Domestic and Family Violence Policy Manual 2015
Housing and Community Services

Domestic Violence Policy Manual [PDF 1.5MB]
Domestic Violence Policy Manual - Designer Version [PDF 1.6MB]

Director-General’s Message

We are all affected by violence against women and  children. Collectively, domestic and family violence and sexual assault cause  deep and lasting damage. The effects of this type of abuse are unspeakably  serious — and yet they demand that we do, in fact, come together to speak  openly about how we can share the responsibility for effecting real change.

The Community Services Directorate (the Directorate) has  reflected this message in a Statement of Commitment, which articulates our aim  to become an accredited White Ribbon Workplace. This expresses a shared belief  that violence against women is a human rights issue which must be addressed in  the workplace. The White Ribbon campaign works through primary prevention  initiatives involving awareness raising and education, and programs with youth,  schools, workplaces and across the broader community. It is underpinned by  an understanding that domestic and family violence is an issue which demands  joined-up responses and an unflagging commitment to making a difference.

In moving forward, we therefore need to consider how to  further improve our understanding of the diverse experiences of violence — and  how we can better respond to the needs of individuals, while providing an  effective system response. This means, for example, a more nuanced appreciation  of the particular needs and experiences of women from culturally and  linguistically diverse backgrounds, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and  intersex community members who experience domestic and family violence and  sexual assault.

I welcome the leading role that Housing and Community  Services has taken in reviewing its practices to identify and then respond to  incidents of family and domestic violence in a timely and professional manner.  Awareness raising, education and training are all critical to achieving these  outcomes and I commend the production of this updated and contemporary version  of the Housing and Community Services Domestic and Family Violence Policy Manual.  It provides a strong practical example of the Directorate’s Statement  of Commitment at  work.

Natalie Howson
Director-General, Community Services Directorate


Violence against women and children is one of the  most serious issues we face as a community and has been described as a ‘global  public health problem of epidemic proportions, requiring urgent action’.

Now, more than ever, family, domestic and sexual violence  requires a coordinated response. This must start with prevention; address legal  and crisis support services; continue through to post-crisis support for those  affected by violence; and include interventions for people who use violence.

The Second Implementation Plan of the ACT  Prevention of Violence against Women and Children Strategy 2011–2017 assigns  priority to driving whole-of-community and government action to prevent  violence and create an anti-violence culture in the ACT. This priority includes  actions which focus on the development or review of domestic violence policies  and guidelines within both the government and the community sector.

I welcome Housing and Community Services’ (HACS’) initiative to  review and update its Domestic and Family Violence  Policy Manual to better reflect contemporary approaches in  responding to domestic and family violence, including jurisdictional and  national strategies. I commend the work that has been done and the clear,  consistent and coherent policy manual that has resulted.
As domestic and family violence remains the primary cause of  women’s homelessness, safe and accessible housing is essential to the wellbeing  of women and their children. Since the first Domestic  Violence Policy Manual was produced in 2008, HACS has  consolidated its role as a provider of front line services to people affected  by domestic and family violence, in particular through the universal, targeted  and integrated housing response to at risk women and children.

The updated manual includes a Domestic and Family Violence  Service Delivery Framework, which outlines the pathways and responsibilities  for each HACS business unit in responding to domestic and family violence. It  does this in a way which does not prescribe a set outcome but, rather, enables  support and assistance to be flexible, timely and appropriate to the needs of  the person who has been affected by the violence. The Practice Guide section  (Appendix A) also provides useful links to best practice service supports for  staff.

It is important to note that HACS’ enhanced approach to  responding to domestic and family violence is underpinned by a clear acceptance  of the authenticity of a woman’s description of her experience of violence.  This reflects an understanding that the effects of domestic and family violence  may make it difficult for women to speak about their experiences. It also  informs the commitment of all HACS staff to provide supportive, non-judgemental  services to women and children. This understanding ensures that staff will place  responsibility for domestic and family violence and its impacts on the person  using violence.

I am pleased to endorse this updated Domestic  and Family Violence Policy Manual and to reaffirm the commitment  of the Domestic Violence Crisis Service to work collaboratively with HACS to  provide a more integrated and efficient response to domestic violence in our  community.

