Joint submission to the support the development of the Family Violence Reform Rolling Action Plan 2024-26

We’ve responded to Strong Foundations to support the development of the third and final rolling action plan to end family violence in Victoria. Our joint submission provides recommendations to the government on actions to support young people affected by family violence.

Our submission is a collaboration between:

  • Melbourne City Mission (MCM)
  • RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Justice (CIJ)
  • Berry Street’s Y-Change Initiative
  • Young survivor-advocates including Conor Pall, Deputy Chair of the Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council (VSAC)
  • YACVic

We congratulate the government and Family Safety Victoria on prioritising children and young people as a key focus in this plan. Family violence against young people is high, and where young people use violence, they are often victim-survivors themselves.1

Currently there’s a gap in dedicated, age-appropriate family violence responses and resources for young people. This gap leaves them at risk of devastating harm – like death and suicide – and at increased risk of experiencing homelessness, mental illness, and leaving school early.2

Our joint submission makes 28 recommendations, focusing on the key reforms needed to recognise young people in their own right. This requires a service system that responds to young people’s unique safety, support and recovery needs and that understands and promotes their agency and rights. This is vital regardless of whether they are navigating the service system alone, with a help-seeking adult, or under statutory care.

We collectively call for youth services to be integrated into the Orange Door Network, a youth-specific crisis housing response, longer term housing solutions based on the Victorian Youth Housing Framework 2023, and fully resourced targeted crisis and recovery responses.

To recognise the rights and agency of young people affected by family violence, there must be urgent legislative reform, improved legal and justice responses and significant workforce capacity building.

Summary of recommendations

Context of family violence for young people

Recommendation 1

To achieve its goal in ending family violence, the Plan needs to adopt an intersectional approach. Family violence policy and programs for young people, particularly young people experiencing violence in the home, need to recognise the multiple drivers of the violence perpetrated against them, of which gender is one factor.

Engage children and young people to create generational change

Recommendation 2

To provide young people with the information they need to understand family violence and support their safety, they need access to information and resources specific to their needs that are designed, developed and delivered with them and by them.

Provide support for children and young people where, when and how they need it

Recommendation 3

To provide developmentally and age-appropriate responses to young people affected by family violence, policy settings should consider the needs of young people 12-18 as distinct from those of children, and young people 18-24 as distinct from those of adults, to recognise their differing legal rights, developmental stage and service needs.

Recommendation 4

Where safe, and with the consent of the young person, support needs to be offered to their family or partner as part of a young person’s safety planning.

Recommendation 5

To help address the power imbalance and engage young people as agents of change, peer support workers need to be considered as part of developing support options for young victim survivors of family violence. This will require the appropriate level of support and training for these peer workers.

Recommendation 6

To support young people in their own right, youth services and specialisation need to be included in holistic service integration within the Orange Door Network alongside family violence services, child protection and other family services. This requires the Orange Door Network to have a specific youth focus in addition to the child wellbeing roles.

Recommendation 7

To respond to the safety needs of unaccompanied young people experiencing family violence, the youth homelessness and family violence initiatives funded by the National Partnership Agreement need to extend beyond 2025 and be scaled across Victoria.

Recommendation 8

As part of the implementation of MARAM in schools to keep children and young people safe, the Victorian Government and the Department of Education need to consider and develop referral pathways with specialist services to support children and young people once they have elicited a disclosure of family violence. This could be supported through the Respectful Relationships program.

Recommendation 9

To respond to the safety needs of unaccompanied young people affected by family violence, the Victorian Government, youth services, family violence services and housing services need to come together to develop and fund short-term crisis accommodation options, particularly for young people 15-19, including implementation for young people using harm in the home. These options should be co-designed with an intersectional lens and responsive to the diverse needs of young people.

Recommendation 10

Legislative reform to the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) should require a court to consider a young person and others‘ safety when ordering them to be removed from the home in the context of Family Violence Intervention Order proceedings.

Recommendation 11

To enable access to accommodation for young victim survivors longer term, the areas of reform as outlined in the 2023 Victorian Youth Housing Framework need to be prioritised. This also involves a dedicated housing target for unaccompanied young people built into social housing policy reform and investment.

Recommendation 12

To meet the recovery needs of young people affected by family violence, tailored, age-appropriate responses need to be developed and resourced, alongside the mainstream therapeutic interventions delivered across each region in Victoria. These programs need to be accessible to young people, regardless of whether they are accompanied by an adult victim-survivor, fall under the child protection system or are navigating the service system on their own.

