Victorian Premier Defends Axing Family Violence Reform Jobs

Victorian Premier Defends Axing Family Violence Reform Jobs
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews speaks during a press conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sept. 9, 2023. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

Dozens of jobs are being axed at the government agency charged with reforming how Victoria handles family violence, in a move a union says will jeopardise positive change.

Family Safety Victoria was set up within the Department of Health and Human Services in 2017 after the 2016 family violence royal commission.

It was created to roll out reforms after the royal commission made 227 recommendations.

The agency is slated to have almost 80 roles axed, according to Nine, prompting questions to Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday about how he justified the cuts.

"Because we've invested $6 billion in family violence prevention—[it] might even be more than that now," Mr. Andrews told reporters.

"There'll be no impact on frontline services.

"We are just as urgent, just as active today as we've ever been and we are more so than any other jurisdiction in the country."

Victoria was a "mile ahead" of others but there was still more to be done, the premier said.

"That's why frontline services grow and we always look for efficiencies in non-frontline services," he said.

The Community and Public Sector Union disputed the government's description of staff as not frontline, saying it was callous and workers were gutted.

"These Treasury imposed arbitrary cuts are heartless and counterproductive and leave serious questions about the government's ability to implement royal commission recommendations," a union spokesperson said.

"We call on the government to rethink this and find savings elsewhere."

The Department of Health and Human Services was disbanded in 2017 to make way for two separate departments, including the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, which took on Family Safety Victoria.

A families, fairness, and housing spokesman said that, like all departments, it was working to achieve the savings announced in the 2023/24 Victorian budget while delivering the government's core priorities.

"We are working through the details of these changes, and consulting closely with our staff and the Community and Public Sector Union, while working to minimise any impacts to staff that occur," the departmental spokesman said on Sunday.

"There will be no reduction to frontline roles in family violence support services and none to the Orange Door and we're continuing to implement all 227 recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence."

Safe Steps—Victoria's 24-hour, seven-day a week family violence crisis service—valued Family Safety Victoria and particularly the agency's back of house staff who supported the organisation and others like it, chief executive Chelsea Tobin said.

The organisation was concerned about any staff cuts.

"Organisations like Safe Steps do rely on the expertise of policy staff at Family Safety Victoria, and as such we would really like to see their continued support by government," Ms. Tobin said.

Safe Steps answered more than 64,000 helpline calls last year, evidence that family and domestic violence services were vital to Victorians, Ms. Tobin said.

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