Co-design forum to improve Victoria's family violence system.
Problems and Purpose
In 2016 the Victorian Government announced a 10-year plan to rebuild the state of Victoria’s family violence system. This stems from the Royal Commission into Family Violence recommendations. The government began engaging with stakeholders and communities across the state, including a series of regional co-design forums.
Background History and Context
In the wake of a series of family violence-related deaths in Victoria, Australia, the Royal Commission into Family Violence was created on February 22, 2015. The Commission’s task was to identify ways to prevent family violence, improve early intervention to identify and protect those at risk, support victims (particularly women and children), make perpetrators accountable, develop and refine systemic responses, better coordinate community and government responses, evaluate and measure the success of current programs. In March 2016, the Commission released seven volumes of reports that reflect lived experience, research and recognition of the scale of the problem, and what is recognized to be serious limitations in the existing policy responses.
A total of 227 recommendations for new approaches included: Support and Safety Hubs in local communities; new laws to ensure privacy and safety of victims; funding to services that support victims and families; additional resources for Aboriginal community initiatives; a ‘blitz’ to rehouse women and children forced to leave their homes; expansive investigative capacity for policy, specialist family violence courts; stronger perpetrator programs, family violence training in workforces; support for schools; and an Independent Family Violence Agency to hold government to account.
As a result, the Victorian Government released a Family Violence Reform Rolling Action Plan 2020-2023 with a commitment to implement all 227 recommendations. The government is taking an integrated approach to implementing family violence reform alongside broader social services reforms to help shift from a system where the victim bears the burden to one that empowers people to receive the services they need. The government is undertaking widespread engagement and consultation with the sector an victim survivors, including the establishment of the Family Violence Steering Committee and Victoria’s First Victims Survivors’ Advisory Council, and the Industry Taskforce. Moreover, Aboriginal representation is a key aspect of the Government’s Action Plan, leading to the Indigenous family Violence Partnership Forum and the Aboriginal Family Violence Co-Design Forum to provide advice on family violence reform initiatives.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
$527 million was allocated in the 2016-2017 Victorian State Budget to begin an immediate response and start implementing the most urgent recommendations. The Family Safety Victoria department has led the implementation of many of the government’s family violence reforms, including co-design processes.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
A range of key groups and partnerships with specialist expertise are advising on the reform implementation. One of these includes the Aboriginal Family Violence Co-Design Forum. In October 2016, 700 people participated in regional co-design forums, including workers from across the service system, victim survivors and other community members, and which helped shape the vision for the Hubs.
Methods and Tools Used
The Family Violence Outcomes Framework involves co-design as a significant part of the reform agenda. Moreover, the approach is built on the collective strengths of Aboriginal knowledge, systems and expertise, including the foundations of Aboriginal community-led programs, services and politics that reflect decades of work, leadership and response to family violence in Victoria. These foundations create solutions generated by Aboriginal Elders, people, and communities. An aspect of this entails a culturally based practice and healing approach to gendered, racial, and generational trauma. Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way is the lead Victorian agreement describing the work required to ensure that all Aboriginal people in Victoria live free from family violence.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
A foundational project is the Dhelk Dja: Safe our Way, the key Aboriginal-led Victorian Agreement that commits the signatories to work together and be accountable for ensuring Aboriginal people, families and communities are stronger and safer from family violence.
Voices of Hope was the first co-design project undertaken with victim-survivors and was led by sector organisations, expert advisers, and the Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council.
So far, Aboriginal people have contributed their ideas, stories, and vision for the future at Community Conversations, Aboriginal Partnership Forum Working Group meetings, Aboriginal Family Violence Co-Design Forums, Indigenous Family Violence Regional Action Group meetings and through Aboriginal holistic healing co-design process.
Building on this work, in early 2017, a series of workshops with an expert design group comprised of practitioners and leading thinkers from across the service system and small group discussions with people who have experience in the service system, including victim survivors.
In 2016, the Aboriginal Family Violence Co-Design Forum was established. In 2018, a forum was held in Preston, Victoria, focused on people who use violence, through a whole family approach, involving shared learnings. The process involved round-table discussions, looking at ways to work with people that use violence, accountability, and ways that heal people with trauma.
In addition, future court reforms will be co-designed and implemented with key Aboriginal community and government stakeholders.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Co-design helped with establishing Safety Hubs outlined in the Ending Family Violence: Victoria’s Plan for Change.
In 2019, the Victorian Government released the Everybody Matters: Inclusion and Equity Statement, which sets out a 10-year vision for achieving a more inclusive, safe, responsive and accountable family violence system for all Victorians. This builds on an intersectional approach called for by the Royal Commission.
There are four outcomes with multiple indicators that are guiding the engagement and partnership approach. Some of this includes reducing family violence, increasing reporting of incidents, increasing awareness of what constitutes family violence, and increasing children and young people’s understanding of power and control issues.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The actions and investment provided in various statements, policy and actions plans, as well as the commitment to co-design and engagement will help develop, refine and implement future actions. Specifically engaging with victim survivors and the sector will drive the collaboration and help develop long-term solutions.
The Reform Implementation Monitor will annually hold the Victorian Government to account by reporting to Parliament on the implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations. So far, four of seven topic-based reports have been released that examine implementation progress for the primary prevention of family violence and the coordinated efforts between the government and non-government sectors. Themes have emerged through public consultations, including progress made with the creation of the Respect Victoria prevention agency, a dedicated prevention strategy and increased investment, but there are still frustrations about a disconnection between different elements of the system, inadequate investment, and the short-term nature of the funding that does exist.