Societal and cultural change
Ending family violence will take a generation or more, and significant progress has continued to be made on the crucial area of addressing the deep underlying causes of family violence – the social norms, structures and practices that influence individual attitudes and behaviours – and acting across the whole population to change these.19
Since its establishment in October 2018 Respect Victoria has developed its inaugural strategic plan which sets out its program of work building strong foundations for sustained primary prevention of all forms of family violence and violence against women. It has initiated a suite of new research programs to strengthen the evidence base for the prevention of family violence and violence against women. A dedicated independent statutory body signals a very significant and positive commitment towards the long-term vision of preventing family violence.
As at September 2019 the Respect Women: Call It Out campaign (example at Figure 7A below) had been seen by Victorians more than 11 million times, with close to half of all Victorians able to recall this campaign and its key messages unprompted. The campaign's evaluation also found that 44 per cent of Victorians who have seen the campaign have taken further action (such as: discussed the campaign, visited the website, re-thought about what constitutes family violence).
Figure 7a: Respect Women: Call it out campaign advertisement
A new part of this campaign began in 2019 to specifically target elder abuse:20 ‘Respect Older People: Call it out’ (example at Figure 7B below). A month of media was complemented by printed materials distributed broadly to seniors’ services, non-government organisations, councils, libraries and hospitals to raise awareness of elder abuse and assist Victorian families, healthcare practitioners and service providers to identify the early signs of elder abuse. A second phase of the campaign targeted older non-English speaking Victorians, family members and people in contact with older Victorians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. An evaluation of the campaign and its impacts is currently underway.
Insert Figure 7b: Respect Older People: Call it out campaign
Victoria’s work to embed the world-leading Respectful Relationships program in schools has also continued. Respectful Relationships addresses gender inequality and how it contributes to family violence. In May the then Monitor visited the Maryborough Education Centre where students spoke directly about their school’s implementation of the program. Theirs was one of the first 19 schools to introduce the program in 2015 and students expressed that it has had a profound effect on their school. They were extremely proud that two of their senior students had recently attended an international conference in Canada to speak about the program, supported by a scholarship program initiated by a former student to provide this cultural and educational experience.
Over 20,000 teachers and other school-based staff have participated in professional learning about the Respectful Relationships program. New professional learning for early childhood educators launched in September 2018 has now reached 2,072 early childhood professionals.
Diversity and inclusion
The Royal Commission made a series of recommendations aimed at building and ensuring accessible, inclusive and non-discriminatory service delivery and expanding understanding of the complexity of family violence in a range of communities.
In the implementation of the family violence reform, there is a commitment to inclusion and equity, underpinned by an intersectionality framework. An intersectionality approach recognises the interconnected nature of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, language, religion, class, socio-economic status, ability and age, which create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage for either an individual or group.
In April 2019 the Victorian Government published Everybody Matters: Inclusion and Equity Statement, a 10-year commitment that supports Ending Family Violence: Victoria’s Plan for Change. Figure 7C shows an overview of the statement. FSV is in the process of developing the first three-year Inclusion and Equity Blueprint which supports the implementation of the commitments in this statement.
Demand for services continues to grow, likely due in part to the increased community awareness of family violence the reforms have supported. The existing system needs to simultaneously grow and reform while meeting the immediate needs of victim survivors. This is a pressure being felt across all areas of government and community organisations involved in family violence and is a pressure that is recognised across the reforms.
The Royal Commission identified the need for industry planning to meet demand as well as to lift the family violence capability of legal, family violence and universal services as well as non-family-violence-specific services in Victoria. The government established the Centre for Workforce Excellence within FSV and in December 2017 it released Building from Strength: 10-year Industry Plan for Family Violence Prevention and Response (the Industry Plan). The Industry Plan 3-year rolling action plan was significantly delayed, however it was released on 24 November 2019.21
Non-government representatives have consistently raised concerns about the ability of the family violence workforce to meet current and future demand. The government has identified workforce resourcing as one of the top five risks to the reform, demonstrating an acute awareness of the issue.22
The first Rolling Action Plan for the Industry Plan is targeted at addressing these issues. Agencies have taken steps already, for example, FSV and DHHS’s Enhanced Pathways to Family Violence Work project, increasing capacity for student placements within the family violence and broader community services sector, is in its second year of operation. Additionally, in 2019 FSV commenced development of a targeted advertising campaign to attract workforces to the family violence sector.
