CHIA Vic launches Family Violence Toolkit

‘Family violence most often takes place in the home, putting community housing organisations in the front line of identifying and supporting at-risk renters,’ according to CHIA Vic CEO Lesley Dredge.

‘Property damage, rent arrears and reports of noise disturbance from neighbours can all be signs something is not right,’ Ms Dredge says.

Ms Dredge was launching CHIA Vic’s ‘Community Housing Family Violence Toolkit’. The practical toolkit will assist community housing organisations to gain a sound understanding of family violence, screen tenants, increase the safety of homes and refer renters to required supports.

CHIA Vic engaged DV Vic to help create the community housing-specific toolkit, which will be an invaluable resource for CHOs in the lead up to April 2020 deadline for the industry to comply with the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) Framework.

The toolkit also outlines CHOs obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act in relation to family violence, including case studies and includes templates, checklists and flowcharts.

It includes advice on how to support staff dealing with vicarious trauma as a result of assisting renters experiencing family violence, or who are experiencing it themselves, along with template policies and procedures.

A four-page Users’ Guide to the Toolkit  has been created assist staff to quickly locate the required information in the 60-page toolkit. The accompanying resources are also available to download separately on from the website.

‘Used in combination with family violence training, CHIA Vic’s toolkit will help the sector foster best practice in relation to family violence and its role as a key part of a multi-agency response to this all too prevalent issue,’ Ms Dredge says.

CHIA Vic, in conjunction with DHHS, will run family violence training for CHO staff early in 2020.

Access the toolkit and resources here.


Call for Submissions: Monitoring Family Violence Reforms

The Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor was established following the 2016 Royal Commission to independently monitor and review the Victorian government and its agencies in delivering Victoria’s family violence reforms.

To inform her fourth report to Parliament next year, the Monitor is calling for submissions from organisations and individual practitioners who work with people who have experienced or perpetrated family violence, and organisations that represent and advocate for victim survivors.

The Monitor is seeking submissions that address the following topics:
1. How the family violence service system, and users’ experiences of it, have changed since the Royal Commission
2. Looking forward: what is still required in the family violence reforms
3. Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

See the submission website for details.

How to make a submission
– Visit up until 20 July 2020. Review the questions and areas of interest.
– Respond to questions directly into the website or upload a pre-prepared submission.
– Make a submission on behalf of an organisation or as an individual practitioner.

The Monitor welcomes submissions in whatever format and style is possible for you and your organisation at this challenging time.

What happens to your submission?
Submissions will directly inform the Monitor’s final report to Parliament on progress with implementation of the family violence reforms. The Monitor’s report will be released in 2021 as legislated by the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor Act 2016.

For further information, please contact:
Megan Wendt, Senior Project Officer
Office of the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor

RTA Act amended for Covid-19

The Victorian Parliament has temporarily amended the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) to give effect in Victoria to the National Cabinet’s commitment to a temporary eviction moratorium and to make further broad ranging changes in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Covid-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 also pushes back the remaining reforms in the RT Amendment Act, and these are now due to start on, or by, 1 January 2021.

The new Act makes broad and retrospective changes to residential tenancies law by introducing a new Part 16 into the RTA for a six-month period from 29 March 2020. This will require Community Housing Organisations to immediately change work practices to ensure they comply.

The changes include:

  • A ban on increases to rent payable, and a ban on the service of notices of rent increases.
  • A ban on the use of Notices to Vacate and voiding notices already served unless the termination date is prior to 29 March 2020.
  • Limiting the grounds on which a tenancy can be terminated.
  • The introduction of an alternative tenancy termination process whereby landlords will need to make an application to VCAT to end a tenancy.
  • Establishment of the office of the Chief Dispute Resolution Officer (CDRO) for resolving disputes, and providing that the Director of CAV will appoint to that office.
  • Provision for a Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Scheme with broad powers, which will be outlined in regulation but allow for information sharing between the CDRO and VCAT. It will also enable the CDRO to make binding orders regarding disputes that would normally be determined at VCAT.
  • Bringing forward amendments contained in the RT amendment Act to protect victims of family violence.

Call to implement family violence recommendations

CHIA Vic is looking forward to the response from the Victorian Premier to a joint letter calling for action to eliminate homelessness caused by family violence by fully implementing the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

You can read the letter here.

Last chance for meaningful data

The Family Violence Workforce Census closes on Friday.

This is your organisation’s last chance for staff who deal with family violence victim survivors or perpetrators to have input into the census.

Click here to take part.

More housing for family violence survivors in Dandenong

Family violence support service, Wayss, has added 16 new properties to its housing stock available for women and children escaping the horrors of family violence.

The properties are in addition to 14 properties Wayss secured under the DHHS funded head-lease program in 2019.

Wayss Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Thomas, says head-leasing, where a private rental property is rented from a landlord by a third party and
then sub-let to the tenant, is a great opportunity for Wayss to directly access private rental stock in the local community for families in need.

