Perpetrator accountability

The Royal Commission made eight recommendations about increasing the accountability of perpetrators of family violence.

The Royal Commission made eight recommendations about increasing the accountability of perpetrators of family violence. These recommendations focus on short- to medium-term changes with a view to:

  • enhancing existing perpetrator interventions, such as men’s behaviour change programs and counselling orders
  • increasing the supply of existing perpetrator interventions to respond to demand
  • improving research and evaluation to establish longer-term effectiveness in improving the design of men’s behaviour change programs
  • expanding the breadth of specialist perpetrator interventions to respond to perpetrators with complex needs and from diverse cohorts

Expert advisory committee on perpetrator interventions

There was a foundational recommendation that specifically called on the government to convene a committee of experts to provide advice on what perpetrator interventions should be available in Victoria. This group, which was convened in November 2016, produced its interim report in December 2017. It formally ceased its term in June 2018 and provided a final report to government in October 2018. The report was released in October 2019. The report contains 22 recommendations about how to improve the range, accessibility and robustness of perpetrator interventions that are available in Victoria.

During 2019 FSV formed a project team, a steering committee and a working group with the purpose of ‘delivering a whole-of-system reform package that supports government objectives of holding perpetrators to account and keeping victim/survivors safe’.15  The strategy is due for release in 2020.

Figure 4A: Factors recorded at time of police response to family violence incidents 2017-2018 

History of violent behavior 18.4%, Drug use possible or definite 29.2%, Alcohol use possile of definite 29.1%, Children present 23,595 incidents, Referral to Child First or Child Protection 16.6%, Financial difficulties 11.0%, Assessed as high risk 3.2%, Source: Family Safety Victoria analysis of data from Crime Statistics Agency.

Early planning work of this new team has produced some new data about perpetrators of family violence which shows the complexity and challenges of designing a response. In the 12-months from July 2017 to June 2018, the factors shown in Figure 4A were recorded by Victoria Police after responding to a family violence incident.

Other progress identified

In monitoring the other focus areas, some notable progress in perpetrator accountability was identified.

Victoria Police’s significant expansion of its specialist family violence roles is clearly a critical part of increasing perpetrator accountability. It has established 415 specialist family violence police roles and 113 other specialist family violence roles such as lawyers, intelligence staff and clinicians to provide debriefing support. In addition, the new Centre of Learning for Family Violence is increasing the capacity of all police to work with family violence.

The Magistrates’ Court has commissioned a review of its two counselling order programs that mandate attendance into men’s behaviour change programs. The review has resulted in a single model for counselling order programs that will be implemented across the SFVCs in 2020.

DHHS is working with the Magistrates’ Court on developing targeted initiatives to strengthen system coordination and service provision for perpetrators referred by SFVCs. This has included an integrated alcohol and other drug and family violence perpetrators program named ‘U-Turn’ as a referral pathway through the Family Violence Court at Moorabbin.

There has been a significant amount of work done to strengthen efforts with perpetrators in diverse communities. DJCS is currently undertaking five trials of interventions that respond to perpetrators in contact with the justice system who have complex needs; are fathers; are Aboriginal people; are women of any sexual orientation; or are transgender and gender diverse people using violence. An evaluation of the trials completed in June 2019 found that all trials produced benefits for their targeted cohorts, including an improved understanding of the dynamics of family violence and its impacts on children, strategies to support behaviour change and reduced offending reported through anecdotal evidence from police and internal monitoring processes.

DJCS has also trialled a program adapted for culturally and linguistically diverse communities in prison and is funding the evaluation of interventions at the Children’s Court. The Magistrates' Court has established LGBTI applicant and respondent workers and is planning to introduce a trial of a court-based case management model for perpetrators with complex needs. Regular outreach services by an LGBTI practitioner team commenced delivering services to Heidelberg and Melbourne Magistrates’ Courts in May 2019.


15 Family Safety Victoria (2019): Perpetrator Accountability Steering Committee Purpose STatement, 10 May 2019. 

Reviewed 05 May 2021

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