The establishment of the Queensland Domestic Violence Services Network (QDVSN) in the early 1990s marked a significant shift in responses to domestic violence in Queensland. The QDVSN has its origins in the establishment of the Queensland-based Domestic Violence Initiatives Program, which was the result of Recommendation 57 of Queensland’s Domestic Violence Taskforce Report, Beyond These Walls, which resulted in domestic violence legislation and a raft of policy and program initiatives, particularly regarding policing of domestic violence.
When Beyond These Walls was published in 1988, the only government funding available in Queensland to respond to domestic violence was the joint Commonwealth/State Women’s Emergency Services Program (WESP). Apart from the Migrant Women’s Emergency Support Service (established in 1986) and the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Inc (established in 1987), this funding was limited to women’s shelters. Further, WESP contributed only 85 percent of services costs, with organisations delivering the services required to fund the remaining 25 percent.
Recommendation 57 of Beyond These Walls required the (then) Department of Family Services and Welfare Housing to:
…initiate a Domestic Violence Awareness Program with sufficient resources to assist the implementation of a broad range of community awareness and education strategies by diverse groups in the community that have as their goal reducing the prevalence of domestic violence in Queensland.
The Department’s Domestic Violence Awareness Program was established almost immediately to oversee the development and enactment of the domestic violence legislation, to produce a range of resources for service providers and the general community, and to oversee a small grants program, the Domestic Violence Initiatives Program. However, on 2 December 1989, just 14 months after Beyond These Walls was released, Queensland elected its first Labor Government in 30 years, with high expectations of significant and wide spread social reforms. The new Labor Government established an Office of Cabinet, which included a discrete Women’s Policy Unit, in addition to other Units responsible for social, economic, environmental and legal policy. The role of the Women’s Policy Unit was to develop whole-of-Government policy for the advancement of women and girls in Queensland; and, based on a gender equity analysis, provide advice to the Premier on policy submissions from Government Ministers before the submissions were considered by State Cabinet.
The then Department of Family Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs successfully made a submission to the Cabinet Budget Review Committee in the 1991/92 State Budget for five Regional Domestic Violence Services and a state-wide Domestic Violence Telephone Service. The five Regional Domestic Violence Services, located in Cairns, Toowoomba, Emerald, Caboolture and on the Gold Coast were funded to deliver support and intervention services, including community education, within a co-ordinated service system response at a local level. Principles underpinning the establishment of the Regional Domestic Violence Services were:
- Responsiveness to the needs of the survivor of domestic violence
- Co-ordination and consistency across government agencies, the legal system and the community sector
- Domestic violence is a community issue and a community responsibility
- Domestic violence is a crime.
The co-ordinators of these five Regional Domestic Violence Services and the Domestic Violence Telephone Service saw that networking would provide valuable peer support and facilitate co-ordination of their activities across the State. Indeed this was consistent with the Government’s vision for this network as being central to a State-wide co-ordinated response to domestic violence in Queensland and the network, which met quarterly, was strongly supported through a secretariat role provided by the Department’s Domestic Violence Prevention Unit.
In late 1992, the Women’s Policy Unit launched the first whole-of-Government policy on violence against women in Australia. The State Government’s commitment to implementing this policy lent support to the expansion of the regional network of domestic violence services in the 1993/94 State budget, to include Roma, Ipswich, Mackay, Logan, Brisbane and Townsville, bringing the total number of Regional Domestic Violence Services to 11. With the impending expansion of the network of Regional Domestic Violence Services, departmental officers in some regions opposed the state-wide networking, arguing that it impeded regional, inter-agency networking. As a result, secretariat support from the Department was withdrawn. Nevertheless, the Co-ordinators persisted and strengthened their networking capacity through formalising a secretariat role for the network from within their membership. This role was initially undertaken by the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Inc. At that time, the DVRC Inc. operated a state-wide information and community-education service and the Regional (Greater Brisbane) Domestic Violence Service. DVRC Inc.’s state-wide service ceased in 2001/2002 and its regional domestic violence service was re-cast as the Brisbane Domestic Violence Advocacy Service (BDVAS). At that point BDVAS attained, in its own right, membership of the QDVSN.
Further significant changes to the state-wide network of Regional Domestic Violence Services occurred in 2001/2002 when the state-wide Domestic Violence Telephone Service was re-tendered and re-established as dvconnect, and two new services were established; the Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research (CDFVR), and the Sunshine Coast/Cooloola Women’s Domestic and Family Violence Service (SCOPE). They joined the network bringing the total, current membership to fifteen agencies (including two state-wide).
On 28 February 2015, the Premier of Queensland received the report of the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland, Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an end to domestic and family violence in Queensland.
The report made 140 recommendations based on the insights gathered from five months of engagement with communities and individuals. The recommendations set the vision and direction for Queensland’s strategy to end domestic and family violence and ensure those affected have access to safety and support. Since 2015 further funding has been infused into the domestic and family violence (DFV) space. Services in various regions received top up funding and full services were funded in Mt. Isa and Gympie. A specialist DFV court was located in Southport, dealing exclusively with all civil and criminal DFV matters. Beenleigh, Townsville, Mount Isa and Palm Island will also see specialist DFV court approaches established over 2017 to 2020.
Membership of the QDVSN is comprised of the manager, CEO or director of each of the 20 agencies. They meet three times a year, with participating agencies taking turns at hosting the meeting. Members also rotate responsibility for providing secretariat support and convening the network meetings. While there have been many new faces among the membership of the QDVSN over the years, agency membership has been relatively constant.