2019 Safer Families Update

06 June 2019

This week I updated the Legislative Assembly through the 2019 Safer Families statement of the significant work that has been undertaken over the last 12 months and since the household levy began back in 2016/17. I’ve provided the statement in full below.

This statement will highlight some of the significant achievements the ACT Government and the community have made over the past twelve months and describe future directions for continuing that work to support women, children and others impacted by family violence and enable them to be safe and to get on with their lives.

In 2016, the ACT Government made an historic funding commitment of
$21.42 million over four years under the ACT Government response to family violence to address domestic and family violence and provide additional supports to families, women and children dealing with the psychological, physical, emotional and financial costs.

The Safer Families Levy, at $30 per household, was introduced to create an ongoing revenue base to fund long-term system reform and service improvements, and it provided offset funding for this first phase of Safer Families Package initiatives. 

First phase Safer Families Package

Since 2016, Safer Families funding has provided additional resourcing for Legal Aid, ACT Policing and the Courts to improve their capacity to help those affected by domestic and family violence to navigate the justice system and to enforce justice responses that keep victims safe. Families and individuals affected by domestic and family violence already experience trauma without the additional stress of navigating a complex and lengthy justice process.

In 2019-20, these initiatives will be in their fourth year of the initial Safer Families funding. These original commitments have helped to improve capacity and integration of necessary supports and services for individuals experiencing domestic and family violence.

The implementation of the Safer Families Package funding also increased resources and capacity for frontline services to meet the increasing demand they were experiencing. This allowed trusted and local specialist domestic and family violence service providers, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service and Canberra Rape Crisis Centre to expand their support to Canberrans.

In addition to increasing the capacity of frontline services, the first phase of the Safer Families Package has given us the opportunity to test new approaches to responding to domestic and family violence.

The Domestic Violence Crisis Service was funded to establish Room4Change,
a therapeutic residential men’s behaviour change program.  

Room4Change is an important new program for the ACT as it has the capacity to support the whole family.  It is one of a small number of residential behaviour change programs nationally.

Room4Change helps men make their own lives better by stopping their use of violence and assisting them to explore what is important for them and their current and future relationships. The program also supports the partners and children to stay safely in the home while men are engaged in the six-month therapeutic program which includes group work, one-on-one case management, and accommodation.

Room4Change is being independently evaluated but is already showing important short-term successes. Since the program began in April 2017 data   shows:

  • 48 men have engaged in the program and 21 were accommodated;
  • 30 men have successfully completed the program; and
  • 41 partners (and/or ex-partners) have accepted partner support, with the support flowing onto their children too. There were 94 children in the families supported by Room4Change.

 As at 6 May this year, other promising signs are that:

  • no men who participated in the program were incarcerated for a domestic and family violence offence;
  • no women were required to leave their home due to domestic and family violence; and
  • Child and Youth Protective Services have not been required to support any children receiving support via Room4Change.

In the first phase of Safer Families, the Government committed $964,000 over four years to establish the program.  From 2019-20 the Government will commit an additional $4.243 million over 4 years to fund the Room4Change program, allowing for a full evaluation of this program after two years and ongoing service delivery.

Coordinator-General for Family Safety

In 2016, the role of Coordinator-General for Family Safety was established to provide strategic leadership and drive whole-of-government collaboration and coordination in our response to domestic and family violence. 

The Coordinator-General also works across government and with the community to develop new policy, services and approaches that address emerging problems and strengthen our capability to address domestic and family violence.

Frontline Worker Training Strategy

The Coordinator-General and her Office have led the development of a comprehensive training strategy to build capability across the ACT Public Service. The Strategy will also embed a focus on domestic and family violence capability into future training of the public service workforce.

Under the strategy, foundation training will be provided to all ACT public servants, with specific training for managers, and with more intensive training for all public service employees in frontline roles.

This strategy was a core commitment from Government to deliver consistent training for all Government frontline workers to ensure that there is a common understanding of what constitutes domestic and family violence and a shared capability to respond effectively and appropriately.

