The Royal Commission into Family Violence found that more needed to be done to ensure predominant aggressors are accurately identified and that situations where victim survivors are misidentified as perpetrators can be appropriately rectified. It specifically mentioned the importance of ‘amending LEAP processes to facilitate the removal of the name of a person wrongly identified’.5
The Royal Commission reflected what it had heard from many sources about the negative consequences of misidentification for victim survivors and the additional risks victim survivors from marginalised groups face of being misidentified.6
It made one recommendation that directly related to the accurate identification of predominant aggressors and the issue of misidentification:
Victoria Police amend the Victoria Police Code of Practice for the Investigation of Family Violence to ensure it provides suitable guidance on identifying family violence primary aggressors [within 12 months]. This includes:
- procedures for amending [LEAP] when a service provider or a Support and Safety Hub [now known as The Orange Door network] subsequently informs Victoria Police that a person is not the primary aggressor
- details of specialist support available to assist in identifying the primary aggressor.
Victoria Police should provide training at all appropriate levels on the amended requirements relating to identifying primary aggressors.
This recommendation was directly translated into other government plans and commitments:
- Ending Family Violence: Victoria’s 10-year Plan for Change and its first Rolling Action Plan (2017–2020) both reference the creation of the Victoria Police Family Violence Centre of Learning and the fact that police will be supported to accurately identify the primary aggressor.
- Similarly, Victoria Police’s family violence strategy commits to improving ‘frontline capabilities in understanding perpetrator behaviours and identifying primary aggressors.’7
Recommendation 41 is considered ‘implemented’, with Victoria Police having updated the Code of Practice, Victoria Police Manual Family Violence and its training to support the accurate identification of the predominant aggressor.
A Primary Aggressor Working Group operated during 2018 and 2019 to investigate the issue of misidentification and explore possible solutions. The group included representatives from across government and the family violence sector and prompted useful discussions about the issue of misidentification, culminating in the acquittal of recommendation 41.
Other major family violence reform initiatives are also contributing to improved identification of predominant aggressors. For example, the MARAM (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management) Framework is contributing to a ‘shared understanding of family violence’ (pillar 1) and aims to generate more ‘consistent and collaborative practice’ (pillar 2), with the accurate identification of victim survivors and perpetrators a core part of the framework.
The Orange Door network is also now well-established as a central intake point for both victim survivors and perpetrators. The Royal Commission anticipated that creating this network would help to promptly spot misidentification and bring it to the attention of police for rectification.8
What is clear, however, is that despite recommendation 41 being acquitted and despite the substantial progress of major family violence reforms, much more work is required to realise the full intent of the recommendation.
5 State of Victoria (2014–2016): Royal Commission into Family Violence: Report and recommendations, Parl Paper No. 132, Vol. 3, p. 37.
6 Ibid., p. 17.
7 Victoria Police (2018): Policing Harm, Upholding the Right: Victoria Police Strategy for Family Violence, Sexual Offences and Child Abuse
2018–2023, Chapter 14.
8 State of Victoria (2014–2016): Royal Commission into Family Violence: Report and recommendations, Parl Paper No. 132, Vol. 3, p. 37.