About the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor
Former Victorian Corrections Commissioner Jan Shuard PSM was appointed as the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor (the Monitor) on 1 August 2019. Jan took up her role on 2 October 2019 replacing Tim Cartwright APM, the inaugural Monitor.
The Monitor was formally established in 2017 as an independent statutory officer after the Royal Commission into Family Violence (the Royal Commission) released its report in 2016. The role was responsible for monitoring and reviewing how the Victorian Government and its agencies deliver the family violence reforms as outlined in the government’s 10-year implementation plan Ending Family Violence:
Victoria’s Plan for Change.
The Monitor provided annual implementation reports to the Victorian Parliament from 2018 to 2021, as required under the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor Act 2016 (Vic). In May 2021 the Monitor’s function was extended to the end of December 2022. This enabled the continued monitoring of reforms as implementation matured and remaining Royal Commission recommendations were implemented. The Monitor produced seven topic-based reports in 2021 and 2022, as shown in Figure 2.
On 12 April 2022 the Governor in Council extended the Monitor’s appointment so the Monitor could conduct an independent legislative review of Parts 5A and 11 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) (the Act), using the powers set out in the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor Act. The Monitor’s appointment ends on 31 May 2023.
Language used in this report
We recognise that some service providers and communities prefer the terms ‘person using family violence’ and ‘person experiencing family violence’. However, for consistency with the Royal Commission, this report uses the term ‘perpetrator’ to describe people who use family violence and ‘victim survivor’ to describe people who are subjected to family violence. Family violence is deeply gendered, with men making up the majority of perpetrators, while victim survivors are overwhelmingly women and children. While acknowledging this reality, we employ the gender-neutral terms ‘perpetrator’ and ‘victim survivor’ throughout to be inclusive of all communities experiencing family violence.
This report uses the term ‘survivor advocate’ to refer to the victim survivors of family violence who we consulted for this review.
Bolded terms are defined in the glossary at the end of this report.
Overview of legislative framework
Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme
Part 5A of the Act provides the legal basis for the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme (FVISS), which aims to better protect family violence victim survivors and hold perpetrators accountable.1 The FVISS operates within the context of Victoria’s existing privacy regime while modifying some privacy laws to facilitate family violence information sharing.
Part 5A enables prescribed people or organisations, known as information sharing entities (ISEs), to share confidential information for a family violence protection purpose. This is the purpose of managing a risk of a person committing or being subjected to family violence. It includes the ongoing assessment of the risk of the person committing or being subjected to family violence. Information can also be shared with a subset of ISEs, known as risk assessment entities (RAEs), for a family violence assessment purpose. This is the purpose of establishing or assessing the risk of a person committing or being subjected to family violence.
Relevant information can be voluntarily and proactively shared between ISEs or shared in response to a request. Information can also be shared with victim survivors to help them manage their risk.
Other relevant provisions in Part 5A:
- specify certain information that is excluded from the FVISS
- outline consent requirements for ISEs to share confidential information
- require ISEs to comply with record-keeping obligations in the Family Violence Protection (Information Sharing and Risk Management) Regulations 2018 (the Regulations)
- make the unauthorised sharing of information an offence while protecting information that is shared in good faith and with reasonable care
- explain the interaction between Part 5A and other privacy and secrecy laws.
To support appropriate information sharing practices, the Act requires the Minister for Prevention of Family Violence (the Minister) to issue guidelines in relation to the FVISS and the requirements that ISEs must comply with to show their capacity to handle confidential information responsibly and appropriately. Although sitting outside the Act, these guidelines (referred to in this report as the Ministerial Guidelines2) are binding on ISEs.
The Regulations outline which individuals and organisations are ISEs and RAEs.3 Prescribed individuals and organisations cover a wide range of workforces, from specialist family violence services and child and family services to universal services such as schools and public hospitals. The Regulations also specify the record-keeping obligations that apply to ISEs.4
ISEs were prescribed under regulations at different times, as shown in Table 1.
