Three years ago, the Royal Commission into Family Violence handed down its historic report which forms the basis of the State Government’s reform package.
I can't overstate the complexity and significance of the reform.
There are lots of risks but there's a big potential for major beneficial change.
My role as the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor is to hold the Government to account for delivering this reform package.
In my first report, I found that there were foundational issues around planning and governance that needed to be addressed.
My second annual report, tabled in State Parliament on the 21 March, examines the work done to November 2018.
Once again, I was guided by the questions: What is best for current and future victim survivors? And what will break the cycle, and avoid people becoming perpetrators or victims?
With these questions in mind I concentrated on three key areas of the reform package: Support and safety hubs - known as The Orange Door, primary prevention and the voices of victim survivors.
During 2018, 5 hubs were opened over the 6 months from May to November.
The hubs are a flagship element of the reform. One of their main aims is to make it easier for victim survivors of family violence to access the right help safely and quickly.
My report found the implementation of the first five hubs - which included developing an effective operating model and recruiting a new workforce - was rushed.
This was an inherently risky venture. While I understand the urgency all too well I'd like to see the Government balance the advantages of maintaining momentum and opening quickly against the burden of additional complexity, barriers and costs that this approach incurs and the increased risks. This is an opportunity for government to take more time with the implementation of the remaining hubs.
I do want to highlight the role Family Safety Victoria played in mitigating some of the risks.
They established minimum requirements before a hub could be opened, allowing for growth and local needs in the design process.
In 2018 the Government opened Respect Victoria, Australia’s first Family Violence primary prevention agency.
It is working to change the attitudes, social norms and culture that lead to family violence. The challenge now is to strengthen coordination so that all the effort being put into primary prevention has the best chance of success. It seems that the community is starting to have these conversations. We need to maintain this momentum.
A key way that we’ll know that these reforms have succeeded is through hearing how victim survivors’ experience with the family violence system changes over time.
The Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council is one way of hearing these voices and is doing good work. But these changes are across so much of government. Whilst VSAC provides invaluable feedback, more needs to be done to build on this foundation to ensure diverse voices inform ongoing policy and service delivery.
We’ve come a long way. We’ve got a long way to go. Ending family violence will take a generation or more.
As the government, the sector and the community face these challenges, we must always remember the people at the heart of this reform - the victim survivors of family violence - and our goal of becoming a community where family violence is a thing of the past.