Steps to success in tackling family violence

Lead Researcher Professor Kelsey Hegarty with patient
21 March 2023 |

A visit to a health professional may be the first and only step that people affected by family violence take to access support and care.

Greater investment in family violence programs and strengthened identification and response practices are key to supporting victimsurvivors, a two-and-a-half-year research project has found.

The System Audit Family Violence Evaluation (SAFE) Project, launched at the Women’s in March 2019, evaluated 18 Victorian health services at patient, staff and organisation levels between November 2019 and April 2021.

Lead Researcher Professor Kelsey Hegarty said the State Government’s Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family Violence program, launched more than six years ago, had resulted in system change across many organisations.

“However, there is still some way to go to ensure women and families are on a pathway to safety and wellbeing,” Professor Hegarty said.

“Auditing and feedback are powerful mechanisms to change behaviour, individually and across organisations.”

The SAFE Project found that greater investment in family violence programs would improve inclusivity and accessibility for diverse populations. It would also help in the development of strategies to safely do the work within telehealth arrangements.

“The patient-facing work of identification and response to family violence also needs greater attention and much can be done to build capacity through education and training,” Professor Hegarty said.

The project recommended the annual implementation of the SAFE tool at Victorian health services, and the tool’s wider use to promote national standards for responding to family violence in health service settings.

This project won the 'Whole of hospital model for responding to family violence' category in the 2022 Victorian Public Healthcare Awards.