Family violence services including perpetrator programs

This service description provides information about family violence services.
Document ID number 2732, version 4, 20 November 2019

Exposure to family violence impacts on a child’s safety, wellbeing and development and is a significant risk factor for other harm types. Family violence requires a whole-of-system response. Child protection has a pivotal role in connecting children, adult victim/survivors and perpetrators of family violence to services. Specialist family violence services and other related services hold expertise in safety planning, addressing the impacts of family violence and, in the case of perpetrators, can assist in holding them to account and building their capacity to change their behaviour. It is important that child protection practitioners are aware of family violence services and understand referral processes.

The service descriptions reflect that family violence is predominantly gender based, with men most likely to be perpetrators and women and children most likely to be victims. However, it is also important to acknowledge that family violence may exist in same sex relationships and carer ‘family-like’ relationships, and a gendered lens, while important, does not always apply. Referral pathways described below may be accessed by other victims of family violence. If you are unclear about eligibility criteria for a particular service, contact the service directly to obtain advice.  

Aboriginal families and children experiencing family violence should always be offered a referral to an Aboriginal service provider (Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation or ‘ACCO’) with expertise in assisting victims/survivors of family violence, referral details on particular organisations are outlined below. While some Aboriginal people may prefer to access a mainstream organisation for various reasons, for most Aboriginal people an ACCO will be their provider of choice and it is important that Aboriginal victims/survivors’ right to access culturally safe services and supports is respected.

Refer to the specialist practice resource Working with families where an adult is violent for practice advice.

Refer to Working with adult perpetrators of family violence - advice for further information about engaging and intervening with perpetrators.

Specialist family violence services

Specialist family violence services support women in circumstances where their safety and security is threatened. Women may receive services for an average of 12 weeks, although some women may require more intensive case management support over a longer period. Specialist family violence services also consider the needs of children when assisting women who have experienced violence. These services aim to assist women to make informed choices about their circumstances for themselves and their children, to protect their safety. They also provide assistance to women and their children to remain in safe accommodation in their local community, maintaining connection with friends, family and other community support, in some cases women may require assistance to relocate to another area.The services also aim to reduce disruption to children’s lives by, where possible, avoiding relocation away from existing communities and school.

Intensive case management can be provided for adult women experiencing family violence who have complex and multiple needs and where the threat to safety is such that issues cannot be addressed through usual case management processes. Intensive case management is also provided for women who have been the subject of multiple repeat attendances by police, and where multiple agencies are likely to be involved owing to the complexity of need.

Eligibility criteria

Women experiencing family violence may access specialist family violence services on a repeat and ongoing basis as required, for information, support and referral. A worker will respond and assess on a case-by-case basis as to whether a woman requires more in-depth case management with a dedicated support worker.

How to refer

Women are generally encouraged, and in some cases required, to self-refer to family violence outreach services, although practitioners may contact the service on behalf of their client to explore referral options and services provided.

A service directory is available via website The Lookout.

Family Violence Flexible Support Packages

Most specialist family violence services administer Family Violence Flexible Support Packages (FSPs). FSPs are individualised financial packages of an average cost of $3,000 per client.

Flexible support packages deliver a personalised and holistic response to victim/survivors experiencing family violence to assist them to access support to move out of crisis, stabilise and improve their safety, well-being and independence.

Flexible support packages build on the success of other flexible funding responses, such as private rental brokerage.

Packages can only be distributed to victim/survivors who already have a case management plan. One flexible support package will be available per case managed support period for victim/survivors per presentation. This does not preclude victim/survivors from receiving a subsequent package for future presentations, provided a new case management plan is in place.

FSPs are targeted to victim/survivors who:

  • are escaping and/or have recently experienced family violence; and/or
  • are planning to leave an abusive situation or have the perpetrator removed from the home with appropriate legal sanctions in place.
Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre

The Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre (Safe Steps) is a state-wide, non-government organisation providing 24 hour, seven-day-a-week telephone crisis counselling, family violence risk assessment, referral, information, support, advocacy and crisis accommodation to women and children experiencing family violence, including Aboriginal women and children, transgender women and older women.

