We anticipate that the best practice principles will be utilised widely and routinely. This will help ensure that interventions are effective. There are, however, implications for policy and practice in the uptake of the principles. Key to developing, implementing and evaluating interventions based on the best practice principles is recognition of the importance of professionals in DFV agencies engaging in a genuine manner with refugee background communities. Such engagement can facilitate a greater uptake of the intervention as a sense of community ownership of the intervention is cultivated. Additionally, genuine community engagement will ensure any intervention is culturally appropriate and, importantly, will not be seen as being imported or imposed from ‘the outside’ by mainstream agencies. Community members also have a very good understanding of their respective communities and know which community structures can be leveraged to support the intervention and encourage engagement with it.
There are also latent benefits from community engagement. Partnerships between agencies and refugee background communities can lead to increased understanding of DFV and Australian responses to it within the communities. It can also work to break down any myths about formal DFV responses that may be present within the community. At the same time, capacity can be built within communities around appropriate ways to address DFV.
Sensitising policy and interventions
To fully utilise the best practice principles, agencies that provide support to refugees must be seen as an important component of what is understood as the ‘DFV sector’. Relationships between these agencies and those that are traditionally considered as part of this sector, however, are not currently well developed – if at all. Therefore, consideration is needed as to how to build these relationships and how the respective agencies can work collaboratively. There are definite benefits in doing this. Working collaboratively provides an opportunity to share expertise, knowledge and skills. It also enables discrete components of the intervention to be developed and/or delivered by those with specialist knowledge to do so.
In refugee background families, the desire to retain a sense of ‘family’ can be strong. Interventions that are seen to break down the family unit may not be the best way to actively engage those from a refugee background. To optimally utilise the best practice principles, a set of alternate service delivery models that do not necessarily involve family separation will need to be developed. This will require a significant amount of work. Importantly, when or if models are developed, they will require robust monitoring and evaluation to ensure the safety of women and children, and perpetrator accountability for use of violence.
Engaging those from a refugee background who perpetrate DFV can be challenging. The best practice principles seek to address this through providing an evidence-based resource to guide professionals in the development and implementation of interventions that are culturally appropriate, effective and have the best chance of positive outcomes.
Colleen Fisher is a professor and Head of School at UWA’s School of Population and Global Health. Her research expertise is family and domestic violence, and most recently she has been involved in researching the issue in refugee background communities.