Central Information Point
The Central Information Point (CIP) is also established under Part 5A of the Act. The CIP is responsible for consolidating information about a perpetrator or alleged perpetrator of family violence from key government agencies into a single CIP report. The CIP report is then shared with certain ISEs to support their family violence risk assessment and management practices.
Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework
Part 11 of the Act provides the legal basis for the Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Risk Management (MARAM) Framework. The MARAM Framework aims to achieve system-wide consistency in identifying, assessing and managing family violence risk.
The Act empowers the Minister to approve a risk assessment and management framework, which is set out in a legislative instrument. It also requires certain organisations (known as framework organisations) to align their policies, procedures, practice guidance and tools with that framework. The current MARAM Framework came into operation as the approved framework under the Act on 27 September 2018.5
Part 11 of the Act also:
- requires government departments and agencies to incorporate the obligation to align with the MARAM Framework into relevant State contracts and agreements with organisations providing services relevant to family violence risk assessment or risk management
- sets out annual reporting requirements in relation to the implementation and operation of the MARAM Framework.
The Regulations outline which organisations are framework organisations.6 The list of framework organisations is mostly the same as the list of ISEs, with some variations due to the role and function of specific organisations. Similarly to ISEs, framework organisations were prescribed at different times, with ‘phase 1’ organisations being prescribed when the MARAM Framework commenced on 27 September 2018 and ‘phase 2’ organisations being prescribed on 19 April 2021.7
Royal Commission findings
Parts 5A and 11 of the Act were inserted by the Family Violence Protection Amendment (Information Sharing) Act 2017 (Vic) in response to recommendations made by the Royal Commission.
The Royal Commission highlighted the importance of organisations sharing relevant information to assess risks to a victim survivor’s safety, prevent and reduce the risk of further harm, and hold perpetrators accountable.8 It identified barriers that prevented organisations across the service system from routinely and systematically sharing information, including a complex legal and policy environment.9 To address these barriers, the Royal Commission recommended introducing a legislative family violence information sharing scheme, to be contained within the Act.10
The Royal Commission also noted the importance of timely information sharing and recognised that new system infrastructure was required in addition to legislative reform.11 It therefore recommended establishing a CIP, to consist of a co-located multi-department team that would be responsible for consolidating relevant information from agency databases into a single report.12
In relation to risk assessment and management, the Royal Commission recognised that:13
Assessing the risk that a person will be subjected to family violence and then appropriately managing that risk, underpins all efforts to uphold safety for victims of family violence and to hold perpetrators of family violence to account.
The Royal Commission considered the effectiveness of the family violence risk assessment and risk management framework that was in place at the time of its report (known as the Common Risk Assessment Framework, or CRAF). It identified a range of issues in relation to risk assessment and management, including inconsistencies in applying the CRAF in the absence of a strong authorising and monitoring environment, challenges determining the level of risk in the absence of an actuarial or tiered tool, and gaps in the CRAF relating to children and victims of non-intimate partner violence.14
The Royal Commission made four recommendations to improve risk management practices in Victoria.15 Of relevance to this review, it recommended legislative reform to empower the relevant minister to approve a family violence risk assessment and risk management framework and to require certain organisations to align their policies, procedures, practices and tools with that framework.16
This legislative review provided an opportunity to examine the legal framework underpinning the FVISS, CIP and MARAM reforms. We sought to determine whether the legal provisions are being applied as intended and are effective in meeting their objectives. The review also allowed us to consider whether further reform is required to protect victim survivors, prevent and reduce family violence to the extent possible, and hold perpetrators accountable.
The review satisfies a legal requirement under the Act, as shown in Table 2.
In conducting the review, we considered the effectiveness of the provisions in Parts 5A and 11 as well as related materials, insofar as they impact on the Act’s effectiveness. This included examining the Regulations, Ministerial Guidelines and MARAM legislative instrument.
The six key questions that guided the review are shown in Box 1.
Box 1: Review questions
- To what extent has Part 5A been effective in facilitating the sharing of confidential information for the purposes of establishing, assessing and managing risks of family violence?
- To what extent has Part 5A promoted the coordination of services to maximise the safety of people who have experienced family violence, prevent and reduce family violence to the extent possible, and promote the accountability of perpetrators of family violence for their actions?
