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Workforce

An exploration of the extent to which government and its agencies are progressing effort to develop the workforce needed to realise the planned family violence reform.

Background

In exploring this topic, we sought to establish the extent to which government and its agencies have: 

  • designed strategic directions for developing the workforce to realise the planned family violence reform
  • established robust and effective governance arrangements to oversee implementation of the workforce strategic directions
  • achieved progress in implementing the workforce strategic directions

Royal Commission findings 

The Royal Commission into Family Violence found there has never been a comprehensive assessment of the workforce required for the specialist family violence system and the implications for workforces in intersecting systems. It made numerous recommendations relating to workforce, including the need for the government to develop and implement a 10-year industry plan to address ongoing shortcomings. Considered workforce planning was to be central to the family violence reform to ensure workforce needs could be met over the next decade.

What is the family violence workforce? 

The Royal Commission adopted a four-tier classification originally developed by the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria that is reflected in Building from Strength: 10-Year Industry Plan for Family Violence Prevention and Response (the 10-Year Industry Plan) (figure 3.1)

Figure 3.1: Four workforce tiers that intersect with family violence

  • Tier 1: Specialist family violence, sexual assault and primary prevention practitioners — their sole or major focus is on family violence (or sexual assault) or on primary prevention
  • Tier 2: Workers in core support or intervention agencies — e.g. Victoria Police, courts, legal agencies and court services, Corrections Victoria and Child Protection, and other agencies that work with families who may be experiencing or are at risk of family violence.
  • Tier 3: Workers in mainstream services and non-family violence specific agencies — sectors that respond to the impacts of family violence or where early signs of family violence can be noted (e.g. housing, alcohol and other drugs, mental health, healthcare services, Centrelink)
  • Tier 4: Workers in universal services and organisations — through day-to-day interaction with children and families (in organisations like schools, childcare centres and faith-based institutions), these workers are likely to have regular and extended contact with victim survivors or perpetrators of violence

Workforce strategic directions

The government’s strategy for developing the workforce for the family violence system is primarily articulated through the 10-year Industry Plan and the associated Strengthening the Foundations: First Rolling Action Plan 2019–22, which contains the following seven focus areas to support achievement of the long-term vision:

  1. Building workforce capability.
  2. Enhancing training architecture.
  3. Recruiting and retaining specialist workforces.
  4. Strengthening leadership in the specialist sectors.
  5. Prioritising health, safety and wellbeing.
  6. Building sector and organisational capability.
  7. Working in a connected and cohesive system. 

Stakeholders applauded Family Safety Victoria for being open to testing new approaches throughout the industry planning process and for its commitment to building the evidence base. But there were also criticisms of the workforce planning process, including a lack of sequencing of the Rolling Action Plan’s 61 actions. While a draft implementation plan for the Rolling Action Plan (provided to the Monitor in September 2020) included high-level information about the status of and linkages between each action, future iterations could more clearly depict sequencing and its underpinning logic. 

As well as the 10-year Industry Plan and the Rolling Action Plan, there are other strategies that contribute to the comprehensive suite of workforce strategic directions (Figure 3.2). 

In particular, the following directions and strategic documents also apply to workforce:

  • Embedding the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management and information sharing in workforce practice [the Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) Framework; Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme Guidelines]
  • Supporting workforces to deliver integrated services through The Orange Door model [Workforce Strategy for The Orange Door]
  • Building a safe, capable police workforce that understands and effectively responds to family violence [Victoria Police Strategy for Family Violence, Sexual Offences and Child Abuse]
  • Ensuring we have the community services sector workforce of the future [Community Services Industry Plan] 
  • Building a professional identity [Child Protection Workforce Strategy] 
  • Building capacity and capability in intersectionality [Everybody Matters: Inclusion and Equity Statement].

