This is the first impact evaluation of Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS), funded by the Commonwealth Government of Australia through the Safety and Wellbeing Program of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS), Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The program aims to improve safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims/survivors of family violence and provide them with better access to justice and to change attitudes and behaviours in relation to family violence, including sexual assault. FVPLSs are funded to provide culturally safe legal assistance and support to victims/survivors, including legal assistance, casework, counselling and court support in relation to family violence restraining orders, child protection, victim’s compensation, and family law. FVPLSs are also intended to provide referrals, community legal education and early intervention and prevention services to address family violence, its causes and effects.
- There are significant shortfalls in evaluation of most types of programs which may contribute to reducing family and domestic violence (FDV) for Indigenous people. Where evaluations do exist, they are often short-term, small scale, and do not provide outcomes data.
- Awareness of legal rights and options may be a necessary condition for victim/survivors of FDV to act on their legal rights, but it is almost certainly not a sufficient condition for most victim/survivors to do so. It is unlikely that awareness raising programs in their own right contribute significantly to prevention.
- There is some evidence that school-based early intervention programs can contribute to respectful relationships. Programs work by building awareness of healthy relationships, building relationships skills including by modelling of respectful interactions, and changing attitudes to FDV. Indigenous-based programs may also work through building cultural identity, self-esteem and pro-social norms.
- There is consistent evidence internationally that Indigenous healing programs, properly run, can contribute to healing and that this can contribute to prevention of FDV. Healing programs work by releasing grief and anger; reducing alienation and strengthening relationships; building communication, conflict resolution, and problem-solving skills; strengthening prosocial cultural norms and informal social controls; and building cultural identity.