, and other collaborative submissions we support or were involved in, visit our submissions page.
Recommendation 1. The continuation of system-wide improvements to Victoria’s family violence system must be achieved through the completion and embedding of the reform agenda and integration process that have been in place for almost a decade and for which there is mounting evidence of achievement and success.
Recommendation 2. As an immediate priority, there must be stand-alone, long-term policy, comprising an overarching strategic framework and shorter-term action plans, to guide the completion and embedding of Victoria’s family violence reform agenda and integration process. This policy must be for a minimum of 20 years with five-yearly reviews. This policy must have
bi-partisan commitment so it can withstand successive governments.
Recommendation 3. As an immediate priority, there must be established appropriate cross-ministerial governance arrangements to provide an authorising environment for the completion and embedding of Victoria’s family violence reform agenda and regional integration process.
Recommendation 4. As an immediate priority, there must be adequate long-term funding of the family violence system to complete and embed Victoria’s reform and integration efforts; and this resourcing must be able to keep up with the progress that is expected to continue across the state for some time, with progress indicated by increases in service demand and police referrals, and the ongoing innovations (whether statewide or regionally) that enable reform and integration.
Recommendation 5. Supporting legislation must be introduced as a key element of continuing family violence reform and integration to underpin the establishment and embedding of a world’s best practice integrated family violence system for Victoria.
Recommendation 6. As an immediate priority, there must be stand-alone, long-term and evidence-informed policy to guide Victorian primary prevention programming, partnerships and the development of its workforce. The policy could comprise an overarching strategic framework with accompanying shorter-term action plans. The policy must be for at least 20 years, with five-yearly reviews. The policy must be whole-of-government and whole-of-community; and it must be developed with bi-partisan support so it can withstand successive governments.
Recommendation 7. As an immediate priority, there must be adequate long-term funding for the implementation of evidence-based primary prevention initiatives under the new policy, including funding for Victoria’s women’s health services to continue to coordinate and facilitate regional action plans, and funding for the delivery of settings-specific programs such as best practice respectful relationships education in schools. Resourcing commitments to Victorian primary prevention must be separate to and over and above that for Victoria’s family violence response system, and must be assured for the lifetime of the policy.
Recommendation 8. Appropriate governance arrangements must be immediately formed to oversee implementation of the new policy, maintain its primary prevention focus and assure monitoring and accountability. All structures formed must involve high-level representation from across government departments and the community.
Recommendation 9. There must be strong government leadership on the achievement of gender equity at the societal level through strategies that will ultimately render violence against women – and family violence – as no longer conceivable across Victoria, in communities and organisations, and interpersonally.
Recommendation 10. There must be continued resourcing and support of Victoria’s family violence system to improve its capacity to respond in consistently appropriate ways to the family violence experiences of diverse groups in the population. There must also be initiatives implemented for Victoria’s family violence system to support shared understandings of children’s risks and needs, and shared frameworks for responding to these.
Recommendation 11. Victoria’s reform agenda and integration process must continue to recognise and support the unique role of women-centred specialist family violence services – their experience, expertise and the way they organise their work.
Recommendation 12. Several more women’s refuges must be funded for Melbourne’s west, especially its growth areas of Wyndham and Melton, to match current population realities and future population trends.
Recommendation 13. There must be a coherent statewide housing policy and scheme introduced that can provide women leaving family violence with more options for safe, affordable and secure housing than currently exist – from social housing to private rental to home ownership options. Government leadership and investment is essential here.
Recommendation 14. There must be continued investment in police and courts initiatives to support the family violence specialisation that has been a hallmark of these two statutory service providers since the beginning of Victoria’s reform agenda and integration process.
Recommendation 15. Government must take steps to redress the pay inequities that exist in the family violence sector.
Recommendation 16. Capital funds must be made available to ensure family violence services are able to secure affordable and accessible premises from which to deliver services.
Recommendation 17. There must be greater emphasis placed upon systems-level mechanisms for holding perpetrators to account, including (but not limited to) the use of corrections more swiftly and consistently to change the behaviour of men who use violence.
Recommendation 18. There must be a review of all current data systems and the introduction of a single, improved system that can hold the information needed for an integrated and coordinated family violence response.
Recommendation 19. As an enabler of continued family violence reform and integration, a well-funded and well-designed research project must be undertaken to establish the most meaningful measures of systems-wide improvements in the context of reform and integration over the next 20 years. The findings of this research should then inform an overarching monitoring framework comprising agreed and shared measures of family violence system improvements. Efficient data systems need to be established; and the family violence system should be supported and resourced to undertake all measuring and monitoring activities.
Recommendation 20. As an immediate priority, there must be adequate resourcing for best practice evaluations of all initiatives under the new policy for Victorian primary prevention (Recommendation 6). This includes funding for Victoria’s women’s health services to lead the development of proxy indicators that can determine the value of women’s health service led regional action plans (Recommendation 7).
Women’s Health West would also like to highlight our support for and involvement in the following collaborative submissions:
– The Western Integrated Family Violence Partnership
– The Preventing Violence Together Partnership
– The Women’s Health Association of Victoria
– Our Watch: ‘Getting serious about change: the building blocks for effective primary prevention of men’s violence against women in Victoria’
– ‘Family violence, homelessness and affordable housing – a joint submission’
The commission is due to deliver its report and recommendations by the end of February 2016.