National education and awareness campaign

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

15.46 As a result, the ALRC recommends that the Australian Government initiate a national education and awareness campaign in relation to family violence and its impact in the employment context. Such a campaign would complement the proposals made by the ALRC in Chapters 15–18 and has received stakeholder support.[47]

15.47 The ALRC considers that such a campaign can play an important role within the framework established by the National Plan.[48] For example, several of the strategies under the National Plan aimed at ensuring that communities are safe and free from violence are relevant in the employment context. They involve, among other things: promoting community ownership and engagement, including by workplaces; promoting ‘positive and equitable workplace cultures’; and developing ‘workplace measures to support women experiencing and escaping’ from family violence.[49]

15.48 The rationale for an ongoing national education and awareness campaign includes:

  • the need for recognition that family violence is a whole-of-government, business and community responsibility;
  • limited current awareness and understanding about family violence as an employment issue in some sections of the community; and
  • the need for awareness and understanding followed by education and training to support rights and entitlements.

15.49 The national campaign should complement rather than substitute the implementation of legislative and workplace entitlements in the course of the other phases outlined in this Report.

Key stakeholders and approaches

15.50 The ALRC considers that a national campaign should be funded by the Australian Government and be based on a coordinated whole-of-government approach involving all key stakeholders and participants in the employment law system, including: employees, employers, unions, employer organisations, government agencies and departments, family violence support services and legal services. Bodies such as the FWO and Safe Work Australia should also play a key role in the campaign.

15.51 Stakeholders have voiced concerns about the lack of government coordination and the short-term focus of current government-funded initiatives in this area. The ALRC emphasises the need for a whole-of-government approach to education and increasing awareness in this area. This approach should be gender-neutral, coordinated, and focused on family violence and its impact in the employment context, as distinct from other forms of violence, bullying or harassment.

15.52 There are a number of key existing Australian approaches which, combined in a coordinated way, could provide a useful basis for the national education and awareness campaign. These include:

  • a rights and entitlements approach—focusing on the development of rights and entitlements as well as best practice guidance material;
  • primary prevention—focusing on changes to attitudes, including through business and industry partnerships and a workplace accreditation framework; and
  • community and business partnerships—focusing on changing workplace attitudes and culture.

15.53 A number of state and territory family violence initiatives have also included education about workplace family violence prevention strategies.[50]

Rights and entitlements approach

15.54 The key example of an existing rights and entitlements approach is the Domestic Violence Workplace Rights and Entitlements Project coordinated by the ADFVC, using funding provided by DEEWR to the Centre for Gender-Related Violence Studies at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) for a period of 18 months. This project involves:

  • briefing unions and employers nationally and promoting the adoption of family violence clauses in enterprise agreements and other workplace instruments;
  • developing model workplace information, policies and plans to assist in the informed introduction of family violence clauses as well as training resources for staff, human resources personnel, union delegates and supervisors;[51]
  • 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 clauses and other instruments.[52]

15.55 The ADFVC’s work creates a solid foundation for ongoing work at a national level in order to implement reforms aimed at addressing family violence and its impact in the employment context. The ALRC considers the ADFVC has the expertise to play a key and ongoing role in any national campaign.

Primary prevention

15.56 In addition to rights and entitlements, and in light of the focus of the National Plan on primary prevention, the ALRC considers that primary prevention based programs and strategies, such as the White Ribbon Workplace Program, could play an important role in any national education and awareness campaign.

15.57 The White Ribbon Campaign is the largest global male-led primary prevention strategy based movement which aims to stop violence against women.[53] In early 2011, White Ribbon received ‘one-off’ funding from the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) through the General Equality for Women program for a period of four years to establish a Workplace Program. The aim of the Workplace Program is to set up a National Business and Industry Partnerships program to work with businesses and industrial organisations. The program aim is to establish and maintain a national workplace approach to creating long-term sustainable change in attitudes to violence and to implement workplace strategies. The program has a number of components, the main goals being to develop: a White Ribbon Workplace Accreditation Framework; Workplace National Recognition Strategy; and Ambassador Program.

15.58 The program also aims to develop an evaluation strategy for monitoring and evaluating development and progress as part of the program. The ALRC understands that White Ribbon is currently in the preliminary stages of developing the program, including through consultation with an established Reference Group.[54]

Community and business partnerships

15.59 The ALRC also considers there is a role for partnership-based approaches and training, such as those advocated by organisations like CEO Challenge, in any national education and awareness campaign.

15.60 By way of example, CEO Challenge is a charity based in Queensland that creates partnerships between businesses and violence prevention services to give stability to women and children fleeing family violence. It provides a range of corporate education and training sessions in recognising and responding to family violence. CEO Challenge does not receive government funding.[55] Through the partnership program, businesses take an active role in providing support and resources to community-based prevention services such as refuges, shelters and offender programs. In return, awareness about the impact of family violence is said to be raised and ‘CEOs and their people become educated to recognise and respond to violence’.[56]

The role of statutory bodies

15.61 Government departments such as DEEWR and FaHCSIA, and statutory bodies such as FWA, FWO, Safe Work Australia and the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) have a key role to play in the campaign. The ALRC makes a number of recommendations about FWA, FWO and Safe Work Australia throughout Part E this Report.

