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Monitor’s foreword

Photo of Jan Shuard PSM

Jan Shuard PSM
Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor

The Dhelk Dja Koori Caucus chose this topic, and it is easy to see why it was a priority, principally because it is integral to family violence practice in Aboriginal communities. Grounded in cultural strengthening, cultural expertise and education, this strengths-based approach is embodied in Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way – Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families and is embedded in the Aboriginal service system. The strategy is to intervene early to address the many causal factors that can lead to family violence. This holistic approach does not fit neatly into the mainstream structures and as such sometimes important work is unrecognised. However, as impressed on us by the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, self-determination is a non-negotiable must for government; it is the foundation for all work with Aboriginal people.

This report highlights the prevention and early intervention work delivered by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, Dhelk Dja Committees, and local workforces and networks and how this is culturally unique and done differently from mainstream approaches. In shining a light on this topic, this report examines the implementation of the relevant recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence to assess whether the full potential of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to prevent and respond to family violence is being realised.

Universally, Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations we consulted told us that prevention of family violence in community is grounded in healing, identity, culture, connection and strengthening families. However, there is a disconnect between this approach and mainstream practice and the funding frameworks and reporting requirements that sit around them. Because funding of programs is largely short-term and may not always include sufficient time or provision for implementation and culturally appropriate evaluation models, the outcomes cannot be demonstrated to the extent that they should be, therefore the true value is likely underestimated.

Our heartfelt thanks go to all the people who generously gave their time to share their knowledge and expertise on this topic. I trust this report reflects that we listened and heard their stories. We were expertly guided through this review by Karen Milward, a proud Yorta Yorta woman, who ensured our consultations were culturally safe; and an Aboriginal victim survivor who contributed her lived experience expertise and perspective to our monitoring. Members of the Dhelk Dja Koori Caucus have also supported this review with their skilful guidance and expertise.

There can be no doubt that Aboriginal people know best what is right for their communities and must be supported to provide the best services for their people. However, the same obligations rest with the state and mainstream services to hear the voices of Aboriginal people and provide culturally safe and appropriate prevention and early intervention efforts.

Victoria is privileged to have such an abundance of committed, competent and passionate Aboriginal people working in the family violence sector – these are the champions and strategic leaders who work tirelessly for their communities. Their individual and collective strength and willingness to go above and beyond is to be revered. Many Aboriginal people we spoke to have been involved in tackling the causes of family violence in Aboriginal communities for more than 20 years, since the Victorian Indigenous Family Violence Task Force released its report and recommendations to the Victorian Government. These are true leaders in their field, and the suggested actions in this report are based on what they see as important to improve the implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations to prevent and intervene early to reduce the harm of family violence.

The starting point must be to define and agree what constitutes prevention and early intervention in Victorian Aboriginal communities and what are meaningful outcomes and measures. This is for Aboriginal people to decide but they require the resources, funding and supports to do this work.

Jan Shuard PSM
Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor

Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way - Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families artwork

Source: Family Safety Victoria. Artist, Trina Dalton-Oogjes.

Artwork and Artist

Trina Dalton-Oogjes is a proud Wadawurrung/Wathaurung woman. Trina’s painting centres around the eleven community Dhelk Dja Action Groups across Victoria, leading into a central gathering/yarning circle, empowering Aboriginal communities based on a healing and trauma informed process, to lead collaborative partnerships through a culturally safe service system.

Around the eleven community Dhelk Dja Action Groups are Aboriginal organisations/agencies, government departments and non-government agencies working together to address family violence.

Bunjil the Creator oversees to empower strength and self-determination. Hand prints of the adults and children represent the family unit. The kangaroo and emu footprints represent partnership moving forward (kangaroos and emus only move forward).