Staying safe, healthy and resilient

Goal: Everyone is free from violence, can stay healthy and recover from adversity

Being safe, healthy and resilient gives people their best chance to live good lives. This means being free from violence, avoiding sickness or injury if possible and recovering quickly if not, and being able to bounce back from uncertainty, surprise, change and emergencies.

Victoria can complete its world-leading reforms in family violence prevention, and keep delivering the Royal Commission’s recommendations to deliver real and lasting change for Victoria’s women, children and families.

Victoria can create an easy-to-access, low-cost health system, focusing on preventive and primary health care and dismantling barriers to health care. We can improve people’s health literacy, and build new health services in regional communities to fight unequal health outcomes.

And Victoria can work in partnership with communities, government, agencies and business to build resilience so people can survive, adapt and thrive in the face of everyday challenges and emerging global risks.


  Freeing Victorians from family violence

Victoria is leading the world in its response to family violence, with unprecedented funding, law reform, service design and cultural change. The Royal Commission into Family Violence has provided a blueprint for preventing and responding to family violence in Victoria. No one can live a good life in fear. Being hurt by an intimate partner causes deep trauma and anguish, and ending the relationship can be dangerous.

Each week in Australia a woman is murdered by her partner, and one in every four women has experienced violence from an intimate partner.Children and young people are also victim survivors of family violence and their experience of family violence can have life-long impacts.


Complete delivery of the Royal Commission into Family Violence recommendations

VCOSS calls on all parties to commit to complete the work of the Royal Commission, to keep delivering its recommendations over the next term of government, securing real and lasting change for Victoria’s women, children and families.

At the core of the Commission’s recommendations is a call for a long-term, bipartisan approach to family violence, with all parts of government working together and involving the entire community.

Victoria can now take the next step in preventing family violence by increasing primary prevention action and research. This will provide new knowledge, and help to deliver community-wide cultural change by tackling the attitudes and behaviours that allow violence to occur.

Current reforms need to be backed in to be durable, including the Support and Safety Hubs and the Refuge Redevelopment Program. With secure long-term funding rather than short-term contracts, organisations will be better able to deliver change, develop community trust and build a skilled, professional workforce.

Change needs to go beyond the specialist family violence response system. It will mean building enduring partnerships between universal and specialist services, so general workers like doctors, teachers and early childhood professionals can identify and respond to violence disclosures, and direct people to available specialist support. Overcoming current funding shortfalls allows all services to achieve this holistic model.

Holding perpetrators to account helps reduce family violence. Programs to change men’s behaviour have long waiting lists, especially for men in rural areas, and we need more programs targeted for men from Aboriginal or culturally diverse backgrounds. Other perpetrator supports, like alternative housing, also help protect families.



 Promoting healthy living and preventing disease

Good health is vital to everyone’s ability to live a good life. Providing people with equitable, affordable and timely access to health care reduces health inequities, prevents sickness and disease, and allows for
early interventions so people’s health doesn’t deteriorate.


Build a strong community health platform to prevent disease

Victoria can invest in a sturdy primary and community health platform as the gateway to the healthcare system. Strong primary and community health services contribute to better health and reduce costs, especially when collaborating through partnership platforms, like the Primary Care Partnerships and Healthy Together Victoria networks.

Victoria can take a better, cheaper approach that focuses on health outcomes, prevents chronic disease or intervenes early, and ultimately produces healthier Victorians. Chronic disease causes 9 out of 10 Australian deaths. Investing in preventive health works. For example, every $1 invested in food and nutrition education has a $10 return in reduced healthcare costs. Victoria can be a part of lifting Australia to international standards of preventive health spending, raising the country from our 1.5 per cent to the 7 per cent spent in New Zealand, or nearly 6 per cent in Canada.


Boost community health as regional health hubs

Victoria can become a national leader in rural and regional health by investing in community health centres to be the backbone of health care, combatting the regional health inequality produced by fewer private services. Our community health services face headwinds from new market-based models of pricing and care, but investment can strengthen them to provide a backbone in many places to ensure equal access for marginalised and isolated communities, especially in regional Victoria.


Give every Victorian a healthy smile

Victoria can expand its public dental scheme so Victorians on low incomes can have healthy smiles. More funding can cut waiting lists and help people get dental care earlier. Good dental treatment can prevent severe pain, lost sleep and difficulty eating; it can help people get back to work and school, and improve their self-esteem. Expanding public dental services will mean people can get timely help, slashing the current, agonising 19-month wait for public treatment.


