Integrated responses in the context of family violence

29.11 Integrated responses to family violence in Australia have flourished in the past decade. The most comprehensive responses operate in the smaller jurisdictions of the ACT and Tasmania, combining both policy and operational elements. In Victoria, a broader policy response has been initiated, with funding for smaller-scale local partnerships as part of an Integrated Family Violence Service program. In other Australian jurisdictions, the focus has been on small-scale projects. The following is a brief overview of the large-scale projects, and notable smaller-scale projects, in each Australian jurisdiction.[11]

Australian Capital Territory

29.12 The Family Violence Intervention Program (FVIP) is a coordinated criminal justice response established in 1998, following recommendations of the ACT Community Law Reform Committee in 1995.[12] It includes most of the key elements of the Duluth model. Its focus is the criminal justice system in the context of family violence. The FVIP operates within the context of an overarching ACT Government policy framework oriented towards the safety of women and children.[13]

29.13 The FVIP has no legislative basis and operates under protocols established in 1998 and under a 2006 Memorandum of Agreement. The key agencies involved are the Australian Federal Police (ACT Policing); Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP); ACT Magistrates Court; ACT Corrective Services; Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS); Office for Children, Youth and Family Support; the Department of Justice and Community Safety; and the Office of the Victims of Crime Coordinator.

29.14 At the policy level, the FVIP is steered by a coordinating committee chaired by the Victims of Crime Coordinator (acting as the Domestic Violence Project Coordinator).[14] The role of the committee is to act as the forum for discussion about strategic planning and coordination, as well as policy and procedural frameworks.

29.15 The core components of the FVIP are:

  • pro-charge, pro-arrest policies with a presumption against bail;

  • early provision of victim support (by DVCS);

  • pro-prosecution policies;

  • coordination and case management; and

  • an offender program as a sentencing option.[15]

29.16 Under the FVIP, police are encouraged to lay charges and arrest offenders when they are called to an incident. They are trained in evidence collection methods particular to family violence and equipped with Family Violence Investigation Kits. DVCS workers are contacted to attend all family-violence related incidents and offer victim support services at the time of the incident, as well as ongoing victim support. The police identify all family violence incidents and these are transferred to a specialist list for family violence matters in the Magistrates Court.

29.17 The ODPP is responsible for prosecuting offences and their policy is to continue prosecutions even where victims are reluctant or give unfavourable evidence. Evidence is disclosed earlier, in line with a practice direction, and all pre-trial matters are managed by a single magistrate, although trials are heard by other magistrates in the court. If a person is found guilty, the usual result is the imposition of a good behaviour bond with a number of conditions, and may include a mandated referral to a behaviour change program for offenders run by ACT Corrective Services.

29.18 The FVIP was implemented in phases, and a key feature is the periodic evaluation of the program. The evaluations indicate that the FVIP has helped to establish better relations between agencies; has contributed to victim safety and protection; has contributed to offender accountability by ensuring incidents are charged and processed in court; and has implemented practices to improve and develop the program.[16]

New South Wales

29.19 In New South Wales, integrated responses to family violence have tended to be localised, smaller-scale and focused on service delivery. These projects include:

  • Mt Druitt Family Violence Response and Support Strategy;

  • Canterbury Bankstown Inter-Agency Domestic Violence Response Team;

  • Green Valley Domestic Violence Service;

  • Domestic Assault Response Team (Tuggerah Lakes);

  • Domestic Violence Intervention Response Team (Brisbane Waters);

  • Staying Home Leaving Violence (Bega and East Sydney);

  • Operation Choice (Shoalhaven and Lake Illawarra);

  • Manning/Great Lakes Police and Women’s Refuge Partnership Against Domestic Violence Project; and

  • Domestic Violence Intervention Court Model (Wagga Wagga and Campbelltown) (discussed in Chapter 32).[17]

29.20 Some of these, such as the Domestic Violence Intervention Response Team, involve police referring victims to victim support workers. The Green Valley project refers victims of family violence to a specialist team of family violence, drug and alcohol and child protection workers located within NSW Health, and also facilitates applications for housing.

