Family violence is a serious problem that occurs across Australia mostly affecting women and children from all cultural, socioeconomic, and educational backgrounds.
In recent years Victorian family violence reform has been escalated and made very public through the lens of the 2015 Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence (RCFV), resulting in 227 specific recommendations that have been taken up by government.
As the recommendations are progressively implemented, significant gaps and obstacles are identified that are limiting the effective implementation of laws, policies, and programs in ensuring the safety of women and their children and enforcing perpetrator accountability. There is much potential for current family violence interventions systems and processes to be improved, to increase client safety and promote perpetrator accountability.
We work with government and family violence prevention, early intervention, and response providers to:
The Eastern Regional Family Violence Partnership - Strengthening Family Violence Systems for Safety and Accountability Pilot Project
The project was developed to address a dilemma that has been identified in the design and delivery of family violence services. Specifically, family violence services are delivered in an institutional context and like all institutions they can inadvertently and over time, develop practices that do the opposite of what is intended, that is to keep women and children safe and hold perpetrators to account. It was recognised that structures and practices had developed that often obstructed the interagency collaboration that is critical to effective responses. The Partnership sought to address this by undertaking work to enable organisations to review their practices and to improve the quality of their services and outcomes. LDC Group were commissioned to do this work. Placing the voices and needs of women at the centre of service design and improvement processes was an important principle guiding the work.
The methodology we used was informed by institutional ethnography and implemented by Praxis International in the USA, Canada, England, New Zealand, and Western Australia in the form of Safety and Accountability Audits. With their permission, we significantly adapted the Praxis international approach to reviewing services to enable it to work in the Victorian Family Violence service system and developed a toolkit to guide implementation.
We took a codesign, coproduction approach to the project and worked collaboratively with seven partner organisations in the region over 18 months undertaking a range of sometimes sensitive consultations. Family violence partnerships represented a diverse range of services working in a resource constrained environment and with high levels of demand. They were consequently characterised by complex dynamics which had to be carefully navigated to build the trust and engagement needed to achieve the project objectives.
We conducted design workshops, training sessions and mentoring activities; and we established a very engaged and effective Community of Practice comprising five of the partnership agencies. The Community of Practice worked with us in designing and implementing the pilot projects and refining the toolkit. Our role was to guide and support their work and incorporate the learnings into the development of the Safety and Accountability guidelines and toolkit. We used action learning, reflective practice, and appreciative inquiry principles to support this approach. Each of the participating organisations received a report from their project representative recommending improvements and LDC prepared a project report for the partnership documenting the methodology, outcomes, impact, toolkit and recommendation for how this process could be implemented.
The project was successful in securing engagement and commitment from participants. It produced a practical and fit for purpose framework and a substantial suite of practical tools to enable agencies to undertake more effective reviews of program activities and plan improvements. At the completion of the project prioritising the coordination and implementation of recommendations emerging from the reports was a challenge for the Partnership which was addressing a range of initiatives with limited resources.