The Family Violence Rolling Action Plan 2020–2023 includes a commitment to intersectionality and diverse communities as a reform-wide priority,29 consistent with the Victorian Government’s Everybody Matters Statement: Inclusion and Equity Statement.30 Diverse communities include people in Aboriginal communities (noting that engagement with, and governance of, self-determination reforms for Aboriginal communities is addressed separately from governance of reforms that affect other communities), multicultural, multi-faith and multi-ethnic communities, LGBTIQ+, people with disability, people experiencing mental health issues, older people, women in or exiting prison or forensic institutions, people working in the sex industry, rural and regional communities, male victims and young people (aged 12 to 25). The previous governance structure included a Diverse Communities and Intersectionality Working Group and a LGBTIQ Family Violence Working Group, which are no longer in operation. Both groups were identified by stakeholders as instrumental in ensuring a strong focus on the varied and specific needs of these communities in developing policy and service responses within the early years of the reform and were key contributors to the development of the Everybody Matters statement.
The revised governance structure includes a Multicultural Communities Family Violence Working Group31 (reporting to the Family Violence Reform Advisory Group), which was established as a time-limited group in 2020. This working group responds to issues raised by multicultural, faith-based and ethno-specific organisations regarding demands on their services, particularly during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and identifies and advises on opportunities and systemic gaps in the family violence service system. This group will continue to operate with a refreshed terms of reference and membership to be established in 2022. The Family Violence Reform Advisory Group terms of reference include an expectation that members will ‘provide advice from an intersectional lens’ and membership includes a range of organisations representing diverse communities and a representative of the Statewide Family Violence Integration Committee to represent local and regional interests.32 Nevertheless, stakeholders raised common themes in relation to the focus on different diverse communities within the reform, specifically people with a disability, LGBTIQ+ people, regional communities and older Victorians. All expressed that there continues to be less focus on these communities in the reform effort, described as being an ‘add on’ after the fact,33 and there is a perceived struggle to be heard and to make progress within mainstream governance structures.
There is an ongoing challenge for government in ensuring that the needs of these diverse communities are not overlooked in delivering mainstream, statewide approaches. We understand that embedding the focus on diverse communities and intersectional perspectives across reform governance, rather than creating standalone dedicated working groups, was a considered position taken as part of the governance review process. However, further effort is needed across the range of governance groups to ensure space and focus for the specific needs of these communities are provided and reflected in key future areas of the reform [relates to action 4]. Strengthening whole-of-reform reporting and communication, as discussed earlier in section 5, may assist with this because stakeholders will have better visibility of the work that is planned and underway and have improved opportunity to raise — and be involved in addressing — issues of particular relevance to the communities they represent.
29 Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (2020): Family Violence Reform Rolling Action Plan 2020–2023: Intersectionality. Available at vic.gov.au/family-violence-reform-rolling-action-plan-2020-2023/reform-principles/intersectionality (accessed 5 December 2021).
30 Family Safety Victoria: Everybody Matters Inclusion and Equity Statement. Available at https://www.vic.gov.au/everybody-matters-inclusion-and-equity-statement (accessed 15 December 2021).
31 This group will continue with revised terms of reference and membership to be announced.
32 For example, representatives from Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum, inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence, Switchboard Victoria, Women with Disabilities, Family Violence Regional Integration Committees.
33 For example, the context to elder abuse is different to that for intimate partner violence (and has more in common with adolescent violence in the home) and a number of stakeholders have expressed that there is not sufficient guidance provided in policy and practice materials, such as MARAM, to support workforces where it is increasingly being identified, and differing requirements between aged care facilities and the broader community response that have not been resolved.