The Office of the Coordinator-General for Family Safety has been leading this delivery in collaboration with an ACT Public Service domestic violence community of practice, representing all ACT directorates.

This newly established ‘community of practice’ is assisting with sharing best practice across Government and ensuring the training meets the needs of the wide variety of different roles, that the levels of training are appropriately targeted for people in both generalist and specialist roles, and that training is consistently delivered across all directorates and ACT Policing.

Foundation training for all ACT public servants and managers will commence in 2019-20, with some frontline roles having already received foundation training in 2018-19.  More intensive training for frontline roles will be delivered in the following years.

There will be two levels of training for frontline staff; Tier 1 for teachers and nurses; and Tier 2 for people in more specialist roles who regularly deal with clients with domestic and family violence and related issues. This includes hospital social workers and tenant support workers.

It is expected that, in total, 21,000 staff will receive the foundation training. In addition to this, 4000 staff in supervisory roles will receive the manager training.  Of the specialist frontline workers, an additional 7,000 will receive Tier 1 training and 6,000 will receive Tier 2 training. 

This is a large and complex undertaking to provide universal training across all ACT Government workplaces. In the first phase of Safer Families the Government allocated $770,000 to frontline worker training, which has paid for the development and testing of the training package for foundation training, managers’ training and Tier 1 and Tier 2.  This funding has also provided for the initial e-launch of foundation training; the development of an evaluation framework and the establishment of a specialist training panel to continuously improve training with best practices and evidence.

From 2019-20 the Government is committing an additional $2.476 million over four years to complete delivery of the strategy and train all 21,000 ACT Government staff.

Delivery of the frontline worker training strategy will continue the ACT Government’s commitment to be a leading employer in supporting employees impacted by domestic and family violence.

Family Safety Hub

The Coordinator-General led a comprehensive co-design process for the Family Safety Hub with people with lived experience, community organisations, crisis services and Government together to identify system gaps and reforms needed and build a robust evidence base for future ACT reform.

The Family Safety Hub is a space for new ideas, a connector for service providers and a champion for change.

The Family Safety Hub draws on existing research and the insights gathered during co-design to understand the barriers, gaps and opportunities for change that exist in the service systems.

Potential solutions progress through the Family Safety Hub’s innovation process – a framework for the development, testing and evaluation of new ideas – through to a prototype or pilot.

The Family Safety Hub tackles a problem at a time and brings together people with expertise and experience to develop new solutions.  The first problem the Family Safety Hub has looked at is improving early intervention for pregnant women and new parents.

This led to the Family Safety Hub’s first pilot program which is a Health Justice Partnership that is providing free and confidential legal advice in health care settings, particularly to vulnerable women who have multiple legal issues.

Evidence shows that one in five women whose partners use violence experience that violence during pregnancy.

Although the pilot is still in the first few months, feedback from our partners is positive and the service is meeting an unmet need, as almost no clients have had legal assistance before.

Around one quarter of clients are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. At one partnership site, 25% of clients have identified as having a mental illness or disability.

In this budget, $300,000 for 2019-20 has been committed to ensure this new legal service for pregnant women experiencing domestic and family violence can continue for another year to provide time to evaluate the service and build system capability.

The Family Safety Hub’s second challenge topic is preventing housing and financial crisis for people leaving a violent relationship. Discovery research identified many barriers, opportunities and service gaps that can lead to crisis.

In early May this year, over 40 people from sectors including: banking; real estate; housing; community services and government; and people with lived experience of domestic and family violence, came together for an intensive workshop to generate and refine ideas that could prevent this crisis. The next stage of this work will take the ideas generated and test their feasibility for becoming pilot projects.

These examples demonstrate the momentum being built through the Family Safety Hub, which has been operating for just over 12 months. In the next 12 months it is expected that the development and delivery of solutions will make an even greater tangible change to the lives of people affected by domestic and family violence.

