Home > State Budget Submission 2018-19 >

Protect Victorians against family violence

Protect Victorians against family violence banner imageFamily violence causes cumulative and long-term effects. Violence can tear families apart, force people to move home, affect employment, disrupt children’s education and fracture friendship groups. Ongoing support for survivors is crucial.

Children and young people who experience family violence are more likely to develop health, development and social problems. They are also more likely to be victims of violence again later in life, or commit violence themselves.

The Royal Commission found that to recover and thrive in the aftermath of family violence, women and children need “housing, financial security, education and employment [and] the ability to regain their health and sense of wellbeing”.

This can be achieved with interdisciplinary long-term recovery teams: housing workers, financial counsellors, health services, trauma-informed therapists, and parenting support workers to help rebuild mother-child bonds. Children also need help to re-engage with education, and women need links to training and employment.

To complement the response system, survivors of family violence also need dedicated planning and funding for family violence recovery.

Increase focus on preventing violence

recc header

Fund evaluation and scale-up effective prevention strategies.


Currently just 2.6 per cent of family violence spending in Victoria goes towards prevention, a reduction from four per cent in 2014-15. This downward trend is despite the release of a new prevention framework and $12m provided over four years for a dedicated prevention agency.

Prevention projects are commonly funded by grants for small, local initiatives. This means programs often develop in isolation, without a unifying purpose, and promising projects are hard to evaluate or scale-up.

Experts warn this approach does not engage the broader community, dampening prevention effectiveness. Ramping up prevention work can engage the whole community and reinforce the message that violence in any form is unacceptable. This includes working hard to include people whose experiences have traditionally been silenced or ignored, such as Aboriginal women and children, women with disabilities, older women and women and children from CALD backgrounds.

Sustained prevention investment addressing structural inequality will save millions in the long term, across justice, health, corrections and social services. Evaluation of prevention activities must be longitudinal. While the results of this investment may not be evident for many years, it will produce happier, healthier, safer families, with women and children living free from violence and abuse.

Victoria should allocate more family violence funding to prevention measures, and make a deeper commitment to prevention work to ensure project sustainability over the long term.

Essential elements of a violence prevention framework

  • Establishing shared understanding of violence against women, its drivers and reinforcing factors
  • Techniques and strategies for ensuring reach across different communities
  • A holistic approach to integrated gender equity and non-violence promotion
  • Stakeholder roles and responsibilities
  • Stages of action and expected short, medium and long-term signposts of success.

Change men’s behaviour

recc header

Fund behaviour change approaches that suit men from diverse cultural backgrounds and of different ages, including adolescents and young men.


Changing men’s attitudes to women and violence and promoting perpetrator accountability is a key plank of the Victorian Government’s family violence reforms. This is particularly important for men who have already been violent.

The Royal Commission and VCOSS members have raised concerns that current men’s behaviour change programs adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach. The Royal Commission reported:

“While there may be common risk factors for family violence, perpetrators are not a homogenous group. Rather, they reflect the diversity of our community. This includes perpetrators who are older, who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, perpetrators from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, those from regional, rural or remote communities, and those who have disabilities…

“The Commission was told that behaviour change programs and other perpetrator interventions must address the needs of these diverse groups and be developed in consultation with them.”

Behaviour change programs must be tailored to specific population groups–including adolescents and men from cultural and linguistically diverse communities–with a particular focus on cultural nuances and sensitivities. Although positive initiatives are underway (for example, the Dardi Munwurro Strong Spirit Residential Men’s Behavioural Change Program) new initiatives are in Melbourne, with none in rural and regional Victoria.

The demand for men’s behaviour change programs continues to grow but there are not enough diverse programs or workers trained to do this work. More training places are required to meet the diverse needs of perpetrators, and keep women and children safe.

Help victims of family violence access courts and tribunals

recc header

  • Fund safe waiting facilities and remote witness facilities in all courts.
  • Expand access to the Victims of Crime Assistance Scheme to include victims of family violence and sexual assault.

Many Victorian courts have undergone or are currently undergoing upgrades. To ensure vulnerable women and children have equitable, safe access to courts, these upgrades should include expansion of remote witness facilities and safe waiting spaces.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission is also reviewing the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal and the Victims of Crime Assistance Scheme. The scheme provides financial assistance for medical, counselling and other expenses incurred by victims of crime. It can also be a powerful acknowledgement of the loss and harm experienced.

The review should ensure that victims of family violence are able to access the scheme, including by updating the definition of ‘act of violence’ to include different types of family violence, broadening the scheme’s understanding of family, and making sure all victims are treated equally, regardless of their past behaviour.

Combat elder abuse

recc header

Develop a Victorian integrated elder abuse strategy.


Elder abuse includes any action that harms or distresses an older person, carried out by someone they know, including physical violence, psychological or emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. Elder abuse may be committed by paid workers or by family members or friends. Women, people with significant disability, poor physical health, mental health conditions, cognitive impairment, people who are socially isolated and people from low socioeconomic backgrounds are more at risk of experiencing elder abuse.

Elder abuse is the least recognised form of family violence and is based in ageism, influenced by society’s attitudes towards older people, and their marginalisation in the community.

A whole-of-government approach is required to tackle elder abuse, with integrated planning and policy development between Australian and state and territory governments. Action that acknowledges ageism as the root cause of elder abuse is required from the Victorian Government, including:

  • providing training to frontline staff who work with older people (such as police, healthcare professionals and financial service workers) to detect and respond to elder abuse
  • investment in specialist services with expertise in elder abuse (such as Seniors Rights Victoria) to provide advice to other service providers and help meet service demand
  • creating a registry for enduring powers of attorney.

An elder abuse strategy must promote the dignity, agency and autonomy of older people and improve the system’s response to elder abuse. 


Further strategies


Provide funding certainty to agencies to continue family violence response

Agencies providing family violence responses to women and children are facing funding uncertainty as family violence packages announced in the 2016-17 Budget are due to expire soon. In 2016 a number of services received welcome funds to provide financial counselling, flexible support packages, therapeutic interventions and specialist supports for Aboriginal women and women from CALD backgrounds. Agencies that have been doing this work need certainty for the future. The time is right to review evaluations and scale-up effective interventions.

pdf_icon   Download VCOSS State Budget submission PDF