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The fundamentals of family violence practice

The fundamentals of family violence practice

The fundamentals of family violence practice

Legislation, Public Policy Frameworks and Codes

The Family Violence Protection Act 2008 is the main legislation governing family violence in Victoria. The Act recognises that family violence is not just physical in nature; it is also constituted by economic, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse. The three main aims of the Act are to:

  • Maximise the safety of children and adults who have experienced family violence
  • Prevent and reduce the occurrence of family violence 
  • Promote the accountability of perpetrators of such violence and hold them accountable for their actions. 

There have been various amendments to the Family Violence Protection Act since 2008 that have extended its operation, including changes that improve the capacity of organisations to share information that would previously have been prevented by the provisions of the Commonwealth Privacy Act (1988).

The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022 (“The Plan”) outlines the national policy position on reducing violence against women and their children in Australia. The vision of The Plan is for Australian women and their children live free from violence in safe communities.

Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) is an independent, not-for-profit research company established as an initiative under The Plan. ANROWS produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.

Ending family violence – Victoria’s 10 year plan for change outlines the Victorian government’s position on achieving the vision of a Victoria free from family violence by implementing all 227 recommendations of Australia’s first Royal Commission into Family Violence. The 10 year plan was recommended by the Royal Commission and details the desired outcomes of family violence reforms and the initial targets by which progress will be measured. 

The Fourth Action Plan of the 10-year plan was released in August 2019. The Plan identifies the key national priorities for the final quarter of the 10-year plan.

DV Vic’s Code of Practice for Responding to Family Violence acts as a foundation for best practice and service provision in Victoria. The Code of Practice outlines principles and values, including an understanding of the nature and dynamics of family violence and the application of a gendered approach to work in this area. 

The Victorian Police Code of Practice for Investigating Family Violence is the procedural framework for police responses to both victim/survivors and perpetrators. 

Victoria’s family violence risk assessment and risk management framework, now known as the Family Violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework or “MARAM” has been developed in response to recommendation 1 of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. This recommendation called for a comprehensive framework that sets minimum standards and roles and responsibilities for screening, risk assessment, risk management, information sharing and referral throughout Victorian agencies. MARAM is supported by a range of tools and resources.

Capabilities for the Family Violence Workforce

According to the Responding to Family Violence Capability Framework (2017), students and new graduates responding to family violence need to build foundational knowledge across three broad areas:  

  1. Gendered Nature and Prevalence of Family Violence and Sexual Assault;
  2. Dynamics and Impact of Family Violence; and
  3. Family Violence and Diversity.  

Additionally, students and new graduates in specialist family violence agencies need to develop knowledge and skills that demonstrate:

  • Understanding of effective engagement practices with victim survivors of family violence. 
  • Understanding of the rights and entitlements of victim survivors/perpetrators of family violence when interacting with service providers.
  • Understanding of the multiple forms of discrimination and disadvantage experienced by diverse individuals, groups and communities due to the individual and structural power imbalances they face. 
  • Understanding of warning signs and risk indicators of family violence, including indicators specific to children and young people. 
  • Awareness of service options and referral pathways to appropriate services to meet the ongoing needs of victim survivors and/or perpetrators of family violence. 
  • Awareness of a range of advocacy actions that can be applied to identify, implement and secure required reforms. 
  • Understanding of tactics used by perpetrators to avoid accountability, minimise or undermine victim survivor’s experiences of violence and undermine victim survivor’s parenting relationships with their children.

Accessing a Specialist Family Violence Response

A number of organisations have responsibilities to provide a response to those experiencing and perpetrating family violence. The service system continues to be configured as the Royal Commission into Family Violence recommendations are implemented. 

The Lookout’s fact sheet resource Getting Help in Victoria outlines the state wide and local support available to those experiencing or perpetrating family violence in a range of circumstances. These include situations in which the client is:

  • In danger and/or in need of immediate assistance.
  • In crisis but not requiring police involvement. 
  • In need of women’s refuge or crisis accommodation. 
  • Seeking support and information about options and entitlements. 
  • From an Indigenous or culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community and requires specific support.
  • Is a perpetrator seeking to change their behaviour.

Supervising Family Violence Practice

Supervision of family violence practice, particularly for students and new workers, is an essential part of developing the competencies to support individuals subjected to or perpetrating family violence. The three key and overlapping functions of supervision that have been identified by the Australian Association of Social Workers include education, support and accountability. The role of supervisor and supervisee in relation to these three functions is outlined in the table below. 

Overlapping functions of supervision identified by the AASW




1. Education – Attention is focused on developing practice-based knowledge, understanding and skills that will improve the competence of students and graduates as practitioners

Exploration and critical reflection on the practice experience with service users, with a focus on:

  • Impact of the work on the practitioner;
  • Application of theoretical frameworks and practice knowledge
  • Examination of the dynamics and interactions at an interpersonal and structural level
  • Monitoring of the development of knowledge and skills

Reflective practice knowledge and experiences

2. Support – Recognition given to the personal impact that family violence practice can have on practitioners

Exploration of strategies to deal with personal reactions including self-care

Encouragement and validation, working through personal-professional boundaries and recognition of circumstances when external personal assistance may be needed

Identification of how family violence work is affecting them and how their personal reactions are impacting on practice

3. Accountability – Attention is focused on the standards for practice within the organisation and the profession, including accountability for service user outcomes


Lead review of practice alongside the policies and procedures of the organisation and family violence practice standards

Clarifying the role and responsibilities of the family violence practitioner in the organisational context

Managing workload for effective outcomes and attending to organisational record-keeping practices.

Facilitating and mediating consideration of the broader professional, inter-organisational, political and legislative context of the family violence field of practice

Promoting compliance and identifying any systemic change required

Identification of any concerns that arise as a result of practice in the organisation

Next: Orientation to family violence practice

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