- To what extent has Part 5A enabled certain information sharing entities to obtain consolidated and up-to-date information from a central information point for the purposes of establishing, assessing and managing risks of family violence?
- To what extent has Part 11 been effective in providing a framework for achieving consistency in family violence risk identification, assessment and management?
- Have there been any adverse effects associated with the provisions in Part 5A or Part 11?
- Are there any legislative amendments that would improve the operation of Part 5A or Part 11 of the Act?
Unlike the Monitor’s ordinary functions, we have not reviewed or monitored how government agencies have implemented the provisions. However, we recognise the importance of implementation activities in supporting the effectiveness of any legislative reform. We also acknowledge the inherent challenge in distinguishing between the impact of legal provisions themselves and the impact of implementation activities in supporting organisational understanding and application of the provisions.
In seeking to answer our review questions, we have been informed by how the legal provisions are operating and being applied in practice. We discuss relevant practice issues throughout the report to highlight how effective the provisions have been and to identity adverse effects that have arisen. Practitioner and survivor advocate experiences and views have also informed our consideration of potential amendments to improve the Act’s operation, noting that our recommendations may relate to any matter addressed during the review.
Reflecting the review scope, our recommendations are directed at the legal framework for the FVISS, CIP and MARAM reforms and not at matters of implementation. Stakeholder feedback that related solely to matters of implementation was beyond scope for the review. This feedback is highlighted in Chapter 7. However, in addition to our recommendations, we have made some suggestions throughout this report where we identified existing practices that we believe should continue and/or potential changes that could be made to support practitioners to implement the reforms and thereby promote the effectiveness of Parts 5A and 11. These suggestions should not be considered recommendations because they relate to matters beyond our scope.
A review of the MARAM Framework itself, and associated tools and practice guidance, was also outside scope for the legislative review. Under the Act, the MARAM Framework must be reviewed every five years to assess whether it reflects the current evidence of best practices.17 A MARAM best practice evidence review has been commissioned by Family Safety Victoria in the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing and is due to be completed by the end of 2023. The best practice evidence review will examine:
- the MARAM Framework legislative instrument and accompanying framework policy document
- key aspects of the MARAM Practice Guides for working with adults in the victim survivor–focused MARAM Practice Guides, assessment tools and supporting resources.
The FVISS, CIP and MARAM reforms affect thousands of people and organisations across multiple sectors in Victoria. We aimed to capture as many views and experiences as possible from a broad cross-section of these sectors. We reached out to more than 100 organisations, peak bodies, professional representative bodies, government departments/agencies and family violence governance groups to invite contributions to the review.
Stakeholders contributed to the review by taking part in individual consultations, making a submission in response to the public call for submissions campaign and/or providing data and information. We offer our sincere thanks to all those who took the time to share their views and experiences or otherwise contribute to the review.
Stakeholder and survivor advocate consultation
From June to October 2022, we met with 55 organisations and peak bodies representing the following:
- ambulance services
- child and family services
- Child Protection and care services
- community health services
- community housing services
- community legal services
- corrections and other justice services
- financial counselling services
- general practitioners
- government departments and agencies
- public hospitals
- sexual assault services
- specialist family violence services
- Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Program
- Victoria Police.
We also met with three individual practitioners who shared their experiences confidentially.
We actively sought to include user experience and the voices of victim survivors in the review. We spoke to survivor advocates from established survivor advocacy groups to:
- explore victim survivors’ lived experience of the FVISS and MARAM schemes
- understand survivor advocates’ views on information sharing and risk assessment and management more broadly.
We heard from 12 survivor advocates, including a male survivor advocate, survivor advocates who identified as LGBTIQA+, a survivor advocate from a regional area and survivor advocates who experienced family violence as children. Feedback from survivor advocates reflected their wide range of experience with service providers as well as the experiences of other victim survivors in their networks.
A list of organisations and survivor advocate groups consulted during the review is at Appendix 1.
