Victoria acts on family violence: information sharing a crucial step

By David Donaldson

February 28, 2018

New information-sharing laws to help protect those at risk of family violence have come into operation in Victoria.

The Royal Commission into Family Violence (Victoria) and coronial inquest into the death of Luke Batty identified that there were barriers preventing information about perpetrators from being shared effectively, and that failure to share crucial intelligence with family-violence workers can have catastrophic consequences.

In response to these findings, the Victorian government introduced the Family Violence Protection Amendment (Information Sharing) Act 2017 in March last year. The information-sharing scheme began on Monday.

The scheme — a key plank of the state’s landmark family-violence reforms — also enables other major reforms, like the support and safety hubs and central information point, to operate.

The act allows an authorised group of trusted government agencies and community-service organisations to share information with each other for family-violence risk-assessment and risk-management purposes.

The act also removes the requirement in previous Victorian privacy legislation that a serious threat to an individual must also be imminent before information can be lawfully shared. This will apply generally, not just in the context of family violence.

More than 500 practitioners and managers across priority workforces authorised under the scheme have been trained, including women’s and men’s specialist family-violence services, Child FIRST, community-based child protection, Victoria Police, Courts Victoria and sexual-assault support services.

Training will continue to be available in coming months to ensure the new laws are implemented effectively.

Ministerial guidelines, fact sheets and other tools relating to the new family-violence legislation are available at vic.gov.au/familyviolence.

These reforms will align with the launch of the revised Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework later this year. Complementary child-information-sharing legislation recently passed the lower house.

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