Mirjana Wilson
Executive Director, Domestic Violence Crisis Service



Section 1: Introduction

  • Definition
  • Understandings
  • Domestic and family violence and homelessness
  • Roles and responsibilities within HACS and related units within the  Directorate

Section 2: Domestic and Family Violence Service Delivery Framework

  • Purpose
  • Principles
  • Commitments
  • A refreshed training approach
  • Privacy and confidentiality
  • Confidentiality and domestic and family violence
  • Commissioner discretion and hardship
  • Supporting documentation
  • Accepted supporting documentation
  • Additional supporting documentation

Section 3: Procedures

  • Gateway Services
  • Eligibility
  • Priority/early allocation
  • Interstate residents
  • Refugees or sponsored migrants
  • Assets
  • Property allocations
  • Tenancy
  • Priority transfer
  • Remaining in the property
  • Where one occupant agrees to leave the property
  • Finance
  • Waiving prior debt
  • Transfer with debt
  • Tenant responsible maintenance
  • Complaints

Appendix A: Practice Guide

  • Understanding domestic and family violence
  • Understanding power and control
  • The power and control wheel
  • The non-violence wheel
  • The effects of domestic and family violence on children
  • Leaving a violent relationship
  • Safety planning
  • How to apply for protection orders
  • Immigration and domestic and family violence
  • Mandatory reporting requirements on child abuse and neglect
  • How to respond to a disclosure of domestic and family violence
  • When you suspect domestic and family violence
  • Looking after yourself at work
  • Relevant HACS legislation and business rules


Section 1: Introduction

Through the lens of a multi-system approach, the  impact of domestic and family violence on women, children and young people can  be exacerbated or ameliorated by the structures, policies and procedures of a  broad range of social and legal systems, including housing.

The positioning of women and children as the subjects of this  policy is an explicit acknowledgement by Housing and Community Services (HACS)  of the gendered nature of domestic and family violence. The overwhelming  majority of people who experience domestic and family violence are women and  children. The violence is generally perpetrated by men they know and often  in their own home. As a result, women and children are, and will continue to be, the predominant  users of domestic and family violence services, and their positioning in  this policy manual is an important part of meeting the specific needs of women  and children experiencing domestic and family violence in the ACT.

HACS acknowledges that a small percentage of men also experience  domestic and family violence, most often committed by other men.

HACS is committed to supporting men who experience violence and  men who use violence to address their behaviour. The policies and processes  outlined in this document are applicable to all HACS clients, and the services  referred to in this document, such as the Domestic Violence Crisis Service  (DVCS), are available to anyone in the ACT. Men are also more likely than women  to experience other forms of violence, like violence by other men in public  places, which is outside of the scope of this policy manual.

Domestic and family violence is a whole-of-community issue and  requires a whole-of-community and multi-system response. Both the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and  their Children 2010–2022 and the ACT  Prevention of Violence against Women and Children Strategy 2011–2017  acknowledge that coordinated, multi-agency and integrated responses in  interventions targeting both women who experience violence, and men who use  violence, are best practice in responding to violence against women.

Systems and services integration ensures that specialist  responses for identifying and responding to violence against women and their  children are effective. This means ensuring collaboration between the police,  domestic and family violence and sexual assault services, housing and  homelessness services, child protection, health and mental health services,  income support and financial management support, interventions and programs for  users of violence and, where necessary, culturally-specific support services.

The ACT’s response to domestic and family violence includes a  range of services and strategies to provide efficient and coordinated criminal  justice responses. The Family Violence Intervention Program (FVIP), established  in 1998, and the Sexual Assault Reform Program (SARP), established in 2007,  have improved cooperation between agencies and provided opportunities for  offender accountability and rehabilitation, by significantly increasing the  rate and timeliness of Family Violence (FV) matters progressing before the  courts.

In addition, the national and ACT strategies encompass responses  to violence against women and children more broadly, including a focus on  prevention and early intervention. Importantly, the ACT Second Implementation  Plan sets out clear actions to improve programs, services and systems that  support families experiencing or at risk of domestic and family violence,  including sexual assault in non-domestic and family contexts.