15.62 In addition, the ALRC suggests that EOWA could play an important role in any national education and awareness campaign. EOWA is a statutory authority with a role in administering the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth) and focuses on assisting organisations to achieve equal opportunity for women, including through education.[57] EOWA has a number of initiatives through which it could play a role in any national education and awareness campaign, including:

  • taking family violence-related developments, policies, entitlements and training into account as part of the ‘Employer of Choice’ citation;
  • playing a role in data collection by including family-violence related questions relating to employment initiatives and opinion data in surveys conducted of organisations reporting to EOWA; and
  • conducting research and providing information about family violence as a key issue for women in the workplace.[58]

The role of unions and employer organisations

15.63 Both unions and employer organisations have played, and will play, a crucial role in recognition of family violence and its impact in the employment context.[59] Both have also played an active role in the ALRC’s Inquiry.[60]

15.64 Unions and employer organisations have expressed differing views on many of the issues raised. Some employer organisations have not expressed support for such measures, in large part because family violence was not seen by them as an employment issue.[61] However, many unions and employer organisations have expressed support for non-regulatory measures such as the initiation of a national education and awareness campaign.[62]

Nature of the campaign

15.65 The development and delivery of any national campaign needs to be tailored to meet the particular needs of employees, employers and businesses of all sizes as well as specific groups within the community. The focus of the campaign should be on family violence, as distinct from other forms of violence that may occur in the workplace.[63]

15.66 Stakeholders have outlined a range of initiatives that the ALRC suggests could usefully form part of the national education and awareness campaign, including:

  • education and training in workplaces around Australia, including of employees, employers, and their representatives;
  • development of 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 an employment issue.[64]

15.67 While the content of the national education and awareness campaign should be developed in consultation with stakeholders and involve significant community consultation and involvement, the ALRC suggests 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 employees, workplaces and the economy;
  • responding to disclosures of family violence—both individual and organisational best practice responses;
  • relevant rights and entitlements—both existing and the potential for new entitlements;
  • verification of family violence where necessary to access entitlements; and
  • privacy issues arising from disclosure of family violence.

15.68 It could also include assistance, information and support for particular groups who have specific needs or perspectives such as:

  • employees experiencing family violence;
  • employees generally and their representatives, including unions;
  • employers and employer organisations—with a focus on responding to family violence, including consideration of adapting workplace responses to suit particular business needs and realities; and
  • Indigenous employees and employers, members of culturally and linguistically diverse communities, people with disability and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex community, all of whom may face particular issues with respect to family violence in an employment context.

Recommendation 15–1 The Australian Government should initiate a coordinated and whole-of-government national education and awareness campaign about family violence and its impact in the employment context.

[47] See, eg, Ai Group, Submission CFV 141; ADFVC, Submission CFV 124; ADFVC, Submission CFV 26.

[48] Australian Government, The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women: Immediate Government Actions (2009), 12.

[49] One of the immediate national initiatives to achieve this strategy was to provide funding to the ADFVC, discussed in more detail below. See, National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women, National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children (2010-2022) (2011), Commonwealth of Australia, Outcome One, Strategies 1.1–1.3, 3.1, 4.3.

[50] 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.

[51] See, eg, ADFVC, Domestic Violence and the Workplace: Employee, Employer and Union Resources.

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

[53] White Ribbon, Submission CFV 112.

[54] White Ribbon, Consultation, Sydney, 28 September 2011.

[55] CEO Challenge website <> at 17 November 2011.

[56] CEO Challenge, Partnerships That Work: A Strategic Approach to Corporate-Community Engagement, Booklet, 2.

[57] EOWA, Consultation, Sydney, 10 October 2011; EOWA website < > at 17 November 2011.

[58] EOWA, Consultation, Sydney, 10 October 2011.

[59] The ILO suggests that ‘strong commitment of both trade unions and management is instrumental in progressively reducing the incidence of workplace violence’: ILO (Bureau for Gender Equality), Gender-based violence in the world of work: Overview and selected annotated bibliography, Working Paper 3 (2011), 14.

[60] AFEI, Submission CFV 158; CPSU, Submission CFV 147; Ai Group, Submission CFV 141; ACCI, Submission CFV 128; CCIWA, Submission CFV 123; ASU (Victorian and Tasmanian Authorities and Services Branch), Submission CFV 113; ACTU, Submission CFV 100; Business SA, Submission CFV 98; ACTU, Submission CFV 39; ACCI, Submission CFV 19; ASU (Victorian and Tasmanian Authorities and Services Branch), Submission CFV 10.

[61] AFEI, Submission CFV 158.

[62] Ai Group, Submission CFV 141; ACCI, Submission CFV 128; ASU (Victorian and Tasmanian Authorities and Services Branch), Submission CFV 113; ACTU, Submission CFV 100.

[63] ADFVC, Submission CFV 124.

[64] Ibid; ACTU, Submission CFV 39; Joint submission from Domestic Violence Victoria and others, Submission CFV 22; National Network of Working Women’s Centres, Submission CFV 20; Women’s Health Victoria, Submission CFV 11; ASU (Victorian and Tasmanian Authorities and Services Branch), Submission CFV 10.