The Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVic) has welcomed the release of the final report and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
“As Victoria’s youth peak body, we are deeply concerned about the impacts of family violence and relationship violence on young people,” said YACVic CEO Georgie Ferrari. “Experiencing violence early in life can set a dangerous precedent. To make things worse, many family violence services simply don’t have the capacity to work closely with young people. But if we can catch violence early and support young people through this formative stage in their lives, it can make a tremendous difference.”
The 227 recommendations made by the Royal Commission to the Victorian Government include:
- Give priority to funding therapeutic interventions and counselling for children and young people who are victims of family violence.
- Support and fund youth homelessness and other youth service providers in developing and implementing a broader range of supported accommodation options for young people experiencing family violence.
- Ensure that all refuge and crisis accommodation services catering to families have adequate resources to meet the needs of children, including access to expert advice and secondary consultations.
- Continue to work in partnership with Aboriginal communities to develop a statewide strategic response to improving the lives of vulnerable Aboriginal children and young people.
- Mandate the introduction of respectful relationships education into every government school in Victoria from prep to year 12. It should be delivered through a whole-of-school approach and be consistent with best practice, building on the evidence of the model being tested by the Department of Education and Training through Our Watch.
- Subject to successful evaluation of the Youth Diversion Program Pilot, establish a statutory youth diversion scheme.
“It’s very encouraging to see these recommendations and know that the Victorian Government has committed to make them happen,” Ms Ferrari said. “In our submission to the Royal Commission, YACVic stressed that it was crucial to give young people stronger access to respectful relationships education, therapeutic interventions, safe housing and evidence-based diversion programs. We also called for more culturally appropriate supports for Aboriginal young people.”
The Royal Commission also made recommendations to the Victorian Government concerning young people who use violence in the home. These include:
- Subject to successful evaluation of the Adolescent Family Violence Program, extend the program across Victoria.
- Develop additional crisis and long term supported accommodation options for adolescents who use violence in the home. This should be combined with therapeutic support to end the young person’s use of violence.
- Trial and evaluate a model of linking Youth Justice Group Conferencing with an Adolescent Family Violence Program to provide an individual and family therapeutic intervention for young people who are using violence in the home and are at risk of entering the youth justice system.
- Ensure that the Sexually Abusive Behaviours Treatment Service and other suitable treatment programs are available for all age groups up to and including 17-year-olds and resource enhanced service delivery of the programs across Victoria.
“In the past, the system has not been good at responding to violence by young people,” Ms Ferrari said. “As we told the Commission, many parents and carers are afraid to seek help because they don’t want their child to end up in the justice system or homeless. YACVic welcomes more attention to this issue, but we need to see a strong focus on early intervention with a therapeutic approach. Families should not have to wait for a crisis before they can access help.”
While welcoming much of the Royal Commission’s report, YACVic expressed concern that there was little attention to strengthening the capacity of schools and youth services to support young people affected by violence.
“School is the one place where most young people are engaged,” Ms Ferrari said. “And when there’s trauma at home, or violence in their peer relationships, it often comes out in the classroom. But many schools still don’t have enough access to counsellors, psychologists and wellbeing staff with the right skills to identify and address family and relationship violence.”
The role of the youth services sector also needs further support, Ms Ferrari argued.
“The Commission has called for stronger, expert training for the family violence sector and social workers, and that’s very positive. But youth services also provide key supports to young people in a welcoming, age-appropriate environment. Youth services need expert guidance to identify and respond to family violence.”
YACVic welcomed the Royal Commission’s focus on the need for strong governance models to oversee the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations. Also welcome were the Commission’s calls for greater prevention and community education initiatives.
“Hopefully the new governance structures will include strong, expert representation from the youth services sector,” Ms Ferrari said.