The FVIP, and in particular the immediate post-incident response  of the DVCS, are supported by the secondary-crisis response from the ACT’s  accommodation services. Entry to the homelessness system is coordinated through  First Point, the ACT’s central access service, which prioritises people  experiencing homelessness so that people most in need gain access to the  intensive supports provided by crisis accommodation services.

HACS has consciously positioned itself as the long-term  accommodation response for women experiencing or at risk of homelessness. HACS  also functions as an entry point to a range of community services, including  early intervention and crisis and post-crisis support in relation to domestic  and family violence, through the One Human Services Gateway, the integrated  intake and case coordination service.

In recognition of its range of critical roles in responding to  domestic and family violence and homelessness, HACS has developed a Domestic  and Family Violence Service Delivery Framework. The framework confirms HACS’  commitment to delivering timely and effective responses to people subjected to  domestic and family violence. By clearly stating a commitment to providing  assistance to women and children experiencing domestic and family violence and  by ensuring that policies and procedures are transparent and consistent, we are  better placed to work with clients to ameliorate the immediate and longer-term  effects of domestic and family violence.

In doing so, HACS recognises the importance of providing  respectful, non-judgemental and culturally-sensitive support to women and  children experiencing this type of violence. HACS acknowledges the complexity  of domestic and family violence and, in particular, the vulnerable position of  children and young people who are subjected to or witness this violence.

HACS acknowledges the specialist work and expertise of our  community sector partners who provide a range of supports to women and children  experiencing domestic and family violence, including crisis counselling, safety  planning and information, accommodation and case-management. Community organisations  such as DVCS also provide a range of supports to men who experience and use  violence, and work in partnership with other organisations to support men in  addressing their use of violence. These organisations play a critical role in  the whole-of-community response to domestic and family violence in the ACT.

ACS is committed to continuing to work in partnership with these organisations  to ensure effective responses to domestic and family violence that improve the  safety of women and children and also benefit the entire community.



According to Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration on the  Elimination of Violence against Women, “the term ‘violence against women’ means  any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in  physical, sexual or psychological harm, or suffering to women, including  threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether  occurring in public or private life”.

In Australia, violence against women is commonly understood as  referring to domestic and family violence, and sexual assault of women. Although there is overlap between different forms of violence against women,  sexual assault is committed in a broader range of contexts than just intimate  partner and family relationships, which is beyond the scope of this policy  manual.

This policy deals specifically with domestic and family violence,  reflecting the nature of this form of violence and its intersection with  homelessness, and the position and commitments of HACS in this context.

Domestic and family violence is fundamentally  characterised as an ongoing pattern of coercive controlling behaviour whereas  adult sexual assault (excluding intimate partner sexual assault) can be a  one-off attack or series of incidents. In domestic and family violence, the  victim is often forced to engage with the perpetrator in an ongoing way outside  of the criminal justice system even following separation through institutional  structures such as family law, children’s schooling and family contacts. Safety  is a critical and a persistent issue for victims of domestic and family  violence.

The definition of domestic violence contained in the National  Plan (Council of Australian Governments [COAG], 2011) is:

Domestic violence refers to acts of violence that occur  between people who have, or have had, an intimate relationship. While there is  no single definition, the central element of domestic violence is an ongoing  pattern of behaviour aimed at controlling a partner through fear, for example  by using behaviour which is violent and threatening. In most cases, the violent  behaviour is part of a range of tactics to exercise power and control over  women and their children, and can be both criminal and non-criminal. Domestic  violence includes physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse. (COAG,  2011, p2)

Family violence is a more inclusive term and refers to violence  between family members, as well as violence between intimate partners, and involves the same types of behaviours as described for domestic violence.  The term ‘family violence’ is the most widely used term to identify the  experiences of Indigenous people, because it includes the broad range of  marital and kinship relationships in which violence may occur.

