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Yvette Berry visits ThinkPlace

Design-led innovation that could prevent family violence and save lives

In the lead up to International Women’s Day 2021, we’re looking back to celebrate some of the projects that have had the biggest impact on the lives of girls and women worldwide. This ACT-based project saw the co-design of a new innovation hub for family violence intervention and response. 

It is a shocking statistic.

Across Australia, more than half of women who have experienced violence at the hands of their former partner did so while they were pregnant, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

So it’s fitting that this very important area is the first to be focused upon by a new hub that will bring together the services, supports and clients who make up this complex space and seek to create game-changing innovations.

The Family Safety Services Hub represents a massive change in the way family violence is addressed in the ACT. It has been co-designed over the past 18 months by ThinkPlace and a range of stakeholders in a process led by the ACT Government’s Coordinator General for Family Safety.

The hub aims to catalyse systemic change in the community in ways that improve the ability to prevent, intervene in and respond to domestic and family violence.

The hub is not a physical space. It’s not a new building. It’s a network of interconnected people and services that allows for better communication and much more effective coordination in identifying people at risk of family violence and providing better support and pathways to safety for those who are affected.

ACT Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry (pictured) attended ThinkPlace’s Canberra studio recently to help launch the hub and spoke of the huge potential for this new approach to make a real improvement in the safety of the territory’s women and children.

"It's not a new shiny door," the Minister said.

"It's a different approach, an innovative approach, doing things in a way that we've never even thought about before and thinking outside more than just supporting services."

A diagram of the hub
The first innovation challenge
The Family Violence Hub is not a physical space. It is a design for bringing together people in the family violence space to create and test new projects that seek to improve intervention in and prevention of family violence.

The process designed by ThinkPlace in collaboration with the Coordinator General introduces the idea of innovation challenges to the family violence space.

These challenges bring together people from across the sector to share, develop and prototype ideas around how different aspects of the family violence journey can be improved for those who find themselves in the position of having to navigate the system.

Those invited to take part include support groups, government services and not-for profit groups who deal with family violence. There was also representation from indigenous groups and even men with lived experience of navigating the family violence system.

The first such session, held recently, focused upon early intervention for pregnant women and new mothers who have experienced or are experiencing family violence.

"We absolutely think this work could save lives," ACT Coordinator-General for Family Safety Jo Wood, told the ABC.

"That's why we're taking a really evidence based approach to make sure the things that we're testing actually work because that's the best way to offer safety."

The Minister shared that assessment, saying that fresh ideas were urgently needed.

"It has to save lives,” Ms Berry said. “At some point this has got to turn around.”

"Domestic and family violence is a massive problem and we don't seem to be getting anywhere with it."

Research carried out by ThinkPlace as part of the design process found that those who experience family violence are most likely to confide in “trusted persons”.

This can include medical professionals such as nurses, pharmacists or midwives but also includes people such as hairdessers or fellow members of online communities.

Those trusted people were frequently unsure of what to look for in circumstances of possible family violence or how best to proceed when somebody shared details of such violence with them.

Involving such people in the innovation process aims to create prototypes for action - pilot projects that can be rapidly trialled and then expanded if they prove successful.

The projects will aim to better understand the dynamics of family violence so as to create a system that encourages women to come forward. They will also seek to identify those at most risk of family violence so that early intervention can take place.

And they will seek to equip those who are in position as “trusted people” to identify and respond to family violence, across a range of different cultural settings and circumstances.

ThinkPlace has developed a four-stage process to achieve this. Stakeholders will first come up with ideas for how to forge new concepts that address the challenges outlined.

These concepts will then be developed before a panel of experts decides which are most suited to proceeding to a pilot project. Results of the pilot projects will then be relayed to the Minister who will decide which projects are worthy of being scaled and expanded for broader deployment.

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