National framework to address domestic and family violence
Australia's framework to address domestic and family violence is contained
in the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022
(National Plan). This chapter outlines the development and content of the National
Plan and the progress made with its implementation and evaluation.
The National Plan
The Commonwealth Government delivers some support and services to women
who have experienced violence, including through family law, legal assistance,
the social security system and some grants funding. State and territory
governments have responsibility for delivering a range of services including
justice, policing and legal assistance for victims and perpetrators. They also
fund and coordinate many services provided by the non-government sector.
All governments have recognised that, despite responsibility for the
delivery of various services being divided between the Commonwealth and state
and territory jurisdictions, a national, coordinated approach is fundamental to
making sustained and meaningful progress in this area. The Commonwealth Government
has worked with state and territory governments to develop and deliver the
National Plan, which was endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments
(COAG) and released in February 2011.
The purpose of the National Plan is:
[T]o provide a coordinated framework that improves the scope,
focus and effectiveness of governments' actions, ensuring women and their children
receive the support and information they need.
Background to the National Plan
The National Plan was developed from a recommendation made by the
Commonwealth's National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their
Children (National Council), which was initiated by the Commonwealth in 2007.
The National Council undertook national consultation on how to address
domestic and family violence, by engaging with over 2,000 people in every state
and territory, conducting expert roundtable discussions and interviews with
victims and perpetrators of violence. The National Council also received over
The National Council's 2009 report Time for Action recommended the
development of a long-term national plan to reduce domestic and family violence,
which should be formulated through and agreed to by COAG.
While the National Plan was being developed, in 2009 the Commonwealth
undertook some immediate actions recommended by A Time for Action,
including: funding the national helpline, 1800-RESPECT, for victims of domestic
and family violence; allocating $26 million for primary prevention
activities, including $9 million for the respectful relationships program for
school age young people and $17 million for social marketing focused on
changing attitudes and behaviours; $3 million to support research on
perpetrator treatment; and establishing a national scheme for the registration
of domestic and family violence orders.
The National Plan's aims and
The National Plan's overall aim is to change social attitudes about
violence against women and their children to reduce domestic and family
violence over the long term. The National Plan states that:
It is the first plan to coordinate action across
jurisdictions. It is the first to focus strongly on prevention. It is the first
to look to the long term, building respectful relationships and working to
increase gender equality to prevent violence from occurring in the first place.
It is the first to focus on holding perpetrators accountable and encourage
The National Plan sets out six national outcomes:
communities are safe and free from violence
relationships are respectful
Indigenous communities are strengthened
services meet the needs of women and their children experiencing
justice responses are effective
perpetrators stop their violence and are held to account.
Underpinning these outcomes is the intention that all Australian governments
will build the evidence base about domestic and family violence because:
...data relating to violence against women and their children
in Australia is poor. Data on services sought by, and provided to, victims is
not readily available, and the way in which information is reported is
generally inconsistent and does not allow for a comprehensive understanding of
violence against women.
The National Plan sets out a framework for coordination of Commonwealth
and state and territory responsibilities. Under the National Plan, all states
and territories are responsible for developing their own strategies and
jurisdiction-specific programs to tackle domestic and family violence (see
Figure 1: Responsibility for domestic and family violence
policy in Australia
Acknowledging jurisdictional work
Since the development of the National Plan the committee notes that some
states and territories have established various bodies specifically tasked with
inquiring into the prevalence and effects of domestic and family violence, and
how policy and legal frameworks can address this problem.
Some examples are the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence
set up by the Queensland government in September 2014 and chaired by the
Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO, which released its final report on
28 February 2015.
In January 2015, the Victorian government established a Royal Commission into
The Victorian Government has also appointed a Minister for the
Prevention of Family Violence.
In March 2015, the NSW Government appointed a Minister for the Prevention of
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
Reinforcing the need for all levels of government to work together, on
28 January 2015, the Prime Minister noted that the 2015 COAG agenda will
address the problem of violence against women at a national level:
All governments are determined to eliminate violence against
women. Continued collaboration between the Commonwealth and the States and
territories is crucial in achieving that objective.
To advise COAG, the Prime Minister has established an advisory panel on
violence against women which will be chaired by former Victorian Police
Commissioner Mr Ken Lay, with Australian of the Year, Ms Rosie Batty, and CEO
of Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety (ANROWS),
Heather Nancarrow, as Deputy Chairs. The experts included in the panel
have been nominated by each state and territory and have specialised knowledge
across domestic and family violence, sexual assault, online safety, violence
within Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and
people with disabilities.
