Creating an evidence-base for policy response to family violence

3 minute read

Family safe at home on sofa

University of Melbourne researchers will partner with community sector organisations to provide evidence intended to inform policy responses to family violence, as part of a new reform agenda commissioned by Family Safety Victoria.

Professor Cathy Humphreys from the School of Social Work and her team will explore the ‘Safe at Home’ approach.

The rise in women becoming homeless due to family violence has prompted interest in a new response model, known as the Safe at Home approach, in which women and their children can remain in homes connected with community, work and educational ties, and reduce the risk of poverty and homelessness that often comes with leaving a violent situation.

Family Safety Victoria has responded to the need for better understanding of Safe at Home strategies, including whether Personal Safety Initiatives (PSIs) lead to longer term safety in existing homes, or homes of choice. Funding under the Family Violence Research Program 2021-2024 will allow for a significant research project to examine this, as well as other factors impacting the success of the approach, including economic security, legal, policing, policy and system responses.

The ‘Safe at Home: Experience, Barriers and Access’ (SHEBA) project will create a comprehensive knowledge bank to strengthen the Victorian response to family violence, in both policy and practice.

Through interviews with women with lived experience, as well as practitioners and policy workers, the project will examine the effectiveness of PSIs and other strategies designed to help women and children stay safely in their homes, while the perpetrator leaves.

Particular attention will be given to women who have been marginalised and experience compounding issues of discrimination, with victim-survivors from partner organisations ensured of support before, during and after interviews. The SHEBA project will also look at the implications of a Safe at Home approach in times of disaster and emergencies.

A broad cross section of expertise will underpin the project, comprising the University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, McAuley Community Services for Women, Good Shepherd Australia and New Zealand, inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence, the Centre for Non-Violence, and the WEAVERs (Women and their children who have Experienced Abuse and Violence) researchers and advisors.

Findings from the project will be accessible to those working in the family violence sector, with an advisory group (made up of partner organisation representatives) presenting results to an existing working group chaired by McAuley and Victoria Police . The groups include the partner universities as key members, and police, courts, family violence and men’s services as interested stakeholders.

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