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Ending Domestic Violence - What Australia is Doing PART I

OOPS! This has gotten impossibly long, so I'll split it into two parts. Here's Part 1

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA-NC

Australia is making a huge effort to address its domestic violence problem and hopes to end it in one generation. On the day before International Women’s Day, it launched its new 10 -Year National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children. It is also putting its money where its mouth is.

Over the next four years it is allocating just under one billion dollars for a large range of programs, some of which will be delivered by state governments and Non Government Organisations, partly because things like Law  Enforcement and Education for example, are State responsibilities and because some organisations already have an established track record in this sector. However, the Federal Government will co -ordinate and oversee them. 

An additional $589 million will go towards its Five-Year Action Plan which we’ll discuss more fully below. If The Ten-Year National Plan sets out the general direction and how the funds will be  dispersed, then the  Five-Year Action Plan is the guidebook which tells what you’ll see along the way. States, territories and even local governments are also dipping into their own budgets to provide additional services.

While many existing programs will continue to be funded, such as the nationally funded help lines, emergency shelters, women’s centres and various forms of support, there is also money for new programs, research, pilot programs and training. There are also some legal changes. All projects are based on best evidence – based practice, something which is ongoing, along with collaboration, standardisation and integration of services.

 It's good to see that there is more emphasis on helping victims and survivors of Family Violence to rebuild their lives and far more help for those who commit or are at risk of committing violence, as well as preventing it before it starts. There is also a lot more attention being given to the experience of those who have suffered violence and or gone through the justice system. The state of Victoria, for example, is trialling a register of people who have experienced Family and Domestic Violence who are willing to share their experience in both government and community sectors. You can read the full Plan here.

The Five- Year Action Plan

I won’t even try to list everything which is in the Action Plan. It’s taken me this long to read the documents and check out some of the programs, but I’ll briefly mention some of the more innovative ones. It broadly covers the following areas:                                                  

1.       Advancing Gender Equality and improving Community attitudes towards Family and Domestic Violence

2.       Establishing a Consistent Terminology, Monitoring, Evaluation, Collection of Data and sharing

3.       Training – improving capability to deliver services – taking into account the views of those who have or are experiencing violence in diverse settings

4.       Expanding the capacity of services to offer co -ordinated, connected  responses and support the long -term health and well – being of women and children

5.       Hold those who use violence or who are at risk of using violence to account and support them

6.       Address all forms of Violence and Harassment across all settings

7.       Establish partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

8.       Improved services for Young People including recovery from trauma and early intervention for those who act violently

9.       Improve Police Response and the Justice System to promote Safety and Culturally Safe Practices

10.   Housing

[Based on : © Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Social Services) 2023]. 

 Here’s what some of these Initiatives look like


  • Around $83.5 m will be spent over 6 years for Consent and Respectful Relationship Education for Primary and Secondary Schools – about 1/3 for research and the balance to the states for delivery.
  • The Commonwealth is also funding public awareness campaigns such as “Stop it at the Start.” This is about the important role parents and other adults play in influencing the attitudes and behaviours of young people. Intended for those aged 10 -17, it asks parents and others such as teachers, coaches, community leaders and employers of young people to reflect and discuss their attitudes about respect. It is also preparing social media resources about Consent [see more on this below].
  • In addition the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government will develop a long -range plan over four years to change attitudes about Gender Violence

Reducing Economic Inequality

The Australian Government is working hard to close the Gender Pay Gap. Although legislated in 1972, equal work for equal pay is still not a reality for many women, limiting their economic opportunities and leaving many women impoverished in their later years. 

 Because women of interrupt their careers to raise children, they seldom rise in the ranks or accrue as much in retirement benefits as males, so the Australian Government is also promoting Gender Balance in workplaces, starting with its own departments, to increase the number of women in well paid work and in the higher levels of organisations, including directorships. A new Gender Equity Agency will be created for reporting progress by public sector agencies with more than 100 employees. Stronger legal protections against discrimination and harassment will also apply.

 Wages for lowest paid workers - especially those in female dominated 'caring' professions such as childcare and aged care, have already been increased.


  •  Including Personal Safety Survey with Census and Statistics
  •  Strengthening the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Data and Reporting and        Developing an integrated system
  • Working with the Institute of Criminology to better understand Homicide and perpetrator data
  •  Small Scale Trials on Primary Prevention and Early Intervention
  •  Working with the Institute of Family Studies to evaluate Contact Service Activity. This is about custody arrangements for children.

Funding for Research

  •  Finding the best way to help women and children to recover from trauma is high on the list with $67.2 m being allocated for this purpose, along with ways to help men overcome the risk of violence. 
  •  A further $40.4 m is being spent to extend the Escaping Violence Payment Trial to other regions such as Darwin, Broome and Cairns
  •  The state of Victoria, is monitoring and evaluating longitudinal projects about Men’s Behaviour Change to determine their effectiveness. In partnership with universities and survivors, it is also looking at ways to support practice improvements and service innovations and bring about long -lasting change.
  •  A further $10 m is being set aside for eSafety to prevent tech – based abuse of women such as stalking and sextortion.


