Consistent definition in Commonwealth law
5.27 Chapter 3 considers placing a consistent definition of family violence in the Social Security Act in addition to other Commonwealth legislation. In the ALRC’s view, the definition of family violence in the Guide to Social Security Law should also be amended to reflect this definition, to enhance consistency across the policy and legislative base of the social security system.
5.28 Such a reform would also provide victims with clarity and the certainty that family violence will be recognised and treated similarly across Commonwealth laws. It would provide increased certainty for staff—particularly those who work across legislative regimes, such as Centrelink social workers—and provide a consistent basis for training. Further, a consistent definition across legislation and guidelines may foster a shared understanding across agencies, jurisdictions, courts and tribunals, reflecting the theme of ‘seamlessness’ referred to in Chapter 2.
5.29 In addition, the ALRC recommends that the nature, features and dynamics and the particular impact of family violence on different sectors of society be included in the Guide to Social Security Law. This was supported by most stakeholders. Including a statement of the nature, features and dynamics of family violence in the Guide to Social Security Law would serve an important educative function and provide a contextual basis for screening.Such a measure also complements the recommendations regarding definitions in Chapter 3, by developing a common interpretative framework around family violence across agencies and legal frameworks. As discussed in Chapter 3, the form of the statement should be altered to best suit the presentations of family violence, and the particular risks victims may face, in each particular legal framework.
Recommendation 5–1 The Guide to Social Security Law should include:
- the definition of family violence in Recommendation 3–2; and
- information on the nature, features and dynamics of family violence including the particular impact of family violence on: Indigenous peoples; those from a culturally and linguistically diverse background; those from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex communities; older persons; and people with disability.
5.30 The ALRC recommends that any legislative or policy change should be accompanied with consistent, regular and targeted training for relevant staff. This view was strongly supported by stakeholders who agreed that consistent and regular training on the definition of family violence, including its nature, features and dynamics, should be provided to decision makers. Stakeholders made suggestions as to the manner in which training should be conducted, including:
- drawing on ‘the perspectives, experience and expertise of external stakeholders and client representatives, in addition to direct testing with clients themselves’;
- being informed by feminist principles; and
- employing a principle of trauma-informed care, ‘which takes as its starting point the likely presence and long-term effects of family violence’.
5.31 The NWRN expanded on what should be defined as regular training—‘to occur when policies are changed, for new staff, to accommodate regular internal movement and to refresh skills of existing staff’.
5.32 Beyond the definition and nature, features and dynamics of family violence, family violence affects social security payments and processes in a number of ways. In some circumstances additional training for relevant staff is required to ensure that staff are aware of the ways in which family violence may be relevant to a customer’s social security case. In response to concerns about the resource-intensiveness of providing training to all Centrelink customer service advisers, the ALRC recommends targeted training, including for Centrelink customer service advisers, social workers and specialist officers.
5.33 One stakeholder questioned whether training should be extended to SSAT members as training in relation to legislative amendments is already provided to members. However, the ALRC considers that SSAT and AAT members, as decision makers, should receive such training.
Recommendation 5–2 Centrelink customer service advisers and social workers should receive consistent, regular and targeted training to ensure that the existence of family violence is appropriately and adequately considered at relevant times.
Recommendation 5–3 Social Security Appeals Tribunal and Administrative Appeals Tribunal members should receive consistent, regular and targeted training to ensure that the existence of family violence is appropriately and adequately considered at relevant times.
 Rec 3–1.
 National Legal Aid, Submission CFV 164; National Welfare Rights Network, Submission CFV 150; AASW (Qld) and WRC Inc (Qld), Submission CFV 136; ADFVC, Submission CFV 105; M Winter, Submission CFV 97; Homeless Persons’ Legal Service, Submission CFV 95; Confidential, Submission CFV 90; WEAVE, Submission CFV 85.
 National Legal Aid, Submission CFV 164; National Welfare Rights Network, Submission CFV 150; AASW (Qld) and WRC Inc (Qld), Submission CFV 136; DEEWR, Submission CFV 130; M Winter, Submission CFV 97; Homeless Persons’ Legal Service, Submission CFV 95; Confidential, Submission CFV 90; WEAVE, Submission CFV 85.
 National Welfare Rights Network, Submission CFV 150.
 WEAVE, Submission CFV 85.
 Homeless Persons’ Legal Service, Submission CFV 95.
 National Welfare Rights Network, Submission CFV 150.
 DHS, Consultation, by telephone, 30 September 2011.
 Confidential, Submission CFV 122.