29.21 The Wyong and Tuggerah Lakes Domestic Assault Response Team (DART) combines police and Community Services caseworkers. When police apply for a protection order in relation to family violence, the DART is alerted and performs an extensive background check on the parties, including any child protection interventions and outcomes and current or pending Family Court orders. The police conduct home visits or contact victims and, if children are involved, a DART caseworker also comes to explain child protection issues and make appropriate referrals. In joint meetings between Community Services and police, high-risk families are identified for support through ‘intensive case management’.[18]

29.22 In 2007, an independent review emphasised the need for coordination in the delivery of services in relation to family violence in NSW.[19] This has led to the establishment of both a centralised Violence Prevention Coordination Unit (VPCU) within the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, and an expert advisory committee, the Premier’s Council on Preventing Violence against Women. The VPCU and the Premier’s Council are currently developing a Strategic Framework for addressing family violence in NSW, which is likely to strengthen inter-agency responses.[20]

Northern Territory

29.23 In the Northern Territory, the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council (NPY Women’s Council) has established the Cross Borders Domestic Violence Service, which covers a remote area crossing the borders of the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. It provides access to medical and legal services, and also focuses on the development of inter-agency protocols.[21]

Queensland

29.24 In 2009, Queensland released a whole of government strategy for addressing family violence.[22] This focused on five areas of reform: prevention; early identification and intervention; connected victim support services; perpetrator accountability; and system planning and coordination.[23] It also included a focus on improving integrated responses.[24] As part of the Queensland Government’s 2009–10 program of action, one key measure is to test an enhanced integrated response in Rockhampton comprising: case management services for those with multiple support needs; a specialised court program; enhanced legal services; offender programs; community awareness raising and capacity building of the service sector.[25]

29.25 A long-running integrated response in Queensland is the Gold Coast Domestic Violence Integrated Response (GCDVIR), a community-based program that has been operating since 1996. It has a coordinating committee with representatives from family violence centres and shelters; police; the Gold Coast Hospital; the Southport Magistrates Court; Legal Aid; the offenders’ program service provider; and government departments for corrective services, justice, child safety, community services, and housing.

29.26 The GCDVIR has developed a number of programs, including:

  • the Police Fax Back Project;

  • Domestic Violence Court Assistance Program: a secure and specially designed family violence office at the Southport Magistrates Court, staffed by the Domestic Violence Prevention Centre Gold Coast Inc (DVPC), which provides victim support, information and advocacy;

  • Mandated Men’s Program: a 24-week court-ordered family violence program for offenders, run collaboratively by Community Correction Southport and DVPC;

  • the Safety First Project: a service where basic information and a comprehensive risk assessment about women leaving refuges is faxed to the DVPC for quicker access to its services;

  • inter-agency protocols on communication and inter-agency training; and

  • development of family violence resources.[26]

29.27 Townsville and Thuringowa in northern Queensland have developed an integrated response to family violence, known as Dovetail. Government partners include Centrelink, Corrective Services, Department of Child Safety, Department of Communities and Department of Housing. Dovetail partners also include the legal sector—Family Court, Legal Aid, Legal Services, Townsville Magistrates Court—as well as the police; city councils; and non-government services, including the North Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service, Salvation Army, and women’s services.[27]

29.28 These agencies commit to key principles and goals, including the development of protocols for all services, and monitoring of the legislation and family violence systems. Agencies meet regularly and monitor relevant programs, which include fax-back protocols with the police; court support; and offender programs.

29.29 The Logan River Valley Integrated Community Response to Domestic Violence Group Fax-Back Project also provides a fax-back process in that region.[28]

South Australia

29.30 The South Australian Government, as part of its Women’s Safety Strategy and Keeping them Safe—Child Protection Agenda, piloted the Family Safety Framework (FSF) in Holden Hill, the South Coast Local Service area and the Far North Local Service Area between late 2007 and 2008.

