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​Family violence

Family violence is the use of violent, threatening, coercive or controlling behaviour by an individual against a family member, including those in a past or present intimate relationship, or in an extended family network.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Burden of Disease Study 2018 ranked intimate partner violence as the fourth leading risk factor in living with and dying prematurely from a disease or injury for women aged between 15 and 44. In 2022, at least 57 women in Australia were killed by current or former male partners.

In August 2023, the Australian Government Department of Social Services released 2 action plans under the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032:

These are aimed at ending family violence within a generation.

 All genders experience family violence, but women and children are affected most often. AIHW research found that in 2021-22 of all people hospitalised due to family violence, 73 per cent were female. Of all people hospitalised because of family violence 63 per cent identified the perpetrator as a spouse or domestic partner, with the remained identifying a parent or other family member.

The role of general practice

General practice plays a vital role in caring for people experiencing family violence. GPs and other primary health service providers are well placed to respond because they see victim-survivors, perpetrators, and children.

Estimates suggest that a full-time GP might see as many as 5 women a week who have experienced partner violence, including some who have experienced severe abuse.

Studies indicate that women are twice as likely to disclose family violence if asked by their GP or a primary care provider. More than one in 5 women make their first disclosure of family violence to a GP.

How you can start the conversation about family violence

Starting the conversation can be challenging, but health professionals are well-placed to do so. With the right tools and supports, they can empower victims to break their silence and seek safety.

Asking is the first step.

Let your patient know they can speak openly to you about their concerns, and that they are in a safe and confidential environment.

Questions could include:

  • Is there anything else going on in your life that you’d like to talk about?
  • Are your friends and family aware of what’s going on?
  • Are you feeling frightened?
  • Are you worried about your children’s safety?

Take any opportunity to raise the subject and ask questions. Try to ensure patients feel comfortable and safe talking to you. Consider that perhaps they might feel more comfortable talking to a different staff member and offer that opportunity.
Starting the Conversation About Family Violence
IPC Health – Steps to identify and support patients experiencing family violence

Primary Care Pathways to Safety Program

North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) is committed to supporting primary care providers to build their confidence and capability to recognise, respond and refer disclosures of family violence.

To achieve this, we are being funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care to deliver the Primary Care Pathways to Safety program.

The program, designed in partnership with The Safer Families Centre at the University of Melbourne, provides tailored support to general practices to improve confidence in responding to family violence, boost collaboration, and build greater cohesion and coordination across local health, social care, and family violence services.

After a successful pilot in 2019, NWMPHN is providing training to 30 GP clinics from 2023-2026 with grant funding available.

Primary Care Pathways to Safety is part of the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care’s Improving Health System Responses to Family and Domestic Violence Primary Health Networks Pilots. It was recently evaluated by the Sax Institute. View the report.

General practice education and training

  • Several organisations offer education and training on identifying and responding to family violence. Visit the NWMPHN events calendar to register for family violence education and training sessions hosted by NWMPHN and partners. For information about upcoming sessions subscribe to our fortnightly newsletter.
  • Self-directed e-learning modules: 
    • The Readiness Program is a suite of e-learning modules developed by the Safer Families Centre, providing evidence-based knowledge and basic skills on early engagement actions tailored for victim-survivors and their families, as well as people who use family violence. There are 7 modules available. More information.
    • The impact of family and domestic violence on the child is a course developed by National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health and delivered by Emerging Minds. The 1-hour course provides you with an introduction to the impact of family and domestic violence on children. More information.

Quality improvement activities

Our family violence quality improvement (QI) templates are available for general practices to respond to the high prevalence of family violence-related presentations in primary care.

Visit our QI activity hub to download:

These QI activities may provide GPs with Royal Australian College of General Practitioners continuing professional development (CPD) hours, and support practices eligible for the Practice Incentive Program Quality Improvement Incentive.

For more information or to arrange a visit please phone (03) 9347 1188 or email



Please note this is not an exhaustive list. GPs and health professionals can refer to HealthPathways Melbourne for more clinical and referral advice.

  • 1800RESPECT

    National sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service (24-hour, 7-day helpline, information and support).

    1800 737 732

  • Safe Steps

    Family violence response centre (24-hours, 7-day crisis line). Usually crisis counselling, referral, support and advocacy, contact point for women’s refuges, referral to other short-term crisis accommodation.

    1800 015 188

  • The Orange Door

    The Orange Door welcomes everyone, regardless of migration status. You can seek help or support if you are a migrant or a refugee or do not have permanent residency.

    1800 319 355

  • InTouch

    Services, programs and responses to issues of family violence in culturally and linguistically diverse communities. inTouch develop and implement a number of culturally sensitive and holistic models for the provision of services to both victims and perpetrators of family violence.

    1800 755 988

  • Provides culturally safe and accessible services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seeking support.

    1800 105 303

  • Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women’s Service

    Provides specialist family violence support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children who are currently experiencing or have experienced family violence.

    (03) 9482 5744

  • Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA)

    Supports women, men and families across Australia affected by anxiety and depression during pregnancy and in the first year of parenthood.

    1300 726 306

  • CAREinMIND™ services

    Free 24/7 online and phone counselling for people living, working or studying in Melbourne’s northern, central and western suburbs.

    1300 096 269

  • Northern Integrated Family Violence Services Partnership (NIFVS)

    NIFVS provide workers with an understanding of the family violence system in the northern metropolitan region. It offers an introduction presentation, interviews with service providers and links to resources to help improve responses to family violence.

  • No to Violence (men’s referral service)

    No to Violence work with men who use family violence, and the sector that supports them to change their abusive and violent behaviour.

    1300 766 491

  • Relationships Australia

  • Seniors Rights Victoria

    A free and confidential telephone and advisory service aimed to help prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of senior Victorians.

    1300 368 821

  • Switchboard – Rainbow Door

    A free specialist LGBTIQA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Gender Diverse, Intersex, Queer, Asexual, BrotherBoys, SisterGirls) helpline providing information, support, and referral to all LGBTIQA+ Victorians, their friends and family.

    1800 729 367

  • Kids Help Line

  • Australian Psychological Society

  • Lifeline

    Provides all Australians experiencing emotional distress with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.

    13 11 14

  • HeadtoHealth