Figure 3.2: Timeline of Key Strategic Documents

Figure 3.2: Timeline of Key Strategic Documents

Key strategic documents released in 2017 included:

  • Building from Strength: 10-Year Industry Plan for Family Violence Prevention and Response
  • Child Protection Workforce Strategy 2017–2020
  • Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework (June 2017)

Key strategic documents released in 2018 included:

  • Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme Guidelines: Guidance for Information Sharing Entities
  • Policing Harm, Upholding the Right: Victoria Police Strategy for Family Violence, Sexual Offences and Child Abuse 2018–2023
  • 10-Year Community Services Industry Plan
  • Everybody Matters: Inclusion and Equity Statement (December 2018)

The Strengthening the Foundations: First Rolling Action Plan 2019–22 was released in 2019 and the Workforce Strategy for the Orange Door was finalised in 2019.

Download Figure 3.2: Timeline of Key Strategic Documents

Government investment

The Victorian Government allocated $95.4 million for family violence industry planning through the 2017/18 Victorian Budget. The 10-Year Industry Plan and Rolling Action Plan budgets are complex, with numerous funding sources and destinations. Some activities have ongoing funding, others are one-off, and others still are not funded. Family Safety Victoria is managing this complexity internally, but further consideration should be given to tracking funding information in a clear, accessible and centralised way. 

The 2020/21 Victorian Budget included a further $8.1 million over three years for supported traineeships in the family violence and sexual assault sector and $0.167 million in 2020–21 to help establish the Family Violence Graduate Program. 

Robust and effective governance arrangements 

Governance structures brought together expertise from across government and the community service sector to develop, implement and monitor the  workforce plans and strategies.

Industry Taskforce

The government set up the Industry Taskforce in late 2016 as the key advisory and consultation body for developing the 10-Year Industry Plan and associated workforce and sector reforms. It brought together 52 expert members spanning the social services, health, justice, corrections and education sectors. Industry Taskforce stakeholders advised that while Family Safety Victoria had good intentions to involve a broad range of stakeholders and capture their views through the Industry Taskforce, this proved challenging given the size of the meetings. The Industry Taskforce’s two major subgroups22 continue to meet regularly. 

Family Safety Victoria advised that while the Industry Taskforce has not met since 4 July 2019, subgroups and small project groups have come together to progress selected pieces of work. Not all stakeholders have been aware of these arrangements, and many indicated to us that they observed a lack of governance clarity and central coordination across workforce activities. The refreshed governance arrangements (discussed below) and Family Safety Victoria’s monitoring and evaluation framework for the 10-Year Industry Plan provide an opportunity to clarify governance and coordination arrangements.

Family Violence Regional Integration Committees

Family Violence Regional Integration Committees were established in each of the then 14 Department of Human Services’ areas in 2006. Their purpose is to improve the integration of services that respond to family violence at the local level, drive workforce development, and act as a conduit between specialist family violence and other providers in local areas. Representatives include a range of government and community organisations across the prevention, early intervention and response systems. The committees are led by Family Violence Principal Strategic Advisors, which are now funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and administered by Family Safety Victoria.23 

Our consultations and analysis identified that the role of Family Violence Regional Integration Committees in workforce development, and the reform as a whole, has never been clearly articulated by government. It also appears that the committees are not being used as well as they could be as a mechanism for implementing the reform, particularly when it comes to coordinating workforce development initiatives in regions.

The recently announced governance refresh flags a commitment to building stronger connections with Family Violence Regional Integration Committees. This is a timely opportunity to clarify the committees’ role and how they can be better utilised in workforce planning and development, and the local implementation and monitoring of the reforms more broadly. 

Governance changes in progress 

Acknowledging the challenges posed by the size of the Industry Taskforce, Family Safety Victoria has reviewed governance and advisory structures and is establishing a new Family Violence Reform Advisory Group. The new model will replace the Industry Taskforce, the Family Violence Steering Committee and the Ministerial Taskforce for the Prevention of Family Violence. Family Safety Victoria advises that the ‘governance refresh’ will allow workforce development to be considered in the context of the overall reform. 