Help Victorians learn about their health

Victoria can invest in health literacy so people can make informed choices about their health and care. Only 41 per cent of Australians are considered to have adequate or better health literacy. Better health literacy makes it easier to find and understand health information, and to find the right services. To improve health literacy we can encourage meaningful conversations between people and healthcare professionals, and foster person-centred models of care. Health care communication should be conveyed in plain English, and steer away from jargon.



 Caring for Victorians’ mental health

Mental illness affects about one in five Victorians each year. Good mental health improves people’s quality of life and participation in work; it helps them manage daily life and preserve strong personal and family relationships.
Victoria should build a mental health system that promotes good mental health, intervenes early when people are at risk of mental illness, and provides necessary treatment and support.


Be a proud leader in mental health recovery

Victoria can convey a sweeping vision for recovery-based mental health, blending prevention and early intervention with clinical assistance, rehabilitation and support services. Until recently, Victoria was a national leader in creating an accessible, recovery-based community mental health system. Community mental health services provide psychosocial rehabilitation and support. This goes beyond clinical counselling, actively helping people to stay well and solve daily living problems, so they can work, study and care for their children and families and be engaged in community life.

But NDIS funding arrangements have put this leadership at risk, threatening people’s stability and quality of life. Victoria should save and grow its psychosocial rehabilitation services, especially for people outside the NDIS, and avoid placing expensive and unnecessary pressure on acute psychiatric wards and clinical services.


Intervene early with youth  mental health services

Victoria can invest in evidence-based and tailored mental health therapies for young people, providing help at the time mental illness often first occurs. This will buttress the rising numbers of our young people experiencing mental health difficulties, especially our young women.

Currently the youth mental health system is fragmented and difficult for young people to navigate. Victoria can design a youth mental health system that is welcoming and easy to find. The right prevention, early intervention and support can improve young people’s mental health, allowing them to achieve academically, find work, avoid problematic drug and alcohol use and cultivate strong social skills.


Prevent suicide with place-based action

Suicide is currently the number one cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44, with a devastating impact on family, friends, colleagues and communities. Victoria should halve the number of suicides by 2025.

We must be particularly focused on reducing high rates of suicide in regional Victoria and among Aboriginal people. Victoria has started rolling out place-based, tailored prevention programs to 12 communities. These can be extended over longer periods and to more communities across Victoria.



 Keeping effective services running through NDIS and aged care reforms

It is an exciting time in Australia for social care reform. The NDIS and MyAgedCare reforms promise choice and control for many people with disability and older Victorians, providing them with individually tailored services to meet their support needs.

Victoria has a key role as a system steward to prevent people falling through the cracks and to ensure support and service continuity for those who are ineligible for individual support packages.


Make funding transparent to keep services running during and after the NDIS rollout

Through the NDIS reform process, governments have given welcome commitments to ‘service continuity’ for people with disability, committing to keep essential supports for their daily living and participation in community life. The NDIS is experiencing some difficulties in its introduction and in the transition from older funding models. It requires fine-tuning to achieve consistent and correct eligibility requirements and seamless access, and to reach marginalised communities and co-ordinate complex support.

For fair treatment, Victoria must maintain a complete services system for people ineligible for an NDIS package. With many existing programs being ‘rolled into’ the NDIS, Victoria can clearly delineate the funding sources available for ‘service continuity’ outside the NDIS, providing relief and confidence for people by assuring them they will continue to receive the help they need. Funding certainty is particularly recommended for mental health consumers, people aged 65 or over, and carers.


Pinpoint and publish any holes left by the NDIS

Victoria can share its knowledge of any services at risk through NDIS transition with the Victorian people, demonstrating trustworthiness and transparency. We understand Victoria is closely monitoring and mapping the service system through the transition; publishing this information will help inspire community confidence, in line with Productivity Commission recommendations. This will also garner attention and help problem-solving for affected communities, including by identifying the appropriate level of government to provide resources.


Boost mainstream services so they work for people with disability

Victoria can increase funding, upskill health professionals and pursue service integration in the mainstream services system to work better with people with disability and their carers, especially those ineligible for the NDIS. With the right support, people can enjoy good physical and mental health, saving resources by keeping pressure off services such as the acute healthcare, welfare and justice systems. Sufficient support for people with disability reduces reliance on family and carers. All levels of government share responsibility for an effective mainstream service system, which adequately supports people with disability and their carers, especially those ineligible for the NDIS.



 Recognising and supporting carers

With the right support, caring roles can be fulfilling and meaningful. Carers provide significant and valuable support, worth $60 billion nationally, to their loved ones who need help with daily life. When properly supported, Victoria’s 770,000 voluntary carers can avoid unnecessary stress, achieve financial security, join the workforce, stay physically and mentally healthy, access good caring information and stay socially connected. Extra supports  especially vital for socially or geographically isolated carers.


