Domestic and family violence

Domestic and family violence is the use or threat of harm to control another person. In many cases, it can remain hidden as the person causing harm establishes control through fear and may use coercive behaviours such as intimidation and other forms of psychological abuse.

  • One in four women and one in thirteen men in Australia have experienced violence by an intimate partner.
  • In Australia, on average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.
  • Almost ten women a day are hospitalised for assault injuries perpetrated by a spouse or domestic partner.
  • It has been estimated that full-time GPs are seeing up to five women per week who have experienced some form of intimate partner abuse – physical, emotional, sexual – in the past 12 months

In our Needs Assessment, integrated services to respond to domestic and family violence at a primary health care level were identified as a priority for our region and the Recognise, Respond, Refer program was developed in response.

Recognise, Respond, Refer program

Primary health care professionals are ideally placed to recognise the signs of domestic and family violence (DFV), to respond in an appropriate way and to refer the person to the right supports. Many general practice staff are already helping their patients find pathways to safety. To support their vital work, Brisbane South PHN developed the Recognise, Respond, Refer program (RRR) program.

RRR provides an integrated response to domestic and family violence. It brings together primary health care professionals and specialist DFV services to improve outcomes for individuals and families.

The RRR program aims to support primary health care professionals to improve overall system responsiveness to people experiencing domestic and family violence and ultimately improve outcomes for these individuals and their families. It seeks to achieve this through the implementation of an overarching system integration model that positions the primary health care network as part of the broader system response to domestic and family violence.

The integrated system model implemented through the RRR program was developed by Brisbane South PHN in partnership with The Australian Centre of Social Innovation through an evidence-based, human-centred design process. It comprises six influencing activities that support primary care to take up a defined role in the systemic response to domestic and family violence, as shown below. The model is designed to be place-based, so the practical implementation of each of the activities can be adapted to the specific conditions and needs of a local community.

“It’s been really heartening to see meaningful change happening, and to see that this program is truly embedding lived experience perspectives at every step. People with lived experience that we have consulted along the way share this sentiment are have remarked that it has restored their hope for an improved world. This is something to be proud of.” – RRR Lived Experience Advisor

“I’ve found myself reflecting on what parts of GP culture are important to communicate in this cross-cultural multidisciplinary experience. I have felt the whole RRR program was genuinely seeking consultation with GPS, not just ticking the box. I’ve been on a journey from being defensive to valued.” – RRR GP Clinical Advisor

A national trial of Brisbane South PHN’s Recognise, Respond, Refer program commenced in July 2020, with the program being tested in five PHN sites across Australia, including the Brisbane south region.

The recent inquiry by the Federal Parliament’s Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs into family and domestic violence in Australia recommended the RRR program be used as a model for how primary health care professionals can respond to DFV. The recommendations from this inquiry will inform development of the next National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.

Further development work is currently underway to ensure the program can support primary care to best respond to domestic and family violence in the context of people’s specific culture, identity and experiences (e.g. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, multicultural and refugee background, LGBTIQ+, disability). This development work also includes ensuring the program supports primary care to safely and effectively work with people who use violence, abuse and control.

DFV Local Link

Brisbane South PHN has rolled out the Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) Local Link across the Brisbane south region, a one-point-of-referral service for patients affected by DFV. The DFV Local Link is a specialist DFV worker who provides advice and support to enable general practice staff to better recognise the signs of domestic violence and respond supportively to disclosures. The DFV Local Link connects patients to appropriate supports and services that can open a pathway to safety, and connects general practice staff to support for debriefing and compassion fatigue.

It is now available to all general practices in the Brisbane south region (Redlands, Logan, Beaudesert/Jimboomba, Brisbane South).

“Through the RRR program we’ve been able to reach people in the community who we wouldn’t typically have been able to access. It’s really gratifying for us to speak to people who have been encouraged to call or referred by their GP or local practice nurse, who may have helped them understand something, or identify something in their life they need support in.

We try to help GPs empower their patients. We don’t want to put any more pressure on GPs, or make them think they have to fix it, or heal it. Because it’s complex and it takes trust and a coordinated response to build the right pathways to safety.”- Local Link Coordinator

Domestic and family violence training for practices

Through the RRR Program, Brisbane South PHN delivers RACGP-accredited training that explores practical ways to support patients affected by DFV. It has been developed by DFV specialists in collaboration with GPs and DFV survivors, and is delivered free-of-charge in practices. It encourages a ‘whole of practice approach’ to build the capability and confidence of health care professionals to support those affected by DFV.

The training is now available all general practices in Brisbane south region, (Logan, Redlands,Beaudesert/Jimboomba, Brisbane South). Contact your local trainer with the details below for more information or to book training for your practice.

“The RRR training has empowered our practice by providing support and training to all staff including reception, nurses and doctors. Our team is more attuned pick up subtle signs that people may be experiencing domestic and family violence. It has enabled us to build up a sense of trust and to show patients we are with them for the long term, and we can support them to access the right pathways to safety, when they are ready.”- General Practitioner

Local Link Trainer (Logan, Beaudesert, Redlands)
Mobile: 0436 355 720 

Primary Health DFV Education and Engagement Worker (Brisbane)
Mobile: 0417 809 296

Community of Practice – Support for general practitioners

The RRR Community of Practice brings together GPs with an interest in responding to DFV to support one another, facilitate case discussions, and learn more about help available for their patients. The Community of Practice is facilitated by RRR GP Clinical Advisor, Dr Johanna Lynch, a trauma-informed GP Psychotherapist.

To express interest in joining the Community of Practice, contact the Program Coordinator on the link below, or look for sessions being advertised on the Brisbane South PHN Education Calendar.

More information