Family Violence Prevention Legal Service Victoria
Creating positive futures for Aboriginal women free from family violence
|Laura Vines, Manager, Strategy and Policy, FVPLS Victoria|
|Antoinette Braybrook, FVPLS Victoria CEO|
|Renee Cumming, National FVPLS Forum Executive Officer|
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women are thirty-two times more likely to be hospitalised and ten times more likely to die as a result of family violence compared to other women.
Djirra (Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria), an Aboriginal community controlled organisation, works to change this situation through leadership, prevention and early intervention programs, legal and holistic support services, and advocacy.
In 2016, Melbourne Women’s Fund members awarded FVPLS Victoria its signature grant of $75K for 2016-2017 so that it could employ a full-time Policy and Advocacy Officer to play a key role in informing follow-up actions in response to recommendations in 2016 by Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence.
Voices of Aboriginal women
“The MWF grant enabled us to have a much greater influence across the broad field of family violence at this crucial stage than would otherwise have been possible,” said Laura Vines, FVPLS Manager, Strategy and Policy.
“Importantly, we were able to ensure that the voices and lived experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims and survivors of family violence and sexual assault were heard and this informed the design of major new policies and programs,” Laura said.
With the support of MWF, FVPLS Victoria prepared numerous policy submissions, collaborated broadly across the health, justice and family violence sectors, and delivered successful community awareness and action campaigns.
“It is very exciting that the Melbourne Women’s Fund is dedicated to supporting positive changes designed to improve the lives of women living in Melbourne – through advocacy to change systems and policies, as well as on the ground practical support,” said Laura.
FVPLS Victoria identified opportunities for change and unintended adverse consequences of proposals so that the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal women impacted by family violence are promoted in ways that are culturally safe and sustainable.
Illustrating some of the key positive changes, Laura noted that “Aboriginal women are front and centre of Victoria’s 10 Year Family Violence Plan. This plan commits to self-determination for Aboriginal people and resourcing Aboriginal-led solutions to family violence.”
“Victoria has also developed a world-first family violence prevention strategy, which recognises and resources this vitally important work. It is crucial to address the root causes of family violence and to build the resilience of Aboriginal women to reduce their vulnerability to violence,” said Laura.
FVPLS Victoria has also worked closely with Victoria Police to develop a mandatory training program to improve the police force’s capacity to provide culturally appropriate and trauma-informed responses to Aboriginal victims and survivors of family violence. The e-learning program includes the stories and voices of Aboriginal women, including Antoinette Braybrook, FVPLS Victoria’s CEO (pictured), and women with lived experience of violence.
Increased funding and support
The MWF grant enabled FVPLS Victoria to put forward a funding submission to the Victorian Government to address gaps in its services and to increase its capacity to respond to need. This resulted in approximately $12 million extra over 4 years (a 75% increase) so that FVPLS can expand its prevention, early-intervention and frontline services.
In 2016-2017, FVPLS Victoria provided 1265 legal and 515 non-legal support services and nearly 1,000 women participated in its prevention and early intervention services.
“We are very excited to be able to increase our coverage in both regional and metropolitan areas, to respond to unmet needs among Aboriginal victims and survivors and to expand our prevention programs,” said Laura.
This includes piloting a Koori Women’s Place in Abbotsford, which will provide a safe cultural space for women to experience pride in their culture, build social connections, and to access FVPLS Victoria prevention, legal and other support services. They hope that this program can be expanded to regional centres in due course.
Future support opportunities
While FVPLS Victoria has not yet received needed ongoing funding for its valuable policy and advocacy work, it will continue to seek philanthropic support for this work. Recently the organisation was renamed to Djirra.
For more information about the organisation, please see their website at http://www.djirra.org.au/