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Jan Shuard PSM

Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor

This topic was all about the victim survivor journey. We wanted to see how well the system was working as a whole to respond to victim survivors at the point of crisis, and its capacity to meet their wide-ranging needs and support them towards recovery. There is no doubt that critical elements of the service system are in place, although there are many areas with insufficient capacity, the most pressing area of need being crisis accommodation. Creating a prompt and seamless pathway for victim survivors navigating their way through these services is also still a work in progress. Understanding demand and providing adequate levels of support to meet presenting needs is central to an effective service pathway for victim survivors. It must be noted that the impact of the pandemic has been a critical factor affecting service delivery, and this report must be considered in this context.

Special thanks to the victim survivors we met with to inform this topic. They so generously shared their experiences to highlight things that worked well for them and areas where improvement was needed. Of note were examples where their experiences were vastly different from pre- to post-reforms, with a much more positive outcome in recent times. It is heartbreaking to hear their stories – the lengths to which they have gone to protect their children and the ongoing trauma they endure. Notwithstanding this, these women are now making an invaluable contribution to the design and delivery of the service response. These champions and advocates are to be admired for their strength and dedication, and their expertise must continue to be harnessed.

I was deeply impressed by the passion and commitment demonstrated by those providing the range of services that support victim survivors on their journey towards recovery. They do amazing work and often go above and beyond to meet victims’ needs as best they can in a tough environment.

But these providers were often under significant demand pressure. There is so much need for services that they cannot keep up, leading to long waitlists and some agencies having to tighten their access criteria. This highlights what we already know about the importance of primary prevention activity to drive down the rates of family violence and reduce demand pressure on these services.

It is critical that victim survivors are appropriately supported to recover from the impacts of family violence, but this is only one part of the picture. The other part is the response to perpetrators, equally critical because without addressing the cause of the violence, victim survivors will struggle to remain safe and recover. It is no mistake that my final two monitoring reports focus respectively on the systems in place to support victim survivors and then the services available to generate behaviour change among perpetrators.

It is always confronting to hear how long many victim survivors have suffered at the hands of people who perpetrate violence against their families before they are able to reach out for help. As described to us, this is always at ‘crisis point’, and the service system has understandably focused its attention on this element to manage risk and keep them safe. However, more needs to be available over the long term to support victim survivors – including children – to heal, recover and thrive.

The family violence service system and related systems continue to support victim survivors every day, and there is excellent practice occurring. There are also areas for improvement, and I hope this report helps to highlight those and instigate systemic changes that support more victim survivors to get their lives back on track and prevent future instances of violence.

A reform agenda of this size and scope is a massive task, and it is a credit to the Victorian Government that it has committed to drive the changes needed. The dedicated public servants, the police, the courts and the family violence sector all work tirelessly to design and deliver the best system they can and respond to emerging needs, and are to be commended for their efforts. To those in the sector delivering services to victim survivors who have informed, embraced and delivered – your devotion to service is outstanding. Finally, to all the victim survivors, including children and young people, who have given their expertise to shape the reforms, your contribution has been awe-inspiring.

Jan Shuard PSM
Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor