Family violence risk assessment in Australia

Jude McCulloch1, Kate Fitz-Gibbon1, Marie Segrave1, JaneMaree Maher1

School of Social Sciences, Monash University

Risking women’s lives: The contrasting approaches to the risk of family violence and ‘terrorism’.

Jude McCulloch*

*Jude McCulloch: jude.mcculloch@monash.edu

Focusing on Australia this paper compares and contrasts the approach to the risk of ‘terrorism’ and family violence. It briefly describes the rise in risk as a way of understanding and addressing social problems and crime generally before examining the rise of risk as a framework for addressing family violence as a gendered crime. It then considers the relationship between risk and security and the shift in the way risk has been operationalised in the counter terrorism arena post 9/11. It maintains that while risk is a key driver of policy and legislative change in the fields of both family violence and terrorism the way risk is understood and mobilised in these fields is vastly different. Terrorism is dealt with in a precautionary or pre-crime frame while family violence continues to be dealt with in a more traditional post-crime frame. This illustrates the risk of gendered crime and family violence in particular is a risk that continues to be more tolerated that the risk of terrorism. While family violence homicides in Australia and other western countries (the majority of which involve women as victims) far outweigh deaths from terrorism the risk of terrorism is treated as more significant than that of family violence. It contends that these different constructions of risk and the exclusion of family violence from the national security agenda reflect and reinforce gendered notions of risk and value.

Presenter Bio:

Jude McCulloch is Professor of Criminology at Monash University in the School of Social Sciences. Her most research focuses on ‘pre-crime’, risk, counter terrorism and family violence. Along with four other researchers from the School of Social Sciences she has recently undertaken a review of the Victorian Family Violence Common Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework for the Department of Health and Human Services. She has published more than eighty chapters and journal articles, five authored books, three edited collections, edited special editions of journals and written for major newspapers, magazines and practitioner journals. Her latest books are Pre-Crime: Pre-emption, Precaution and Future Crime (with Dean Wilson), State Crime and Resistance (eds Elizabeth Stanely and Jude McCulloch) and International Students and Crime (Forbes-Mewett and McCulloch).

Family violence risk assessment in Australia: Examining the merits of a national framework

Kate Fitz-Gibbon*

* Kate Fitz-Gibbon: kate.fitzgibbon@monash.edu

Improved risk assessment and management has become a key focus of strategies for reducing family violence and its impacts. In Australia there is no single ‘best practice’ tool or approach to actuarial or structured risk assessment in family violence generally or intimate partner violence in particular. Common risk assessment frameworks have been introduced in Victoria, Western Australia and Northern Territory while the remaining states adopt a range of diverse approaches to assessing and managing risk in family violence cases. Recent reviews of the family violence system across Australia and state Coronial Inquests findings have revealed shortcomings in current approaches to identifying, assessing and managing risk of family violence. In 2016 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Advisory Panel Report on Reducing violence against women and their children recommended that a national risk assessment framework be developed to provide a more consistent, integrated response to violence against women and their children. This follows the recommendation made by the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence, which also recommended the development of a national family violence risk assessment framework and tool should be pursued.

This paper will examine the merits of developing a national framework for family violence risk assessment and management. The paper will examine current approaches to risk assessment and management across Australian state and territory jurisdictions as well as the findings of recent reviews into the effectiveness of such schemes. The merits of a national risk assessment framework will then be examined, with particular consideration given to the need to bring risks associated with the family court into view, the need to develop an evidence base of risks beyond intimate partner violence, and jurisdictional difficulties that may arise from the introduction of a national scheme.

Presenter Bio:

Kate Fitz-Gibbon is a senior lecturer in criminology in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University. Her research examines family violence, legal responses to lethal violence and the effects of homicide law and sentencing reform in Australian and international jurisdictions. This research is undertaken with a key focus on issues relating to gender, constructions of responsibility and justice. Kate has advised on homicide law reform reviews in several Australian jurisdictions. Recent publications include Homicide, Gender and Responsibility: An International Perspective (eds Kate Fitz-Gibbon and Sandra Walkate).


“If I have to go back, I’d rather die here”:  Disconnection and family violence risk assessment for CALD women

Marie Segrave*, JaneMaree Maher

*Marie Segrave: marie.segrave@monash.edu

This paper will draw on recent research in Victoria with victim/survivors of family violence and key stakeholders in the sector, to map points of disconnect between the risk assessment framework in use in Victoria and CALD women’s lived risks. The paper will highlight that for CALD women there are specific barriers to naming violence, to seeking help and to leaving. These barriers are can be understood as additional or unseen risk factors. This conceptualisation of barriers assists in understanding first, that there are components of risk specific to CALD women, and second, that family violence risk assessment must be contextualised, to ensure that risk does not go unrecognised due to a lack of shared understanding of concepts and meanings. To illustrate these issues, we will identify how immigration status and community entanglement are two components of risk that are specific to CALD women. We will then identify how an absence of nuanced understanding regarding potential perpetrator/s, isolation, and how key concepts are understood can result in risk being unacknowledged, and action not being taken.

Presenter Bios

Marie Segrave is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Monash University and a DECRA Fellow (2014-2018, Irregular Migration Labour Exploitation). Marie has undertaken extensive research examining the intersection of gender, violence, vulnerability and citizenship. She is currently working with InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence to undertake a comprehensive review of the impact of immigration status on risk and support for CALD women.

Associate Professor JaneMaree Maher is Associate Professor in the Centre for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, and the co-leader of the Gender and Family Violence Research Program in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University. JaneMaree has researched and published extensively on women’s work and family, and on motherhood and family life, and gendered violence. Her work and leadership in the area of gendered violence brings together a range of projects focused on how criminal justice mobilises notions of femininity and masculinity gender in crime and and punishment.

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