The committee understands that the panel has met a number of times, and
that the Chair and Deputy Chairs presented the panel’s first of three reports
to COAG on 23 July 2015.
Phases of the National Plan
The National Plan sets out a 12-year framework from 2010 to 2022 to
reduce domestic and family violence in Australia. The 12 year timeline is
divided into four three-year Action Plans with specific aims and
outcomes (Figure 2).
This approach will enable governments to monitor the implementation and
progress of individual three-year Action Plans, and so the development of
future policy is informed by emerging evidence.
The First Action Plan 2010-13
The First Action Plan focused on establishing the groundwork for the
implementation of the National Plan, pursuing some short-term actions to
address the causes and effects of violence against women, as well as putting in
place strategic projects and actions to drive long-term change.
Figure 2: The Four Stages of the National Plan to Reduce
Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022
To support the existing services for women who have experienced
violence, which is mainly delivered by the states and territories, the
Commonwealth Government provided early funding under the National Plan for some
measures, described above. The Commonwealth Government has also funded a number
of other initiatives to reduce domestic and family violence – many of which are
focussed on primary prevention, early intervention and building the evidence
base - to reduce violence against women and reduce the strain on services in
the medium to long term. These include Our Watch,
and The Line.
The Commonwealth has also funded DV-alert a national provider of training on
domestic and family violence awareness and response for frontline community
The Second Action Plan 2013-16
The Second Action Plan was released by the Prime Minister on 27 June
2014. It builds on the foundation of the First Action Plan by:
...increasing community involvement in actions that will
prevent the violent crimes of domestic and family violence and sexual assault.
It will focus on women and communities that have diverse experiences of
violence, on strengthening and integrating services and systems, and on
improving responses to perpetrators across the country.
The Commonwealth Government allocated more than $100 million over
four years to support the Second Action Plan, including:
$3.35 million for CrimTrac to develop and test a prototype for a
National Domestic Violence Order (DVO) Scheme to strengthen the identification
and enforcement of DVOs across state and territory borders;
$1.7 million to take the next steps in developing a national data
collection and reporting framework by building a more consistent basis from
which to gather, analyse and use data on all aspects of violence against women
and their children. This includes $300,000 for the Australian Bureau of
Statistics to augment data sets on victims and offenders;
More than $1 million for 1800-RESPECT, Australia's first national
professional telephone and online counselling service, to expand its service.
The funding for 1800-RESPECT is in addition to the government's investment of
$28 million over the next four years to support existing services.
The measures contained in the Second Action plan have the support of all
states and territories.
Governance, implementation and
evaluation of the National Plan
The National Plan sets out a governance structure for its implementation
and evaluation (Figure 3). Relevant Commonwealth and state and territory
ministers are responsible for overseeing the implementation of the National
Plan, monitoring progress and developing further Action Plans.
Figure 3: Governance Structure of the National Plan
The National Plan Implementation Panel (NPIP) was intended to report to ministers
on emerging issues to inform the evaluation of Action Plans and the development
of future subsequent Action Plans.
The National Plan described the NPIP as including:
...government and non‐government
representatives, such as leading researchers, practitioners and community representatives.
However, the committee understands the NPIP has been discontinued which
has led to some confusion among stakeholders, as discussed below.
The National Plan included provision for the development of a National
Implementation Plan for each of the three-year Action Plans to identify key
national priorities to be targeted as the goals of each Action Plan. The
Implementation Plan for the First Action Plan was developed by all Australian
governments and was released by COAG's Select Council on Women's Issues in
The National Implementation Plan will be supplemented by implementation
plans made by every jurisdiction, outlining the actions being taken locally.
These will all be made available on the relevant jurisdictional department website
...reflect best practice reforms already underway in each
jurisdiction or new initiatives being undertaken. In addition, the
jurisdictional implementation plans will reflect on the initiatives being
undertaken by states and territories that support key national priorities.
States and territories will be undertaking initiatives that are tailored and
responsive to local needs.
Under the National Plan, all states and territories are obliged to
monitor progress against National Plan priorities and to provide an annual
report to COAG outlining the progress they have made against the national and
jurisdictional Implementation Plans. These jurisdictional annual reports will
be submitted to COAG by COAG's Select Council on Women's Issues.
