Victim-survivors and the challenges of co-creating the reform of a failing family violence system

Ms Lisa Wheildon1

1Monash University, Clayton, Australia

Governments around the world have increasingly been engaging victims of crime, including victims of domestic and family violence, in the reform of the very laws, policies and services that have failed them. Like other government co-creation efforts, this is generally assumed to be a more effective way of delivering public value. However, political science scholars have recently questioned this assumption, referring to co-creation as a ‘magic concept’ and calling for “constructive disenchantment” with the notion. This article responds to these concerns through a case study examination of the Victorian Government’s Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council (VSAC) and its mission to centre the voices of victim-survivors in the reform of the family violence system. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with eight policy actors working in family violence and an in-depth interview with victim-survivor advocate and former VSAC Chair, Rosie Batty, this article argues that without careful consideration of the challenges and limitations of co-creation, particularly the need for awareness of power imbalances and a commitment to culture change within government, the assumption that co-creation is a positive development is flawed. Focusing on the first three years of the Council, this article makes recommendations regarding future co-creation programs involving victim-survivors and is of relevance to co-creation practices more broadly.


Lisa Wheildon is a Doctoral Researcher at Monash University. Her research focuses on the role of victim-survivor advocates with lived experience of gender-based violence as change agents for policy reform. Utilising a feminist research methodology, and integrating public policy and criminological theories, together with an understanding of social norms, Lisa’s research examines the recent rise of individual victim-survivors as change agents and the interplay of personal, social, institutional and historical factors underpinning social change. Previously, Lisa spent a decade in senior roles in the Victorian Government, and helped establish Our Watch, the national foundation to prevent violence against women.


Dec 09 2021