The reform of Victoria’s response to family violence, announced in 2016, is ground breaking and world leading. Victoria has taken on an ambitious, challenging and complex reform as it attempts to end family violence. It is an opportunity to lead flagship social policy reform and set the path for jurisdictions around the world. The broad political and community support for the reforms is something of which we, as Victorians, can be proud.
The final report of the Royal Commission into Family Violence gave us not only an inspiring vision but also a significant challenge. How do we do something that has never been done, is incredibly complex, touches every part of government and beyond, and has the potential to change the experience of thousands of Victorians? What is best for current and future victim survivors?
The Victorian Government, its sector partners, and victim survivors of family violence are grappling with these questions as they seek to deliver the ultimate outcome of a future where all Victorians are safe, thriving and living free from family violence. The difficulty of this task cannot be underestimated.
My role was established to hold government to account for delivering reform that improves outcomes for victim survivors. Monitoring is a key risk mitigation strategy for effective reform implementation. This report fulfils my obligation to Parliament. It sets out my key findings as at 1 November 2017, and what needs to happen to increase the likelihood of successful reform implementation.
This ambitious program of reform is expected to take 10 years to successfully implement. It is still in its early stages and it is too soon to see whether outcomes are improving. So, I have focused on the foundational areas that are critical to the success of the whole reform, and areas where remedial action is needed. In future years, I hope to be able to better describe how things are changing for victim survivors.
Already I can see that ending family violence and improving outcomes for victim survivors are now clearly established as core objectives of the Victorian Government. In my conversations with peak bodies, non-government agencies, ministers, and shadow ministers, I have consistently heard that they are deeply impressed with the commitment of the public servants working on this reform. This energy and dedication is evident across the implementation of the reform and mirrors the enduring dedication of so many from the family violence sector. The government is also rightly taking the approach that people from diverse communities should be engaged in the reform from the start and the new system should have accessibility and inclusivity at its centre.
Early indications suggest major implementation risks need to be addressed. In particular, I expected the foundational work to be much more advanced by now. The government seems to be improving its approach, but whole-of-reform planning has been insufficient for a reform of this size. While I acknowledge that the harm caused by family violence requires urgent action, this urgency must be balanced with planning and ensuring the long term effectiveness of the reform and the best possible outcome for victim survivors.
Although I commenced in this role before 1 January 2017, my findings are based on my statutory monitoring period from 1 January 2017, when my legislation was proclaimed, to 1 November 2017. Where relevant, I have indicated where developments have occurred after 1 November, to give a perspective on the future. My intention is to make this report as forward looking as possible, to provide value to the reader.
Given the complexity of the task, the significant risks around much of the reform activity, and the scale of the resources allocated, the government now needs to invest more time in planning how to best undertake the whole reform. There is still time.