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Our approach to ending family violence

Focus on the drivers of violence

Family violence and violence against women are preventable, but only if direct action is taken to address the drivers of this violence.

Five essential actions must be taken to address the factors known to drive violence against women and family violence:

  • challenging the condoning of violence against women
  • promoting women’s independence and decision-making in public life and in relationships
  • fostering positive personal identities and challenge gender stereotypes and roles
  • strengthening positive, equal and respectful relations between and among women and men, girls and boys
  • promoting and normalising gender equality in public and private life

As well as bringing these actions to life, we will also look to to address other forms of discrimination that intersect with gender inequality to drive violence against women and other forms of family violence.

Act on the reinforcing factors

In addition to the key drivers there are a number of reinforcing factors that can contribute to, or exacerbate, violence against women and others who experience violence.

We will undertake 5 supporting actions to challenge known reinforcing factors:

  • challenge the normalisation of violence as an expression of masculinity or male dominance
  • prevent exposure to violence and support those affected to reduce its consequences
  • address the intersections between social norms about alcohol and gender
  • reduce backlash by engaging men and boys in gender equality, building relationship skills and social connections
  • promote broader social equality and address structural discrimination and disadvantage

As well as applying these supporting actions, we will look beyond gender to identify and address additional reinforcing factors for all forms of family violence. 

Work with the whole community 

Everyone has a role to play in ending violence – not just victims and survivors, and not just police and family violence services. We will lead and co-design solutions with community members and will provide the tools for all Victorians to contribute to a society where everyone is respected and empowered. 

There is a particular role for community and organisational leaders and influencers in championing change, including:

  • challenging sexist jokes, discrimination and disrespect where you see it
  • challenging traditional gender stereotypes and roles in organisations and structures
  • support equality and inclusion in the home, workplace, community and everywhere

Supporting bystanders to take action is an important part of this work. Sexism and harassment are key drivers of men’s violence against women. Research by Deakin University and others shows that calling out sexist behaviour is effective primary prevention. It also helps us understand what motivates bystanders to intervene. We are working with VicHealth to apply and trial these findings in different settings across Victoria.

Reach people in a range of places

Some key settings where prevention activity and messages need to occur to effectively reach the whole population are:

  • education and care settings for children and young people
  • universities, TAFEs and other tertiary education institutions
  • workplaces, corporations and employee organisations
  • sports, recreation, social and leisure spaces
  • the arts
  • health, maternal and child health, family and community services
  • community organisations
  • faith-based and cultural contexts
  • media
  • popular culture, advertising and entertainment
  • public spaces, transport, infrastructure and facilities
  • legal, justice and corrections contexts

These settings make up many of the places where people live, work, learn, socialise and play, and where social and cultural norms are created and reflected. They present opportunities for significant influence over the social norms, organisational practices and institutional structures that drive attitudes and behaviours.

Take a targeted approach

Some groups and communities are disproportionately affected by violence and will benefit from more specific and intensive efforts and greater resources; specifically, those who are affected by multiple forms of disadvantage and discrimination.

Other areas where it makes sense to direct additional effort and resources include places where values are influenced and built, such as faith-based settings. For Aboriginal people, this means embedding self-determination in institutions, to ensure we address the drivers of violence.

Connect and coordinate prevention efforts

To ensure we achieve the momentum and breadth needed, we will build and coordinate partnerships for prevention. Partnerships must be formed with those working on addressing different forms of inequality and discrimination, such as racism, homophobia and many others. This is particularly pertinent for the reinforcing factors of violence, such as drugs and alcohol.

We will mobilise and coordinate strategic partners across many sectors and make use of established organisations and networks to drive whole-of-community change. This is crucial to an effective prevention strategy because:

  • partnerships create reach – violence cannot be eliminated unless the whole community is engaged.
  • networking and sharing of information, evidence and best practice is critical for ensuring a consistent approach, continuous improvement and workforce development

The approach we will take is similar to previous successful approaches to critical public health issues such as anti-smoking and skin cancer prevention. To support this approach, we commissioned VicHealth to undertake a review of public health strategies to inform the primary prevention of family violence and violence against women

Build continuity with the response system

Our primary prevention activities will not replace the activities of those who respond to violence that has already happened. Our activities will add to and complement these existing response system activities – by reducing pressure on other parts of the system. To ensure we can achieve a Victoria free from family violence and violence against women, primary, secondary and tertiary prevention must be addressed simultaneously.

Short term

In the short term, we anticipate these efforts will increase people’s recognition of violence, and this will continue to increase the number of disclosures, reports, and requests for assistance. This will place increased pressure on the Victorian response system in the short term. Primary prevention activities will be linked with response services to ensure the safety of all participants and that people are able to access appropriate services.

Medium to longer term

In the medium to longer term, the aim of an effective primary prevention approach is to reduce the demand for response systems and services. Primary prevention can also contribute to a more effective response system by creating a supportive environment for activities aimed at people who are already perpetrating or ‘on the path’ to violence.

In the longer term we expect to see noticeable gains at the individual, organisational and societal levels, with prevalence rates beginning to fall, and economic and social benefits growing. As we continue to sustain and evolve our efforts, we will move towards a Victoria free from violence.

Review of prevention and public health strategies

The Victorian Government commissioned VicHealth to undertake an investigation into:

  • strategies and learnings in areas where there has been significant success in preventing public health and safety problems over time. For example in the areas of road safety and tobacco control, and others
  • the evidence from some key public health areas where the history of actions, strategies and lessons learned can be used to inform prevention policy in the area of family violence and violence against women
  • national and international literature about the impact of high quality public health programs on significant issues causing deaths, disability and injury

VicHealth Prevention and Public Health Strategies 2017 VicHealth Prevention and Public Health Strategies 2017PDF (755.35 KB)

VicHealth Prevention and Public Health Strategies 2017 VicHealth Prevention and Public Health Strategies 2017DOC (22.17 MB)