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Violence against women and their children affects everybody. It impacts on the health, wellbeing and safety of a significant proportion of Australians throughout all states and territories and places an enormous burden on the nation’s economy across family and community services, health and hospitals, income-support and criminal justice systems.


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Voices from the frontline: Qualitative perspectives of the workforce on transforming responses to domestic, family and sexual violence

Intimate partner violence (IPV) and sexual violence (SV) are pervasive issues within the Australian community. The domestic and family violence workforce is integral to understanding and improving responses to women and children who experience violence, as well as people who use it. Until now, most research exploring the perceptions of the domestic and family violence workforce has established what doesn’t work, rather than what the workforce perceives to be effective and promising.

This is the first report from the ANROWS project “Transforming responses to intimate partner and sexual violence: Listening to the voices of victims, perpetrators and services”. The project investigates the perspectives of victims and survivors, perpetrators and service providers across victims’ and survivors’ and perpetrators’ help-seeking journeys. The focus of this report is to provide insight into the workforce’s perspectives of existing responses to victims and perpetrators, and what is required for effective and sustainable responses and interventions. In the wake of the new National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022–2032 the findings of this report provide crucial insights to improving responses and interventions and enabling pathways towards recovery and healing.

The researchers used a mixed-methods approach, including national surveys and in-depth interviews. The first report included survey responses from 95 sector stakeholders. Participants were practitioners (63%), service designers and managers (22%), and researchers (15%). Participants were drawn from across Australia, though one third (33%) were from Victoria.

The research identified five key themes that encapsulate workforce perspectives on how to address violence and improve support for those experiencing and using violence:

  • addressing upstream determinants of domestic, family and sexual violence
  • reactivity and inequity in responses harms victims and survivors
  • changing harmful understandings of domestic, family and sexual violence that can entrench victim blaming
  • enabling choice and the right to self-determination
  • power of connection, collective healing and compassion.

Underpinning these five themes were structural barriers such as inadequate funding for services, limited opportunities for strengthening and sustaining the workforce, and policy decisions that hindered choice and agency for victims and survivors. The findings mirrored what researchers heard from victims and survivors, who described services as under-resourced, with professionals often disinclined or unable to engage meaningfully due to structural barriers (see the second report, Listening to the voices of victims and perpetrators to transform responses to intimate partner violence). The report also identifies that a vital strength of the DFV workforce is its ability to build meaningful relationships with victims and survivors. Workers said this was a critical skill for working with trauma and enabling the help-seeking journey.



Publication details

This work is part of the ANROWS research reports series. ANROWS research reports are in-depth reports on empirical research produced under ANROWS’s research program.


Research Fellow, University of New South Wales

Research Associate, University of New South Wales



ISBN: 978-1-922645-58-6 (paperback)| 978-1-922645-57-9 (PDF)
88 pp.

Suggested citation

Cullen, P., Walker, N., Koleth, M., & Coates, D. (2022). Voices from the frontline: Qualitative perspectives of the workforce on transforming responses to domestic, family and sexual violence (Research report, 21/2022). ANROWS.

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