With a whole-of-government reform of the scale of MARAM – which is central to many of the Royal Commission’s recommendations – planning and coordination are vital for successful implementation and service delivery.
Planning, sequencing and communication
We note that while we have seen a range of planning activity relating to phase 2 implementation, feedback from many services and sector representatives is that there is a need for very clear, practical guidance that shows what MARAM means for them. Despite the substantial lead time for the phase 2 commencement, this tailored support was not put in place before universal services were prescribed. Family violence regional integration committees, the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare and Early Childhood Australia advised that services were underprepared for being prescribed and were confused about what MARAM is. Indeed, the school principals we spoke with commented that they did not know what MARAM was until looking it up.
Around the time that schools were prescribed, and in the lead up to prescription, a range of communication methods, such as all-staff emails and social media, were used to notify schools and encourage training uptake. Individual letters from the Secretary of the Department of Education and Training were sent to schools in October 2021, providing them with a hard copy of the Information Sharing and Family Violence Reforms Toolkit; this was the first direct source of communication about schools being prescribed. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, communication does not seem to have penetrated.
The early childhood sector is also calling for more support. The first recommendation from the Family Violence Prevention and Response Workforce Capability Project interim report emphasised the need for stronger communication from the Department of Education and Training, with a stronger focus on MARAM.1
The intent of MARAM is for all workforces to have a shared understanding of and approach to family violence, with clear roles and responsibilities. To be able to fully participate in the system, universal services need to understand what the MARAM Framework is, and their role in the system [relates to action 11]. Now that schools and early childhood education are largely returning to normal after two years of significant disruption, we suggest an immediate focus on renewing efforts to build awareness of what the MARAM Framework means for schools and early childhood services, and clearly articulating how it intersects with and differs from existing initiatives and systems, in addition to the continued work on rolling out training.
One Principal Strategic Advisor noted that in March 2021 Family Safety Victoria provided a snapshot to all Principal Strategic Advisors of how the MARAM rollout was occurring across departments and what it was going to look like for various organisations. This was said to be a highly effective tool for communicating the big picture of the MARAM rollout. It might be worth updating this snapshot at different stages of implementation and making it available for ongoing communication with a wider audience as a way of highlighting MARAM as a whole-of-community response.
Modelling and forecasting
The only modelling or forecasting we have seen in relation to the phase 2 rollout of MARAM is in the regulatory impact statement (RIS) prepared by Family Safety Victoria. The RIS was based on consultation with a range of stakeholders including schools, early childhood centres, hospitals and health services and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Consultation with a small group of phase 1 organisations also occurred to explore the potential impact on them of the phase 2 rollout. The RIS acknowledged and attempted to quantify the impact on phase 2 organisations of being prescribed under MARAM and information sharing legislation, including:
- upfront costs of staff time to participate in training
- upfront costs of updating existing policies, procedures, practice guidance, tools and systems to meet the requirements of the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme and to align to MARAM
- ongoing costs to prescribed organisations and services associated with family violence information sharing and risk assessment and management activity (including training new staff and time spent on information sharing and family violence risk assessment and management).
We have not seen any modelling of the potential impact on specialist family violence services, both in terms of secondary consultations and referrals (which are discussed in later sections). There was consensus among non-government stakeholders that while a longer term aim of MARAM was to enable earlier intervention in family violence cases, thereby reducing pressure on the specialist family violence service system, in the short term, increased demand was to be expected. Family Safety Victoria indicated that it expected only a very gradual increase in demand over time, but we have not seen figures that confirm this is what has occurred.
Training – forecasting and strategy
Given the number of workers in services affected by the reforms, we would expect that detailed modelling around training would be required. Again, the only source of such modelling we found was in the RIS, which made assumptions about the training impact on some universal services. For example, it was assumed that across an initial three-year period:
- For hospitals – four people per organisation or service would attend one day of face-to-face training, and 25 per cent of the remainder of staff in the organisation or service would complete three hours of online training.