Domestic and family violence takes many physical and non-physical  forms, such as:

  • Physical abuseThe use of violence to hurt, control or intimidate. This may include  hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, strangling or using weapons.
  • Sexual abuseThe use of sex as a way to control, hurt, and intimidate. This may  include sexual assault, forcing a woman to view pornography or to participate  in unwanted sexual acts.
  • Psychological or emotional abuseAttempts to make a woman feel worthless or afraid. This may include  using intimidation, threats of suicide or threats to hurt a woman, her children  or her pets.
  • Financial abuseThis includes restricting access to money, threatening to withdraw  financial support or making a woman responsible for debts that are not her own.  This can affect her ability to care for her family or to leave a violent  relationship.
  • Social controlThis includes isolating a woman from family, friends, and the  community by restricting access to family or cultural events and activities  such as religious meetings or education.
  • StalkingThis is when a person follows or watches a woman or visits places  where they know she will be, to try to monitor her whereabouts and intimidate  her.
  • IntimidationThis is violent behaviour to make a woman fearful. It can be obvious  or subtle. It includes threatening statements, looks, gestures, or other  behaviour that makes her feel afraid.
  • HarassmentThis is repeated unwanted contact by the violent person. It can  include contact made directly, by phone, email, text messaging, or on  social networking websites or through another person.



As noted earlier, domestic and family violence is a gendered form  of violence. Women are at least three times more likely than men to experience  violence from an intimate partner, and women are five times more likely to  report fearing for their lives.

In most cases where a woman commits domestic and family violence  against a man, the man has previously engaged in domestic and family violence  against the woman. A person’s use of violence or the occurrence of mutual  violence between parties does not preclude them from support to address their  use of violence. HACS acknowledges that no form of violence is acceptable, and  is committed to supporting men who experience violence and men who use violence  to address their behaviour, through its various community sector partnerships.

Violence against women, of which domestic and family violence is  one form, is underpinned and enabled by three important factors:

  • gender inequality — the  fact that women and men do not have equal power or resources and that their  voices, ideas and work are not valued in the same way
  • rigid adherence to gender roles — for  example, the idea that women and men should act in certain ways or are  better at certain things based on their sex
  • attitudes,  norms, behaviours and practices that support violence — for  example, the idea that violent acts are ok in certain circumstances, the idea  that some violent acts are not serious and that violence is a normal way of  resolving conflict.

The term domestic and family violence is used in this document in  recognition of its more inclusive connotations and its growing usage in  government and community sectors. The use of varied terminology in this  document reflects the language used in the original publication  or document.

Domestic and family violence and homelessness

HACS acknowledges the need for a range of housing options to meet  the diverse needs of women and children experiencing domestic and family  violence. These include social, affordable and community housing, as well as  access to the private rental market.

Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness  for women and children in the ACT. A DVCS report, Staying  Home after Domestic Violence, found that for the 35 women whose  case files were analysed, more than 37 per cent were ultimately not able  to sustain long-term residency in their family homes following the end of the  violent relationship. Well over half of the women who were homeowners or  private renters had lost their homes within 12 months of the separation.

Domestic and family violence can lead to primary and secondary  homelessness, as the violence may make it unsafe for a woman and children to  reside in the home with the person using violence. The lack of affordable and  safe accommodation means that many women and children remain in violent  environments or resort to insecure and potentially unsafe accommodation to  escape the violence. After leaving the violent relationship, ongoing harassment  and intimidation may lead a woman to return to the violent relationship, or  require numerous relocations to escape ongoing violence. The emotional and  psychological impact of domestic and family violence may mean that it is not  safe for the woman and children to continue living in the place where the  violence occurred, even after the user of violence has left the property.

HACS recognises that particular groups of women, including women  with disabilities, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women, women of  diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, older women and women from  culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds face additional challenges  and barriers to accessing safe, secure and affordable accommodation. HACS  engages in ongoing service evaluation and improvement, and collaborates with  its community sector partners to improve the accessibility of its services.

The impact of domestic and family violence on women is diverse.  However, some common effects of domestic and family violence include: homelessness;  poverty; dislocation; fear and anxiety; isolation and lack of social supports;  shame; loss of confidence; loss of a sense of self; and difficulty in making  decisions.

The impact of domestic and family violence on children is also  diverse. Some common effects on children include: withdrawal; attachment  issues; hyperactivity; poor socialisation skills; and fear and insecurity.

For more see  Page 20, Appendix A, Practice Guide, provides  information on the impact of domestic and family violence.


Roles and responsibilities within HACS and related  units within the Directorate

Each business unit of HACS has a range of responsibilities in  relation to domestic and family violence along the continuum of support, from  early and crisis intervention to post-crisis support.

