Family violence response enters digital age

Game-changing technology from Victoria Police is improving how Wayss works with police officers to reduce family violence.

Launched state-wide on 14 August, the Family Violence Reporting (FVR) technology is available on mobile devices to help police improve risk assessment and hold more perpetrators to account. More than 9,000 devices are now in use in Victoria, allowing police officers to submit reports in the field. They can also make immediate referrals to service providers, such as Wayss.

The introduction represents a significant change in how police gather information from victim/survivors and includes more information about any children involved. The questions on the digital form must be completed and are designed to identify risk and provide greater background.

Wayss CEO, Elizabeth Thomas, said the technology is providing Wayss staff with valuable data.

“We’re gaining access to additional details that inform risk. This enables us to assess the situation more efficiently and provide a more targeted response,” Ms Thomas said.

“We’re receiving greater detail on what sort of order we’re dealing with, when court dates are and other information that informs risk. We can check how many previous reports there have been, what they have been. We can assess quickly whether the situation is escalating … what sort of risk we’re looking at.”

The introduction of FVR is a result of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, which, among other recommendations, sought to ensure the accurate, efficient recording of incidents. The report still comes through as an L17 (family violence) report, but is now called a Family Police Report.

FVR comes as referrals to Wayss increase. From the start of this year to 31 July, Wayss has responded to 5,883 L17 referrals. To put this into perspective, Wayss received 6,498 referrals in the entire 2017-18 financial year.

“This increase translates to more women and children seeking support from across all our services and programs. This provides us with greater opportunity to keep them safe,” Ms Thomas said.

During the launch, Family Violence Command Assistant Commissioner, Dean McWhirter, said family violence, and violence against women, accounted for between 40% and 60% of frontline police time.

“In the past 12 months to March this year, police responded to more than 81,000 incidents of family violence,” AC McWhirter said.

“These incidents can be complex and police are often required to make assessments in stressful circumstances to keep people safe.

“The FVR gives police more guidance and confidence to make improved decisions based on the information they collect, combined with enhanced training and professional judgement.

“Police officers will be better-equipped to understand the intricacies of relationships to determine the risk level. It allows police to collect consistent information to better track repeat offenders and those who breach intervention orders.”

FVR technology in focus

  • Allows officers to conduct checks on a person, licence, vehicles and locations.
  • Questions are designed to help officers assess how they can protect the victim.
  • Officers can collect consistent information to better track repeat offenders and those who breach intervention orders.
  • Crime and event reports can be submitted to include: Family violence report, assault, justice procedures, harassment, and property damage.

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Wayss in the 1990s

Then in September 1997 the organisation became WAYSS Limited with a Board of Directors and day to day management by the Chief Executive Officer.

Wayss underwent further transformation with the restructure of community housing and the funding of the Transitional Housing Management (THM) program. The Regional Housing Council ceased operation and transferred direct service operations to Wayss in 1997.

During this decade Wayss became responsible for the then South East Women’s Domestic Violence Outreach Service. Funding was also received to establish a Children’s Services Worker within the outreach service. SAAP funded Women’s Outreach Program was also transferred to Wayss in 1999.