Formulate a complete carer strategy

Delivering a funded, whole-of-government carer strategy can recognise carers’ rights, and address carers’ unique and specific needs. This can include a clear vision and targets for all carers, and reflect the breadth of care  experiences, including caring for older people, for people with mental illness and people with disability. It can incorporate the unique needs of younger and older carers, and assemble and co-ordinate diverse social and community support systems, including in employment, health, education and financial support.


Coach carers to find the right services

With information and guidance, carers can receive the suite of services they are entitled to. At this time of significant change to services, a state-wide carer strategy can include funded assistance to carers to identify themselves as ‘carers’, navigate service systems, and access up-to-date information and support. Integrated and comprehensive carer information and assistance can overcome barriers to social and economic participation, providing carers with the same opportunities as other members of the community.


Preserve and expand respite care and peer support

Carer-specific support, particularly respite care, is vulnerable in the NDIS transition.79 VCOSS members report reductions in the availability of respite care during the NDIS rollout, and have noticed funding withdrawals for carer support groups. The re-design of the Australian Government’s Integrated Carer Support Service has also introduced uncertainty. Peer support allows carers to find emotional and mental support for their roles, which can help preserve resilience and wellbeing at times of difficulty. A robust and dynamic approach to supporting carers should include sufficient respite care and peer support facilitation. This will pay dividends both in better and more meaningful lives for carers, and in sustaining the care of their loved ones.


Reducing the harm from alcohol and drugs

Drug and alcohol use can result in significant harm to individuals and communities, including poor physical and mental health, unemployment, poverty, family breakdown, violence and road trauma. Reducing harm from alcohol and drug use should be the guiding principle for drug policy.


Combat a culture of alcohol overuse

Victoria can reduce harm and promote health by increasing funding for health promotion organisations and the broader community to challenge our culture of alcohol misuse. Alcohol consumption is deeply embedded in cultural practices, which encourage and even expect people to drink alcohol regularly. Victoria can lead the way in changing cultural expectations about alcohol consumption, creating a safer and healthier society.


Treat drugs as a health problem

For Victorians to lead happy, healthy lives, the best way to approach drug and alcohol problems is to treat them as health issues. This results in better health and wellbeing for drug users compared to law and order approaches. A health approach also reduces risky behaviour and the spread of blood-borne viruses, lowers crime, and encourages people to seek treatment.

Taking a health approach frees up police, court and prison systems for more serious crimes. A law enforcement approach is expensive, consuming about two-thirds of drug spending, compared with 9 per cent for prevention, 21 per cent for drug treatment, and 2 per cent to harm reduction. A health approach prioritises diverting people into treatment or education. Countries like Portugal that have embraced a health approach have fewer drug deaths than Australia, and significant community benefits overall.


Expand drug and alcohol treatment services

Taking a health approach means Victoria can invest in more treatment services to cut drug and alcohol use, improve health, reduce crime, produce better mental health outcomes and increase community participation. For every $1 invested in alcohol or drug treatment, society gains $7.85. A strong, sustainable alcohol and drug treatment sector can build on recent rehabilitation bed increases across the state so people receive treatment when they need it. This will help slash wait times, which are currently up to six months, and reduce the reliance on expensive and unregulated private facilities. A strongly funded sector can also extend step-down support to help people leaving hospital. More drug treatment services will also ensure the success of Victoria’s new real-time prescription monitoring system, SafeScript. This guards against misuse of pharmaceutical medicines and tackles problems with prescribing. For SafeScript to succeed, we need enough services to manage the additional flow of drug treatment referrals.



 Promoting resilient communities

Resilient communities have strong social connections and resources and are able to cope with change, stress and disruption. Resilient people and communities are able to withstand everyday challenges, chronic stressors such as climate change, and shocks like emergencies and disasters.

Invest in local resilience-building through community organisations

Community organisations connect people. They know the risks that people are most vulnerable to and possess unique skills for working with diverse groups. They serve people most in need of support, focusing on prevention, early intervention, crisis support and community-building activities. By strengthening people’s capacities for resourcefulness, they help families and communities become stronger and better able to cope with adversity.

Local resilience-building programs deliver a range of projects under national and state funding grants to help strengthen communities and build their resilience. However, while pilot programs deliver great results, their impacts are short lived. Enduring collective impact efforts between community members, community organisations, business and government agencies can build community resilience over the longer term and build collective knowledge.