- For schools, early childhood education and care providers, out of school hours care, and health and support services – four people per organisation or service would attend one day of face-to-face training, and 50 per cent of the remainder of staff in the organisation or service would complete three hours of online training.
“I feel like frontline workers should do training on how to raise issues or concerns, but this training should be ongoing, it should be refreshed yearly and expanded on in terms of content and ever-changing information.”
- Kelly, victim survivor
We understand that there have been refinements to the training approach since the RIS was prepared; however, we have not seen any work to model the phased training requirements by departments. At the statewide level, there is a target of 22,000 workers being trained per year as part of the latest State Budget, and Family Safety Victoria is confident that it will exceed this target. For education workforces, Department of Education and Training guidance included a minimum readiness requirement of one leader and two professionals per organisation.
Recommendation 3 from the Royal Commission was to develop a sustained workforce and development training strategy to support MARAM. This recommendation was acquitted by the series of training-related actions included in the Strengthening the Foundations First Rolling Action Plan 2019–2022. However, a standalone training strategy is only now being developed, the content of which was accepted at the November 2021 MARAM and Workforce Directors’ Group meeting. The implementation timeline of the training strategy stretches out beyond 2029, which is consistent with Family Safety Victoria’s advice that it will be many years before all workers who require training will be trained. The strategy outlines the two sectors to deliver training:
- The specialist family violence sector delivers unaccredited training – this has been the focus of training delivered to date, acknowledging the large number of workers needing to be trained. The strategy anticipates that, ultimately, the specialist sector will best be able to leverage its unique strengths by focusing on professional development that builds on core skills and covers up-to-date MARAM content for prescribed workforces.
- The Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector delivers accredited training through Technical and Further Education institutions (TAFEs) and registered training organisations – the first of three accredited courses aligned to MARAM responsibilities is currently available. Family Safety Victoria’s long-term plan is to for a range of professions to complete their family violence accredited training as part of their pre-service qualifications. Challenges include ensuring there are enough qualified trainers to deliver the content (as flagged in the 2020 MARAM Process Evaluation of the MARAM Reforms and raised by Chisholm TAFE in our consultation with them) and advocating for family violence content to be covered in the higher education system as part of degrees for relevant workforces (this is outside the scope of the training strategy). The quality of VET trainers will increasingly be supported by the Best Practice Education Model, which provides guidance to training organisations on the essential vocational competencies for trainers so they deliver family violence courses in ways that are safe, effective, inclusive and culturally appropriate.
The currently available accredited course, Identifying and Responding to Family Violence, is designed for universal services, although it is nominally a 50-hour course spread over multiple months. The training strategy itself identifies that few current workers will self-select into this course due to barriers such as the time requirement and balancing this with other work demands. Preliminary findings from the evaluation of the accredited course suggest that while trainers report positive feedback from students participating in the unit, there are low completion rates, and many stakeholders believe the course is too long and not appropriately tailored to students’ needs. Chisholm Institute of TAFE suggested that the expertise of the TAFE sector should be used to refine the course and to develop any similar qualifications to ensure course design and content are appropriate for target audiences.
While the higher education system is not included in the training strategy, as the Victorian Government does not hold responsibility for funding and regulation, there are interdependencies given a substantial proportion of the universal services workforces have higher education (rather than VET) qualifications. For example, the training that teachers receive in universities will affect what unaccredited family violence training needs to be available for them once they have joined the workforce [relates to action 9]. It will be important for Family Safety Victoria to continue to engage with the Victorian higher education sector on the family violence reforms. There is also likely to be benefit in mapping the available pre- and post-service training available for each prescribed workforce to identify gaps and design training to meet future needs. This could include consideration of ways to incentivise MARAM-related training, such as linking it to teacher registration through the Victorian Institute of Teaching [relates to action 10].
- Early Childhood Australia Victoria Branch (2021): Interim Report: Building Family Violence Prevention and Response Workforce Capability Project