How hospitals keep supporting survivors of family violence

Program of SHRFV forum 2024 held up in front. Background shows rows of forum attendees.
A decade ago, the Women’s and Bendigo Health developed a whole-of-hospital framework to address family violence.
6 May 2024 | Family violence | Events

Hospitals play a crucial role in supporting survivors of family violence. Last week, 150 Victorian hospital and health service professionals met at an annual statewide forum to discuss strategies to better support survivors.

Disclosing family violence is not easy. When ready to speak up, many survivors often don’t approach police.  Instead, they may prefer speaking to a health professional.

A decade ago, the Women’s and Bendigo Health developed a whole-of-hospital framework to address family violence. Its introduction was in line with a recommendation from the Royal Commission into Family Violence. The framework is called the Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family Violence (SHRFV) model. Hospitals all over Victoria have now also adopted the SHRFV model.

While lots of progress has been made in the past decade, there is still a long way to go.

Associate Professor Lata Satyen from Deakin University hosted the SHRFV forum last week. She summed up the purpose of the event in a nutshell.

“Did survivors of family violence get the help they needed? What was their experience when they approached a health service? Were they experiencing barriers when seeking help? These are the issues we address in today’s presentations and panel discussions,” A/Prof Satyen said.

The Women’s CEO Professor Sue Matthews said the healthcare sector stands in solidarity with survivors and their families.

“We are committed to working together to create safer communities where everyone can live free from fear and violence,” Prof Matthews said.

“We’re inviting everyone to think about how they can contribute to ending family violence - and to take away their learnings to inspire others to do the same.”

Rosie Batty AO, well-known advocate for victims of family violence and a former Australian of the Year, sent a video message of support. Rosie has been a Director of the Board at the Women’s since 2019. Due to her advocacy work, she sadly couldn’t attend the SHRFV forum as planned.

“It's incredibly important that we in the health sector can recognise when something's not right,” Rosie said.

“And that we don't avoid the discomfort of taking that next step to support those experiencing family violence.

“Your work is just as important as it ever was when we started this.”

Tarang Chawla, a Commissioner at the Victorian Multicultural Commission, also spoke at the forum. He is personally and deeply affected by violence against women. His sister Nikita was murdered in 2015 while in an abusive controlling relationship.

Tarang also reflected on the current discussion about gender-based violence.

“Hospitals are crucial as an access point, especially for communities that feel culturally and racially isolated,” Tarang said.

“Our hospitals are full of survivors that need our support. The work doesn’t stop. And we’re going to do it. We’ll find ways to keep going.”

Learn more about SHRFV: Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family Violence (SHRFV) Tool Kit.