This section briefly addresses different issues relating to education and training in the context of family violence. Specific training needs are discussed elsewhere in the Consultation Paper. The need for effective training and education is discussed in the context of family violence in Chapter 4 and in relation to federal offences relevant to family violence in Chapter 5. The training of police and prosecutors is discussed in Chapters 5, 6 and 7; proposals for judicial training are made in the context of family law and family violence in Chapter 7 and 8; and training in the context of family dispute resolution is discussed in Chapter 11.
Training is discussed in the context of sexual offences in Chapter 15; in relation to specialist police and prosecutors, inter-sectoral training, and training in interviewing in Chapter 17; and in relation to judicial training on issues relating to sexual offences in Chapter 18.
The Commissions endorse the recommendations made by the National Council, the Chisholm Review and the Family Law Council that there be further training of those in the family law system in relation to family violence, including judicial officers, lawyers and family dispute resolution practitioners.
An issue that has been raised with the Commissions is the need for better training of lawyers at both an undergraduate level and in continuing professional development training. In the Commissions’ view, the curriculum of degree courses in law and continuing professional development frameworks need to be reviewed in order to ensure that issues of family violence are being addressed appropriately.
Proposal 19–14 Australian universities offering law degrees should review their curriculums to ensure that legal issues concerning family violence are appropriately addressed.
Proposal 19–15 Australian law societies and institutes should review continuing professional development requirements to ensure that legal issues concerning family violence are appropriately addressed.
In 2009, the Education Centre Against Violence conducted an audit of domestic and family violence training conducted by government and non-governmental organisations in NSW, as part of the Intersectoral Domestic & Family Violence Education and Training project, established under the NSW government’s new whole of government approach to domestic and family violence in NSW. This audit involved a survey of key agencies of training conducted in those agencies in 2008. The survey was followed by a number of regional cross-sector focus groups on training needs. This audit has not yet been published.
The Commissions are not aware of any similar audits being conducted in other states or territories. The Commissions consider that it is desirable, before implementing any recommendations regarding training, that a national audit of existing family violence training should be conducted, in order to ensure that existing resources are best used, to evaluate whether existing training meets best practice principles, and to promote the development of best practice in training.
Proposal 19–16 The Australian Government and state and territory governments should collaborate in conducting a national audit of family violence training conducted by government and non-governmental agencies, in order to:
(a) ensure that existing resources are best used;
(b) evaluate whether such training meets best practice principles; and
(c) promote the development of best practice in training.
Ensuring that training is effective, and measuring the effectiveness of training, is a challenge. It is essential to ensure that training and education is sensitive, specific, and relevant to the needs of particular stakeholders and that training programs are designed with the ultimate aim of improving service responses to victims of domestic and family violence. In particular, it must recognise the time constraints of those being trained and the aversion to training that can result if training is not appropriately designed. It needs to be ongoing and substantive, rather than superficial. It also needs to be based on solid evidence, and open to diverse viewpoints. The Commissions recognise that calls for further education and training are easy to make, but that ensuring that training is relevant, useful, and has a meaningful impact on behaviour is much more difficult.
The Commissions’ preliminary view is that it is important to propose ways to ensure the quality of training and education. A number of strategies appear necessary to achieve this aim. First, there need to be minimum standards for assessing the quality of family violence training, and training needs to be evaluated according to those standards. In addition, best practice guidelines for quality family violence training—including key issues such as the content, length, and format of such training—should be developed.
Secondly, agencies should conduct an assessment of the training needs of staff, to ensure that training is sensitive and specific to the needs of those being trained. Agencies should also foster training in conjunction with other agencies, to improve the cooperation and collaboration between key players in the legal system.
Thirdly, the Commissions support the strategy of developing a comprehensive professional development framework for professionals working in family violence, as recommended in Time for Action. It also supports proposals for a coordinating body to have a primary role in training and education, either in the form of a National Centre of Excellence (as proposed in Time for Action) or an expert panel and reference group (as recommended by the Family Law Council).
Proposal 19–17 The Australian Government and state and territory governments should ensure the quality of family violence training by:
(a) developing minimum standards for assessing the quality of family violence training, and regularly evaluating the quality of such training in relevant government agencies using those standards;
(b) developing best practice guidelines in relation to family violence training, including the content, length, and format of such training;
(c) developing training based on evidence of the needs of those being trained, with the ultimate aim of improving outcomes for victims; and
(d) fostering cross-agency and collaborative training, including cross-agency placements.
S Stewart (Education Centre Against Violence), Consultation, By telephone, 18 February 2010.