  • Social Housing and Homelessness  Services (SHHS) is responsible for social housing and  homelessness policy, planning, research and the management of service funding  agreements and grants with a broad range of community services, in line with  ACT and Commonwealth Government strategic directions for homelessness service  provision. This includes managing service partnership agreements and  relationships with our community sector partners who provide crisis support and  accommodation services to people who have experienced domestic and family  violence and/or homelessness. SHHS works to ensure that there are appropriate  and responsive services available for people experiencing domestic and family  violence through a continuum of support including early intervention, crisis  and post-crisis support and accommodation, and longer-term support.
  • Gateway Services  is responsible for the management and provision of    respectful, non-judgemental application and assessment  processes and the allocation (including early allocation) of safe and secure  housing to women and children escaping domestic and family violence. Gateway  Services also has a role to play in assisting and facilitating women to access  supports in their community through the provision of case conferences.
  • Property Services     is  responsible for assisting women and children to feel safer in their homes via  the provision of additional safety and security measures where required. This  process is supported by a memorandum of understanding between domestic and family  violence support services and HACS. A Domestic Violence Modifications Business  Rule permits all HACS officers to seek modifications to improve safety for  clients who experience domestic and family violence.
  • Tenancy Services is  responsible for the ongoing tenancy management of properties (including  safety). Tenancy managers are often pivotal in the early identification of  domestic and family violence through the course of routine property visits and  management of tenancies. Tenancy managers also play a role in facilitating  priority transfers to improve the safety of women and children who have  experienced domestic and family violence. Tenancy managers are responsible for  providing referrals to additional supports, including referrals to  the Client Support Coordinators (CSCs). The CSCs are responsible for  early intervention and the provision of support and to ensure appropriate  referrals are offered to the family. The CSCs have a significant role to play  in the assessment and recommendation for transfers.
  • Policy and Participation  is responsible for the development and ongoing revision of policies for HACS  business units, to ensure these are up-to-date and reflecting best practice  responses.
  • Business Development  is responsible for systems support, particularly the use of Homenet to support  and record actions related to domestic and family violence.
  • Operational Services  is responsible for supporting applications for changes to tenancies, to allow  women and children who are subjected to domestic and family violence to stay in  their property.
  • Financial Unit      (with  advice from business units) is responsible for considering the dynamics and  impacts of domestic and family violence when making an assessment of debt (both  from Tenant Responsible Maintenance and rental debt), including the longer-term  effects of poverty which often affect women and children who have experienced  domestic and family violence.
  • Learning and Community Education  is responsible for the provision of    staff  training and education regarding issues related to domestic and family  violence. This includes working in partnership with DVCS (or another specialist  organisation) for the provision of mandatory training and providing training  related to the HACS Domestic and Family Violence Policy Manual.
  • The Office for Women,  part of the Community Participation Group of the Directorate, works to enhance  the status of women in the ACT and in doing so, assists in the creation of a  community where women are safe, healthy, equally represented, and valued.
  • The Offices for Aboriginal and  Torres Strait Islander Affairs and Multicultural Affairs are  responsible for ensuring that the specific needs of Aboriginal and/or Torres  Strait Islander people and people from culturally and linguistically diverse  (CALD) backgrounds are considered in the development of policy related to  domestic and family violence. They are responsible for ensuring that the policy  direction of the Directorate in relation to domestic and family violence is  communicated to the relevant communities and forums with which they interact.
  • Management at all levels of the  Directorate is responsible for the sensitive implementation of  procedures in relation to domestic and family violence. Managers are  responsible for ensuring that staff are appropriately trained, and that staff  attitudes and actions reflect the commitments and principles of the Directorate  in relation to domestic and family violence. Management is responsible for  ensuring strategic coordination and representation on relevant committees.

Collectively, these roles and responsibilities create a  coordinated and integrated response to domestic and family violence within  HACS, which aims to ameliorate the impact of domestic and family violence on  women, children and young people.


Section 2: Domestic and Family Violence  Service Delivery Framework


This framework outlines the commitments and principles that  inform the work of HACS in relation to domestic and family violence. It also  set outs the broader context within which HACS responds to and makes decisions  about situations of domestic and family violence.