A cross-government Reform Board is also being created to deliver streamlined decision making and endorsement processes, and to help achieve the reform objectives. It will consolidate the Industry Plan Project Steering Committee, The Orange Door Steering Committee, the Central Information Point Steering Committee and the Information Sharing and Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Steering Committee. 

These changes have the potential to clarify and streamline governance arrangements if communicated and managed effectively.

Progress in implementing the workforce strategic directions 

Progress in building the workforce required to implement the family violence reform has been significant, with some highlights described here across the following categories: 

  • understanding the workforce through a workforce census
  • specialist family violence workforce pathways
  • specialist family violence workforce wellbeing and retention
  • major initiatives supporting practice improvement
  • capability building across non-specialist government workforces

Understanding the workforce through a workforce census 

The Census of Workforces that Intersect with Family Violence was conducted in 2017 and 2019. It is a vitally important information source for the sector about the specialist family violence workforce and related workforces. Family Safety Victoria improved the methodology of the second census based on findings from the first, including attempts to identify and respond to barriers to participation, and stronger promotion of the census. For example, the second census was open for an extended period, consisted of three different surveys tailored to three different role categories, and peak bodies were engaged and funded to promote it.

Nevertheless, we heard through our consultations that the second census did not adequately take on board the lessons learnt from the first census, including the need for more time to socialise the survey before its release, to shorten the survey length, and to maximise response rates through strategies such as incorporating the survey into existing workforce sector surveys. The 2019 census was open between 18 November 2019 and 28 February 2020. Response numbers and rates are outlined in Table 3.1. 

Table 3.1: Responses to the second workforce census

Workforce Population Size (approx.) Number of responses Response Rate
Specialist family violence response 2,491 1,575 63%
Primary prevention of family violence 352 517 147%
Broader workforce that intersects with family violence 222,070 2,929 1%
Total 224,913 5,021 2%

Source: Family Safety Victoria

These results suggest a strong response from the specialist family violence sector (prevention and response). However, the fact that the number of prevention workforce respondents was greater than the estimated size of the workforce suggests that some respondents may have misidentified themselves as being in scope for this survey. Further investigation is required to identify strategies for ensuring workforce estimates and responses better align in future surveys.

Continuing to improve the census in future years — including by further engaging with stakeholder feedback and the review of the first census conducted by the Victorian Council of Social Service and Domestic Violence Victoria — will be important in ensuring this vital source of information is as accurate and useful as possible. For example, the 2020 MARAM Reforms process evaluation report suggested using future iterations of the census to determine the level of awareness, understanding and use of the MARAM Framework. Census data also supports planning for accredited training provision through providing information on the requirements of specialist job roles to determine the demand for particular accredited qualifications.

Specialist family violence workforce pathways 

The 10-Year Industry Plan acknowledges the need for ‘a strong pipeline of dedicated, skilled and diverse workers for the specialist family violence
and primary prevention sectors’.24 To support this, there has been a focus on improving the qualifications of future family violence practitioners by
developing new accredited family violence and primary prevention courses, the first of which is the Course in Identifying and Responding to Family Violence Risk, which was accredited in 2019. Family violence content has also been added into the core curriculum of all social work undergraduate degrees, and work to introduce mandatory qualifications for specialist family violence practitioners is well underway. 

Ensuring there are enough experienced teachers to train family violence prevention and response practitioners is an ongoing challenge: however, some attention has been given to this issue — for example, through Gender Equity Victoria’s Building the Pool of Qualified Trainers Experienced in the Prevention of Violence Against Women project. The Department of Education and Training also delivered a professional development program to more than 700 family violence teachers during 2020, indicating strong engagement by family violence teachers to update their skills and knowledge to be able to deliver accredited training. We encourage ongoing support for these efforts. 

The ‘So, what do you do?’ attraction and recruitment campaign included launching the Victorian Government’s dedicated family violence jobs hub in May 2020 (Figure 3.3). The hub includes a Family Violence Jobs Portal where jobseekers can search and apply for family violence sector roles and
employers can advertise and recruit for family violence roles. It will be important to track the effectiveness of the campaign and use of the portal. 

