What is the ANRA?
The Australian National Research Agenda (ANRA) identifies what evidence is needed to end domestic, family and sexual violence (DFSV) and how that evidence should be produced. It is a national framework, produced by ANROWS, that can be used by the community of committed people and organisations who are working to grow the evidence base: researchers, funders, policymakers, services, survivor advocates and social impact organisations.
Australians want policies that work. Research and evaluation are the mechanisms that generate the evidence necessary to develop evidence-informed policy and practice. The ANRA can be used to coordinate research investment and improve how research is designed and conducted.
Driven by the values of effectiveness, efficiency and collaboration, ANROWS is committed to addressing gaps in knowledge by working together across research, policy, practice and lived experience. Through these partnerships we have a better chance of ensuring that the focus of research addresses the gaps that matter most. We also increase the odds that the research findings impact on policy- and decision-making and how practitioners generate change in practice.
An evidence-informed research priority setting influences what research is produced and how research is conducted. The most recent ANRA 2020–2022, for example, set as one of its priorities a greater understanding of how children and young people experience domestic and family violence. The research ANROWS has since published on this subject has contributed to elevating children and young people in policy and practice response, supporting a greater acknowledgement that they are victims in their own right.
The intention of the ANRA 2023–2028 is to guide Australia’s diverse research community, to help ensure that work over the next five years is organised, purposeful and effective.
Why is the ANRA important?
This is a crucial time for research into DFSV. The first National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022 was world-leading – it established vital infrastructure and, for the first time, brought gendered violence under the national spotlight. However, the rates of domestic, family and sexual violence (DFSV) remain intractable, and there have been only marginal improvements in community attitudes about gender equality and DFSV. The federal government launched a new National Plan in 2022 with a bold and ambitious commitment: to end violence against women and their children in a single generation. To achieve this goal, the voices of victim-survivors need to be not only heard but included in the research, decision making and implementation of DFSV research to ensure we have evidence-informed policy and practice.
How was the ANRA developed?
This ANRA makes the case for focusing new research on the most neglected corners of DFSV, where it is sorely needed. ANROWS adopted a staged approach to help identify these gaps. First, ANROWS reviewed the projects it has funded since 2014. This revealed, for example, a significant disparity between research with a primary focus on intimate partner violence (70%) and sexual violence (30%); that imbalance must be addressed.
Additionally, the existing ANROWS research tended towards descriptive research; that is, understanding the various forms of DFSV, for example, as well as community attitudes, and how systems respond to and impact victim-survivors and/or people who use DFSV. This has been valuable work but, if we are truly committed to transformational change, we need intervention research. We must invest in learning what strategies work – and for whom – to improve DFSV outcomes.
Second, ANROWS drew on its Evidence Portal to obtain a bird’s-eye view of intervention research in Australia. ANROWS researchers identified and analysed 64 impact evaluations conducted in Australia, published between 2010 and 2021. Here, there was the same disparity between research on intimate partner violence and sexual violence, with a primary focus on intimate partner violence (75%).
In addition, far more of the evaluations focused on the response to or primary prevention of DFSV, than on intervening early and supporting healing and recovery. The majority of the published interventions were conducted in the most populous states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, with only one impact evaluation identified for the Northern Territory and none in Tasmania over the same time period.
Early in 2023, in recognition of the knowledge and expertise of people with lived experience of DFSV, the ANRA team held five focus groups with people with lived experience to further identify gaps in the evidence base. The distillation of their voices informed the need for the ANRA to focus on:
- interrupting pathways into perpetration
- challenging privilege and power at play in our institutions
- designing services that meet the needs of populations at risk of marginalisation
- addressing multidimensional systems failure
- critiquing societal norms and attitudes to violence against women
- creating space for ways of knowing that draw on experts by experience and empirical knowledge.
An understanding of power was fundamental to the ANRA process and the research priorities it developed. ANROWS wanted not only to share power, but also to cede it, and give greater voice and influence to people with lived experience and frontline practitioners (not that any of these categories are mutually exclusive).
To that end, ANROWS set out to co-design the ANRA 2023–2028 with victim-survivors of DFSV, academics and practitioners. Participants in two co-design workshops, held in July and August 2023, reflected on the gaps in knowledge identified through the review of research and focus groups findings and determined the priorities for research and ways of working. Their voices are embedded in the ANRA priorities and are now setting the agenda, alongside researchers and practitioners.
