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Voices of victim survivors

The Royal Commission recommended that the voices of victim survivors are heard and inform both policy development and service planning.

Its conclusions discussed a need to directly inform service planning and evaluations of services’ performance with a view to system improvement.18

From the beginning of the reform, the government has sought to listen to and include the voices of people with lived experience of family violence, including people from diverse communities. The primary means of engaging with victim survivors has been through VSAC.

Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council

VSAC has continued to meet every six weeks. It has 12 members with a variety of personal experiences of family violence. Members are provided with a range of financial and other supports such as training and professional coaching to support them in these roles.

In August 2019 Rosie Batty AM formally resigned from her role as Inaugural Chair. A further eight of the original members, including the new Chair, have tenures that expire at the end of 2019. Supporting this major transition, including expressions of interest for new members, is an important focus of FSV’s current activity.

The minutes of VSAC meetings during the monitoring period were analysed and it was pleasing to see that VSAC is being consulted on a large number of different reform activities, such as the language being used in Respect Victoria’s mission statement, the proposed definitions and domains of FSV’s Trauma-Informed Practice Framework and a new process to enable clients of The Orange Door to have a voice in service delivery and improvement. Through the monitoring undertaken, it was sometimes difficult to ascertain what actions were taken in response to VSAC’s feedback. The former Monitor met with VSAC in May 2019 and they communicated some examples where they felt they were being used as a ‘gatekeeper’ to consult but their input was not used, or they were not advised on how their input was used. To fully respond to the Royal Commission’s recommendation, it will be important for agencies to keep developing experience and practice around working with victim survivors and ensuring their voices are informing policies and services.

A reflection on the work of VSAC is underway through FSV’s Valuing the Lived Experience project.

During the monitoring period, some additional ways that agencies have sought to include victim survivors’ voices in their work were observed.

Client Partnership Strategy for The Orange Door

FSV is developing a strategy for The Orange Door to outline a vision for partnership with clients of their services, which includes victim survivors, children and perpetrators across all of the client, operational and system levels. This work has drawn on good practice models from other sectors and also explores strategies for partnering with specific communities. Having a clear strategy for such a complex and multifaceted undertaking is important to ensure that progress is being made.

The strategy defines a client partnership framework and proposes seven independent initiatives to inform the design and delivery of The Orange Door, as shown in Figure 6A. Progressing this work will make a substantial contribution to implementing the Royal Commission’s recommendation.

Voices of children affected by family violence

There have been several landmark undertakings recently to raise the voices of children and young people who are victim survivors.

‘TASH’ is an animated film that tells one young Victorian woman’s personal story of family violence that she experienced as a child. The film was shown at the Sydney Film Festival in June 2019, nominated for the Yoram Gross Award for Best Animation and screened at the United Nations Association Film Festival in California in October 2019. It was produced and supported by FSV. This is an important contribution to the societal and cultural change that needs to underpin family violence reform.

The FVRIM staff met with Dr Katie Lamb from the University of Melbourne to discuss her research, which was published and presented internationally in recent months. The research involved interviewing children and young people who had been the victims of family violence perpetrated by their fathers. Dr Lamb said that her interviewees had very strong views on what they wanted their fathers to learn and what their fathers needed to know about how they had hurt them. She also indicated that an important message from her study was that all the children she interviewed wanted to be in control of what their future relationship with their fathers looked like. They also wanted their voices to be heard in programs for fathers who use violence.

Dr Lamb’s research included supporting some of the young people to create digital stories – she also investigated how these digital stories could most appropriately be used within men’s behaviour change programs, and the barriers to their use. It was very pleasing to hear that several men’s behaviour change programs including the Centre for Non-Violence in Bendigo and Caring Dads, a 17-week early intervention group program, have been trialling incorporating these digital stories, and therefore the voices of child victim survivors into their programs. This is work that should be followed closely to understand the impact and opportunities of using children’s voices in interventions for fathers who have used violence.

Figure 6a Overview of The Orange Door's draft client partnership strategy
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Royal Commission into Family Violence (2016): Report and recommendations, Vol 6, Chapter 38, p. 99-113.

Figure 6b: Good practice example evaluation of the therapeutic intervention trials

In January 2019 an evaluation was completed of the 26 Family Violence Therapeutic Interventions Demonstration Projects, which had been funded in 2017 to trial new ways to provide intensive support to people and communities experiencing or recovering from family violence.

The evaluation was especially significant because it included interviews with 107 clients, including children and young people, which represents a substantial commitment from both the clients themselves and the evaluators and government agencies to invest the necessary resources to ensure that the voices of victim survivors are heard in service review and development.

The evaluation was also significant because it was used to directly inform the approach to a substantial new investment, $20.9 million over four years committed in the 2019-20 State Budget to establish the statewide platform for therapeutic interventions. Together these undertakings represent a strong example of including the voices of victim survivors, including children and young people, into service and policy reform.


18 Royal Commision into Family Violence (2016): Report and recommendations, vol 6, Chapter 38, p. 99-113