Victoria has a rich history of work to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women that predates the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Stakeholders praised the progress made since the Royal Commission in building a more strategic approach and improved understanding of and commitment to primary prevention. National stakeholders were clear that Victoria is well positioned to carry out meaningful work to prevent family violence compared with the rest of the country. Yet there is broad agreement that there is a long way to go to create a primary prevention system that can come anywhere near realising the vision of a Victoria free from family violence.
Primary prevention work aims to achieve generational change to prevent family violence from occurring in the first place, which we know can only happen with sustained and widespread effort based on evidence. This requires a strong and well-coordinated primary prevention system (that is, the range of organisations and structures that collectively and actively work towards preventing family violence before it starts, and how they interact) that:
- has the appropriate infrastructure
- is clear about the roles and responsibilities of all parties
- retains a skilled prevention workforce
- is backed by sufficient and sustained funding
- is committed to ongoing evidence-based improvement and refinement.
Progress has undoubtedly been made in these areas, particularly with the creation of Respect Victoria (Victoria’s dedicated prevention agency), the release of a dedicated 10-year primary prevention strategy and increased investment in prevention. However, stakeholders expressed frustration about a disconnection between different elements of the system, inadequate overall investment, and the short-term nature of the funding that does exist, which were seen to be stymieing progress.
Multiple themes emerged from our consultations, which form the section headings in this report:
- There are dedicated prevention strategies and plans but there remains a need for a clear theory of change and a system operating framework
- Clarifying roles and responsibilities should be prioritised
- There are opportunities to create a more inclusive and joined-up system
- A highly skilled workforce exists and will need to be built upon to support the architecture and realise the intent of Free From Violence
- The current approach to funding works against sustained efforts in primary prevention
- Ongoing research, evaluation and monitoring will help to build the evidence base and assess progress.
In exploring these matters, we acknowledge that there is a great deal of expertise and infrastructure that does exist but that more work needs to be done to bring these together to drive systemic change. Respect Victoria is only four years old, and many stakeholders commented that the primary prevention system is in a state of development. As this development continues, we are suggesting targeted actions to address the matters raised above and strengthen the primary prevention system architecture (see Figure 4).
These actions reflect the critical need for:
- greater clarity about how the system works
- a clearer articulation of what needs to be done and how we know it will lead to change
- greater funding certainty.
The Respectful Relationships initiative is also highlighted in the actions because it is an important foundational element in Victoria’s approach to primary prevention, with the potential to successfully promote respectful and gender-inclusive behaviours and attitudes among all Victorian students. We make several other suggestions throughout the report, and these provide further specificity to accompany the suggested actions highlighted in Figure 4. There are also several stakeholder-suggested ideas that are worthy of consideration.
Figure 4: Proposed actions to strengthen Victoria’s primary prevention system architecture
- Prioritise developing a theory of change based on Change the Story and other relevant evidence that highlights:
- the suite of activity that is occurring across key settings and Change the Story essential actions, and how these contribute to the expected outcomes
- areas where further research is required to build a comprehensive picture across all forms of family violence.
- Prioritise the delivery of short-, medium- and long-term indicators for Free From Violence to provide a sense of what changes can be expected over time.
Strengthening the Strategic Approach
- Develop a strategic operating framework for the primary prevention system that outlines the system architecture, including the roles and responsibilities of all parties and key points of connection.
- Clearly communicate the distinct roles and responsibilities of Respect Victoria, the Office for the Prevention of Family Violence and Coordination (Department of Families, Fairness and Housing) and the Centre for Workforce Excellence (Department of Families, Fairness and Housing).
- Elicit high-level commitment to a whole-of-Victorian-Government approach to primary prevention, making clear the contribution of each department and agency.
- Actively work to grow and strengthen the primary prevention workforce by improving pathways into the workforce, improving retention and responding to varied workforce development needs.
- Urgently prioritise longer term funding across the primary prevention system, including multi-year funding for organisations leading prevention activities and stable, ongoing funding for Respect Victoria.
- Devise a contemporary estimate of the funding required to realise Free From Violence (closely linked with the theory of change and operating framework).
- Ensure the nature and duration of support provided to schools meets their individual needs and enables them to implement an evidence-based school-wide approach to the Respectful Relationships initiative.
- Strengthen regional offices’ ongoing visibility of implementation effectiveness in schools.