Lived experience must inform next National Plan, victim-survivors reveal in new report from Monash University

Monash University

Monash University

The views and insights of 80 domestic and family violence victim-survivors aiming to inform and influence the next iteration of the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children have been released in an extensive report led by Monash University.

Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre researchers were contracted by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services to undertake key elements of the federal government’s consultation for the next National Plan, to ensure victim-survivor advocates had a dedicated opportunity to have input into its development, delivery and governance.

The Monash report, released late last week by the federal government, revealed a number of areas of focus for consideration, including embedding lived experience into the governance of the next plan, consulting with First Nations communities, genuine bipartisan commitment and funding, addressing gender inequality, developing consistent responses to violence, measuring success and community awareness campaigns.

It also identified areas of improvement across services such as Centrelink, GPs and hospital staff, housing, the justice system, courts and child protection services.

The National Plan is the overarching strategy in Australia to address family, domestic and sexual violence nationally.

The next plan will follow on from the current National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022, which was released in February 2011 and has a 12-year mandate.

A draft of the next National Plan was released in January 2022. There is currently no date provided for when the final plan will be released.

Highlighting the significance of the report, lead author Associate Professor Kate Fitz-Gibbon said: “Violence against women is a national crisis in Australia. As the federal government develops its strategy to guide national policy for the next decade it is essential that this is informed by the experience and expertise of victim-survivors. This report provides one mechanism for this to occur.”

The report contains more than 50 findings reflecting victim-survivor advocates’ views on the key desired outcomes under the next National Plan.

The importance of system reform is weaved throughout the report. Report co-author Dr Ellen Reeves said: “At the forefront of this report is the need for system responses that are trauma-informed and take an individualised approach. Victim-survivors have made it abundantly clear that a ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ is unsafe. Trauma-informed practice must shape service delivery, ensuring that victim-survivors feel safe, supported and believed at every point of contact with the system.”

The report highlighted victim-survivor advocates’ concerns that the next National Plan would not result in meaningful action and would represent another missed opportunity by government to take men’s violence against women seriously.

Reflecting on the urgent need for action, Associate Professor Fitz-Gibbon said: “Throughout the consultation we heard from numerous victim-survivors advocates who have been failed by the current systems and structures in place to respond to domestic, family and sexual violence. The status quo is unacceptable and has been for a long time. This report sets an agenda for reform that is underpinned by lived experience.”

The report findings also emphasised the need for a commitment to individualised and trauma-informed responses, a shift away from siloed systems, a commitment to addressing women’s economic insecurity, the need for system-wide training and education, improved data collection, and the value of learning from localised and community-based initiatives.

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