On 29 June 2015, Commonwealth, state and territory ministers endorsed
the 2014-15 Annual Progress Report on the Second Action Plan which reviewed the
collective efforts of governments to address violence against women and their
Actions undertaken from 2010 to 2012 by all governments in relation to
the National Plan were reported in the first Progress Report to COAG, published
In May 2014, the Department of Social Services published a Progress
Review of the First Action Plan,
which 'took stock' of progress made and informed the development of the Second
The Commonwealth also commissioned Health Outcomes International, a
private consultancy firm, to develop an Evaluation Plan for the National Plan,
which was launched on 3 June 2014. The Evaluation Plan stated that
the evaluation of progress of the National Plan would include the following
review of Action Plans, including consultations with stakeholders
to analyse key achievements, barriers to progress and emerging issues;
publicly available annual progress reporting, informed by
Commonwealth and state and territory governments, and the non-government
evaluation of flagship activities in line with the Evaluation
Plan, including ANROWS, Our Watch, 1800-RESPECT, The Line, and projects
undertaken by Our Watch; and
underpinning evaluation activities through the analysis of
available data sources on reducing violence, including national surveys, the
National Data Collection and Reporting Framework, and state and territory-based
data, as well as the activities of ANROWS and Our Watch initiatives.
Support for the National Plan
The National Plan was universally supported by submitters and witnesses
to the inquiry, who saw it as a positive step towards eliminating violence
against women and their children, including domestic and family violence.
For example, Dr Mayet Costello, Research Manager, ANROWS, told the
committee the National Plan demonstrated that all Australian governments were
committed to addressing the issue of violence against women:
In the context of what we see as the role of the federal
government, ANROWS did want to commend the national plan and commend the
leadership and the bipartisan approach from all states, territories and the
Commonwealth in continuing to support the national plan. As you probably know,
the second action plan...has been strongly supported by all state, territory and
Commonwealth governments. We think that is a great step in terms of
demonstrating that leadership and demonstrating a consistent and coherent
approach to violence against women. At least, it is a start on the right step.
Ms Irene Verins, Manager, Mental Wellbeing, Victorian Health Promotion
Foundation (VicHealth), highlighted the importance of a long-term, national
approach to tackling domestic and family violence:
We also congratulate the Commonwealth government on [the]
second action plan under the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and
their Children...As a health promotion agency, VicHealth understands and knows
how long it takes and what coordinated effort and resources it takes to change
attitudes, cultures and behaviours, and we know that from our campaigns in
tobacco, skin cancer et cetera. We believe that this is similar. It takes a
long, sustained and coordinated effort by everyone to achieve some level of
Ms Libby Davies, Chief Executive Officer, White Ribbon, stated that the
National Plan demonstrates the Commonwealth has:
...a clear commitment to long-term efforts to reduce violence
against women and their children. Through the first and second plans,
prevention and awareness-raising efforts have been enhanced among other
critical priorities. This has been complemented by efforts at state and
Ms Liz Snell, Law Reform and Policy Coordinator, Women's Legal Services
Australia, commended the National Plan's focus on promoting equality between
men and women, as domestic and family violence is a gendered crime:
We commend the bipartisan support for the recognition of the
gendered nature of domestic and family violence and sexual assault and
initiatives to address this through the National Plan to Reduce Violence
against Women and their Children.
Consultation, implementation and evaluation concerns
The committee heard general support for the way consultation was
undertaken in the development and early stages of the National Plan. However,
concerns were raised over ongoing consultation affecting implementation of
Actions Plans and the need for independent evaluation.
Ms Fiona McCormack, Chief Executive Officer, Domestic Violence Victoria,
noted that following the disbanding of the NPIP, there was no way for her
organisation to communicate with the government:
The NPIP no longer meets. There are no mechanisms or opportunities
through which NGOs and relevant government departments can communicate with
each other about, say, what is happening through the national plan or
identifying gaps in the system, and we really, really need that.
This concern regarding consultation was echoed by the Women's Legal
Centre (ACT and Region):
The implementation of the National Plan to date has been
disappointing in its engagement with civil society. The proposed Advisory
Groups to the National Plan Implementation Panel never eventuated. Whilst there
has been some consultation with relevant stakeholders, this has not been
undertaken in a way that harnesses the experience and expertise of those
working in the domestic violence and related sectors.
Ms Julie Oberin, Chairperson, Australian Women Against Violence Alliance
(AWAVA), commented that currently the government was not consulting with or
harnessing the expertise of individuals working in the sector sufficiently in
the development and implementation of Action Plans:
Even when I was on the NPIP I found that I had to wait for
NPIP meetings to find out what was going on. I think that is an
underutilisation of us as an alliance, focusing specifically on this area. We
are all there for the same purpose. We have an incredible amount of expertise.
I have been working in this field for almost 25 years in December, and if we
counted up all of the other expertise...that we could bring in, I think we would
get much further much more quickly.