The framework is more than a policy statement. It is a practical  document that translates policy into practice. In this, it is a tool to assist  workers with decision-making and the application of discretion by the  Commissioner for Social Housing in matters related to domestic and family  violence. All decision-making in relation to situations of domestic and family  violence should be considered in light of its consistency with the principles,  commitments and understandings articulated in this document.

Community and government need to work together to create an  integrated service system that addresses the needs of women and children  experiencing domestic and family violence. This manual will assist our  community sector partners to understand our principles, policies and  procedures, and the role of HACS in the continuum of support in relation to  domestic and family violence.

These principles will be considered in all decision-making,  including any determination and application of discretion by the Commissioner  for Social Housing and in the development and application of policies and  procedures related to domestic and family violence within the Directorate.



Housing and Community Services, in its  decision-making, policy implementation and daily practices related to  domestic and family violence, is guided by four fundamental  principles:

  • the immediate and long-term safety of women and  children is paramount
  • the best interests of the child must be  maintained
  • a woman’s personal account of domestic and  family violence, including her understanding of its impact and associated  safety risks, will be accepted
  • the responsibility for violence always rests  with the person using violence


HACS is committed to promoting the safety of women and children  experiencing domestic and family violence through the provision of safe, secure  and affordable housing.

Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness  for women and children in the ACT and throughout Australia. Addressing  homelessness as a result of domestic and family violence requires a long-term  integrated approach that includes a range of interventions, from primary  prevention and early intervention, to crisis and post-crisis responses and  long-term initiatives. Two types of assistance are critical in supporting  women affected by domestic and family violence:

  • provision of safe, secure and affordable housing
  • provision of a range of crisis and post-crisis  supports including outreach, and assistance with accommodation, health, legal,  counselling and other supports for as long as required.

HACS is committed to its role in working with community and  government partners to ensure an integrated response for women and children  experiencing domestic and family violence.

HACS is committed to providing sensitive, non-judgemental and  responsive support to women and children who experience domestic and family  violence. This commitment is underpinned by the belief that responsibility for  violence always rests with the person using violence.

HACS is committed to ensuring that staff are provided with  training that will facilitate sensitive and effective responses to domestic and  family violence. This commitment will also be reflected in an ongoing  partnership with DVCS or another specialist organisation to provide  training. In addition, specific procedural training within HACS (such  as tenant responsible maintenance, property standards etc.)  will include information specifically related to domestic and family  violence.

A refreshed training approach

  • HACS will work with DVCS (or another specialist  organisation) to ensure that training is contemporary, evidence-based and  consistent with the policy position. This approach will strengthen the relationship  between HACS and our community sector partners such as DVCS and contribute to  an integrated and effective response to domestic and family violence in our  community.
  • Mandatory training related to the Domestic and Family Violence Policy Manual  will be rolled out for all HACS staff as part of the policy implementation.  Subsequent training will be made available to ensure that all staff maintain a  best practice approach.


Privacy and confidentiality

HACS recognises the importance of confidentiality and privacy for  all clients and recognises the increased vulnerability of women and children  escaping domestic and family violence.

A range of policy documents, including the Information Privacy Act 2014, the Freedom of Information Act 1989, the ACT Public Service Code of Conduct,  and the Public Sector Management Act 1994,  guide confidentiality and privacy of information within HACS.

The Information Privacy Act makes clear a number of points  particularly relevant to confidentiality and privacy for women and children  experiencing domestic and family violence. These include ensuring that:

  • staff and clients understand the purpose for  which information is being collected
  • the information collected is relevant
  • the collection of the information does not  ‘intrude to an unreasonable extent upon the personal affairs of the individual  concerned’.

HACS can make notifications to the police or child protection  services where issues of safety are concerned. This is an important part of the  policy, reflecting HACS’ responsibility to ensure the safety of our clients  where ‘the disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent  threat to the life or health of the individual concerned or of another person’.

Confidentiality and domestic and family violence

In exceptional circumstances, HACS has the capacity to implement  additional confidentiality measures in the interests of safety. These include  changing identifiers on files or storing files with managers.