29.31 The FSF involves an inter-agency agreement on key principles and is focused on targeting high risk families for risk assessment by a local Family Safety Meeting, attended by a range of agencies. The sharing of information in that meeting is governed by a specially developed Information Protocol, and an Action Plan is prepared for each referral. The agencies involved in the Protocol include the police, a range of government departments, and non-government family violence services. No additional funding was allocated to agencies.

29.32 The FSF was evaluated in November 2008 and was found to have achieved improved responses to victims and their children and enhanced victim safety and reduced re-victimisation.[29] In October 2009, the FSF was expanded to three other regions.[30]

Tasmania

29.33 Tasmania has implemented ‘Safe at Home’, an integrated whole of government criminal justice response to family violence. Safe at Home comprises 16 funded initiatives across the Departments of Justice; Police and Public Safety; Health and Human Services; and Premier and Cabinet. Part of the response included the reforms that led to the Family Violence Act 2004 (Tas). The Department of Justice is responsible for its implementation; a Statewide Steering Committee chaired by the Department of Premier and Cabinet is responsible for high level issues including resource distribution; and an Inter-Departmental Committee chaired by the Department of Justice is responsible for operational planning and development, supported by Regional Coordinating Committees.[31]

29.34 In respect of police, initiatives include a Family Violence Response and Referral Line, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and refers callers either to police, counselling or support services; specialist Victim Safety Response Teams (VSRT) in each policing district; and specialist police prosecutors. Police attending family violence incidents play a key role in identifying the presence of family violence; administering risk assessment tools; and entering a Family Violence Management System report which is quality assured by a VSRT or supervising Sergeant. Operational police also issue police-initiated Family Violence Orders, apply for Family Violence Orders, determine bail, and prepare oppositions to bail. Police are also responsible for notifying Children and Family Services if a child is affected by family violence.[32]

29.35 There are weekly Integrated Case Coordination (ICC) meetings attended by relevant agencies to consider all new and ‘active’ family violence cases in each policing district, supported by an ICC database linking police and Department of Justice databases.[33]

29.36 Victim support is provided by a Court Support and Liaison Service, a Child Witness Service and a Special Needs Liaison Service, which provide support to victims, children and people with special needs such as drug and alcohol problems. In addition, there is a specialist Children and Young Person’s Program counselling service. For offenders, there is a Family Violence Offender Intervention Program.

29.37 Specific additional funding has been provided for legal aid, the Tasmanian Magistrates Court and the Department responsible for child protection. There has also been specific funding for alternative accommodation for offenders removed from their homes,[34] and for the Ya Pulingina Kani Aboriginal Advisory Group, to advise on the most culturally appropriate ways to manage Indigenous offenders and provide support to victims.

29.38 The Safe at Home initiative was independently reviewed in June 2009.[35] The review found evidence that the objectives were being achieved, but made 37 recommendations for improvement, including: the adoption of family safety as a unifying paradigm; a strengthened risk assessment program; a Victims’ Rights Charter; case management for high-risk offenders; establishment of a specialist family violence court and use of specialist prosecutors; and improved support for child witnesses.

Victoria

29.39 In 2002, the Victorian Government established a Statewide Steering Committee to Reduce Family Violence, including representatives from police, government departments, family violence services, the courts, peak bodies for family violence, support organisations for sexual assault victims, the No to Violence Male Family Violence Prevention Association, legal services and the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation.[36] This Committee advised on the need for, and developed a model for, an integrated response in Victoria. The Government also established an Indigenous Family Violence Task Force in 2002, which reported in 2003.[37]

29.40 Since 2005, the Victorian Government has invested $140 million in whole of government policies to address violence against women.[38] These initiatives include:

  • reforms to family violence and sexual offences legislation, based on the recommendations in two reports of the Victorian Law Reform Commission;[39]

  • a new Code of Practice and five-year strategy plan for the Victorian police in respect of family violence;[40]

  • the establishment of specialist family violence courts, as well as sexual assault lists and prosecution teams and multi-disciplinary sexual assault centres;

  • the provision of counselling and offender treatment programs in the context of family violence and sexual assault;

  • the establishment and funding of a child witness service;

  • funding for the Department of Human Services to develop partnerships with community and local organisations to provide integrated services such as housing, counselling and treatment programs (known as the Integrated Family Violence Service program);

  • the development of a comprehensive risk assessment framework and tools;[41] and

  • ten-year plans to: address Indigenous family violence;[42] prevent violence against women;[43] and the forthcoming Strategic Framework for Family Violence Reform 2010–2020 to build on existing reforms for the handling of family violence.