Safer Families Package Reform

As I mentioned earlier, 2019-20 is the fourth year of funding for the first phase of commitments under the original Safer Families package.  

The cumulative impact of these investments has built an important foundation.  The first phase of Safer Families has strengthened the capacity of frontline services to respond to domestic and family violence, it has improved coordination across Government, built important partnerships with the community sector and tested promising new approaches.  

Some of the early initiatives that have been funded through the Safer Families package will be transitioned out of the package after 2019-20.  During the coming financial year, directorates will be reviewing these initiatives to determine the best approach.

Transitioning these initiatives out of the Safer Families package creates funding capacity for new initiatives. This has also enabled Government to continue and enhance its investment in frontline worker training and the Room4Change program and extend the first Family Safety Hub pilot program for an additional 12 months.

Reviewing the impact of the first phase and reflecting on what has been learnt   over the last three years, has helped inform future priorities for the Safer Families package.

To ensure that Safer Families funding continues to be directed towards the highest priorities and that there is capacity to respond to emerging issues, initiatives will be prioritised that focus on:

  • building whole-of-Government and multi-agency domestic and family violence capacity, capability and infrastructure;
  • improving capacity of front-line domestic and family violence services to meet increased demand; and
  • supporting the testing of new approaches for preventing and addressing domestic and family violence, particularly those generated through the Family Safety Hub.

With those criteria in mind, the Government has invested a total Safer Families Package funding envelope of $24 million over 4 years. Following a community consultation in 2018, the Government has committed $813,000 over four years to develop and implement the ACT Family Violence Death Review, which was a commitment included in the 2016 government response to domestic and family violence. The Review will analyse and report on all domestic and family violence-related deaths and support regular system–wide reviews.  These reports will help us identify the best ways to prevent the deaths from domestic and family violence occurring in the future.

Future work on preventing and responding to family violence for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community will align with the principles of the
ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Agreement 2019-2028 and support self-determination. 

There are two community-led reports that set out priorities for action to address family violence.  They are the We Don’t Shoot Our Wounded (2009) report and the ‘Change our Future - Share what you know’ report from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Forum on Domestic and Family Violence (2017).

In the Budget the Government has committed $354,000 over 4 years to work with representatives from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, including the Elected Body and the Domestic Violence Prevention Council’s new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reference Group to develop specific action in response to the recommendations of these reports and support community-designed responses. 

There is a long way to go to fully realise the objectives outlined by both reports and working with the community to address family violence is now embedded in the Government’s commitment to the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Agreement 2019-2028. Some of the objectives of these reports include improved family-centred supports for those impacted by domestic and family violence, prevention and de-escalation of domestic and family violence, and diverting men who use violence from the justice system, where appropriate, to reduce demand on the Alexander Maconochie Centre.

From the 2018 Domestic Violence Prevention Council’s Extraordinary Meeting on the needs of children and young people affected by domestic and family violence and sexual violence, we heard that children and young people witnessing and experiencing domestic and family violence have special needs and are impacted differently by domestic and family violence than the adults around them. But our current service system and policy responses are not adequately informed by the needs and rights of children and young people.

To ensure that children and young people feature at the heart of service design and delivery responses going forward, the ACT Government is working across directorates to integrate and improve interventions and to improve data collection and monitoring through a coordinated Government Response to the Domestic Violence Prevention Council’s Extraordinary Meeting (2018).

The final report also advised that the needs, experiences and desires of children and young people need to be better understood. This is why a new project has commenced, led by the Family Safety Hub, in conjunction with the ACT Children & Young People Commissioner. This project is engaging with children and young people to gain their insights and to equip the sector to meet and better support their needs.

The Safer Families Package has created more capacity and significantly driven system reform. As new issues and priorities emerge, the Safer Families Package will continue to direct collective efforts to keep families safe and reduce and prevent domestic and family violence. 


For more information on this year’s budget allocation for the Safer Families package, please visit the website at https://apps.treasury.act.gov.au/budget/budget-2019-20/budget-papers  or contact my office.