First steps to future of family violence
Victoria will soon have Australia’s first independent family violence agency, combining monitoring, policy advice and research roles.
Premier Daniel Andrews has agreed to take on all 227 recommendations of a 2000-page report from the state’s historic Royal Commission into Family Violence.
The measures include the creation of a statutory authority to oversee the government’s approach to family violence.
The royal commission suggests the body should combine policy advice and research functions with consistent monitoring of the recommendations and Victoria’s Family Violence Action Plan.
Fiona McCormack, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria, says the agency should help correct the vagaries of political processes.
“Often new governments want to show they are different from their predecessors by changing direction or cutting previous governments’ programs entirely, messing up continuity throughout the sector. Sometimes new ministers just aren’t interested in the topic,” she told public sector press The Mandarin.
“Part of the frustration with trying to improve responses and prevent family violence is the political process.
“You might have a new government and new ministers, and sometimes it’s not apparent to new ministers they have a responsibility for family violence. We’ll just get something happening and then there’s a change of government.
“An organisation whose job it is not to be a part of the service system, but to ensure the government of the day is accountable to the long-term vision of what’s required, I think would make an extraordinary difference,” she argued.
The new statutory body is set to communicate constantly with the Commonwealth government and national agencies to develop policies and enhance primary prevention practices nationwide.
The Royal Commission said it was vital that any new agency work with crime statistics agencies to co-ordinate data collection and sharing as well.
The Andrews government has agreed to a timeline that would see the agency set up by July 1, 2017.
One other recommendation was for the government to create a family violence unit within the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and a sub-committee chaired by the Premier.
The incoherent state of current services was highlighted in submission to the royal commission.
coherence and that there was no “system owner” of family violence policy. McCormack told the commission:
“Say for us as a peak body, if I want to go and talk to government about how the system is going there’s nowhere to go to,” Ms McCormack told the inquiry.
“I might go and talk to DHHS about what they are doing. I might go to police and talk about what they are doing. But in terms of anything that’s working together or towards common objectives there’s nowhere.”
Former secretary of the Department of Human Services Gill Callister said there has been “a focus on program and problem rather than people”:
“If you appear in the homelessness system as a victim of family violence you are largely seen through the lens of homelessness; if you appear in the mental health system as a victim of family violence you will be seen through a mental health lens,” he said.
“So it’s about sort of I think changing the lens from a program-dominated lens to understanding the whole person and what’s going on. One of the consequences of those lenses is people are referred to a service for each component, and each service does a plan.”