Recommendation 13

To uphold the rights of young people affected by family violence, resources and practice guidance need to be developed and provided to services including Child Protection, Child and Family Services, Specialist Family Violence Services and Housing Services that clarify the thresholds for rights and agency for young people including their right to access services and speak about their experience.

Recommendation 14

To address the inconsistencies in thresholds and approaches for FVIOS for young people, a review needs to be undertaken of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic). This needs to include the ability of legal responses to adequately assess the capacity of young people to understand and comply with civil protection orders, as per the recommendations of the PIPA project (2020).

Recommendation 15

To recognise the rights and agency of young people affected by family violence, legal services need to be provided with greater resources and capacity to work with young people affected by family violence, especially to enable their protection in a Family Violence Intervention Order matter. This should include increased funding for specialist youth legal services and integrated into the Orange Door Network.

Recognise the complexity of young people’s use of harm

Recommendation 16

To identify different types of behaviours and the experiences which sit behind a young person’s use of family violence, significant capacity and capability building is needed across workforces, including intake and referral points which need to be capable of recognising families with different service needs and experiences.

Recommendation 17

To support young people who use violence to heal and change their behaviour, the Victorian Government needs to work with services and young people to develop a service model for responding to the use of intimate partner violence by young people.

Recommendation 18

To address the drivers of young people’s use of violence against family members, assessment for AVITH needs to always include screening for the possibility of adult-perpetrated family violence, including current violence, to inform how any relevant intervention should proceed.

Recommendation 19

To adequately respond to needs and risk, police, legal and other service responses need to have access to information about risk across whole-of-family settings.

Recommendation 20

Continue to expand and appropriately resource evidence-based and trauma-informed AVITH-specific interventions that build capacity for whole-of-family approaches. This should include the capacity to leverage brokerage and clinical leadership to ensure that needs across the family structure are kept in view. It should also include capacity building to support services to manage the presence of ongoing adult perpetrated harm; to work with younger children; and to work with children with disability in collaboration with other appropriate supports. This will require services to develop capacity to build trust and engagement over longer-term periods of at least 12 to 18 months, given previous experiences of trauma or wider complexity.

Recommendation 21

Continue to expand and appropriately resource the development of strengths-based and community-led interventions that respond appropriately to AVITH in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as well as culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. This similarly requires recognition of the extended timeframe over which practitioners must often work to establish and maintain trust with families from over policed or marginalised communities.

Recommendation 22

To start to address the gap in understanding the complexity of young people’s use of harm, government should look at and engage properly with the AVITH Collaborative Practice Framework.

Recommendation 23

To mitigate the risk of criminalisation, law reform should enable legal responses to assess the capacity of young people to understand and comply with civil protection orders, as well as criminal justice processes. This requires urgent legislative reform, as per the recommendations of the PIPA project (2020).

Recommendation 24

Invest significant policy attention, inquiry and advocacy into the disproportionate rates of young people with disability coming into contact with the family violence and justice system settings.

Recommendation 25

All Family Violence Intervention Order matters involving young people should be heard by a Children’s Court Magistrate, even if done so online.

Recommendation 26

Young people need to be linked with community service support and adequately resourced legal assistance as quickly as possible, so that the court mention date can be informed by the young person’s engagement and history.

Strengthen how we measure impact – the ‘missing figures’

Recommendation 27

To strengthen how we measure impact and ensure young people do not fall through the service system gaps, research and evaluation, policy and practice reforms need to recognise the role of family violence in youth suicide to avoid histories of childhood trauma being masked by other presenting issues at the time of suicide, suicide attempts and suicidal ideation. This could include establishing a data set on children and young people’s deaths in the context of family violence, with a view to evidencing the relationship between young people’s experiences of family violence preceding youth suicide, suicide attempts and suicidal ideation.

Increase opportunities for Victorians to help us improve the system

Recommendation 28

To engage young people as agents of generational change, the Victorian Government needs to establish a young person’s expert advisory group to support the implementation and monitoring of the Plan’s commitments to children and young people.

  1. Campbell, E., Richter, J., Howard, J., & Cockburn, H. (2020). The PIPA project: Positive interventions for perpetrators of adolescent violence in the home (AVITH) (Research report, 04/2020). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS.
  2. Melbourne City Mission (MCM) (2015) Submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence; Meyer, S., Atienzar-Prieto, M., Fitz-Gibbon, K., & Moore, S. (2023). Missing Figures: The Role of Domestic and Family Violence in Youth Suicide - Current State of Knowledge Report. Griffith University: Brisbane