Recruitment campaign ran between 27 May and 31 October 2020, which resulted in 25,962 visits to the jobs hub, 398 roles advertised, 188 clicks on “apply now” and 13,538 views of job vacancies.

The Enhanced Pathways to Family Violence Work Program is also attracting new workforce entrants to the sector. In its third year, the program provides funding to selected organisations to support student placements, build staff and organisational capability in hosting student placements and support MARAM alignment. 

Efforts are also being made to build a strong leadership pipeline within the specialist workforce:

  • The Future Social Services Institute is funded to deliver the Leadership Intensives program, which has been completed by more than 320 senior leaders from family violence and related sectors across Victoria.
  • Family Safety Victoria funds the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria to deliver the FastTrack Professional Development Program — piloted in 2019 to ‘fast track the supply of knowledgeable and skilled Tier 1 senior level practitioners to take up urgently needed specialist family violence management and leadership roles’.25

Specialist family violence workforce wellbeing and retention 

Research commissioned by Family Safety Victoria acknowledged factors associated with family violence sector roles that are often barriers to recruitment or retention such as relatively low pay, short-term contracts and a lack of support for workers. It described the risk of a ‘revolving door’ where ‘people will enter the sector, only to leave through disappointment in workforce resourcing and burn out.’26 The nature of family violence work also creates the potential for vicarious trauma, as well as issues for workforce health, wellbeing and retention. Although the Royal Commission, the 10-Year Industry Plan and the Rolling Action Plan all raised these issues, progress in this area is in its early stages. This includes establishing a Health, Safety and Wellbeing Working Group, drafting the Health Safety and Wellbeing Framework, and delivering Health, Safety and Wellbeing content as part of the Leadership Intensives. 

These issues were raised in many submissions to the Monitor by stakeholders such as Gender Equity Victoria, Australian Services Union, Domestic Violence Victoria and the Victorian Council of Social Service. The Victorian Council of Social Service explained that ‘(w)here organisations continue to lose good quality staff to other community services sectors, this means that Victoria is not building the prevention and response sector workforce that is needed’,27 thereby undermining attraction and recruitment efforts and the reforms more broadly.28

These issues were also highlighted as key challenges through the findings of the second workforce census, with 40 per cent of respondents from the specialist family violence response workforce and 48 per cent of respondents from the primary prevention workforce29 indicating they had plans to leave their current role in the next 12 months.30 

Retention and wellbeing challenges are particularly pronounced for new workforces that have been developed to cater to the needs of Aboriginal,
multicultural and faith communities, where short-term funding has made it difficult to develop and sustain the necessary service responses for these communities.

Major initiatives supporting practice improvement

The Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework and information-sharing schemes 

A clear objective of workforce-related activities is creating a system that works with a shared understanding of family violence. The MARAM Framework and information-sharing schemes provide some of the core tools to enable this and to ensure practice consistency. The Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme, the MARAM Framework and the Child Information Sharing Scheme are interrelated, and their success relies on effectively equipping the workforce to understand and implement the reforms in practice.31 Significant capacity-building activity to support these reforms is occurring across government departments and community organisations. 

During 2020, a process evaluation of the MARAM reforms and a review of the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme were released,32 providing
important findings to inform the phase 2 rollout to broader workforces and recommendations for improving training content and delivery including:

  • building workforce capability to engage effectively with clients from diverse communities, many of whom are said to be more fearful of information sharing
  • ensuring phase 1 workforce training is completed to make way for the approximately 370,000 additional people who will need to be trained under phase 2

The MARAM reforms process evaluation report found that departments needed more autonomy in how to deliver the MARAM reforms and information sharing to their workforces. Equally, we suggest a robust, central coordination role to bring everyone together, oversee progress and flag any implementation progress issues is required.

The Orange Door

The Orange Door (previously Support and Safety Hubs) is a major initiative that is transforming the workforce. It involves staff from at least three organisations working together in an integrated way but maintaining their employment arrangements, including formal line management, with their respective organisations. 

