The NSW Government has a range of policies and programs designed to respond to domestic and family violence (DFV) in NSW. The Commonwealth Government also has an overarching, DFV policy framework that applies nationally.
The main NSW Government departments responsible for responses to DFV are the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) and NSW Health. DCJ funds specialist DFV services, throughout NSW, which support DFV victim-survivors to find safety and rebuild their lives, through funding a range of programs delivered through these services. NSW Health oversees and funds the responses to DFV delivered through the health system.
This Resource Manual page collates information about DFV policies and programs, relevant to NSW, in one place, for easy reference. Note that some policies are scheduled to end in 2021 and DVNSW will publish the new policies that replace these as they become publicly available.
NSW Government policies
This policy includes strategies to prevent DFV, intervene early with individuals and communities at risk, support victims, hold perpetrators to account, and improve the quality of the DFV service system.
This policy establishes a framework for government and community action related to primary prevention (preventing DFV before it occurs) and early intervention (intervening early with at-risk individuals or populations to stop DFV escalating and becoming entrenched).
This NSW Health policy aims to strengthen the public health system’s role in preventing and responding to DFV. It identifies actions to ensure NSW Health staff obtain the support they need from the public health system to prevent, respond to, and ameliorate the harmful effects of, DFV. It also describes the state-wide and local policies and procedures, resources and training necessary to support health services and staff in this work.
This policy framework applies to NSW Health services and its aim is for these services to deliver a more integrated prevention and service response to violence, abuse and neglect. The framework is being implemented in two phases.
The focus of the first phase is on strengthening integrated responses by NSW Health’s specialist Violence, Abuse and Neglect (VAN) services. VAN services are the services within the health sector that respond to DFV and also to other, often co-occurring, forms of violence, abuse and neglect, including:
- Child abuse and neglect
- Sexual assault
- Young people with problematic or harmful sexual behaviours (these are sexual behaviours that harm another child or young person).
An integrated service response by these VAN services recognises the need to consider, and respond appropriately, to all forms of violence being experienced. This is necessary because people experience multiple forms of violence, abuse and neglect. These forms of violence often overlap within families and may co-occur or may be experienced at different stages throughout a person’s life.
The focus of the second phase of implementing this policy framework is on broadening integration of violence, abuse and neglect responses beyond specialist VAN services. This phase recognises the importance of integrated responses across the whole of the NSW Health system.
This policy framework is supported by the paper, The Case for Change: Integrated Prevention and Response to Violence, Abuse and Neglect in NSW Health. It provides a summary of key findings from the research and clinical literature that support an integrated response by NSW Health violence, abuse and neglect services.
A current NSW Premier’s Priority is reducing DFV reoffending by 25% by 2023.
A current NSW Premier’s Priority is to reduce the proportion of children and young people re-reported at risk of significant harm by 20% by 2023. Many children are reported to the child protection system are at risk of significant harm because they are experiencing DFV.
Commonwealth Government policies
The National Plan is the Commonwealth Government’s key policy related to reducing DFV and sexual assault. It aims to provide a coordinated framework for action by the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments. The National Plan specifies six outcomes for these governments to work towards:
- Communities are safe and free from violence
- Relationships are respectful
- Indigenous communities are strengthened
- Services meet the needs of women and their children experiencing violence
- Justice responses are effective
- Perpetrators stop their violence and are held to account.
There have been successive Action Plans developed to implement the National Plan.
NSW Government Programs
The Safer Pathway program provides a coordinated service delivery model for DFV victim-survivors across NSW. It aims to ensure that victim-survivors access all the DFV-related services and supports they need, even though these are delivered across a range of government and non-government agencies. Elements of the Safer Pathway program include:
- a streamlined referral pathway for victim-survivors through an online platform, the Central Referral Point, managed by Victims Services
- a common risk assessment tool (the Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Tool, or DVSAT), which the NSW Police Force must use, and which other service providers are encouraged to use
- consistent access to specialist DFV support victim-survivors through a network of Local Coordination Points
- Safety Action Meetings, attended by government and non-government service providers, to provide a priority, case-coordination response for victim-survivors at serious risk of injury or death.
Through Safer Pathways, victim-survivors may be referred into any of the other programs outlined below. They may also self-refer into the below programs.
This program provides a multi-agency response to prevent DFV escalating in high-risk target groups and in targeted communities. It is a collaboration between DCJ, NSW Police and non-government support agencies focused on delivering integrated, case management responses to DFV. Services available include:
- emotional and practical support for both adult and children victim-survivors
- risk assessment
- safety planning
- therapeutic support, where the service providers involved have this specialisation
- supporting prosecution of perpetrators through the courts
- work with perpetrators, where this does not compromise the safety of victim-survivors, with the aim of referring them into a DFV behaviour change program.
Administered by DCJ, this program works, in cooperation with NSW Police, to remove the perpetrator from the family home so that victim-survivors (both adults and any children) can stay safely in that home. It aims to prevent victim-survivors becoming homeless or having to move away from their support systems. Services provided include help with:
- safety planning
- home security
- managing finances
- legal processes.
Administered by Legal Aid, this program funds a network of Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (WDVCASs) across the state. WDVCASs are non-government service providers that assist women to obtain effective legal protection from DFV. They assist women to obtain Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs) and also provide support and information to access the criminal justice system. Besides help with legal processes, they provide support for social and welfare needs, through information and referral to services such as housing, counselling, financial assistance and health services.
WDVCASs were chosen to be the Local Coordination Points for women victim-survivors under the Safer Pathway Program. This means they are responsible for providing risk assessment, case coordination and safety planning services, as well as victim liaison and Secretariat for Safety Action meetings.
As DFV is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children, government programs addressing homelessness are essential for victim-survivors. Administered by DCJ, the SHS program is the NSW Government’s primary response to homelessness. It funds non-government organisations, known as SHSs, to support people who are experiencing, or are at risk of homelessness.
Many SHSs across the state include a specialist response for women, including women escaping DFV, women with children and women with complex needs. The SHS system also includes a network of women’s refuges across NSW that support women, with or without children, who are escaping DFV.
Some service providers, in the SHS program, receive a specific funding stream to provide Domestic Violence Response Enhancement (DVRE) services. DVRE services provide after-hours accommodation and support for women who are experiencing homelessness, or at risk of it, due to DFV. After-hours supports provided include risk assessment, safety planning and referral to the most appropriate accommodation and other supports.
Administered by DCJ, HYAP funds non-government organisations to support unaccompanied children and young people, aged 12 to 15 years, who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of it. These are children who are not in the Out of Home Care system (although they may later enter it). DFV is one of the main reasons for children and young people needing support through HYAP. HYAP provides both accommodation and other supports. It aims to reunify children and young people with their families and broader support networks, where appropriate, or, otherwise, to transition them to longer-term, supported accommodation.
The Rent Choice Start Safely provides short- to medium-term financial support for DFV victim-survivors. This financial support is in the form of a ‘private rental subsidy’ that helps DFV victim-survivors to be able to afford, and to secure, private rental accommodation. The aim of the program is to ensure that DFV victim-survivors do not have to return to the violent situation because they lack any other housing option.
Map of NSW DFV Programs and Services
Developed by DCJ, this is a map of many of the DFV programs and services provided in NSW.