Associate Professor Dea Delaney-Thiele, Chief Executive Officer,
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Alliance, commended
governments for taking a unified approach to domestic and family violence, but
noted there was a need to continue consulting Aboriginal and Torres Strait
We say it is extremely important that process be developed to
ensure the voices of communities, in particular women and children, inform the
development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of any policy
initiatives that impact upon them. If I could be so bold, the old adage of
'Nothing about us without us' is very important consideration.
Dr Jessica Cadwallader, Advocacy Project Manager, Violence Prevention,
Australian Cross Disability Alliance (ACDA), stressed that the mainstream
policy solutions currently operating for women generally need to be more inclusive
of women with disability.
Ms Therese Sands, Co-Chief Executive Officer, People with Disability Australia,
ACDA, highlighted the need to adequately resource representative organisations
that work in the area of violence against women with disabilities so they can harness
Ms Sands also indicated the need for better interconnectedness between plans such
as the National Disability Strategy, the National Plan to Reduce Violence
against Women and their Children and the National Framework for Protecting
Ms Maya Avdibegovic, Chief Executive Officer, inTouch, Multicultural
Centre against Family Violence, noted her organisation had played an active
role in informing the National Plan about particular issues faced by women from
culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. However, she felt
that consultation had not given her the opportunity to address wider issues:
Yes, we went to the roundtables, and also consultations about
the second action plan, and we welcome the focus on issues around CALD
communities that are part of the second action plan. But, when I think about
it, it is really the tip of the iceberg; because we really only have three or
four issues and that are selected there and that is: women without permanent
residency, forced marriages and female genital mutilation. They are really such
a tiny part of that whole complex issue around women from CALD backgrounds and
their experiences of family violence...[when] there is a whole complexity on the
basic level that I think needs to be addressed first.
Ms Cate McKenzie, Group Manager, Department of Social Services (DSS),
discussed some of these criticisms in relation to consultation. She stated that
much of the consultation carried out by the National Council was still relevant
to the work of the government:
In terms of the consultation that went on for the national
plan that was led by Libby Lloyd as the chair of the national council—and there
were 12 independent members in 2008—a lot of that consultation and the
work they did set up the arrangements and the architecture for what should be
considered over the 12 years, and in part they suggested having a longer term
plan. That consultation still remained and still does remain a pertinent piece
of work that we continue to look at, and to date we have not found from the
consultations we have had with people have differed hugely from the responses
that the national council received when it went out and did its consultations.
Ms McKenzie told the committee the department consulted with the sector
about the development of the Second Action Plan through a series of roundtables
and sought ongoing advice from stakeholders about National Plan initiatives as
I think one of the things it is important to remember is that
in each of the initiatives that has been set up under the national plan,
whether it was Our Watch, ANROWS or any of the work that has been done, there
has been a degree of consultation that has been wrapped around each initiative
and how each initiative would be rolled out. There has never been a lack of
communication or a lack of engagement across the broad community.
The implementation and evaluation of the National Plan has been
criticised by some stakeholders. For instance, a 2012 report by the Australian
Human Rights Commission and the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women
[The National Plan] is not sufficiently outcomes-focussed and
measurement of outcomes is not embedded in the implementation plan;
the plan's monitoring, reporting and evaluation processes are
not sufficiently transparent;
its implementation plan is tokenistic and has been badly managed,
indicated by its publication in late 2012 – more than two years after the plans
The need for independent evaluation of the plans was also stressed to
Ms Cate McKenzie, DSS, responded that the scale and complexity of the
domestic and family violence issue meant independent evaluation plans had taken
longer to develop than expected:
What became obvious over the first couple of years of working
our way through the first action plan was that it was going to be a much more
complex engagement that was going to be required [for an evaluation plan]. So,
we did some consultations with [stakeholders and jurisdictions] and came up
with the idea that it had to be a multi-level, multitargeted, multifocused
evaluation and would need to take account of being able to evaluate single
initiatives as well as being able to evaluate progress... [Health Outcomes
International] have come up a plan that is quite workable. It looks at a
progress report or a report on each of the action plans, so one after the first
year, one after the second year, one after the third and one after the
fourth...Over time those will be independent.
Since then, Commonwealth, state and territory ministers have endorsed
the 2014-15 Annual Progress Report on the Second Action Plan.
Better coordination by the Commonwealth of plans, policy and governance
Submitters welcomed the National Plan's focus on improving the
coordination of policy and services across governments and the domestic and
family violence sector. However, some noted there were further opportunities
for the Commonwealth to improve its coordination and leadership role regarding
the National Plan and its governance, as well as domestic and family violence
Mr Paul Linossier, Chief Executive Officer, Our Watch, noted better
coordination and governance across government could take Australia to world's
best practice in addressing domestic and family violence, which:
...requires a whole-of-government approach, so not an
initiative led out of one department or one office but all departments and
offices having related and joined up obligations and also across sectors in the
governance and design of the solutions. So the area that we could add to the
national plan and the second action plan is strengthening governance across
governments and the third sector and industry in attending to the issue. That
sort of joined up forum, mirroring the joining up of government-to-government
departments, would take Australia to absolutely world's best practice in
attending to the violence against women.