The Victorian Auditor-General’s Office’s May 2020 performance audit of the Support and Safety Hubs33 identified significant areas for improvement relating to staffing levels, training and resources to support the delivery of integrated services. Family Safety Victoria accepted all recommendations. Prompt action will help address workforce challenges and will most likely improve implementation at new The Orange Door sites.

Capability building across non-specialist government workforces 

The 10-Year Industry Plan includes a vision whereby: 

...workers across the family violence, prevention, children’s services, broader community services, health, justice and education sectors are family violence and gender literate and equipped for their particular role in preventing, identifying and responding to family violence, working with victim survivors including their children to maximise their safety and recovery, and engaging people who choose to use violence towards being accountable.34 

The MARAM Framework and information-sharing schemes support the consistency and quality of practice across relevant workforces, as do the
appointment of Principal Practitioners at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education and Training and the Department of Justice and Community Safety to lead capability building within their respective departments. The release of ‘Prevention’ and ‘Response’ capability frameworks in 2017 are also being used to shape training and recruitment activities across departments and agencies. 

Victoria Police

Victoria Police’s workforce development efforts are supported by a government investment of approximately $30 million over four years under the 2017 Community Safety Statement. In addition to developing family violence practice guides and other resources for police, Victoria Police has also established the Centre of Learning for Family Violence with educators at the Victoria Police Academy and training officers embedded in each division across the state. The entire police workforce is now being trained to understand the dynamics of family violence. As at 30 June 2020: 

  • 83% of the target workforce have received introductory training on the use of the new Victoria Police risk assessment tool, the Family Violence Report 
  • 74% of the target workforce have received face-to-face training in assessing family violence risk using the Family Violence Report

Victoria Police conducted reviews of its progress against its implemented Royal Commission recommendations in both 2019 and 2020, documenting this work to generate ongoing improvement. This is a strong example of embedding knowledge and practice change.

Justice and community safety workforces

Perpetrators and victim survivors potentially have numerous points of contact with Department of Justice and Community Safety workforces, including through the justice and corrections system, and victim and consumer support services. For example, evidence presented to the Royal Commission suggested that a significant proportion of female offenders have been exposed to family violence,35 with one survey revealing nearly two-thirds of women prisoners have experienced family violence at some point.36

Foundational family violence training is being rolled out to the entire Department of Justice and Community Safety workforce, which consists of approximately 9,000 employees across areas including youth justice, prisons, community corrections, the sheriff’s office and staff in central office and justice service centres.37 As of 30 June 2020, approximately 26 per cent of the current Department of Justice and Community Safety workforce had been trained. Evaluation surveys suggest the training is achieving its aims of supporting staff to understand family violence and develop skills to sensitively recognise, respond to and refer colleagues experiencing or perpetrating family violence. 

Targeted training is also being offered to subsets of the justice workforce, including staff working on the Victims of Crime Helpline, financial counsellors and Community Correctional Services case managers. 

Corrections Victoria has developed multiple family violence resources for practitioners working in Community Correctional Services. It has also developed a training and workforce development plan for Community Correctional Services to meet its MARAM alignment obligations. 

At women’s prisons, family violence identification procedures have been incorporated into risk assessment, case management and transition planning processes; however, this occurred before the release of the MARAM Framework. We did not see an explicit plan for MARAM alignment in the prison system, with Corrections Victoria advising that alignment within Community Correctional Services is the initial priority due to the critical importance of family violence risk management for offenders in the community, and greater degree of family violence capability among the Community Correctional Services workforce. We understand that alignment activity for prisons has focused on foundational activities such as mapping the diverse custodial and non-custodial workforce, and building a shared understanding and awareness of family violence. Given the high rates of victimisation among women in prison and the Royal Commission’s specific focus on this group, aligning policy and practice in the women’s prison system with the MARAM Framework should be given greater priority within this work program.