Safe steps provide the following services:

  • telephone crisis counselling, referral, information and support
  • centralised referral to women’s Refuges in Victoria
  • Assistance into emergency accommodation or other alternative safe housing options such as private rental
  • information and referral to the Victorian Disability and Family Violence Crisis Response Initiative
  • 24-hour access to interpreters

Contact details

Crisis Line Phone: 1800 015 188 toll free, 24 hours

Administration Phone: (03) 9377 9600

Women's refuges

Women's refuges provide safe accommodation for women and children escaping family violence. Most refuges maintain confidential addresses and medium or high security which may be characterised by a range of measures intended to preserve safety for clients and workers, particularly in scenarios of extreme violence and the likelihood of pursuit and tracking by the violent partner.

Each refuge provides supported accommodation in a graduated range of settings, including fully staffed communal care facilities (often in suburban houses), and transitional properties. Support levels become less intensive as service users progress towards the goal of independent living. A small number of refuges maintain a primary focus on service provision to certain target groups, such as Aboriginal women or those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, although women from those client groups are, of course, able to access general refuge vacancies. For example, Elizabeth Morgan House, Meminar Ngangg Gimba and Orana Gunyah are women’s refuges that provide a range of support to Aboriginal women and children experiencing family violence from crises through to recovery programs.

Refuge workers provide practical support, advocacy or referral regarding a wide range of issues including income support, legal and immigration issues, housing, children’s responses and parenting, health, material aid, emotional support, group work and financial counselling.

In most refuges, a specialist children's support worker coordinates support plans for children who are residents of the refuge. This may include supporting the mother in her parenting role, providing information and resources to mothers and children on recovery strategies, school liaison, supporting the child through any legal or protective processes, attending child protection case planning meetings to advocate on behalf of the child and making appropriate referrals. Child support workers also have a role in providing informal counselling and support to children, assisting them to make sense of their experiences, debrief and understand and accept the violence is not their fault.

Bilingual and bicultural workers from inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence, are available to provide ongoing cultural and linguistic support to women of CALD backgrounds and joint case management with generalist outreach case management and refuge workers.

Eligibility criteria

While each refuge maintains its own eligibility criteria, these services are for women and children escaping an immediate threat of family violence for whom it is unsafe to remain in the family home and who are unable to access alternative safe accommodation.

Special provision may be made to accommodate different family groupings or other special needs. A woman may seek refuge accommodation on as many separate occasions as necessary, and this is indeed a crucial factor in many women’s eventual progress over time to a life free from violence. There are no general criteria regarding the age or gender of children who can be accommodated, but the viability of communal living needs to be considered. Assessments of the most appropriate arrangements are made on an individual basis, taking into consideration factors such as the type of refuge accommodation available, whether young people are attending school, have close connections with peer networks and whether there are adult children living at home.

How to refer

Refuge accommodation can be arranged through Safe Steps. While Safe Steps is the main source of referrals to women’s refuges, some refuges, particularly in rural areas, also accept referrals from other designated agencies within their region. Safe Steps or local family violence outreach services can assist workers to identify the most appropriate local pathway for clients who require refuge.

Referral and assessment procedures require that the woman herself speak to the Safe Steps crisis support worker regarding her situation. Phone interpreters can be arranged. This worker will discuss the woman’s situation with her at length, conducting a detailed family violence risk assessment, and identifying necessary safety measures and appropriate accommodation options.

Safe Steps may contact suitable refuges with vacancies and outline the referral. Often, refuge staff will also speak directly to the woman. If the referral is accepted, transport to the refuge and other arrangements can be coordinated. It may be necessary for a woman to be placed in interim crisis accommodation or other short term accommodation (often in a motel) pending the family’s move to the refuge.


The crisis line can be extremely busy at times, so callers may need to keep trying until they get through. Access may be easier after hours. Child protection practitioners may contact Safe Steps via their administration line for information on the service or to pass messages to women in refuge. The crisis line number should not be used for this purpose.

Safe Steps may assist women at high risk of danger into a refuge well away from their point of origin. Where it is not possible or not appropriate to gain referral into a refuge in the client’s local area, dislocation from local services, networks, family, friends and other support may occur. This may also affect the continuity of child protection client case management. Such issues should be considered as part of the referral process.