Commissioner discretion and hardship

HACS recognises that responding effectively to women and children  experiencing domestic and family violence, to meet their immediate need for  safety and their long-term need for housing stability, may require a range of  standard operating procedures to be implemented flexibly. In these cases it is  likely that the discretion of the delegate for the Commissioner for Social  Housing will be called on.

Using the hardship discretion, under 10(1) of the Housing Assistance Public Rental Housing Assistance  Program 2013 (No 1), the Commissioner for Social Housing can  waive all criteria for housing assistance except for the minimum age criterion.  To ensure equity to all applicants for housing assistance, discretion shall  only be applied to cases where it can be determined there is ‘severe hardship  that cannot be alleviated by any other means’.

Severe hardship — applies  in circumstances where an applicant may be experiencing deprivation of the  necessities of life, such as safety, food, shelter and essential medical  treatment. Women and children experiencing domestic and family violence will  often meet the criteria in relation to the need for safety and shelter.

By any other means — requires  the Commissioner to be satisfied that access to other resources to alleviate  the hardship is not available, such as the ability to afford private rental  or the capacity to access finances that may be withheld by the person  using violence.

The delegation to exercise the Commissioner’s discretion varies  according to the matter to be determined, as outlined in the Housing Assistance Public Rental Housing Assistance  Program Delegation 2013 (No 1).

For more see  Page 18,  Section 3, Procedures.


Supporting documentation

HACS’s response to domestic and family violence is underpinned by an acceptance of a woman’s disclosed experience of domestic and family violence,  including her understanding of its impact and associated safety risks.

Where supporting documentation is required, this will be  requested in a respectful and non-judgemental manner, which acknowledges that  the impact of domestic and family violence may make it difficult for a woman to  speak about her experience of violence and that obtaining supporting  documentation may be challenging for her or may exacerbate an existing  unsafe and stressful situation.
HACS recognises that some women, particularly women with  disabilities, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women, women of diverse  sexual orientations and gender identities, older women and women from CALD  backgrounds may face additional barriers to obtaining supporting documentation.  These barriers include social and cultural stigma, language, lack of  information about or access to services, and lack of client-specific and  culturally-sensitive services.

If a client is unable to provide supporting documentation,  particularly where there are concerns for safety, an interview will be  undertaken by a senior officer in Gateway Services or a person nominated by the  Senior Manager Gateway Services. If the Senior Manager supports the  application, it will from that point be treated as having provided proof of  domestic and family violence.

Supporting documentation in relation to domestic and family  violence does not need to contain explicit details. It might broadly outline  the situation and the impact of the domestic and family violence to support  claims made by the applicant or tenant. HACS will endeavour to ensure that  supporting documentation only needs to be presented once; however, in some  cases additional information may be required to support a particular claim. For  example, the documentation presented for a priority transfer may not contain  the information required to assess domestic and family violence-related  property damage. Letters from support services (consistent with accepted  documentation listed below) will be accepted as supporting documentation.

HACS maintains strong working relationships with the community  organisations that provide support and accommodation to women and children  experiencing domestic and family violence, through forums such as the Joint  Pathways Group. The robust relationship between HACS and the community sector  is reflected in the One Human Services Gateway (1HSG), a co-location model  which forms a single access point for people to connect with a range of  supports and services. Similarly, the Multi-Disciplinary Panel (MDP) draws on  the experience and expertise of a range of community sector partners who  collaborate to assess applications for priority housing.


Accepted supporting documentation

HACS will accept ONE of the  following as adequate supporting documentation:

  • A current Domestic Violence Order (DVO) from any  jurisdiction within Australia.
  • A letter from:
  • the police
  • DVCS
  • Canberra Rape Crisis Centre
  • Beryl Women’s Refuge
  • Doris Women’s Refuge
  • Toora Women Incorporated
  • YWCA of Canberra
  • other recognised domestic and family  violence/homelessness support or accommodation service. Where there is a lack  of clarity about who is a ‘recognised’ service provider, the issue will be  resolved by the Senior Manager of the area involved, in consultation  with the Senior Manager SHHS
  • Office for Children, Youth and Family Support.

HACS will accept TWO  of the following as adequate supporting documentation:

  • A letter from a:
  • solicitor
  • relevant community welfare support worker
  • relevant government support worker
  • social worker
  • psychiatrist
  • family doctor
  • drug and alcohol service.