Reporting on completion of Royal Commission recommendations
Reporting on overall progress for such a complex reform presents many challenges and requires a multi-faceted approach. The approach taken to date is for the government to publicly report on the number of Royal Commission recommendations assessed as implemented. While this shows the completion status of recommendations and is a way for the government to be transparent about when individual recommendations have been implemented, it does not show a comprehensive view of the complex reform work that has been and is being done, to achieve the government’s vision outlined in its 10 Year Plan.
At the conclusion of the monitoring period on 1 November 2019, the government’s website stated that 120 of the 227 recommendations have been implemented.23 On 21 November 2019, the government’s website was updated to show that as at 1 July 2019, 143 recommendations have been implemented, as shown in Figure 7D. This represents the government’s implementation of a further 23 of the Royal Commission’s recommendations during the monitoring period, leaving 84 recommendations remaining in progress.
Figure 7d: The number of Royal Commission Recommendations Implemented as at 1 July 2019
|The recommendation implementation approach meets community expectations of timely and transparent delivery in a manner that increases safety?|
|Is there a distinction between immediate actions to acquit a recommendation and ongoing work required to build reforms into business as usual activities?|
|If the recommendation requires further or ongoing work, what is the rationale for marking it as implemented?|
|Can government demonstrate considerations of the impact on diverse and rural or regional communities in the implementation approach?|
If there are dependencies with other reform work, is the implementation undertaken to a standard required for dependent work to commence/continue?
|Is there evidence of recommendation implementation available in formats appropriate to the implementation approach (project, program or business as usual) of the recommendation and in line with the criteria below?|
|If there has been a departure from the text of the recommendation or report context (including indicative timeframes), has rationale for the departure been provided?|
Source: Department of Premier and CAbinet, RCFV Recommendation Assessment Policy, April 2019.
The government has a ‘Royal Commission into Family Violence Recommendation Assessment Policy’ which outlines the process for considering recommendations ‘implemented’, and for considering agency requests for extensions to time lines for implementation. It requires the lead agency responsible for a recommendation to assess implementation in accordance with seven principles (see Figure 7E) and includes specific assessment criteria for categories of actions.
The policy was revised during 2019 and now requires the FVR-IDC to review and endorse agencies’ assessment that a recommendation is complete before it is signed off by the lead Minister and ultimately submitted for Cabinet approval(see Figure 7F).
Figure 7f: Approval process for recommendation implementation and extension requests
The inclusion of the FVR-IDC review and approval stage is a progressive step, recognising the whole-of-government effort to implement the Royal Commission’s recommendations.
The policy also specifically considers departures from the text of the Royal Commission’s report and recommendations and requires an assessment of whether this departure is ‘reasonable’. The inclusion of this consideration in the assessment process is important.
The approval process puts the onus on the lead government agencies and Ministers responsible to obtain agreement from those agencies nominated as contributing to that recommendation’s implementation. The process of obtaining contributing agencies’ approval is not a formal step in the recommendation implementation process; this agreement should be sought prior to the recommendation approval request being put to the FVR-IDC for consideration.
Representatives of government agencies have commented to the Monitor’s office that this policy represents a more rigorous approach than that taken for past inquiries. This is consistent with the government’s desire to ensure that all the Royal Commission’s recommendations are implemented and places accountability for acquittal of the actions taken at the highest level.
Family Violence Outcomes Framework
Monitoring outcomes is a significant priority for the Victorian Government. Defining and measuring outcomes in family violence is complex as it involves a combination of immediate service responses and long-term supports and, ultimately, changed attitudes in the community. There is a tension between designing an outcomes framework that seeks to measure the most important outcomes but for which there is no data, and an outcomes framework that draws on existing data but may not go to the core of the issues to be addressed. The Royal Commission noted ‘serious gaps in our knowledge about the characteristics of victims and perpetrators of family violence and about how the systems that respond to such violence are working.24’ Improving data collection to measure what matters most may take time but will be more effective.
In March 2019 the Secretary of DPC stated:25
The best way to deliver public value to the people of Victoria is to clearly define the outcomes we are trying to achieve, and measure progress along the way.
