Research highlights the importance of people with lived experience and expertise of DFV being involved in the design and evaluation of DFV services, policies and programs. One reason for this is that the needs of service users will be better met when people with lived expertise co-produce the models used. Another is that the experience of co-production has been shown to have significant, positive impacts for the individuals with lived expertise (who, in the context of this collaborative work, are often known as ‘survivor-advocates’) involved. For example, it may support individuals with lived expertise of DFV to feel more empowered after the very disempowering experience of being subject to violence and abuse.
However, it is essential that organisations working collaboratively with DFV survivor-advocates implement a framework to ensure this is done ethically and safely for the individuals involved.
The following resources are intended to support organisations to work ethically with people with lived expertise of DFV:
Domestic Violence Victoria, the University of Melbourne and the WEAVERS lived expertise group, The Family Violence Experts by Experience Framework.
This framework was developed to enhance the capacity of specialist DFV services to provide opportunities for DFV survivor-advocates to influence policy development, service planning and practice. Importantly, it provides best practice guidelines for engaging survivor-advocates of DFV in collaborative work. Key elements of best practice identified are:
- Safety – Issues relating to legal, physical, emotional and cultural safety of survivor advocates are carefully considered but not used as a mechanism for exclusion.
- Value – In addition to being recognised for their expertise, survivor-advocates are financially remunerated for their time, contributions and expenses.
- Transparency – Clear information is provided to survivor-advocates about the degree of influence they can expect, the nature of their engagement and time commitment involved. Feedback is also given about how their contribution influenced change.
- Support – Options for trauma-informed support and appropriate supervision are made available to survivor-advocates to support them in the collaborative work.
This framework also includes some helpful, practical resources for organisations wanting to involve DFV survivor-advocates in co-production. These include:
- an organisational readiness checklist
- self-reflection questions for people with lived expertise (to enable them to decide whether or not they would like to be formally engaged as a survivor-advocate), and
- a template for determining remuneration rates for survivor-advocates.
Domestic Violence NSW, Voices for Change Project Report
This report outlines 12 recommendations to guide survivor advocacy projects. It also contains a further six recommendations for promoting sustainable survivor advocacy in Australia.
Background relevant to the report is that, between November 2018 and July 2020, DVNSW ran the Voices for Change project. This project supported three groups of DFV victim-survivors to become media advocates on DFV issues. The DFV victim-survivors involved were empowered through learning new skills and their advocacy helped to promote a more accurate understanding of DFV in both the media and the community.
The Voices for Change report, published by DVNSW in July 2021, was produced in collaboration with the DFV survivor-advocates who participated in Voices for Change. It outlines the positive impacts of the project.
DVNSW AND CO-PRODUCTION WITH DFV SURVIVOR-ADVOCATES
DVNSW believes strongly in the importance of DFV victim-survivor input to its policy and advocacy work. For this reason, DVNSW established a Survivor Advocate Policy Advisory Group made up of between 7 and 13 people with lived experience of DFV. For more information about this group, please contact DVNSW’s Policy and Research Manager, Renata Field, at firstname.lastname@example.org.