29.41 The Integrated Family Violence Service program includes common risk assessment tools, protocols, and accreditation and funding for specialist family violence services according to a Code of Practice.[44]

29.42 One notable multi-agency local project in Victoria is the Violence Against Women Integrated Services Partnership project in Warrnambool. The key focus of this partnership has been the establishment of protocols responding to family violence with the police, the Magistrates’ Court, Accident and Emergency Department at South West Healthcare, Emma House Domestic Violence Services and the Salvation Army. These partners refer victims, with their consent, to Emma House, through a fax-back service. Services such as counselling, referrals to mental health and sexual assault services, and a children’s worker are provided. The Salvation Army provides emergency accommodation for offenders; the Warrnambool Magistrates’ Court operates a special family violence list to enable victim support on-site; the RSPCA provides emergency accommodation for pets; and the partnership meets monthly to discuss broader strategic issues.[45]

Western Australia

29.43 In Western Australia, an integrated response is developing through whole of government strategic plans to address family violence, developed and implemented by a Senior Officers’ Group, consisting of senior state and Australian Government departmental representatives as well as the community sector. As part of the 2004–08 plan, the Western Australian Government developed specialist Family Violence Courts and protocols between the police and child protection authorities.[46]

29.44 The 2009–13 plan commits to a range of initiatives, including a focus on prevention and early intervention strategies; and a ‘statewide integrated response’ for victims of family violence, including an accessible, integrated 24-hour response throughout the state.[47]

29.45 There are two notable local multi-agency projects in Western Australia. The first inter-agency model adopted in Western Australia was the Armadale Domestic Violence Intervention Project (ADVIP), established in 1993. It includes representatives from the police, women’s refuges, community corrections, the hospital and Curtin University. Fortnightly Core Group meetings are held to discuss problems in specific cases and to coordinate interventions in particular cases, while monthly meetings of the Inter-agency Safety Committee focus on broader systemic issues.[48] An accountability audit has been conducted of the ADVIP.[49]

29.46 Domestic Violence Advocacy Support Central in Perth provides a ‘one stop shop’ for family violence services, through the co-location of refuge, legal, family support, police and counselling services. The agencies involved include Orana Women’s Refuge, Legal Aid, Police and Department for Community Development, with visiting sessions from Centrecare and the Domestic Violence Children’s Counselling Service.[50]

[11] Descriptions of these projects are usefully compiled by the Australian Domestic Violence Clearinghouse in its Good Practice Database: see Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse, Good Practice Database <www.austdvclearinghouse.unsw.edu.au/good_practice.html> at 11 January 2010.

[12] Community Law Reform Committee of the Australian Capital Territory, Domestic Violence, Report 9 (1995).

[13] ACT Government, Justice, Options and Prevention: Working to Make the Lives of ACT Women Safe (2003).

[14] The Domestic Violence Project Coordinator is a statutory appointment under the Domestic Violence Agencies Act 1986 (ACT), and the Victims of Crime Coordinator is a statutory appointment under the Victims of Crime Act 1994 (ACT).

[15] See Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse, Good Practice Database <www.austdvclearinghouse.unsw.edu.au/good_practice.html> at 11 January 2010.

[16] See Urbis Keys Young, Evaluation of the ACT Family Violence Intervention Program Phase II (2001).

[17] The projects are listed in NSW Ombudsman, Domestic Violence: Improving Police Practice (2006), 47. The Commissions are aware that other arrangements may apply informally, such as a protocol for expediting information exchange in family violence matters on the Katoomba and Lithgow circuit of the Local Court, which developed from a court users’ meeting.