Call for submissions campaign
Our public call for submissions campaign ran from 21 June 2022 to 12 September 2022 through the Engage Victoria platform. The campaign sought submissions from those impacted by Parts 5A and 11 and organisations that represent and advocate for family violence victim survivors. We asked submitters to address the six key review questions (outlined above). To further guide responses, we also provided additional consultation questions. These questions are at Appendix 2.
We received 45 submissions during the campaign including six submissions from individuals and 39 submissions from organisations. Figure 3 shows the areas serviced by the individuals and organisations that made submissions.
A list of submissions received, and the sectors represented by those who made submissions, is illustrated in Appendix 3.
Some submissions responded to the consultation questions directly through the Engage Victoria platform, while other submissions uploaded a document addressing matters of relevance to the review. In our analysis of submissions, we incorporated direct answers to consultation questions as well as submission responses that provided sufficient evidence to identify an appropriate answer. This analysis is included in submission graphs in relevant sections of this report. Because not all submissions addressed each question, submission graphs differ in the total number of responses received.
Review of organisational information and legislative materials
In addition to hearing directly from stakeholders, we sought data and information from organisations to support the review. We received data and information covering matters such as:18
- the volume and type of information sharing occurring between organisations, including who information is being shared with, how often information about an adult victim survivor is shared without consent and the amount of proactive information sharing occurring
- the volume of requests for information that are declined, and the reasons for this
- complaints related to information sharing under the FVISS
- status reports and annual report contributions in relation to MARAM implementation
- anecdotal reflections on whether there has been a cultural change around information sharing and/or greater consistency in family violence risk identification, assessment and management.
We attended two ‘deep dive’ presentations by Family Safety Victoria on the legislative provisions, as well as a presentation on the CIP report delivery process. We also undertook our own review and analysis of the legal provisions in Parts 5A and 11 and related materials such as the second reading speech, explanatory memorandum, Ministerial Guidelines, the Regulations and the MARAM legislative instrument.
In considering potential legislative amendments and recommendations, we reviewed legislative approaches to family violence information sharing and risk management from other Australian and international jurisdictions.
We also drew on our earlier monitoring reports19 and reviewed previous research and evaluations in relation to FVISS and MARAM. This included:
- a review of the first two years of operation of the FVISS conducted by Monash University20
- a process evaluation of the MARAM reforms conducted by the Cube Group.21
A list of documents that informed the review is at Appendix 4.
- Victoria, Parliamentary Debates, Legislative Assembly, 23 March 2017, p. 931 (Martin Pakula, Attorney-General).
- Victorian Government, Family Violence Information Sharing Guidelines: Guidance for Information Sharing Entities (updated April 2021).
- Family Violence Protection (Information Sharing and Risk Management) Regulations 2018, Schedules 1–2.
- Ibid., Part 3.
- Victorian Government, Victorian Government Gazette, No S 445, 25 September 2018, p. 1.
- Family Violence Protection (Information Sharing and Risk Management) Regulations 2018, Schedule 3.
- Family Violence Protection (Information Sharing) Amendment (Risk Management) Regulations 2018; Family Violence Protection (Information Sharing and Risk Management) Amendment Regulations 2020.
- Royal Commission into Family Violence: Report and Recommendations (final report, March 2016), Vol I, pp. 158–159.
- Ibid., pp. 170–181.
- Ibid., pp. 186–193.
- Ibid., p. 195.
- Ibid., pp. 195–197.
- Ibid., p. 95.
- Ibid., pp. 122–130.
- Ibid., pp. 134–147.
- Ibid., pp. 138–139.
- Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic), section 194.
- Data and information included in this report often represents data captured by central information sharing teams within each organisation. As such, any data should be considered illustrative only and does not necessarily reflect all information sharing activity within each organisation.
- For example: Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor, Monitoring Victoria’s Family Violence Reforms: Early Identification of Family Violence Within Universal Services (final report, May 2022).
- McCulloch J, et al, Review of the Family Violence Information Sharing Legislative Scheme (final report, 30 May 2022). Note that the two-year review of Part 5A was a requirement of the Act under section 144S.
- Cube Group, Process Evaluation of the MARAM Reforms (final report, 26 June 2020).