Education and training workforces 

When children and young people attend early childhood, school or further education settings, there is an opportunity to actively prevent family violence through education and to identify possible instances of family violence early. This requires workforces to be trained accordingly. 

Capability building around gender equity and family violence prevention throughout the school workforce has occurred through the rollout of Respectful Relationships in all Victorian schools. A total of 3,044 early childhood educators in government-funded kindergarten programs have also been trained to promote respectful relationships, positive attitudes and behaviours within their integrated teaching approach.38

To proactively identify the training and development needs of its varied workforces, the Department of Education and Training engaged 
PricewaterhouseCoopers to map the current levels of understanding of family violence and child wellbeing against the MARAM Framework and information-sharing requirements across its varied workforces. The way this workforce mapping is informing capability-building activities may provide useful lessons for other departments and agencies. 

Health and human services workforces 

Health and human services such as hospitals, general practitioners, mental health services and housing services interact with people experiencing family violence. However, unless staff are adequately trained, these interactions can remain missed opportunities to intervene and offer support to these people.39 Since the Royal Commission, various activities have occurred across the health system to build family violence capability, including for maternal and child health nurses, Victoria’s disability workforce, the mental health workforce and the entire child protection workforce, who have engaged in the Tilting Our Practice program. 

Some mental health and alcohol and other drug services are appointing Specialist Family Violence Advisors. These roles are designed to increase access to specialist family violence expertise. During our consultation, one of these services mentioned the need for further connections between the mental health and family violence systems, a finding reiterated by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System. This will be an important area of future work. 

Hospital staff are being trained to identify and support victims of family violence through the Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family Violence program, for which dedicated funding will lapse during 2021.40 As at 30 June 2020, 67,400 staff had received this training since the program began, representing nearly 50 per cent of the estimated 150,000 staff in hospitals and health settings across the state. The program’s forthcoming evaluation findings will provide direction to strengthen future family violence capability-building activities; however, some key challenges and risks have already been identified based on feedback provided to the Department of Health and Human Services by hospitals and health services, including:

  • year-to-year funding leading to short-term staff contracts
  • engaging and training a resource-constrained, 24-hour clinical workforce
  • data collection and measuring practice change.

Key issues

Governance structures and whole of government coordination could be clearer and more effective 

Multiple stakeholders acknowledged Family Safety Victoria’s ambitious intentions in bringing together the many and varied stakeholders to contribute to developing and implementing the 10-Year Industry Plan. However, stakeholders have expressed a lack of clarity about the governance of workforce activities over the past year as well as coordination of their implementation given the Industry Taskforce has not met since July 2019 and the Rolling Action Plan implementation is now underway. This uncertainty suggests the need for stronger communication from Family Safety Victoria about how workforce activities are being coordinated and governed across the family violence reform, including the role of Victoria’s 14 Family Violence Regional Integration Committees. 

While Family Safety Victoria holds responsibility for a range of cross-government activities such as the 10-Year Industry Plan, its Rolling Action Plan, the MARAM Framework and information-sharing policies and guidance, stakeholders shared the view that there needs to be stronger central coordination of the many workforce-related activities underway across government. For example, while departments and agencies are responsible for implementing the MARAM reforms in their own settings, and there are various governance groups for the MARAM reforms implementation, there is an opportunity for improved oversight to ensure coordination of effort, stronger management of issues and monitoring of implementation progress. Additionally, while not discussed in this chapter, there is dispersed responsibility for family violence prevention across Family Safety Victoria, the Office for Women (in the Department of Premier and Cabinet) and Respect Victoria. Machinery of government changes announced just after the end of the monitoring period may help, as these areas will be brought together under the one department. However, there is still an opportunity to strengthen whole of government coordination for prevention and non-specialist workforce development.

The revised whole of reform governance arrangements are an active attempt to address the known governance issues. It will be important to clarify oversight and coordination of the Rolling Action Plan’s implementation under the new arrangements. It will also be vital to clarify the allocation of, and ongoing accountability for, the substantial funds for capacity-building initiatives across workforces that the Department of Health and Human Services and Family Safety Victoria have received to date. The revised arrangements also have the potential to facilitate improved coordination with the broader service system, including coordination of family violence workforce development with other community services workforce initiatives. This will be challenging but crucial given the intersections at the service delivery level (such as family violence, alcohol and other drugs, mental health and housing) and the movement of staff between sectors. 

