Health professionals join forces against family violence

  26 April 2021  NWMPHN   

North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network’s new Family Violence Community of Practice is underway.

The community of practice aims to improve the capacity of primary care providers to identify, respond to and refer victims and perpetrators of family and domestic violence. We also want to better integrate primary care services with the broader community and social care services sector.

28 health professionals from a variety of disciplines attended the first session on Tuesday, 20 April 2021. The broad range of voices, knowledge and experience in the session led to a productive examination of local case studies.

Attendees included people from the primary health, community health, mental health, alcohol and other drugs, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sectors. They joined an expert panel and representatives from hospitals, women and children’s support services, men’s behaviour change programs, legal services and local government. Dr Jennifer Neil, a local GP and senior lecturer at Monash University, led the session.

The 20 April session focused on the western region local government areas of Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, Melton, Moorabool and Wyndham. Further sessions will focus on the central region (28 April) and the northern region (29 April).

Attendees also heard details about changes to Information Sharing Scheme requests, and a discussion on legal aspects of family violence presented by Brigid Jenkins from Victoria Legal Aid.

What did people say on the night?

Key discussions in the first community of practice session included the following themes.

The barriers of different settings, including

  • the importance of social connections and informal support networks for people who experience family violence, and the support that is needed for these networks
  • the fear of children being removed, and the setting for maternal visits
  • self-assessment, trust issues, shame and non-identification of family violence
  • barriers for culturally and linguistically diverse communities, such as using interpreters.

“Being included as a survivor of domestic violence in the community of practice sessions, where I was listened to, validated and understood in a trauma informed setting, was a sheer pleasure.”
– Maggie (not their real name).

Risk assessment and Information Sharing Schemes, including:

  • lived experience perspective on changes to information sharing – repeating peoples’ experiences over and over again is destructive
  • understanding of information sharing requests and that they can be used for certain purposes only
  • risk assessment shared by other services – to avoid situations when a person needs to repeat their story.

“I thought it was fantastic! Very engaging and I think we were able to have some nuanced conversations which was great. Thanks so much for involving Odyssey, it was a great event.”
– Alyssa Scott.

The roles of different professions, including:

  • the barriers of roles – opposite genders, backgrounds and languages
  • a safe way to contact a victim if their phone and emails are controlled by a perpetrator
  • children’s awareness about family violence
  • school-aged children – how to contact people through a school.

“I would just like to say that as a survivor I found the seminar both informative and encouraging…it was so nice to see a range of professionals from a cross-section of services interested in making positive changes to what is a very broken system…it gave me hope that finally something is happening.”
– Person with lived experience (name withheld).

Who was on our multidisciplinary panel?

A huge thanks to everyone who attended and the following panellists for leading the discussion:

Dr Jennifer Neil (facilitator) – GP and Senior Lecturer at Monash University
Brigid Jenkins (presenter) – Program Manager, Family Law Services at Victoria Legal Aid
Three lived experience representatives
Kaye Frankcom – Clinical and Counselling Psychologist at Kaye Frankcom Consulting
Assunta Morrone – Project Lead, Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family Violence at Sunshine, Footscray and Williamstown Hospitals
Patrick Birtles – Senior AOD Outreach Clinician at Odyssey House Victoria
Joanne Doherty – Specialist Practitioner at Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women’s Service
Zanetta Hartley – Specialist Family Violence Advisor at NorthWestern Mental Health

A special thank you to Dr Jeannie Knapp, Kaye Frankcom, Kitty Novy and Professor Kesley Hegarty from the Safer Families Centre, Bianca Bell, Jen Francis, Michaela Lodewyckx and Brad Pierce who were helped to organise and promote this vital event.

Missed it? Register for the 2022 sessions

Promotional image for 2022 Family Violence Community of Practice.

Areas: Brimbank, Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, Melton, Moorabool and Wyndham  

Areas: Darebin, Hume, Macedon Ranges Melbourne, Moonee Valley, Moreland and Yarra. 

You are welcome to attend any of the events. We encourage you to attend the one most relevant to the area in which you work.

How to start the conversation about family violence.


More information about our family violence work is available on our website. To learn more lease contact:

Irina Basanko
Project Lead, Primary Care Pathways to Safety
North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network
P: 03 9347 1188