As a result of the co-design process, the research priorities for the ANRA 2023–2028 align closely with the needs on the ground and of those impacted by DFSV. After all, for people with lived experience of DFSV, a lack of evidence isn’t just a matter of academic curiosity: it can radically alter the trajectory of their lives.
"Our ways of working are as important as the work we do."
It is not just the research that we do, but how we do it, that matters. The ANRA focus groups and co-design process highlighted the need for researchers to consider the ways in which they undertake DFSV research and who they engage with (ways of working), as well as the need for research to draw on diverse sources of knowledge (ways of knowing).
Ways of working
Research can be enormously helpful, but it can also take a long time and may not always achieve its intended outcomes. We want research that will be impactful, that will compensate contributors for their time, and that includes the subjects of the research in its design.
The ANRA co-design participants recommended creating space for research that is decided and undertaken by people who identify as being part of the population that is impacted by the research topic. In these research projects, community members could be involved in the whole process, from setting the research question(s), through to data collection, analysis and monitoring.
Specifically, the ANRA encourages ways of working in DFSV research that support:
- community-led research and partnerships
- working with victim-survivors and children and young people
- recognising practitioners’ expertise.
Ways of knowing
To end DFSV, it is important to reflect on the influence of power in our work and relationships and whether we (consciously or unconsciously) perpetuate discrimination and power imbalances. When working with people at risk of marginalisation, it is essential that institutions and researchers don’t repeat dynamics that exclude, exploit and disempower. Traditional western research methodologies tend to reinforce power imbalances. Employing non-western approaches to research – such as Indigenous methods and ways of knowing – can enrich the collection of data, encourage connection and mitigate power imbalances (Linda Tuhiwai Smith).
Make use of existing data
The ANRA also encourages researchers to consider data sources that already exist but have not been used for research purposes. There is, for example, a considerable amount of administrative data currently being collected by various agencies on DFSV victim-survivors and people who use DFSV. A priority for this ANRA is to encourage researchers to build relationships and develop research projects with these agencies, and to urge agencies to be open to partnerships with researchers to enable access to data where it is permissible by law, with consideration of ethical standards, human rights and data sovereignty.
The ANRA is designed to be used by anyone who is developing, funding or working alongside research to end domestic, family and sexual violence.
To achieve a national approach to domestic, family and sexual violence research, ANROWS is taking a phased approach for consistent investment and impact.
The first phase of implementation will be for ANROWS to embed the ANRA across the organisation. The ANRA will be used by ANROWS to determine which research projects ANROWS will conduct and fund, both in terms of subject focus and ways of working.
One ANRA priority will be selected as the theme for each of ANROWS’s future grants rounds. Applicants will be strongly encouraged to:
- involve people with lived experience of DFSV and affected communities throughout the research process, starting from the research design
- make use of existing data where possible
- form partnerships with service organisations
- use community-led research and participatory approaches to research
- appropriately remunerate people with lived experience, community-based researchers and DFSV service organisations for their time in project budgets and/or provide opportunities for in-kind support or capacity building, such as providing training and experience in applying research skills.
ANROWS’s commissioned grants are determined by an open competitive process assessed by panels of experts. Assessors will be asked to take the factors above into account when scoring applications. A person with lived experience of DFSV and a DFSV practitioner will sit on each of the panels.
The ANRA will only be effective if we all use it.
Once ANROWS has embedded the ANRA across the organisation we will work on the next phase – working with stakeholders to encourage them to use the ANRA to guide research in ending DFSV. This will include targeted resources to assist researchers, funders (universities and philanthropic organisations), policymakers, survivor advocates, and frontline practitioners in using the ANRA and in applying ways of working and knowing.
The governments of Australia have committed to ending gendered violence in a single generation. The ANRA works towards this ambition by proposing a road map to build the evidence base collaboratively, with clarity, focus and urgency.
What are the research priorities?
The co-design workshops identified nine priority areas of research that have been organised under three topics.Read more
How can you use the ANRA?
Ideas on how researchers, policymakers, funders, community organisations, service providers and advocates can use the ANRA.Find out more
Previous iterations of the National Research Agenda, their implementation and monitoring.Read more
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