The Victorian Family Violence Reforms (VFR) is a unique effort in Australia to build an integrated response to family violence involving a whole range of government agencies.
Prior to the VFR there was no clearly defined family violence service system, however the world practice had shown such integrated systems to be effective in combating family violence.
The VFR was based on a range of prior research and policy development effectively integrating it into one coherent system. Previous efforts to to tackle the issue of family violence in Victoria included The Women's Safety Strategy of 2002-2007, the Victorian Indigenous Family Violence Strategy of 2002 and the allocation of $35 million in 2002 to build a strong response to family violence among others.
Once developed, the FVR demonstrated a number of hallmarks of public sector innovation, the most notable including:
• Putting women and children at the centre: The FVR placed the safety of women and children as paramount providing a different lens with which to view the problem and deliver services. Providing better, more integrated responses to women and children experiencing family violence became the priority due to the overwhelming gendered nature of this human rights violation.
• Achievement of system-wide integration: An integrated multi-faceted whole-of-system approach was designed that sought to embed systemic change that is sustained over the long term.
• Pioneered models of leadership and governance: Broad based leadership across the ministerial and executive levels of government and integrated governance arrangements are critical in delivering the reforms.
The FVR was able to show its effectiveness in a short time. Early findings demonstrate a 212% increase since 2004 in intervention orders sought by Victoria Police and a 178% increase in charges laid. Reporting of family violence also has increased by 22%.
The next stage of the project is to shift focus from the response to family violence - i.e. when it had already occurred - to preventing it happening in the first place. To this effect, A Right to Respect: Victoria's Plan to Prevent Violence against Women 2010-2020 was launched in late 2009. The principal aim of the new plan is to create a cultural and attitudinal change in society to stop family violence from happening.