The government’s 10 Year Plan published in November 2016 introduced the Family Violence Outcomes Framework and outlined five ‘ultimate outcomes’ and some ‘long-term’ and ‘interim’ targets against these outcomes. The 2017–2020 RAP published in May 2017 significantly developed these outcomes by including indicators for three of the four outcomes domains and committed $5.7 million ‘to embed the Outcomes Framework’. In September 2019, DPC commenced work to develop indicators for the fourth ‘system’ domain.
During 2018 a cross-government working group developed draft measures for the three Family Violence Outcomes Framework outcomes domains with published indicators (in the RAP). In early 2019 DPC led an investigation into the availability of baseline data for the draft measures but was unable to complete this task to its own satisfaction. It subsequently committed to ‘refresh’ the Family Violence Outcomes Framework. DPC has advised that this work is underway and will continue through 2020.
A significant contributor to the lack of data was identified as the poor quality of service delivery data. The Family Violence Data Collection Framework (FVDCF) was developed to remedy the gaps in the collection of demographic data (particularly for diverse communities such as Aboriginal communities and people with a disability) identified by the Royal Commission and provide some of the data needed for the Family Violence Outcomes Framework. The FVDCF is non-mandatory, and an implementation plan associated with it is yet to be developed.
An outcomes framework has been developed for Free from violence: Victoria’s strategy to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women, and commitments have been made to develop one for the Dhelk Dja agreement as well as the planned perpetrator accountability strategy.
Each Victorian Government department has an outcomes framework, several of which include outcomes related to family violence. For example, in 2017, Victoria Police published four strategic outcomes with performance measures and service indicators in its five-year family violence strategy26 and in 2019, DHHS published an outcomes framework within its 2019-20 Strategic Plan which included ‘Victorians live free from abuse and violence’ as one of its ten outcomes. There are also outcomes frameworks that cut across departments on particular issues. There are outcomes related to family violence contained in three of these whole-of-government frameworks:
- The Victorian public health and wellbeing outcomes framework published in 2016 has an indicator for family violence as a part of ‘Outcome 2.1: Victorians live free from abuse and violence’ – ‘Reduce prevalence and impact of family violence’.
- The Victorian Gender Equality Framework includes an outcome to decrease family violence, which references the Family Violence Outcomes Framework.
- The Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework has an objective to reduce the incidence and impact of family violence affecting Aboriginal families with three measures that the government reports against each year in the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs report.
Both the Free from Violence and Gender Equality frameworks draw on aspects of the Family Violence Outcomes Framework.
There are many inter-related committees currently performing different roles within the family violence reform area. The Royal Commission recommended a suite of new governance arrangements for family violence. The current arrangements vary from this proposal in that the bipartisan parliamentary committee on family violence has not yet been established and the regional governance arrangements have not been fully incorporated. The number and variety of governance committees, advisory bodies, working groups and taskforces operating is indicative of the size and complexity of the family violence reform. It is also indicative of the government’s efforts to engage non-government stakeholders in the reform implementation with a focus on diverse representation. This broad engagement is a strength, however, the potential for consultation fatigue needs to be closely watched to ensure stakeholders can remain engaged with the reform implementation.
A VSB-SC focusing on family violence was established in line with the Royal Commission recommendation 196. It met quarterly until August 2018 and recommenced meeting in August 2019, following the election period, machinery of government changes and settling the second term government’s new arrangements. During this time the FVR-IDC met regularly, approximately every six weeks. Since it commenced at the beginning of 2018, the FVR-IDC has reviewed its terms of reference several times and has increased the seniority of those attending. Over time, the FVR-IDC has become increasingly focused on whole-of-reform reporting, oversight and risk management, as discussed below.
Whole-of-reform reporting and oversight
During the monitoring period, DPC led steps to improve the whole-of-reform reporting by introducing a new whole-of-government monitoring and reporting framework in June 2019. The new framework requires agencies responsible for family violence reform activities (who are described as entities) to prepare reports which are then consolidated by DPC into an overall progress report. The reports will be prepared quarterly. As the FVR-IDC usually meets every six weeks, whole-of-reform progress reporting will be considered at approximately every second meeting.
