History of reforms

The origins of today’s family violence specialist services lie in the continuing work of achieving equality and justice for women. After WW2, there was growing awareness of the problem of ‘wife‐beating’, where some husbands used violence against their wives. During the 1960s and 1970s, women’s groups began to come together to organise refuges for women who wanted to escape this violence.

In 1974, Victoria’s first refuge was set up and by 1979, 16 refuges had been set up. They included one for Aboriginal women and another for Italian women. By the late 1980s, there were more than 30 refuges.

Workers from the refuges met regularly and brought together their insights and experiences into a specialist body of knowledge. They played a critical role in bringing to light the myriad problems surrounding violence against women by their current or former partners. Workers also continued to lobby government for improved services, both at a state level and federally.

In 2003, the Victorian government allocated funding for a policy position within the sector. This marked the beginning of what would become Domestic Violence Victoria.

Below is a summary of significant milestones since the 1970s. It is taken from a full timeline produced by VicHealth in 2015, which can be viewed here.

1970First Women’s Liberation Conference held in Melbourne identified violence against women as a priority.

1972Women’s Liberation Centre opened in Little Latrobe Street.

1974Women’s Liberation Halfway House established, the first funded women’s refuge in Melbourne.

1979Elizabeth Hoffman House established, first called the Aboriginal Women’s Refuge.

1984Victorian Equal Opportunity Act and Federal Sex Discrimination Act passed.

1986Federal Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission established.

1987Crimes (Family Violence) Act passed in Victoria, which expanded options for victims of family violence to seek protection using intervention orders.

1991The High Court of Australia confirms the legal right of women to refuse sex within marriage and removes immunity from prosecution from men who rape spouses.

1993No to Violence: Male Family Violence Prevention Association established as the peak body of organisations working with male perpetrators to end their violence towards women.

1999United Nations General Assembly adopts a resolution designating 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, or White Ribbon Day.

The Office of the Status of Women launches the Partnerships Against Violence initiative to facilitate corporate and government action to respond to violence against women.

2002Victorian government launches Women’s Safety Strategy.

Domestic Violence Victoria, the peak body for specialist family violence services for women and children, is announced and receives funding the following year.

World Health Organisation launches the World report on violence and health, which identifies violence against women as a key area for action across the globe.

2003White Ribbon Australia established as part of UN Women.

2004Victorian Police Code of Practice for the Investigation of Family Violence introduced.

VicHealth and the Department of Human Services launch the first international study assessing the burden of disease associated with intimate partner violence. Violence is identified as the leading contributor to ill health, death and disease for Victorian women aged 15–44.

2005The Victorian Government allocated over $35 million for the development of an integrated response to family violence.

Local governments and Primary Care Partnerships across Victoria developed integrated plans to prevent violence against women.

The Australian Football League launched their Respect and Responsibility Policy.

2006VicHealth led a Victorian survey of community attitudes towards violence.

2008Victorian Government introduced the Family Violence Act and launched the ‘Enough’ campaign.

2009National survey of community attitudes towards violence against women, led by VicHealth and Commonwealth Government, includes Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse communities for the first time.

Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development releases the Respectful relationships education report.

2011The Commonwealth Government released the National plan to reduce violence against women and their children 2010–2022.

2012Thousands of Victorians take to the street to honour Jill Meagher and to express their outrage about the epidemic of violence against women.

2013Our Watch, previously the Foundation to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, is established by the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments.

Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) is established, as an initiative of the National plan to reduce violence against women and their children 2010–2022.

2014Luke Batty is murdered by his father, who had a history of violence against his ex‐partner Rosie Batty and was under an Apprehended Violence Order at the time. Amidst her grief, Rosie calls for urgent and lasting action on family violence.

The Victorian Government announces the first Royal Commission into Family Violence.

The Victorian Government appoints a new ministry portfolio for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.

2015The Victorian Government announces the terms of reference of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence, which includes a focus on prevention.

Rosie Batty is named Australian of the Year.

2016The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence releases its report and the Victorian Government commits to implementing all 227 recommendations. The government commits $572 million as the first tranche of funding.