Olivia lives with the rare Kleefstra Syndrome.

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Family violence package: significant investment to address immediate needs

Today the Victorian Government announced a $572 million funding package to address 65 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence identified as being in need of immediate attention.

VCOSS welcomed the significant funding investment, described by the government as a down-payment, towards achieving the type of systemic, transformational change the Royal Commission report called for.

In this blog, VCOSS summarises some of the key funding and policy initiatives announced in today’s package. More information is available in the Victorian Government media releases. Please note that some funding may be included in more than one area of this blog.

Housing Blitz

Today’s announcement includes a $152 million housing blitz to reduce homelessness caused by family violence, and move survivors into permanent housing more quickly. It recognises housing as a pillar to providing a comprehensive and coordinated response to family violence.

The package includes:

  • $50 million investment into 130 new social housing properties and capacity to headlease an additional 100 dwellings
  • $25 million for an additional 180 crisis accommodation units and upgrades of existing accommodation
  • $21 million to redevelop and improve access to refuge services
  • $16 million for private rental assistance
  • $40 million in flexible funds to meet individual housing needs, including safe at home services.

A Family Violence Housing Implementation Taskforce is being established to guide the rollout of this funding, and provide advice on longer term housing solutions for people experiencing family violence.

VCOSS will continue to advocate to the government to progress the development of an affordable housing strategy that coordinates a whole-of-government approach to addressing the housing crisis. While 130 social housing properties, plus up to 100 headleased properties is a great first step, a strong plan for the growth of social housing in the future will be required to ensure that there is sufficient affordable housing for survivors of family violence, and other people experiencing poverty and disadvantage.

Immediate investment in family violence services

Family violence services, legal assistance services and perpetrator interventions are currently facing overwhelming demand. To help meet the immediate demand experienced by these services, the package includes:

  • $109.3 million additional investment in family violence services to cope with unprecedented demand, including counselling and crisis support.

The package also includes $19 million for family violence navigator positions, to help guide people through the family violence system. This was a recommendation of the Inquest into the death of Luke Batty.

Roadmap to reform: children and families

Alongside the response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence, the Victorian Government today released the Roadmap to Reform: strong families safe children: the first steps. The Roadmap takes a whole-of-government approach to developing a system to better support Victoria’s vulnerable children, families and communities.

The Victorian Government announced investment of $168.2 million over the next two years to progress initiatives in the Roadmap.

Many of these are consistent with and closely linked to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, including funding to improve access to universal services for vulnerable families, expansion of trauma-informed interventions for children and young people, more intensive support in home-based care and funding to sustain the out-of-home care system.

More information on the initiatives in the Roadmap and the related funding announcements are detailed in this VCOSS blog.

Prevention and early intervention

The package also includes important funding of $61.6 million for primary prevention initiatives that address the causes of family violence and help prevent violence from occurring.

This includes $21.8 million to strengthen the delivery of respectful relationships in early year’s services and schools, including:

  • Professional learning for up to 4000 early childhood professionals around family violence prevention
  • Support for thousands of primary and secondary school teachers to deliver the respectful relationships program
  • Dedicated health officers in Department of Education regions to help schools respond to family violence
  • Training and support for 120 mentor ‘lighthouse’ schools to drive positive change.

VCOSS also welcomes the focus on improving maternal and child health services for Aboriginal families and the funding to improve access to universal services for vulnerable families, included in the Roadmap to Reform announcements.

Addressing high rates of family violence in Aboriginal communities

Aboriginal women and children are at higher risk of experiencing family violence than non-Aboriginal people. The package prioritises the needs of Aboriginal communities and people, and includes $25.7 million funding for:

  • Aboriginal community led prevention and early intervention programs
  • Development of a holistic healing model for Aboriginal people who have experienced family violence
  • Improving outcomes of Aboriginal children in out of home care.

VCOSS welcomes the focus on improving capacity of Aboriginal community controlled organisations, and supporting community led early intervention and prevention programs.

$16.5 million of this funding, to improve outcomes for Aboriginal children, is linked to the Roadmap to Reform announcements and targeted at:

  • Developing a staged plan to transition the placement and case management of Aboriginal children from DHHS to Aboriginal Community-controlled organisations
  • Expansion of Aboriginal Child Specialise Advice and Support Services
  • Recruitment of Aboriginal foster and kinship carers
  • Additional resources to ensure cultural support plans for Aboriginal children in care.

Justice system responses

$23.9 million is allocated to improving justice system responses, expanding access to legal services and improving perpetrator accountability. More information about police responses to family violence is expected to be announced through the State Budget on April 27.

The justice system initiatives announced today include:

  • $4.6 million to expand legal assistance, through Victorian Legal Aid and community legal centres
  • $4 million to begin implementing recommendations around court reform and to develop innovative justice responses
  • $11.32 million to expand men’s behaviour change programs, to improve perpetrator accountability
  • $3.6 million for sexual assault counselling for women in prison.

VCOSS particularly welcomes the investment in community legal centres, who provide frontline assistance to women experiencing family violence yet are facing significant federal funding cuts over the next two years.

Longer term implementation

As well as understanding and addressing the immediate priorities, today’s announcement has begun establishing structures for an ongoing response that will maintain momentum over the longer-term and hold the government to account in implementing the recommendations.

The package commits to developing a 10-year Victorian Family Violence Plan to be delivered later this year through a process of co-design and collaboration with victims and the services that work with them.

Specific initiatives funded include:

  • $15.4 million to establish an independent monitor to oversee implementation of the recommendations and support the Family Violence Steering Committee and Victim Survivor Advisory Council
  • $32.5 million for a new system for safeguarding and sharing information between services
  • $10.4 million to build workforce capacity to identify and respond to family violence and embed the Family Violence Index
  • $5 million to begin rolling out 17 new safety and support hubs in DHHS regions.

VCOSS looks forward to the community sector and the government working together on all initiatives, including developing the 10-year Victorian Family Violence Plan.