The Royal Commission into Family Violence (RCFV) was established by Letters Patent issued by the Governor of Victoria, on advice from the Premier of Victoria, on Sunday 22nd February 2015. The Letters Patent appointed The Hon. Marcia Ann Neave AO as Commissioner and Chairperson, and Ms Patricia Mary Faulkner AO and Mr Anthony Joseph Nicholson as Deputy Commissioners.
The Commission's purpose was to inquire into and report on how Victoria's response to family violence can be improved by providing practical recommendations to stop family violence. It was the first royal commission to be established and conducted under the Inquiries Act 2014.
The terms of reference required the Commission to do the following:
- examine and evaluate strategies, frameworks, policies, programs and services and establish best practice for four areas-the prevention of family violence; early intervention to identify and protect those at risk of family violence and prevent the escalation of family violence; support for victims of family violence and measures to redress the impacts on victims, particularly on women and children; and accountability for perpetrators of family violence
- investigate means of ensuring systemic responses to family violence, particularly in the legal system and by police, corrections, child protection, legal and family violence support services; including reducing re-offending and changing violent and controlling behaviours
- investigate how government agencies and community organisations can better integrate and coordinate their efforts
- make recommendations on how best to evaluate and measure the success of strategies and programs put in place to stop family violence.
The Commission was also asked to consider the need to establish a culture of non-violence and gender equity and the needs and experiences of all those affected by family violence-among them children; older people; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; culturally and linguistically diverse communities; gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities; regional, rural and remote communities; and people with disabilities and complex needs. In addition, the Commission was asked to consider the necessity for short, medium and long-term solutions to the problem of family violence and the need for coordination across jurisdictions.
The Commission's processes involved the following facets:
- Submissions. The Commission called for written submissions responding to its terms of reference and fixed a closing date of 29 May 2015. On 31 March 2015 the Commission released an issues paper to guide organisations and individuals in the preparation of their submissions. No format was prescribed for the submissions: they could be typed or handwritten and lodged through the Commission's website or provided by email, post or hand delivery. In all, 968 submissions were received. Of these, 491 were from individuals and 477 were from organisations. After the submissions had been read and analysed, and requests for confidentiality or anonymity taken into account, the majority of submissions were published on the Commission's website.
- Community consultations. The Commission held most of its community consultation sessions between 21 April and 7 July 2015. Nearly 850 people attended the 44 consultation sessions, which were held in 21 locations in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. They included individuals who had experienced family violence as well as representatives of organisations working in the family violence system. Generally, people attending the sessions were invited to choose their preferred topic of discussion-prevention and early intervention or safety and accountability. The topics were then discussed in small groups, each group being asked to consider three or four questions. As with the other sessions, the commissioners moved from table to table to listen and ask questions.
- Briefings and site visits. The Commission received informal briefings from experts and visited a range of organisations during the course of its inquiry. The Commissioner spent an afternoon and evening following a police van and observing how Victoria Police members respond to family violence incidents. Both Deputy Commissioners also spent time speaking to police members at different stations and observing general police duties and police family violence teams.
- Public hearings. Twenty-five days of public hearings were held during a four-week period in July-August 2015 and a week in October 2015. Two-hundred and twenty individual witnesses gave evidence, sometimes on multiple occasions. Many witnesses appeared as members of panels; 13 witnesses appeared via video link and two by telephone. The hearings were organised around 23 modules that focused on specific topics but did not cover or purport to cover all the matters to be considered by the Commission.
- Roundtable discussions. The Commission held six roundtable discussions on specific topics in the period between the two blocks of public hearings. Each roundtable discussion was attended by between six and 11 participants, as well as commissioners and staff of the Commission. Among the participants were judges, magistrates, academics, current and former representatives of government agencies, policy-makers and service providers.
- Commissioned research. Two pieces of research were commissioned - a report on family violence trends in Victoria from 2009-10 to 2013-14; and a report on the impact of family violence proceedings in the Magistrates' Court of Victoria.
The Commission was originally asked to report its findings and recommendations to the Governor of Victoria by 29 February 2016. On 23 December 2015, following a request by the Commission, the Governor amended the Letters Patent to extend the reporting date to 29 March 2016. The Royal Commission into Family Violence report was tabled in Parliament on 30 March 2016.
After the Commission concluded its work and findings, its functions were transferred to the Department of Premier and Cabinet (VA 1039), as required by the Inquiries Act 2014.