  •  The National Government is spending $169.4 to train 500 more frontline service and community workers
  • There will be ongoing funding to train medical professionals and frontline workers to recognise and respond to victims of sexual violence
  •   In Western Australia (WA) Family and Domestic Violence Training is being extended to 3,000 St. John’s Ambulance First Responders, emergency call takers, paramedics and volunteers to enable them to recognise and respond to the needs of patients.
  •   Accredited Training for Sexual Violence Responses, delivered by Monash University’s Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, will be extended for 4.5 years to 30 June 2027
  •  Flinders University in South Australia (SA) is co -designing and implementing a special training program for Child Protection Workers.
  •  SA also has a free professional Certificate in Understanding Childhood Trauma which is available to Child Protection Staff across the sector. It is also ensuring that forensic training regarding sexual assault is available to doctors and nurses in rural areas.


  • There is  considerable emphasis on having integrated service delivery and new pathways via other avenues such as legal and financial services.
  • Forty -eight million dollars is going towards recovery services including help with navigating the health system, having nationally consistent resources and making them easy to access and all in one place. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) for example, is co – locating all sexual violence response services in one place.
  • Development of a Technology -based Service both for those who have experienced or are at risk of  domestic violence and for frontline staff 
  •  In New South Wales (NSW) is supporting Community – based interventions to help members of the LGBTQI community, those of diverse backgrounds and people living with cognitive impairment. 
  •  The National Government is also allocating funds to the Department of Home Affairs to provide Visa Support for Temporary Visa Holders, $ 32.3 m in support for Trafficked people and transitional support for migrant women and refugees as well as improving access to multicultural, faith based and ethnic communities. 
  •  Some funding is also going to the Anti – slavery Website My Blue Sky and national Forced Marriage prevention and support. Forced marriage is only a fairly recent phenomenon in Australia, so here's what it's about.


There are many new initiatives - some to help offenders, some to enable police to achieve more successful outcomes, some to ensure more help for victims - not only in the initial stages of reporting and to navigate the justice system, but to recover afterwards. 
Much of this is detailed in the very important 2020 Report originally commissioned by the ACT "Listen, Take Action to Prevent, Believe and Heal" whose content and recommendations are largely based on the often negative experiences of survivors of domestic violence and child sexual abuse as well as those of the  frontline staff who have had to deal with the consequences.
 It is quite damning really, how few of those experiences are reported, and of those which make it to court, even fewer result in prosecution. You will find many of the report's 19 recommendations being trialled or put into effect at various stages throughout the Five -Year Action Plan. 
It too, emphasises changing the underlying culture and attitudes to women and involving the whole community in creating a safer environment. It advocates integrating services and co -locating them with police to ensure a rapid and coordinated response. It also proposes education in relationship matters and consent for all age groups and specialist training for frontline personnel. It recommends yearly training for police officers who deal with family violence, sexual assault and child abuse situations and would like to see more gender balance and diversity in the Police Force itself.

As far as the justice system goes, more help - independent help, is needed to help victim/survivors navigate the justice system and for them not to feel " isolated, disrespected and disbelieved."  It also suggests looking into other ways of seeking justice when people don't feel comfortable involving police. Expanding the idea of restorative justice - seeking redress through civil rather than the criminal court, is another possibility being explored.
While seeking to hold perpetrators more fully to account, there is also more help available to enable them to change their behaviour. Some examples follow:  
  • Over the next four years, $27 m is being allocated for this purpose by the National Government. It is also developing a National online Referral Database for use by those who have used violence or at risk of doing so, to stop violence before it escalates

  • The MensLine Telephone Service  “Changing For Good” will be extended to reinforce and maintain attitude change.  It is a free six -month program which offers one – to- one telephone counselling to men who have completed a Post Men’s Behavioural Change Program and want to develop violence free, healthy and respectful relationships. It offers ongoing support and strategies and focuses on well -being and community participation 
  •  Funding will also continue for the Men’s Program “No to Violence.” This helps abusive men to make positive changes in their behaviour. It also available to family, friends and collegues who want to help them.
  •  “Room for Change” is an ACT – based Men’s Residential Behaviour Change Program which provides rental accommodation and Case Management for offenders. 
  •  “Parents Beyond Breakup” which includes “Dad in Distress’ (DIDs) is another NGO which has received funding. It has a hotline for non – custodial parents and holds peer support groups. DIDs is particularly for non- custodial parents. As well as online  and in person support, it holds workshops with experts such as lawyers and police.
The final recommendation is to ensure that victims have the opportunity to heal. You'll see that cropping up a lot when we come to Housing, as does the idea of 'wrap around' support services. There is considerable overlap between many of these issues and the whole thrust of the Plan is about collaboration and convergence.

 Other initiatives on Prevention include:  
  • Developing a National Risk Assessment Framework for service providers
  • A special education and awareness program for Veterans and their  families
  • Correctional Services giving timely notification about release of offenders
  • The ACT has passed its Amendment to the Sexual Assault Reform Bill which primarily refines what is a sexual offence and clarifies what constitutes Consent. Note: if a person is intoxicated, under the influence of drugs or asleep at the time, they may not resist, but this is NOT consent. 
  • Tasmania, Victoria, NSW and the ACT have passed legislation regarding the Affirmative Model of Consent. This holds that both parties must actively consent to any sexual activity taking place.

  • The National Government is developing resources to increase understanding of and implement national principles about Coercive Control in relation to family and domestic violence. Coercive Control is about insidious psychological manipulation.
  • Queensland is making progressive amendments to criminalise it. Tasmania has already done so and NSW is close.  Here's what it looks like.

To be Continued..... PART II coming soon