Insights from the Field of Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) Specialist Support

blog | Words Perrie Ballantyne | 03 May 2024

What we are learning about the needs of the DFV field with participants of the Paul Ramsay Foundation’s Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Support Open Grant Round 

In a new report released today, we explore professional experiences of working with specialist cohorts and communities around DFV support and prevention, as well as the wider shifts in support and conditions needed to really make a difference for people, families and communities in Australia.

About the grant round and learning network

In September 2023, in partnership with the Australian Communities Foundation (ACF), Paul Ramsay Foundation (PRF) committed a total of $13.6 million in funding to 58 organisations working with key cohorts and communities affected by DFV. These grants aimed to engage specialist support services working with specific groups, including First Nations communities, children, migrant and refugee communities, rural and remote communities, pregnant women, LGBTIQA+ communities, single mothers, women with a disability, and perpetrators and users of violence. 

Innovation Unit is acting as a Learning Partner to the program, convening a group of 31 non-First Nations-Led organisations who have been awarded grants as part of this program; while our colleagues at ResearchCrowd are convening a group of 27 First Nations-led organisations. Our collective aim is to build relationships and strengthen connections across the DFV specialist support field – a field that is rich with knowledge and expertise around how to work with key cohorts and communities to address and prevent DFV. 


What we are learning

Between October 2023 and January 2024, Innovation Unit held one-to-one conversations with representatives from 31 DFV specialist support agencies from across Australia. Our conversations aimed to surface ‘field’ level insights, challenges and opportunities, using a tool from the Bridgespan Group called the Strong Field Framework

Some of the key observation from this work include:

  • The field is characterised by an incredibly tenacious and determined workforce, used to doing what they can to make a positive difference in the lives of their clients despite an insecure funding environment.
  • Working successfully to engage specific cohorts requires deep personalisation and approaches that centre trust and cultural safety. Collaborative, placed-based approaches show strength and aim to make a long term difference.
  • Organisations would like to see more upstream interventions and cross-portfolio collaborations that work across silos and stop help-seekers from ‘falling through the cracks’.
  • There is a shared commitment across the field to ending violence, but efforts can seem diffuse and lack coordination due to the diversity of service providers and the breadth of sectors involved.
  • Specialist knowledge and practice can get trapped in a locality or context because mechanisms for supporting sharing of knowledge and transfer of practice are not always accessible or strong enough.
  • Small organisations also struggle with data access, collection and evaluation and need more support to to ensure the continuity and growth of their offerings.
  • Philanthropic funding plays an important role in advancing the field by enabling organisations to innovate (develop and test new approaches) and invest in scaling their most impactful programs and practices – something that isn’t always possible under more prescriptive government commissioning.
  • Many organisations feel that the government does not understand the complexity and scale of the challenge in communities that they work with every day, and don’t feel able to influence the policy picture. 


What next?

In the next phase of network engagement, Innovation Unit will collaborate with participants to identify and develop a small number of insight areas to explore more deeply, with a view to learning more about the challenges, opportunities and needs of the sector, and possible recommendations for strengthening the sector’s vital work.

We will work with the network to identify insight areas that: 

1. Highlight the shared experiences, challenges, needs and aspirations of DFV organisations working with specialist cohorts

2. Offer insight into systemic barriers and opportunities

3. Could radically enhance the ability of service providers to make a difference to the people they serve, if we were to make these a priority.  

This second phase of research will run from April to August 2024, with a second learning paper due to be released once this phase finishes. 

Contact Dr Perrie Ballantyne to learn more about how we are facilitating collective learning across places, fields and systems.


Click the image to download the full report: