National initiatives

14.73 A central theme that has emerged in the course of this Inquiry is the need for effective education and training of all those within the employment law system. A proper appreciation and understanding of the nature, features and dynamics of family violence, and its potential impact on an employee, and in the workplace, is fundamental to ensuring that the employment law system is able to respond appropriately to the needs of employees experiencing family violence, and ultimately, protect their safety to the relevant extent in the employment context.

14.74 A range of family violence strategies and projects have included an education component about family violence in the employment context, or at a minimum, about workplace family violence prevention strategies. For example, at a Commonwealth level, in 2010, the Government provided the ADFVC funding for the Domestic Violence Workplace Rights and Entitlements Project, with a focus on large-scale employers, which involves:

  • briefing unions and employers nationally on family violence as a workplace issue;
  • promoting the adoption of family violence clauses in enterprise agreements and other workplace instruments;
  • developing with unions and employers a set of model workplace information and training resources for staff, human resources personnel, union delegates and supervisors;
  • producing model domestic violence and the workplace policies and safety plans to assist in the informed introduction of domestic and family violence clauses;
  • surveying union members to provide baseline qualitative and quantitative data on the impact of domestic and family violence in the workplace; and
  • developing a framework for future monitoring and evaluation of the outcomes of introducing domestic violence clauses and other instruments.[51]

14.75 A number of state and territory family violence initiatives have also included an education component about workplace family violence prevention strategies.[52] While stakeholders and commentators have emphasised the need for a national and ongoing community education campaign about the effect of family violence in the workplace, [53] with the exception of the ADFVC project, there has been no systemic Government-funded initiatives to examine or address family violence in the employment context.

14.76 In submissions and consultations, stakeholders suggested initiatives such as:

  • education and training in workplaces around Australia, including by employees, employers, managers and supervisors;
  • development of model policies, guides, guidelines and other resources to complement legislative or workplace entitlements;
  • posters, newsletters, factsheets, online information and advertisements;
  • material relating to risk assessment and safety plans; and
  • additional research into family violence as a workplace issue.[54]

ALRC’s views

14.77 To complement the proposals made by the ALRC in Chapters 14–18, the ALRC considers it is necessary for the Australian Government to initiate a national education campaign in relation to family violence in the employment context.

14.78 The ALRC considers that the project being undertaken by the ADFVC may provide the basis for the development of the campaign, but that a national campaign should be funded by the Australian Government and be based on a coordinated approach involving all key stakeholders and participants in the employment law system, including: employees, employers, government agencies and departments, job services providers, unions, employer organisations, family violence support services and legal services. Bodies such as the FWO, the Equal Opportunity in the Workplace Agency, the AHRC, Safe Work Australia and the OAIC should also play a key role in the campaign.

14.79 The development and delivery of any campaign needs to be tailored to meet the particular needs of employers and businesses of all sizes as well as specific groups within the community.

14.80 While the content of the national education campaign should be developed in consultation with the groups outlined above, the ALRC considers it could encompass:

  • the definition of family violence;
  • the nature, features and dynamics of family violence;
  • barriers to disclosure of family violence;
  • the effect of family violence on job seekers, employees, workplaces and the economy;
  • verification of family violence where necessary to access entitlements; and
  • privacy issues arising from disclosure of family violence.

14.81 It could also include assistance, information and support for:

  • employees experiencing family violence—in particular in relation to the entitlements proposed in Chapters 16 and 17; and
  • employers and employer organisations—with a focus on new responsibilities and obligations arising from proposals in Chapters 16–18, and adapting workplace responses to suit particular business needs and realities.

14.82 The ALRC considers that further work and consultation will be required to establish the most effective approach to national education, training and measures aimed at increase awareness about family violence in the employment context and welcomes stakeholder feedback on this.

Proposal 14–2 The Australian Government should initiate a national education and awareness campaign about family violence in the employment context.

[51] ADFVC, Domestic Violence Workplace Entitlements Project Factsheet.

[52] For example, the Western Australian Government funded Freedom from Fear Campaign Against Domestic Violence, which commenced in 1998; the Northern Territory Government’s Domestic Violence Strategy which was introduced in 1994; and the Victorian Government Safer Streets and Homes Violence Prevention Strategy, which included research on models of family violence workplace prevention strategies: S Murray and A Powell, Working It Out: Domestic Violence Issues in the Workplace (2008) 15–16.

[53] See, eg, C Zufferey and others, ‘Domestic Violence and Multidimensional Factors: Investigating the Impact of Domestic Violence on Women’s Employment, Health and Housing’ (Paper presented at Our Work, Our Lives National Conference, Darwin, 12 August 2010).

[54] Australian Council of Trade Unions, Submission CFV 39, 13 April 2011; Joint submission from Domestic Violence Victoria and others, Submission CFV 22, 6 April 2011; National Network of Working Women’s Centres, Submission CFV 20, 6 April 2011; Women’s Health Victoria, Submission CFV 11, 5 April 2011; Australian Services Union Victorian Authorities and Service Branch, Submission CFV 10, 4 April 2011.