Planning and monitoring processes need strengthening 

The 10-Year Industry Plan and its Rolling Action Plan are valuable frameworks, but some strategic elements are missing. For example, actions were not initially prioritised or sequenced in any detailed way, and they were not linked to outcomes or a monitoring framework. We suggest future planning should include these elements. 

The importance of strong workforce data and modelling in shaping and driving workforce strategies has been raised. While we have not seen evidence that the 10-Year Industry Plan or the Rolling Action Plan and its associated activities were informed by a clear picture of the future workforce required to support the reform, the Rolling Action Plan commits to developing a workforce forecasting model and we have seen some early forecasting work as part of the Job Role Redesign Project. It will be important for this work to drive future planning so activities are specifically designed to achieve the required workforce. The workforce census will be a key input into this work, provided feedback on the first two censuses is taken up to ensure a more complete picture of the workforce to inform modelling and planning. 

Monitoring of progress in implementing Rolling Action Plan workforce activities appears to be limited. The impact of the 10-Year Industry Plan was to be aligned with the family violence outcomes frameworks; however, there has not been any outcomes reporting for the reform to date. An implementation plan and monitoring and evaluation framework for the Rolling Action Plan have been drafted. There is an important opportunity to ensure oversight of the impact and outcomes of workforce activities is embedded in the new governance arrangements and communicated regularly to stakeholders.

Greater funding certainty could improve workforce retention and reform implementation 

Across diverse organisations and settings, from hospitals to community service providers and others, the dominance of 12-month funding agreements is raised as a significant barrier to workforce retention, which in turn impedes efforts to implement the reform and embed the new ways of working that the reform requires. 

At the strategic level, the requested level of funding to implement the 10-Year Industry Plan was not secured in the 2018/19 and 2019/20 Victorian Budgets. Some stakeholders perceived that the funding allocations to workforce are an indication it is not a priority within the reform.

At the service level, funding uncertainty was said to include short-term funding agreements and late notice of funding being provided or renewed, and that this directly led to staff attrition due to job insecurity. In one example provided to the Monitor, all staff for a new program had to be let go before the funding was actually renewed at the 11th hour and the agency then had to recruit, orientate and capacity-build the program workforce again. Service providers told us that 12-month funding agreements remain common, even where programs are no longer in the trial stage. One organisation said that although there had been major investment into family violence reform, 12-month funding is a ‘significant failure of implementation’. Service providers reported repeatedly losing highly valued staff due to an inability to provide job security. 

As the reform is now beginning to progress beyond the initial trialling and piloting of new approaches, and the evidence base is building around what works, there is an important opportunity to explore ways to achieve longer term funding agreements with service providers. This would have many and varied benefits, from reducing the administrative burden on government and providers, to enabling a skilled and experienced workforce to be built and retained. 

Workforce health, safety, wellbeing and retention needs further attention 

‘Prioritising health, safety and wellbeing’ is one of seven focus areas in the Rolling Action Plan, but implementation progress in this area has been limited. Perhaps understandably, efforts to date have focused on attracting and recruiting people to the specialist family violence workforce to ensure services have the staff they need.

Increasing the focus on specialist workforce health, safety and wellbeing, as well as other areas that contribute to workforce retention, will help reduce the rate of people leaving the workforce and maximise the value of attraction and recruitment efforts. 

One area requiring further focus is how to more effectively support workforces in dealing with the trauma they are exposed to on the job.

