New domestic violence framework to improve NSW first responder skills

UNSW Sydney

A new framework will help organisations in NSW better assess and manage domestic and family violence risk.

UNSW academics have been engaged by the NSW Department of Communities and Justice to develop a new risk assessment framework to tackle the state’s high rates of domestic and family violence.

Dr. Emma Buxton-Namisnyk from UNSW Law & Justice, along with faculty researchers Dr. Althea Gibson and Peta MacGillivray, will lead the project to re-position NSW government and non-government services as more effective first responders to domestic violence.

The Common Risk Assessment Framework (CRAF) represents a pivotal system reform that will help ensure that all NSW services share the same understanding of domestic and family violence.

“Right now, many services have their own protocols for identifying and managing the risk of violence when people disclose a dangerous situation,” says Dr Buxton-Namisnyk.

“There is currently no comprehensive and overarching framework to ensure that victim-survivors receive a consistent, appropriate and safe response wherever they present.

Unsafe responses can be harmful to victims. For example, Dr Buxton-Namisnyk’s award-winning policing research has identified that Indigenous women who are victims of violence may be incorrectly identified as offenders, leading to their criminalisation.

The importance of first responders

The CRAF development will build on Dr Buxton-Namisnyk’s long-term research in the area of domestic violence homicides.

“In my career, I have analysed over 3000 homicide cases spanning over a decade in NSW and across Australia, coming to understand how victims of domestic and family violence may experience and navigate different systems and services in fatal cases,” says Dr Buxton-Namisnyk.

The research showed Dr Buxton-Namisnyk how crucial it was for all organisations to be effective first responders, from schools through to healthcare providers, specialist services and police.

“To address domestic and family violence effectively we have to invest in integrated policy responses that offer a range of suitable pathways to safety,” she says.

“Specialist and frontline services in particular must be well-supported – especially Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, which provide vital and holistic services for First Nations people and often work with limited funding.”

/Public Release.