[18] Ibid, 50–51. Child protection is discussed in Chs 19–20.

[19] ARTD Consultants, Report on Coordinating NSW Government Action Against Domestic and Family Violence (2007), prepared for the Department of Premier and Cabinet (NSW).

[20] Office For Women’s Policy (NSW), Discussion Paper on NSW Domestic and Family Violence Strategic Framework (2008).

[21] Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council, NPYWC Domestic Violence Service (2010) <www.waru.org/organisations/npywc/npy_domestic.php> at 30 January 2010.

[22] Queensland Government, For Our Sons and Daughters: A Queensland Government Strategy to Reduce Domestic and Family Violence 2009–2014 (2009).

[23] Ibid, 8–9.

[24] Ibid, 11.

[25] Queensland Government, For Our Sons and Daughters: A Queensland Government Strategy to Reduce Domestic and Family Violence Program of Action 2009–2010 (2009), 5. The specialised court in Rockhampton is described in Ch 32.

[26] Domestic Violence Prevention Centre Gold Coast, Domestic Violence Prevention Centre Gold Coast <www.domesticviolence.com.au/GoldCoastPartnerships.htm#overview> at 2 February 2010.

[27] Northern Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service, Dovetail <www.nqdvrs.org.au/Dovetail.htm> at 11 January 2010.

[28] Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse, Good Practice Database <www.
austdvclearinghouse.unsw.edu.au/good_practice.html> at 11 January 2010.

[29] J Marshall, E Ziersch and N Hudson, Family Safety Framework: Final Evaluation Report (2008), prepared for the Office of Crime Statistics and Research (SA).

[30] Office for Women (SA), Women’s Safety Strategy <www.officeforwomen.sa.gov.au/index
.php?section=970> at 2 February 2010.

[31] Successworks, Review of the Integrated Response to Family Violence: Final Report (2009), 19–20.

[32] Ibid, 12.

[33] Funding has been provided for an Integrated Case Coordination Management System as the next stage: Ibid, 13.

[34] Ibid, 15. However, this funding was returned from the contracted non-government service provider as the service was unsuccessful.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Department of Human Services (Vic), Changing Lives—A New Approach to Family Violence in Victoria (2007).

[37] Victorian Indigenous Family Taskforce, Final Report (2003).

[38] Office of Women’s Policy (Vic), Right to Respect: Victoria’s Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women 2010–2020 (2009), 4. These strategies involve the Minister for Housing and Minister for Local Government; the Minister for Women’s Affairs; the Attorney-General; the Minister for Police and Emergency Services; and the Minister for Community Services and Children.

[39] Victorian Law Reform Commission, Review of Family Violence Laws: Report (2006); Victorian Law Reform Commission, Sexual Offences: Final Report (2004).

[40] Victoria Police, Living Free from Violence, Upholding the Right: Victoria Police Strategy to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children 2009–2014 (2009); Victoria Police, Code of Practice for the Investigation of Family Violence (2005).

[41] Government of Victoria, Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management: Supporting an Integrated Family Violence Service System (undated).

[42] Aboriginal Affairs Victoria, Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families: Towards a Safer Future for Indigenous Families and Communities, 2nd ed (2008).

[43] Office of Women’s Policy (Vic), Right to Respect: Victoria’s Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women 2010–2020 (2009).

[44] Children Youth and Families (Vic), Integrated Family Violence (2008).

[45] Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse, Good Practice Database <www.
austdvclearinghouse.unsw.edu.au/good_practice.html> at 11 January 2010.

[46] Department for Child Protection (WA), WA Strategic Plan for Family and Domestic Violence 2009–2013 (2009).

[47] Ibid.

[48] E Pence, S Mitchell and A Aoina, Western Australian Safety and Accountability Audit of the Armadale Domestic Violence Intervention Project (2007), prepared for the Department for Communities (WA).

[49] Ibid.

[50] Legal Aid Western Australia, Domestic Violence Advocacy Support Central (2006) <www.legalaid.wa
.gov.au/annualreport/section1/7dvasc.html> at 2 February 2010.