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"Unprecedented" investment in family violence prevention in Victoria, Australia

June 01, 2017 at 3:00 PM

*From the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse*

The Victorian Budget 2017/18 includes a $1.9 billion package to address family violence.

This follows the Victorian Government's promise to implement all of the 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, which handed down its final report in March 2016.

The detailed budget allocation sets out initiatives to be funded over the next five years including (among other things):

  • $448.1 million to establish 17 Support and Safety Hubs, central points for information, triage and access to services for women and children experiencing family violence and families needing support with the wellbeing and development of their children.
  • $270.8 million for victim assistance
  • $269.4 million to enhance the response of Victoria's legal system to family violence
  • $133.2 million for housing
  • $95.5 million for family violence "industry planning," including establishing a new Centre for Workforce Excellence
  • $161 million to better support children
  • $60 million to establish a family violence coordination agency
  • $12 million to establish a family violence prevention agency
  • $49.5 million for changing perpetrator behaviour
  • $33.6 million to support for Aboriginal Victorians at risk of family violence
  • $9.2 million to build the capacity to deliver family violence services for culturally diverse communities
  • $5.3 million for responding to LGBTI people experiencing family violence

Minister for Women Fiona Richardson said "We don’t just want to reduce family violence – we want to stop it before it starts. That requires dedicated, long-term action."

Premier Daniel Andrews said "We made a commitment to put an end to family violence. We’re making every reform and investing every resource to do just that."

Emily Maguire, CEO of Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) said "We welcome this unprecedented leadership and investment in family violence prevention and response. This budget balances the changes we need now, like workforce development and more specialist support for victim/survivors, with future-focussed investment in infrastructure like the Support and Safety Hubs, the Centre for Workforce Excellence and the Family Violence Coordination Agency."

The ABC reported that Fiona McCormack, CEO of peak body Domestic Violence Victoria said, "To be honest I think today is a day for Victoria to be proud. God knows we've had enough days to be ashamed of."

Family violence was estimated to cost the Victorian economy $5.3 billion in 2015-16. (The economic cost of child abuse and intimate partner violence in New Zealand has been estimated at between $4.1 to $7 billion per year and rising.)

More detail is available from the Victorian Government website and health.vic websites. A few initiaves are described below.

Primary prevention

The Budget includes $50.7 million for primary prevention. This includes establishing a new prevention agency, which will guide the implementation of the Free from Violence primary prevention strategy and monitor the state's efforts to prevent family violence. The strategy sets out the Government's approach:

  • Build prevention structures and systems
    • Establish a Prevention Agency supported by long-term funding
    • Support development of an expert workforce that understands and can embed prevention in our communities
    • Local-level partnerships for the effective implementation of prevention activity
  • Scale up and build on what we know
  • Trial new, innovative approaches
  • Research and evaluate
    • To build knowledge and inform future practice
    • Continuous quality improvement, learning and review
  • Engage and communicate with the community

The Government also invested an extra $5.9 million to support the implementation of Safe and Strong, Victoria’s first gender equality strategy, launched in December 2016.

Specialist family violence services

The Budget states that significant funding boosts provided to specialist family violence support in 2016-17 will be continued. Additional accessible and flexible specialist supports, counselling and therapeutic services (including for children affected by family violence) and financial counselling will also be provided for family violence victims.

The Ending Family Violence 10 year plan acknowledges the importance of specialist family violence services. It commits to building the capacity and capability of specialist services and providing effective resourcing. 

It also acknowledges the importance of building the capability of staff at government and non-government services to identify and respond to family violence in order to provide effective early intervention.

Timeline of work to address family violence in Victoria, Australia

Between 2005 and 2010, reforms applied a whole-of-government approach to addressing family violence.

In December 2014, the Government announced a Royal Commission into Family Violence. Fiona Richardson was appointed the first ever Australian Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence.

In March 2016, Australia’s first Royal Commission into Family Violence (the Victorian Royal Commission) delivered its final report and made 227 recommendations for the Victorian government, organisations and the wider community. Premier Daniel Andrews committed to implementing all the recommendations. For further detail and responses to the Royal Commission's report, see this previous NZFVC news story.

Also in March 2016, a new Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council (chaired by Rosie Batty) and a Family Violence Steering Committee (with representatives from government, specialist family violence services, social services, Indigenous organisations, academia, legal professionals and more) were established provide advice on the reforms.

The 2016/17 Victorian Budget included $572 million to begin work on the Royal Commission's most urgent recommendations. This included funding for:

  • "Family violence refuges, crisis accommodation, social housing and housing support services to prevent victims becoming homeless as a result of fleeing violence in the family home ($152.5 million)
  • Expanding support programs for children and pursuing reform of the child protection system ($122 million)
  • Crisis support and counselling to meet demand for specialist family violence services ($103.9 million)
  • Influencing community attitudes about preventing violence through rolling out the Respectful Relationships program in primary and secondary schools and developing a gender equality strategy ($61.6 million)
  • Working with Indigenous communities and expanding special programs for Indigenous women ($25.7 million)
  • Reform of the legal system through, for example, expanding legal services for victims and men’s behaviour change programs ($23.9 million)."

The Budget also allocated funding to begin work on systemic improvements recommended by the Royal Commission including (among other things): establishing an independent monitor and a coordinating agency to see the Royal Commission’s recommendations are implemented with appropriate stakeholder engagement; enhancing development of the family violence workforce through capacity building; and funding domestic violence advocate positions to assist victims in navigating the system.

In November 2016, the Government released Ending Family Violence: Victoria’s Plan for Change, a 10-year strategy for implementing every Royal Commission recommendation.

Subsequently, the Family violence rolling action plan 2017-2020 was released, announcing that from 1 July 2017, Family Safety Victoria is the new dedicated agency for delivering family violence reform across the state. A new rolling plan will be developed approximately every three years.

In December 2016, the Government launched Safe and Strong, Victoria’s first gender equality strategy.

In May 2017, the Budget committed $1.9 billion to addressing family violence. The Free from Violence primary prevention strategy was also launched.

New Zealand

The New Zealand Budget 2017 was released on 25 May 2017. For further information, see the NZFVC news story Budget 2017 - Family violence funding focused on continuing pilots.