Reforming Victoria’s family violence system after the Royal Commission was an enormous undertaking. New systems needed not only to be set up but to be integrated with each other. Launching new initiatives created new benefits but also raised new risks and practice issues. For example, rolling out perpetrator crisis accommodation programs reduced the risk of perpetrators excluded from the victim survivor’s home breaching their orders, but it also raised coordination and management challenges amid high general demand for crisis accommodation. Family Safety Victoria is addressing this with the Local Family Violence Motel Coordination Projects, which aim to develop systems and information sharing processes between local agencies and to manage key risks, challenges and relationships with motels.1
Stakeholders raised a range of areas where improved coordination was needed to strengthen the system response to perpetrators. We suggest consideration is given to these when articulating how the web of accountability will be operationalised [relates to action 1]. The main issues raised are explored below.
Private psychologists and information sharing
A number of stakeholders felt that private psychologists not being included in the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme (in addition to not being prescribed under the MARAM Framework) constituted a gap. Perpetrators who can afford private services (such as for presenting needs like mental health or use of alcohol or other drugs) risk falling out of view of the service system, while those perpetrators on lower incomes are more closely monitored.
Visibility of perpetrator program demand, availability and completion
There is a lack of coordination regarding perpetrator programs, with no central database for referrers to be able to find available placements in registered programs for men’s behaviour change programs and other types of interventions [relates to action 6]. As a result, stakeholders reportthat some programs have months-long waitlists, while others struggle to recruit enough participants to fill their available spots. An evaluation by Deloitte Access Economics also found that in some regions of Victoria, The Orange Door had little awareness of the Family Safety Victoria–funded diverse cohort trials for perpetrators being delivered in their area.2 Family Safety Victoria told us that it is important to note that the scale of these pilot programs is so small, limited awareness raising can be done without creating unrealistic expectations of access. Without a centralised system, referral processes for perpetrators largely rely on individual practitioners’ local knowledge about available programs. There is also a lack of visibility around perpetrators’ completion rates for men’s behaviour change and other programs, and reasons for withdrawal. Family Safety Victoria told us that with the rollout of The Orange Door network complete, there is now an opportunity to assess the feasibility of a statewide information management system for perpetrator programs. We suggest that it would be timely and appropriate to address this issue as a matter of priority, and that Family Safety Victoria could consult with the Crime Statistics Agency on how this information could be consistently collected for both referral and results measurement purposes.
Coordination between perpetrator and victim survivor services
Safe and Equal staff saw a need to strengthen the family safety contact aspect of perpetrator interventions (where program providers are required to conduct regular outreach to the participant’s partner or ex-partner to monitor their wellbeing):
It would be so valuable to have a role in specialist family violence services to keep eyes on the perpetrators – to liaise with perpetrator services within the bounds of information sharing requirements to see where they are living, what they are doing in terms of interventions and services – as a support for the more direct work happening with the victim survivor.
According to Family Safety Victoria, implementing the MARAM practice guides (including in organisations’ policies and procedures) will help drive coordination with responsibilities of specialist services to share information and support strengthened collaboration in risk assessment and management.
Coordination between The Orange Door and other elements of the family violence system
A number of practice issues were raised during consultations about coordination with The Orange Door network, which is a central plank of Victoria’s family violence reforms and was envisioned to streamline and improve access to services for victim survivors and perpetrators. However, how it coordinates to assess perpetrator risk with another key plank of the new system, the Specialist Family Violence Courts, is unclear. The guidelines for the court’s Family Violence Practitioners mention The Orange Door’s role in referring clients to Specialist Family Violence Courts but do not outline standard operating procedures for how the Respondent Workers should coordinate risk management with their Orange Door counterparts.3 We were also told that the network’s practitioners had not been routinely attending the daily court triage meetings, but that there is now ongoing work to improve coordination. Legal support services were initially not included in The Orange Door design, although a four-year Victoria Legal Aid pilot at one site began in October 2022.
Another issue raised by stakeholders was that The Orange Door’s ability to offer a timely and consistent service to clients was affected by it operating differently depending on the service area, or even within the same location [relates to action 3]. Several suggested that this situation may be due to a ‘matrix’ staff arrangement where many practitioners are employed by various partner agencies (e.g. the Salvation Army, Uniting Care), which each bring their own policies and procedures. Men’s Behaviour Change expert, Dr Chris Laming suggested that, furthermore, more work needs to be done to retain The Orange Door workforce and enable them to more effectively carry out their work with perpetrators, stating that:
I know many Orange Door workers, both as past colleagues, or as students I taught. They are generally good and dedicated workers who have a personal commitment to ending violence against women and children. I believe the ongoing pressure to both deal with clients effectively and professionally, as required by their job descriptions, and at the same time fill their [caseload] quotas, is the reason many buckle under the strain and leave The Orange Door, despite the good pay.
Stakeholders also expressed mixed views on whether the addition of The Orange Door network was leading to improved outcomes. A senior official from The Orange Door highlighted that:
Previously, agencies did their own individual triage. Now, this is centralised in The Orange Door with high-risk cases referred to the specialist sector. Previously, agencies could close the door based on demand, and there was no oversight of that. At The Orange Door, the door is always open to everyone.
Others raised the issue that government investment has focused on intake and assessment without a commensurate investment into services:
Enhanced intake within The Orange Door provides a comprehensive overview of risk. However, like many organisations within the sector, workforce capacity continues to be a key barrier to timely intervention. – Nexus Primary Health
If you have an assessment and referral point and don’t increase the services around it, it stays the same. It’s just an assessment and referral point. It’s a missed opportunity. – Commission for Children and Young People.
- Family Safety Victoria (2022): Local Family Violence Motel Coordination Project Guidelines, p. 3.
- Deloitte Access Economics (2019): Evaluation of New Community-based Perpetrator Interventions and Case Management Trials: Final Evaluation Report. Commissioned by Family Safety Victoria, p. 80.
- Magistrates’ Court of Victoria (2020): Family Violence Practitioner Guidelines.