After hours family violence crisis services

After hours responses are available to women and children experiencing family violence. Services are accessed via Safe Steps or the local police station. Services may include:

  • crisis accommodation
  • counselling
  • outreach
  • advocacy, and
  • referral to appropriate services the next working day.
inTouch - multicultural centre against family violence

inTouch aims to create and improve affordable, accessible and effective options for women facing family violence, whose origins are from countries where English is not the first language, who are experiencing or escaping situations of family violence and who are residing in Victoria. inTouch provides culturally appropriate support for culturally and linguistically diverse women and children experiencing or escaping family violence, including women without permanent residency. inTouch staff are from a range of different cultural backgrounds and cover more than 20 different community languages.

inTouch works in conjunction with refuges and associated family violence outreach services in supporting mutual clients. In most instances, inTouch is also able to provide support to women in their language of choice. It is a free service.

inTouch services

inTouch provides:

  • joint case management with family violence services and other relevant services in Victoria to support women and children experiencing family violence
  • assistance with migration and visa issues
  • information, support and referral for women in crisis
  • post-crisis support
  • secondary consultations to service providers.

Wherever possible, inTouch will work jointly with a family violence service, either a refuge or an outreach service, to provide joint case management.

Eligibility criteria

The service is available to women experiencing family violence, whose origins are from countries where English is not the first language and who are residing in Victoria, regardless of residency or visa status.

How to refer

inTouch can be contacted by family violence workers or workers from other service sectors such as child protection, or directly by women escaping family violence. The duty worker at inTouch will explain in detail the types of support provided by inTouch staff. If the woman is assessed as eligible for inTouch support, the duty worker will make an appointment with the relevant worker for assessment and ongoing support.

Contact details

Phone: 03 9413 6500
Toll free number: 1800 755 988

Administration Phone: (03) 9928 9600

Djirra (formerly known as Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria)

Djirra is an Aboriginal community controlled organisation established in 2002 to provide assistance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims/survivors of family violence and sexual assault and to work with families and communities affected by violence.

Djirra provides holistic, culturally safe legal assistance to Aboriginal victims/survivors of family violence and sexual assault in relation to family violence, child protection, victims of crime assistance, family law and associated civil law matters. Djirra also facilitates counselling and referral to a range of culturally appropriate services and supports.

Djirra also provides community education, early intervention and prevention programs to build Aboriginal women’s resilience and reduce vulnerability to violence.

Djirra provides support and outreach to clients across Victoria through a head office in Abbotsford, Melbourne, and regional offices located in Mildura, in Warrnambool (covering the Barwon South West Region) and in Bairnsdale (covering the Gippsland region).

Eligibility criteria

Djirra is open to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women, men and children who have experienced or are at risk of family violence or sexual assault, as well as to non-Aboriginal carers of Aboriginal children who are victims/survivors of family violence. Djirra is not gender specific, however the vast majority of clients who access the service are Aboriginal women and their children.

Services are provided free of charge. 

How to refer

To make a referral, child protection workers can contact Djirra on:

  • 03 9244 3333 – Melbourne metropolitan area
  • 03 5562 5755 – Barwon South West region
  • 03 5153 2322 - Gippsland
  • 03 5021 3200 – Mildura

Victims/survivors of family violence can contact Djirra directly on freecall 1800 105 303.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and gender diverse and Intersex (LGBTI) Specialist Services

Referral services for LGBTI persons are available through Switchboard, a free telephone and web counselling, referral and information service for Victorian and Tasmanian LGBTI communities and their supporters.

Switchboard’s contact details are telephone 1800 184 527 and online through

The Victorian AIDS Council is funded to deliver LGBTI Behaviour Change Programs to perpetrators of family violence.  In addition, they can administer family violence Flexible Support Packages to meet the needs of LGBTI victims of family violence.

Children’s Resource Program and Homeless Children’s Specialist Support Service

The department funds the Children’s Resource Program to support homelessness and other non-government services to respond more effectively to the needs of children. Children’s resource coordinators provide a secondary consultation and sector capacity building resource to homelessness and family violence services across Victoria. They also hold brokerage funds used by services to assist children in homeless families to stay connected to school and education.

For further information about the Children’s Resource Program, see the Victorian Statewide Children’s Resource Program website.

An Indigenous specific Children’s Resource Program is provided in Bendigo. Contact the Loddon and Mallee areas contact on the website above for further information.

