Messages from the frontline: frontline domestic and family violence workers having a voice in response to national policy development and implementation

Stream: Family violence
Date: Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Time: 1.35 pm – 3.15 pm


Based on research conducted with frontline domestic and family violence workers working with victims of domestic and family violence (DVF) and on the elimination of DFV, this paper presents findings that reveal expertise that could inform national policy responses and how national policy is implemented. The study sought advice from people working on the frontline of domestic violence services about the impact and relevance of the Australian Government’s central policy response to the widespread social problem of domestic and family violence – the Third National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children (2016-2019). Motivation for this research was to create an opportunity for frontline DFV workers to have a safe opportunity to comment and give advice on the national social policy approach. This was developed in the context of a perceived failure of the plan to have the desired impact of reducing the incidence of domestic violence over the life of the National Plan at a time when frontline workers face an increasingly competitive and marketized context for advocacy and direct services delivery. The findings reflected very specific misalignments with the knowledge and expectations of frontline workers, including: a lack of consultation with those on the frontline of services in the policy development; a failure to design a policy that is inclusive of the diversity of people affected by DFV; a pivot away from women’s safety toward a focus on men’s behaviour; a lack of impetus of accountability across a range of state mechanisms and for perpetrators.


Ruth Phillips (Presenter), The University of Sydney
Ruth Phillips teaches in the Social Work and Policy Studies Program in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. Her research foci are feminism, Australian social policy, SEA social policy and Third Sector Research. Ruth is currently the president of the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR), a highly international research organisation based in the USA but with members from every region. Ruth combines her research fields in both Australian and international projects. Much of her policy research has focussed on domestic violence policy and poverty and the welfare state.

Susan Heward-Belle (Presenter), The University of Sydney
Dr Sue Heward-Belle is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney and is a recognised leader in domestic and family violence research in Australia, with almost 30 years of experience in domestic violence and child protection practice. She was Chief Investigator conducting a range of domestic and family violence focused projects for ANROWS including: The PATRICIA Project and Invisible Practices: Engaging men who use violence. She is also Chief Investigator on two other large-scale multi-state projects: Whole of Family approaches to working with families where there is domestic violence & the STACY Project (Safe and Together Addressing Complexity).

Susan Goodwin (Presenter), The University of Sydney
Susan Goodwin is Professor of Policy Studies at the University of Sydney. Her research focuses on social policy, community development and gender issues. She is co-editor, with Gabrielle Meagher of Markets, Rights and Power in Australian Social Policy (SUP, 2015). Her book with Carol Bacchi (2016) Poststructural Policy Analysis: A Guide to Practice (Palgrave, New York) outlines an innovative approach to policy analysis that has application across the full range of policy fields and governmental projects. Her most recent co-edited book is Working Across Difference: Social Work, Social Policy and Social Justice (Palgrave, UK, 2019).