‘Stable housing is the first step in empowering a family violence victim survivor to take control of their life and recover. Once the family has secure accommodation, we can then coordinate specialist support services to help the woman and her children rebuild their lives,’  Ms Thomas says.

‘In just over 12 months, we’ve increased our housing stock to 30 head-lease properties under our management and that will result in some incredibly positive outcomes for families living in our local community. That’s 30 families that now have the chance to build a positive rental history to support future tenancy applications – it’s access to a critical first step that they may not have been able to take without this program.’

Before linking the family with their new home, Wayss conducts a full safety and risk assessment of the property and works closely with local real estate agents to ensure the right property for the right family. When they move in, the tenant pays only 33 per cent of the rent for the first six months, then 66 per cent for the remainder of the 12-month tenancy. The goal is for the family to then take over the lease and maintain the tenancy. The subsidised rent is a particular advantage when a woman is escaping a financially abusive relationship and needs time to get on top of their finances.

Ms Thomas says Wayss wholeheartedly supports the continued development of the head-lease model across Victoria.

‘Head-leasing is an extension of the housing first model which focuses on getting people housed in safe, secure accommodation and then supporting them to stay housed by access to dedicated case-management. Safe, secure housing is essential to support families to plan pathways for living their best life,’ Ms Thomas says.

Extra housing for family violence victims 

Haven; Home Safe (HHS) has received funding from the Department of Health and Human Services to secure an additional 50 head-leased properties for women and children escaping family violence.

This is the fourth consecutive year the agency has received funding for its award-winning Moving On program, which operates across the North Region of the state, providing rent subsidy and wrap-around support services for households who have experienced family violence.

HHS Chief Operations Officer Trudi Ray said the aim of Moving On was to increase the supply of medium to long-term affordable rental housing.

‘The program means women and their families can access the support they need to stay safe and get back on their feet,’ Ms Ray said.  

HHS sub-lets properties to approved applicants for a period of up to 12 months, while locally based family violence services provide the wrap-around supports.

‘We use a rent step-up model which helps our clients slowly transition towards paying full market rent by the end of the 12 months,’ Ms Ray said 

Of the previous allocations, HHS obtained under the plan, 92 per cent of victim-survivors transitioned to a private rental lease of their chosen property at the end of the 12-month head-lease period.

The organisation will be sending out the call to specialised family violence agencies for referrals to the program in the Melbourne area from Monday, February 3.

‘Once Metro clients have been sourced, we will be accepting referrals from local specialised family violence agencies in Bendigo and other regions in Victoria,’ Ms Ray said.

‘We are pleased to be able to continue the important work we have started with Moving On.’

The regional sites include Geelong, Ballarat, Warrnambool, Bendigo and Mildura/Swan Hill.

Family violence census extended

Victoria’s Workers Census has been extended.

If your job brings you into contact with people experiencing family violence or perpetrators you now have more time to have your say and tell us how you need to be better supported.

Be counted and help us make sure there is no wrong door for people who need help for family violence.

Click to participate in the census.

WPI calls for Xmas donation

Create new beginnings for women and children with a Festive Season donation! A message from WPI

When Marie, her six month old son, Josh, and 14 year old daughter, Holly, escaped her extremely violent ex-partner, they went into hiding. They were terrified that he would find out where they were, as he had threatened her life on many occasions. The police had given her a phone number to call so she could raise the alarm and get help quickly. He fought Marie for access to their son Josh, who was just a baby. Throughout the court process she was terrified. During this time, she was also moving from place to place, trying to keep her location a secret and care for her traumatised children. Marie desperately needed a safe and secure place to start again and rebuild her life.

After two years of running, Marie found refuge in a Women’s Property Initiatives home. She has lived there for eight years and it is a safe haven that she can rely on. It was eventually determined that it was simply too dangerous for her ex-partner to have any contact with Marie or the children, but to this day she has to hide from her abuser. The courts and police have supported her in her efforts to keep her location a secret, but still she worries that he will find them. Added security measures at her home give her some peace of mind.

Although she carries the physical and emotional scars of that relationship, she has built a new life for herself and Josh and Holly. Josh has autism and she has found him a supportive and inclusive school. Marie has studied to be a classroom integration aid, which has helped her understand more about what he goes through. She works at Josh’s school, helping him and lots of other children. She has created a stable and loving home and he is thriving. So is Holly, who is now an adult and works as a call center manager for an energy provider. In a secure home, Holly was able to complete her education and move on from the trauma.

This is the difference a stable home makes. It provided this family with a new beginning and they grabbed it with both hands. They are living productive lives and contributing to their community.

“My home is my safe place, my sanctuary. Because it is secure, we’ve been able to heal and try to be normal. It has been critical in creating a routine for Josh. He is doing well at school. I love being part of that and giving back by helping other kids like him. When you’ve been through what we have, you never take a safe home for granted. We are the lucky ones,” said Marie.

We provide homes for more than 230 women and children. They have been able to enjoy many happy celebrations in the homes they love. This festive season, make a tax deductible donation that will create new beginnings for women like Marie; women who deserve the safe and permanent homes that lots of us take for granted.

Click here to donate now