Mr Rodney Vlais, Acting Chief Executive Officer, No to Violence, agreed
the Commonwealth should improve its coordination across all levels of
...despite the national plan there is a real potential
opportunity for the Commonwealth to take an active role in bringing together
different state and territory departments, in particular, domains to really
focus on lifting response and prevention, including perpetrator accountability in
domestic and family violence.
Other witnesses highlighted the need for the Commonwealth to play a more
active role alongside the states and territories in the coordination of legal
systems and the delivery of services for victims. These issues will be
discussed in following chapters.
Funding to support the National
Some evidence highlighted the need for the National Plan to be supported
by consistent funding. Ms Libby Davies, CEO, White Ribbon, told the committee
that the good start that has been made on the National Plan needs to be
supported by appropriate funding measures:
White Ribbon has, to some extent, been supported through the
[initial phases of the] plan but there is still too little recognition of the
inroads that primary prevention work is making. We also need to see these
policy responses and commitments translated into more robust funding for
primary and tertiary responses to violence against women. In many
jurisdictions, this funding has shrunk.
Other evidence received by the committee discussed funding for particular
organisations, programs, and the delivery of legal and service systems. These
issues will be discussed in further chapters.
The committee recognizes the National Plan represents a positive step
taken by the Commonwealth and state and territory governments towards establishing
a framework to reduce the prevalence of domestic and family violence in
Australia. Evidence received by the committee shows there is support for the
National Plan across organisations in the domestic and family violence sector,
who see it as a clear commitment by all levels of government to addressing this
The committee heard support for the consultation that informed the
development and early implementation of the National Plan. However, it appeared
to the sector that the level of consultation was subsequently reduced for the
development of the action plans.
The committee understands that the NPIP is not continuing to play a role
in the consultation for the National Plan, and is concerned there is now less
opportunity for peak bodies and on-the-ground organisations working directly
with victims to communicate directly with the Commonwealth about the National
Plan. While DSS indicated that they continue to draw from previous consultation
work, the long term nature of this issue means that extra effort needs to be
taken by governments to maintain engagement and consultation with front line
services in particular, which could include the development of a consultative
framework, and ensure reporting on progress is centrally available. The
committee acknowledges the availability of quarterly eNewsletters on the
National Plan on the DSS website.
The committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government investigate
ways to improve consultation with the domestic and family violence sector,
particularly in relation to the evaluation of the National Plan and Action Plans
and to inform the development of future Action Plans.
The committee notes that the comments made by the UN Special Rapporteur
on violence against women are based on information from a study tour in April
2012. Since that time a Progress Review of the First Action Plan was released
in May 2014, the Evaluation Plan on 3 June 2014 and the Second Action Plan on 27
June 2014. The committee recognises that some of the work of the Commonwealth
to progress the National Plan has been more complex than anticipated, including
the ongoing work to finalise a consistent and meaningful evaluation strategy.
The committee heard how important it is for this to be an independent process
and the committee understands work is being done to assure the evaluation
process will be independent in the future.
Over the course of the inquiry, the committee noted clear and consistent
support from stakeholders for the Commonwealth to lead relevant coordination
strategies over the life of the National Plan.
The committee supports the Commonwealth continuing to play a lead role
in coordinating policy, legal and other responses regarding domestic and family
violence, and improving the way it drives increased coordination effort by all
levels of government and the domestic and family violence sector. Areas where
the Commonwealth is taking a lead role are discussed in following chapters.
While the committee welcomes the support and focus of the Prime Minister
and COAG, it notes that victims of domestic and family violence need champions
at all levels of our society, including the Prime Minister and First Ministers.
In view of the size and dimension of the challenge to effect real change and
the need to develop and foster an intentional and serious focus across all
jurisdictions, the committee believes that the Prime Minister should table an
annual report to Parliament on progress in the effort to eliminate domestic and
family violence. This report should include the actions being undertaken by
COAG. The committee notes that funding decisions affecting this area are available
publicly, however, to improve accessibility they should be included in the
annual report to Parliament.
The committee recommends that the Prime Minister table an annual report
to Parliament on progress in the effort to eliminate domestic and family violence,
including listing all relevant funding decisions.
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