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What did the Royal Commission say and what has changed since?

The Royal Commission found that ‘too little effort is devoted to preventing the occurrence of family violence in the first place’ and that primary prevention only attracted a small amount of funding. It called for long-term investment to support the ‘complex and lengthy process’ of changing behaviours and attitudes.

Most specifically related to the importance of a coordinated approach to primary prevention, the Royal Commission stated that: 

Prevention programs are most effective when they form part of a coordinated approach. The Commission therefore recommends that the Victorian Government adopt a prevention strategy as a priority component of a Statewide Family Violence Action Plan. That strategy should be implemented in the  12 months following the delivery of this report. It should be aligned to the government’s proposed Gender Equality Strategy. In addition, a mechanism for  overseeing family violence prevention work in Victoria should be established, providing specialist advice and support to government and the community. 

The Royal Commission made a series of recommendations that relate to primary prevention. These recommendations emphasised the need for:

  • creating a function to oversee prevention activities in Victoria and providing expert advice, research and monitoring
  • awareness-raising campaigns and prevention programs to reflect Victoria’s diversity
  • a primary prevention strategy, to be implemented through a series of three-year action cycles
  • prevention to be emphasised in the recommended statewide family violence action plan, with required funding identified
  • effective governance arrangements
  • councils to include measures to prevent family violence in their public health and wellbeing plans, and to further consider how to encourage family violence prevention at the local government level
  • industry planning to support the prevention workforce
  • measures of prevention in government contracts
  • respectful relationships education in all Victorian government schools. 

Since then, the government’s approach to implementing these recommendations has been laid out through several plans, commitments and legislation, most of which are captured in Figure 6 (later in this report).  

Primary prevention features in Victoria’s family violence plans and structures, for example:

  • Ending Family Violence: Victoria’s Plan for Change (2016) commits to delivering a primary prevention strategy to outline a ‘renewed focus on preventing family violence from occurring in the first place through education, community awareness and targeted programs’, a prevention agency with dedicated funding, a gender equality strategy and the statewide rollout of Respectful Relationships. Two of the plan’s four domains have outcomes and indicators related to primary prevention: Domain 1: Prevention, which includes four long-term outcomes, and Domain 4: System (see Figure 5). To date, two rolling actions plans have been released to achieve the commitments outlined in this 10-year plan:
    • Family Violence Rolling Action Plan 2017–2020 included prevention as a headline reform area and recommitted to the Respectful Relationships initiative, establishing a prevention agency and furthering gender equality.
    • Family Violence Reform Rolling Action Plan 2020–2023 includes primary prevention as a priority area, with actions spanning prevention projects and campaigns, workforce development, research and evaluation, and coordination and oversight. Of particular relevance are actions to establish a new prevention governance group, develop a prevention workforce plan and develop a prevention system coordination model to ‘build and better coordinate statewide, regional and local grassroots activities and underpin work across a wider range of settings and sectors through sustained investment’.

Figure 5: Domains of the Family Violence Outcomes Framework 

  • Building From Strength: 10-year industry plan for family violence prevention and response (2017) describes a vision of a highly skilled prevention workforce that strengthens the ability of the system to address the drivers of all forms of family violence and work at the population level.
  • The Centre for Workforce Excellence was established as part of Family Safety Victoria in 2017 to drive implementation of the industry plan and, more broadly, drive development of workforces that intersect with family violence. The Centre for Workforce Excellence has recently been elevated to sit outside Family Safety Victoria, allowing its scope to be expanded to other social services sector workforces. We note some functions, such as Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) implementation, remain within Family Safety Victoria. Key pieces of work led by the centre include:
    • Rollout of the MARAM Framework and associated practice guidance, which have in part aimed to increase understanding (across a broad range of professions) of the drivers of family violence. 
    • Preventing Family Violence & Violence Against Women Capability Framework (2017), which outlines the foundational skills required for workforces to deliver prevention of violence against women initiatives, ‘with recognition that future development to encompass all forms of family violence will be required’. There is also a Responding to Family Violence Capability Framework. Both prevention and response capability frameworks are in the process of being updated.
  • The Family Violence Research Agenda 2021–2024 sets out the Victorian Government’s priorities for research on family violence and sexual violence and harm. It includes primary prevention as a research priority, with an emphasis on intersectionality.
  • Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way – Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families Agreement 2018–2028 is the principal agreement between the Victorian Government and the Aboriginal community to address family violence. The agreement sets out five strategic priorities to be  progressed through three successive action plans and assessed through a monitoring, evaluation and accountability plan. Strategic priority 2 is Aboriginal-led prevention and outlines a vision that ‘All prevention and early intervention initiatives will be led by Aboriginal communities and based on their choices and their solutions’.

As committed to in Ending Family Violence, the following have been key levers in driving primary prevention in Victoria:

  • Free From Violence: Victoria’s strategy to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women (2017) aims to drive a whole-of-community approach to preventing family violence. It outlines activity across three phases, the first of which ‘focuses on building the infrastructure for a much larger primary prevention platform in Victoria [including] the strengthening of a skilled prevention workforce and increasing investment and expanding research, evaluation and monitoring’. Two associated action plans have now been released: 
    • Free From Violence – First Action Plan 2018–2021 outlines the government’s plan for delivering on Phase 1 of the Free From  Violence strategy. It includes key actions such as establishing the family violence prevention agency and a Victorian Family Violence Prevention Research Alliance. 
    • Free From Violence – Second Action Plan 2022–2025 outlines 10 key priorities to guide the next phase of work under the strategy. Four of these priorities relate to creating an enabling environment for prevention activity: governance, coordination and system development; workforce and sector development; build knowledge’ and monitor and share outcomes. 
  • The Prevention of Family Violence Act 2018 established a family violence prevention agency (now known as Respect Victoria), as recommended by the Royal Commission. 

The complementary gender equality agenda is driven by the following:

  • Safe and Strong: Victorian Gender Equality Strategy (2016) recognises gender equality as ‘a precondition for the prevention of family violence and other forms of violence against women and girls’. It acknowledges that ‘for too long, state-wide coordination of gender equality and  initiatives to end family violence have been sporadic and underfunded’ and sets out a framework for sustained activity that aims to achieve attitude and behavioural change.
  • The Gender Equality Act 2020 came into force in March 2021. The first legislation of its kind in Australia, it requires public sector agencies, universities and local councils to measure, report on and progress gender equality in their organisations. The Act also establishes the Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner to oversee implementation.

Additionally, family violence prevention is included as part of health and wellbeing planning:

Figure 6: Timeline of key strategies, plans and events in primary prevention since the Royal Commission

  • Download' Figure 6: Timeline of key strategies, plans and events in primary prevention since the Royal Commission'