The Homeless Children’s Specialist Support Service is an early intervention, child focussed program, introduced in 2010 under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness and operating in four locations. It provides group work with children, co-case management and secondary consultation and direct case work with children with complex needs. This service is accessed via referrals from specialist homelessness and family violence services.

Family violence counselling and support services for women and children

This program covers a range of preventative and support services for women, children and men throughout Victoria. It includes individual or group-based support as well as telephone counselling, court support and networking support.

Direct services are available to women, children and young people experiencing family violence or to men attempting to address their violent behaviour.

For further information, see the department’s website page for the family violence prevention and support program.

Family violence counselling and support services for women and children

Women’s and children’s counselling and support services assist women and children who may have experienced family violence or are at risk of being unsafe in the family environment. The target group includes women who are no longer in abusive relationships, those who choose to remain in an abusive relationship and those who have never called police or used family violence crisis services.

Services have a strong focus on supporting children, with a minimum of 30% of counselling and support funds allocated specifically for the provision of services for children. Services provided include:

  • individual counselling for women
  • individual counselling for children
  • group programs for women and children.

These services also provide specialist consultation to assist generalist community service organisations and professionals in their work with women and children who experience family violence, and community education to improve community understanding about issues related to violence.

Court network

This service provides information and support for women in relation to legal processes (including seeking intervention orders) through court support, advocacy and referral.

Court Network can:

  • provide of information about court procedures
  • refer to legal services and community resources
  • assist in organising interpreters and disabled access
  • make arrangements to ensure someone's safety when they are at court
  • pre-book a Networker to provide support on the day

Phone: 1800 681 614

Men's referral service

The Men’s Referral Service is a male family violence telephone counselling, information and referral service operating in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania and is a central point of contact for men taking responsibility for their violent behaviour. They also provide support and referrals for male victims of family violence, women and men seeking information on behalf of their male partners, friends or family members, and workers in a range of agencies seeking assistance for their male clients.

The Men’s Referral Service is for:

  • men who are using controlling behaviour towards a partner or family member
  • men who have been victims by a partner or family member
  • women seeking information about male family violence
  • friends, family or colleagues of people who may be using or experiencing family violence
  • professionals wishing to support a client who is using or experiencing family violence.

Contact details

Phone: 1300 766 491

Men's behaviour change programs

These services play a key role in promoting the safety of women and children with a primary focus on men being accountable and taking responsibility for their use of violence toward family members. The purpose of these programs is to encourage the change process in men's behaviour. They provide a forum for exploring and challenging beliefs. Program providers must be members of No to Violence incorporating Men’s Referral Service (NTV/MRS) and adhere to NTV's prescribed practice standards for conducting men's behaviour change programs.

Referral into these programs can be made via local providers of Men’s Behaviour Change Programs or through contact with the Men’s Referral Service . 

Programs are offered across the Victoria. Contact the men’s referral service for locations.

Women's information and referral exchange (WIRE)

WIRE is an information and referral service for women on a range of issues, including family violence. The telephone counselling service and website provide support and advice in relation to a range of issues affecting women including family violence, family life and relationships, sexual assault, legal issues, financial security and independence. The Walk in Centre (WIC) complements the telephone service by providing face-to-face information and support, seminars and free internet access for women.

Phone: 1300 134 130

Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria

The Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) is a state-wide information and resource agency that provides secondary consultations, training, publications and a resource library (available by appointment) on issues pertaining to family violence and sexual assault. Its website holds information about, and descriptions of, family violence services across the state.

Phone: 9486 9866 (Monday to Friday: 9am-5pm)

Victims' services

Victims Support Agency (VSA) is a central resource for victims of crime run by the Department of Justice and Regulation. It is responsible for coordinating a whole of government approach to services for victims of crime and for representing the voice of victims within the justice system.

Individual victims of crime may have different needs requiring different responses and the VSA is pivotal in linking the service system so that victims do not need to continuously repeat their story to a range of services.

The services available to victims of crime include:

  • The Victims of Crime Helpline 1800 819 817
  • Victims Assistance and Counselling Program
  • Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT)

Details and useful inks can be found on the victims of crime website.

The Victims of Crime Helpline is also the recognised statewide response for male victims of family violence.