Looking forward 

The far-reaching family violence reform enacted since the Royal Commission has required enormous efforts to develop the range of workforces that intersect with family violence. Based on our monitoring and analysis of the key implementation issues, we suggest the following are priorities for future action:

  • Actively work to clarify and improve communication about governance and coordination, including being clear about the role of Family Violence Regional Integration Committees in coordinating workforce development initiatives in regions.
  • Continue to improve the workforce census, including by using it to test the level of use and understanding of the MARAM Framework, and working to more accurately capture the primary prevention workforce and broader workforces that intersect with family violence.
  • Balance the autonomous delivery of MARAM across departments with more robust, central coordination and oversight of this foundational part of the reform.
  • Urgently progress work to improve the wellbeing and retention of specialist family violence prevention and response workforces.
  • Prioritise process and practice alignment with the MARAM Framework in the women’s prison system.
  • Ensure future workforce planning prioritises and sequences actions, and strengthen reporting of the implementation and impact of workforce activities.
  • Identify opportunities for longer term funding agreements with service providers, where appropriate.

References

22   The Implementation subgroup was established in early 2018 to guide implementation of the immediate priorities in the 10-Year Industry Plan and      development and monitoring of the associated Rolling Action Plan. The Qualifications subgroup was established in 2017 to                                 implement recommendation 209 (family violence practitioners in all funded services must hold a social work or equivalent degree).
23   Northern Integrated Family Violence Services Partnership (2020): The Lookout Family Violence Regional Integration Factsheet, November 2020. Available at: nifvs.org.au/about/regionalintegration-committee (accessed 21 November 2020).
24   Victorian Government (2017): Building from Strength: 10-Year Industry Plan for Family Violence Prevention and Response, p. 71. Available at: vic.gov.au/building-strength-10-year-industry-plan (accessed 27 June 2020).
25   Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (2020): FastTrack Professional Development Program. Available at: dvrcv.org.au/training/fasttrack (accessed 5 July 2020).
26   Fenton (2019): Family Safety Victoria: Research to Inform the Development of a Campaign to Grow the Family Violence Workforce, p. 6.
27   Victorian Council of Social Service, submission 44, p.24
28   Australian Services Union Victorian and Tasmanian Authorities and Services Branch, submission 59, p.6.
29   ORIMA Research (2020): 2019–20 Census of Workforces that Intersect with Family Violence: Survey Findings Report — Specialist Family Violence Response Workforce (not yet published).
30   Ibid.
31   Department of Health and Human Services (2020): Report on Implementation of the Family Violence Risk Assessment and Management Framework 2018–19. Available at: vic.gov.au/report-onimplementation-of-the-family-violence-risk-assessment-and-management-framework-2018-19
(accessed 8 July 2020).
32   Monash University (2020): Family Safety Victoria Review of the Family Violence Information Sharing Legislative Scheme, May 2020; Cube Group (2020): Family Safety Victoria: Process evaluation of the MARAM Reforms, Final Report, 26 June 2020.
33   Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (2020): Managing Support and Safety Hubs. Available at: audit.vic.gov.au/report/managing-support-and-safety-hubs (accessed 23 June 2020).
34   Victorian Government (2017): Building from Strength: 10-Year Industry Plan for Family Violence Prevention and Response, p. 1. Available at: vic.gov.au/building-strength-10-year-industry-plan (accessed 27 June 2020).
35   State of Victoria (2014–2016): Royal Commission into Family Violence: Report and Recommendations, Parl Paper No 132, Vol 5, Chapter 34.
36   Department of Justice and Community Safety (2019): Women in the Victorian Prison System. Available at: corrections.vic.gov.au/women-in-the-victorian-prison-system (accessed 4 July 2020).
37   Department of Justice and Community Safety (2019): Annual Report 2018–19. Available at: justice.vic.gov.au/annual-reports/annual-report-2018-19 (accessed 4 July 2020).
38   Department of Education and Training consultation, 9 July 2020.
39   State of Victoria (2014–2016): Royal Commission into Family Violence: Report and Recommendations, Parl Paper No 132, Vol 1, Chapter 2.
40   Victorian Government (2017): ‘Better training to identify and support family violence victims’, media release, 25 August 2017.

Reviewed 05 May 2021

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