The Royal Commission found that ‘measures targeted at holding perpetrators to account and reducing the use and severity of violence make an important contribution to the overall objective of keeping victims safe’1 but that there was insufficient breadth and diversity of perpetrator interventions available in Victoria.
Most specifically related to a need for a collaborative response to perpetrators, the Royal Commission stated that:
Improving perpetrator interventions should go beyond the mere joining-up of services. What is also required is a sense of collective responsibility across all relevant government departments and agencies, not just specialist services. Our approach must incorporate streamlined and comprehensive risk assessment and management practices, and intake and referral processes.2
The Royal Commission made a series of recommendations that relate to perpetrators.3 These recommendations emphasised the need for:
- defined roles and responsibilities and a consistent risk assessment and management strategy for all service providers and agencies that come into contact with perpetrators
- a broad suite of evidence-based interventions that can be undertaken by all perpetrators, including those from diverse groups and with diverse and/or complex needs
- perpetrators to have timely access to programs and interventions to ensure they are kept in view and held to account for their behaviours
- demand planning to ensure agencies are sufficiently funded to meet demand for interventions
- data collection and evaluation of interventions to judge their effectiveness, including victims’ assessments of safety outcomes.
Since then, the government’s approach to implementing these recommendations has been laid out through several plans, commitments, governance groups and reforms.
The Expert Advisory Committee on Perpetrator Interventions (EACPI) was established in 2016 to provide recommendations to the Victorian Government on the range of interventions needed to effectively reduce future harm from adult perpetrators of family violence. Its report was released in 2018, and its recommendations directly informed the Victorian Government's whole-of-system work program to strengthen perpetrator accountability, which is outlined in the Family Violence Reform Rolling Action Plan 2020–2023. The Victorian Government has worked to ensure alignment between this perpetrator work program and other relevant plans and frameworks, which are outlined below. Service response to perpetrators features in Victoria’s family violence plans and structures, for example:
- Ending Family Violence: Victoria’s 10-Year Plan for Change (2016) commits to building a better understanding of how to effectively intervene at the source of family violence, perpetrators and people using violence. It highlights the gap in the range and availability of responses to perpetrators, including culturally safe approaches and commits to improving these.
- The 10-year plan also introduced the Family Violence Outcomes Framework (see Figure 4), in which Domain 3 relates specifically to perpetrators: Perpetrators are held accountable, connected and take responsibility for stopping their violence. Indicators to demonstrate achievement of intended outcomes for this domain include4:
- Perpetrators stop all forms of family violence behaviour – Perpetrators understand the impact of their violence in all its forms, including all abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour. They take responsibility for their violence and choose to change their behaviours.
- Perpetrators are held accountable for their behaviour – Perpetrators are held accountable and supported to be accountable for their behaviours, receiving the right responses at the right time through a coordinated web of accountability.
- Perpetrators have safe and healthy connections and relationships –Perpetrators are supported to sustain behaviour change through a focus on building protective factors and improving their connections and relationships with their families, communities and society where it is safe to do so.
- To date, two rolling actions plans have been released to achieve the commitments outlined in this 10-year plan:
- The Family Violence Reform Rolling Action Plan 2017–2020 included perpetrators as a central reform area and committed to building a better understanding of and improving perpetrator interventions and accountability.
- The Family Violence Reform Rolling Action Plan 2020–2023 includes perpetrators and people who use violence as a priority area. It sets out a whole-of-government perpetrator work program with actions focusing on enhancing service responses, improving cultural safety and inclusion, supporting better information sharing and risk management, building workforce development, and increasing research and evaluation into effective interventions. This whole-of- government work program is directly informed by the recommendations of EACPI's final report
- Building From Strength: 10-year Industry Plan for Family Violence Prevention and Response (2017) describes the importance of building a web of accountability around perpetrators; however, at the time of publishing, it was waiting on further advice from the EACPI to determine workforce implications.
- The industry plan's first rolling action plan, Strengthening the Foundations: First Rolling Action Plan 2019–2022 includes actions to build tools, skills and capability for workforces to work effectively with people who use violence.
- The Family Violence Research Agenda 2021–2024 sets out the Victorian Government’s priorities for research on family violence and sexual violence and harm. Its priorities are perpetrators and people who use violence, with an emphasis on the different types of violence and effective approaches at changing
- 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. Strategic priority 3 is ‘Self-determining Aboriginal family violence support and services’.
This priority outlines a vision of early intervention and holistic support for a person, child or family who has experienced family violence, ‘complemented by Aboriginal-led healing, therapeutic support and accountability for people who use violence, so they take responsibility for their behaviour’.5
- Nargneit Birrang – Aboriginal Holistic Healing Framework for Family Violence (2019) is a framework developed to outline the most effective holistic approaches to enable better outcomes and healing for Aboriginal communities in response to family violence. Characteristics that are paramount in the service design of holistic approaches include ‘People who use violence are held to account’ and ‘People who use violence are supported to understand the impact of violence and supported to develop non-violent approaches’.6
- Everybody Matters: Inclusion and Equity Statement complements Ending Family Violence and acknowledges that people experiencing family violence as well as perpetrators are diverse and multidimensional. It outlines that an intersectional approach to service delivery will enable a better understanding and response to ‘the complexity and spectrum of family violence experienced and perpetrated by people with a diverse range of social characteristics’.7
Key reforms include the following:
- The Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework (MARAM) establishesa system-wide approach and shared responsibility for family violence risk identification, assessment and management. This includes practice guides, tools and resources for professionals working with victim survivors and perpetrators of family violence.
- Risk Assessment and Management Panels are made up of key agencies and organisations in local service areas and hold regular meetings to develop coordinated action plans to address the highest risk family violence cases.
- The Central Information Point was launched in 2018 by Family Safety Victoria in partnership with Victoria Police, the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, Corrections Victoria and the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing. Staff from all these agencies are working together to provide consolidated reports of information about perpetrators and alleged perpetrators for the purpose of risk assessment and management.
- The Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme is increasingly being used to share information about victim survivors and perpetrators across information sharing entities to improve the assessment of perpetrator risk levels.
- The Orange Door network has now been established in all 17 Department of Families, Fairness and Housing regions in Victoria. It acts as a central entry point to family violence–related supports and interventions for perpetrators and people who use violence.
- Specialist Family Violence Courts offer a more specialised approach to court design and operations with the intent to improve perpetrator accountability and keeping them in view. These courts are now operating in 12 locations across the state.
- The creation of dedicated Victoria Police Family Violence Investigation Units and the Victoria Police Family Violence Centre of Learning, among other targeted initiatives, improve the way police respond to family violence incidents and better keep perpetrators in view.
- State of Victoria (2016): Royal Commission into Family Violence: Summary and Recommendations, Parl Paper No. 132, p. 244.
- Ibid, p.293.
- We identified 11 Royal Commission recommendations that relate to adult perpetrators: recommendations 7, 25, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93.
- Department of Premier and Cabinet (2020): Family Violence Outcomes Framework, pp. 10–11. (accessed 12 October 2022).
- Family Safety Victoria (2018): Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way – Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families, p. 38.
- Family Safety Victoria (2019): Nargneit Birrang: Aboriginal Holistic Healing Framework for Family Violence, p. 13.
- Family Safety Victoria (2018): Everybody Matters: Inclusion and Equity Statement, p. 15.