The first combined report (now described as the Overall FVR Portfolio Report) was prepared by DPC and considered by the FVR-IDC in September 2019. The report included diagrammatic representations of overall ‘schedule progress’ and overall ‘budget progress’ based on the reported, planned activity to implement projects and recommendations. Data collection and reporting systems across many different agencies need to develop and mature in a range of ways to support this new method of reporting. DPC has indicated that it will continue to work with departments and agencies to assist in improving data quality and accuracy in reporting. This overall progress reporting should make an important contribution to oversight, and consequently progress, of the reform.
The first Family Violence Rolling Action Plan (RAP), which sits under the government’s 10 Year Plan, is due to expire in 2020. DPC is leading the work to develop and implement the next RAP, with a plan to publish it by the middle of 2020.
The development of this RAP presents an opportunity for agencies and departments to undertake further planning and implementation mapping to support reform oversight and improve progress measurement.
There have been substantial efforts towards improved whole-of-reform reporting during the monitoring period, led by DPC and the FVR-IDC. DPC has acknowledged that data limitations are impacting on its ability to report accurately on progress at the whole-of-reform level and plans to improve the quality of the data feeding into the overall report.
In 2018 DPC worked together with departments and agencies, in partnership with the Victorian Managed Insurance Agency to identify strategic risks to the family violence reform. During the monitoring period, DPC led further work to improve whole-of-reform risk management.
At its February 2019 meeting, the FVR-IDC endorsed the identification and initial assessment of the whole-of-reform strategic risks. It also agreed to compile existing risk responses (mitigations) at an individual agency level. At the May 2019 meeting the FVR-IDC noted:
- the collation of agencies’ mitigation activities already undertaken
- that the next phase of work would be to allocate risk ownership and analyse the details of risk mitigations, followed by a reassessment of the risk ratings
The whole-of-reform strategic risk register was endorsed at the July 2019 meeting, together with a revised Family Violence Reform Risk Management Framework and Strategy and a paper analysing the agency-level mitigations previously identified.
The VSB-SC considered the current top five strategic reform risks at its meeting on 22 August 2019, identifying: integration planning; financial; stakeholder engagement; data and demand; and workforce resourcing as key priorities, noting that priority risks are subject to change. These risks are a feature of the quarterly whole-of-government portfolio reports which were discussed earlier, where the key reform risks are accompanied by relevant mitigation actions at the agency-level. The VSB-SC agreed to ask the FVR-IDC to focus on developing broad shared mitigations to the priority risks. This direction from the VSB-SC was reported back to the September 2019 meeting of the FVR-IDC. An inter-agency workshop was subsequently held to identify ‘cross-cutting’ mitigation actions.
The portfolio report also identifies ‘issues’ for the reform, and the first report notes the number one issue as ‘delayed activity implementation (schedule delays)’.
Using the Overall FVR Portfolio Report, the FVR-IDC and the VSB-SC are now able to see the overall risk profile of the reform and are now working to collectively identify and apply mitigations.
Important steps were taken during the monitoring period to identify the most important risks to the reform. The VSB-SC has taken an interest in strategic risk management and is supportive of the FVR-IDC overall approach. Risk management is an active and ongoing process which requires regular reassessment and re-identification of the risks to the reform. At the conclusion of the monitoring period, the FVR-IDC was yet to move from risk identification and assessment to risk ownership and collective mitigation but was heading in that direction.
19 Victorian Government (2017). Free from Violence: Victoria’s strategy to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women, p. 3.
20 Elder abuse is defined as any act occurring within a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which results in harm to an older person. Reference: Respect Victoria (2019): What is elder abuse? Available at respectvictoria.vic.gov.au (accessed 21 October 2019).
21 Victorian Government (2019): Strengthening the Foundations: First Rolling Action Plan 2019-22. Available at vic.gov.au/strengthening-foundations-first-rolling-action-plan-2019-22 (accessed 2 December 2019).
22 FVR-IDC (2018): September 2018 Meeting papers, Agenda item 5 – Attachment 1, p. 2.
23 Victorian Government (2019): Family Violence Reform: The 227 Recommendations. Available at: vic.gov.au/familyviolence/recommendations.html (accessed 21 November 2019).
24 Royal Commission into Family Violence (2016): Final Report Summary, p. 41.
25 Victorian Government (2019), Outcomes Reform in Victoria. Available at vic.gov.au (accessed 7 October 2019).
26 Victoria Police (2017): Policing Harm, Upholding the Right: Victoria Police Strategy for Family Violence, Sexual Offences and Child Abuse 2018-2023.