In Victoria, intimate partner violence is the leading contributor of death, disability and illness in women aged 15 – 44.

Family violence is the leading contributor to ill health for women under 50. At least one in 10 women attending general practice will have experienced family violence.

While some men experience family violence, it is predominantly women and children who are affected. Often people in a violent or abusive relationship want to talk about the issue but are unsure of who to tell, what to say or how to bring it up.  

Starting the conversation can be challenging, but health professionals are uniquely placed to identify and respond to family violence. With the right tools and supports, you can help empower women to break the silence and seek safety.   

How to start the conversation

Asking is the first step.  

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

Questions to ask could include: 

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

The most important thing is to take all available opportunities to raise the subject and ask the question so that your patients feel comfortable and safe to talk to you, or another staff member. 

Family Violence Quality Improvement (QI) Project 2021

Now more than ever general practice has a vital role to play in caring for people experiencing family violence.

Estimates are that each full time GP will see up to five women per week with underlying intimate partner violence, but you may be unaware violence is happening in these families.

Research has also found that there is a spike in family violence during major crises and disasters. There is already evidence that family violence in the Melbourne area has risen sharply during the pandemic and resulting stay at home restrictions.

Practices are encouraged to apply now to join the Family Violence QI Project with Professor Kelsey Hegarty’s team from the University of Melbourne’s Safer Families Centre. Practices that complete the project will receive a $3,000 incentive payment.

Apply now

Education and training

General practices have a critical role to play in responding to the shadow pandemic of family violence during COVID-19. Watch our webinar with Professor Kelsey Hegarty from University of Melbourne’s Safer Families Centre and a lived experience speaker below:

There are also a number of organisations which offer education and training on identifying and responding to family violence. Subscribe to the North Western Melbourne PHN fortnightly newsletter to receive updates on upcoming sessions.  

Online training 

RACGP: Visit the RACGP website to access online training modules.

1800RESPECT: has a number of free webinars, with topics ranging from improving cultural understanding in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, to violence against women and their children, and understanding LGBTIQ domestic and family violence.


Resources for health professionals

  • HealthPathways Melbourne: Login to HealthPathways Melbourne to access information on Intimate Partner Violence, Family violence, and Patient Discloses Experience of Intimate Partner Violence. Access to HealthPathways Melbourne is limited to health professionals within the north, western and eastern Melbourne PHN catchments only. Request access via this link.  
  • Northern Integrated Family Violence Services: Overcoming barriers (CALD resource)

Resources for your patients

Reducing family violence

Family violence is a key priority for North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN). Family violence is the leading contributor to ill health for women under 50.  At least one in 10 women attending general practice will have experienced family violence.

NWMPHN is working with the University of Melbourne to provide targeted family violence education to general practice through the WEAVE program. The WEAVE program is an outcome of a world first trial, led by GP Professor Kelsey Hegarty, on the effectiveness of intervention by GPs leading to better health outcomes for women and children experiencing family violence.

The following video captures why identifying family violence needs to be embedded into best practice when working with children and families.


Quick links

The following links will take you directly to family violence services:


Safe Steps:

White Ribbon Australia:

Women’s Health West:

Women’s Health North:

Women’s Health Grampians:

Women’s Health Loddon Mallee