For public policies to achieve social change, they must increase awareness, community engagement and uptake of information about the target social issue. This project aimed to assess the extent to which changes in public awareness and engagement could be detected in response to Victorian Family Violence policy.
Detecting community-wide change in attitudes or awareness over a short time frame (2014–18) is significantly challenging. Novel data sources and emerging data analytics techniques were used to chart the breadth of public discussion of family violence and chart change over this time period in response to the Victorian Government’s Royal Commission into Family Violence (2015–16).
The research applies computational techniques (including natural language processing using Latent Dirichlet Allocation topic modelling) and timeline analysis to present:
- Analysis of how people speak about family violence, in relation to which topics, and how these discussions change over time;
- Visual depictions of public engagement with family violence language and topics within social media and news media, showing changes over time against policy, campaign, research and events timelines; and
- New replicable methodology using social media and news data, for charting community attitudes and discourse over time and against policy timelines.
Analysis of policy documents, social media and news media conversations between 2014 and 2018 in relation to the Family Violence Royal Commission, found that:
- The public conversation about family violence has changed in response to the 2015-2016 Royal Commission into Family Violence.
- Family violence incidents do not provoke public attention in the same way that violence against women in public places does.
- Gaining better access to community-wide responses shines a light on the often-hidden attitudes, language and experiences of those who perpetrate or are affected by family violence.
- When people talk about the impact of family violence on social media, they highlight the multifaceted nature of abuse and abusive relationships.
- While negative attitudes and violence-supporting statements remain a part of the public conversation, these statements are often called out by others on social media.
- The influence of community leaders shines through, but not always constructively.
- Government can use these research techniques to adapt policy responses and tailor language to more effectively connect with the public.