Victoria makes new commitment to ending family violence

30 March 2016

Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand applauds the leadership shown by the Andrews government in accepting all of the recommendations of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence released today.

Ms Andrea Lott, Acting CEO said, “It is clear from their whole-hearted actions in establishing and now acting on this Royal Commission that the Premier and the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence are deeply serious about upholding a culture of human rights and ensuring the state protects vulnerable Victorians. Behind these comprehensive and evidence-based recommendations sits a vision of the kind of society we all want to live in.”

Ms Lott added, “The report does not turn away from any of the difficult questions about what needs to change. Government departments, statutory authorities, services, corporations, regulators, courts and others need to be more responsive to the needs of victims and potential victims.”

It is clear from the recommendations that a whole-of-community response is required to tackle the issue of family violence: including by those organisations delivering services such as Good Shepherd. We fully support the initiatives that have stemmed from the review, including comprehensive Support and Safety Hubs, their co-design to ensure working together and their integration with family support services; the roll-out of the RAMP (risk assessment management panel) program for high-risk victims; expansion of Flexible Support Packages; increased housing options, and vastly improved risk assessment and information-sharing.

It is especially pleasing that the report also highlights the need to adequately resource many of these initiatives and recognises that in some areas, such as perpetrator interventions, more knowledge is needed.

Placing family violence victims, largely women and their children, at the centre of the response is a critically important change, along with ensuring the system is accountable for the outcomes.

In particular, Good Shepherd strongly endorses the recommendations aimed at restoring financial security for survivors of family violence. These reflect recent evidence from our Good Shepherd research conducted with Western Community Legal Centre, that disentangling joint finances is vital to reduce survivors’ vulnerability to ongoing abuse. We are very pleased to see the mechanisms proposed for dealing with debt as a consequence of abuse, including wiping off debts caused by the perpetrator, recognising family violence in financial hardship frameworks for banks and essential services companies; and encouraging the court system to manage financial matters through intervention order processes.

In this regard, community legal services have a vital role to play as they support more disadvantaged Victorians in seeking financial redress, so the recommendation to bring the issue of community legal funding to COAG is most welcome.

“We know that we are just at the beginning of understanding how to address financial abuse and that financial security is important for prevention as well as recovery,” said Ms Lott. “While adequate crisis responses are the top priority, we also need to support long-term recovery and it’s very encouraging to see that in future victims will receive counselling for as long as needed. We hope there will also be increased access to financial counsellors within family violence services and community legal services to help survivors build a secure future for themselves and their children.”

Responding to emerging needs and specific cohorts is also reflected in the recommendations. Good Shepherd has advocated for recognition of the issue of forced marriage for a number of years and we are pleased to see a recommendation that forced marriage be specified in the Family Violence Protection Act.

The suite of 227 recommendations is extremely comprehensive, but it is just the beginning. Neither is it the only tool. We also look forward to the Victorian Government’s Gender Equality inquiry addressing some of the deeper needs for the cultural change underpinning family violence prevention.

Related research reports and newsletters
Economic abuse
Restoring Financial Safety: Legal Responses to Economic Abuse
Economic Security for Survivors of Domestic and Family Violence
Economic Abuse: Searching for Solutions. A Spotlight on Economic Abuse
Filling the Gap

Forced marriage
The Right to Refuse: Examining Forced Marriage in Australia

Newsletter
"Good Policy" Vol 11, No 1, March 2016