Additional supporting documentation

Where any additional information is required, HACS will contact  the support services not the client, clearly indicating the information  required.

Section 3: Procedures

Principle icons key
The following icons are used throughout this section to identify  the key principle(s) underpinning the procedure described.
Safety Safety
Best interests of the child Best interests of the child
Acceptance of a woman’s account Acceptance of a woman’s account
Responsibility rests with the person using violence Responsibility  rests with the person using violence


Gateway Services


All applicants applying for housing assistance must meet  the social housing eligibility criteria. Discretion can be applied in  relation to issues such as assets, income and debt in situations that that  clearly fall within the hardship category as outlined above. Any waivers of the  eligibility criteria require supporting documentation (consistent with the  Supporting documentation section, page 16),  this supporting documentation will be considered in relation to the immediate  safety and security of the family and the long-term interests of children.

Priority/early allocation

Under the Housing Assistance Public  Rental Housing Assistance Program (Housing Needs Categories) Determination 2011  (No 1), women with or without children experiencing domestic and  family violence are eligible for priority needs assessment. Applicants seeking  assistance on the basis of domestic and family violence are required to provide  supporting documentation along with their application (but note the exception  in the Supporting documentation section above for situations where a client is  unable to provide supporting documentation).

The ongoing use of the MDP, consisting of community and  government representatives with relevant expertise, ensures that issues such as  domestic and family violence are given due consideration for priority  classification.

SafetyAcceptance of a woman’s account

Interstate residents

Interstate residents may apply for priority housing if they are  eligible for social housing AND can demonstrate a compelling need to move  to the ACT, such as location of family and support systems, or where they were  a prior long-term resident of the ACT.

  • Supporting documentation — as  outlined in this policy.
  • Procedure — an  assessing officer in Gateway Services will make an assessment and  recommendation to be determined by the Senior Manager Gateway Services.

For women who live in some areas of regional NSW, the ACT is the  closest city centre and may be the only accessible source of support,  particularly where there is an imminent threat to the safety of the woman and  her children.

SafetyAcceptance of a woman’s account

Refugees or sponsored migrants

A sponsored migrant or refugee may be eligible for assistance if  it can be demonstrated that an Assurance of Support arrangement has broken down  because of domestic and family violence and the applicant has been granted a  Statutory Income or where a refugee awaiting permanent residency is escaping  domestic and family violence.

  • Supporting documentation — as  outlined in this policy.
  • Procedure — an  assessing officer in Gateway Services will make an assessment and  recommendation to be determined by the Senior Manager Gateway Services.

SafetyAcceptance of a woman’s account


For women escaping domestic and family violence, the outcome of  property settlement may take some time, particularly if it is delayed by the  person using violence as part of a pattern of power and control. In the  interests of safety or because of the ongoing impact of the domestic and family  violence, women escaping violence may forego any attempt to recoup interest in  a property.

Any application of discretion will be applied with consideration  to safety, security and the best interests of children. Housing  Assistance Public Rental Housing Assistance Program (Eligibility criteria for  assistance) Operation Guideline 2008 (No 1) specifically  recognises that in cases of domestic and family violence, access to part  ownership in a property may be waived when determining hardship.

  • Supporting documentation —  as outlined in this policy.
  • Procedure — an assessing officer in Gateway Services will make an  assessment and recommendation to be determined by the Senior Manager Gateway  Services.


Property allocations

Allocation of properties within the priority housing category is  based on a needs and suitability basis rather than chronological order. This  allows HACS to match properties to the needs of the applicant.
Senior Assessing Officers work with Allocations Officers to  monitor available properties and match these to suitable applicants.

llocations are based on stock availability  and portfolio limitations.
Ongoing support from both community and government services to  create a sense of safety, including the provision of security upgrades to a  property, is an integral part of supporting women and children who have  experienced domestic and family violence.

HACS recognises the immediate and long-term impacts of domestic  and family violence on women and children and, where possible, takes into  account issues such as neighbourhood violence and known domestic and family  violence in an adjacent or nearby property.

SafetyBest interests of the child


Priority transfer

A tenant may apply for, or be identified as appropriate for, a  priority transfer due to domestic and family violence. While HACS will take  issues of safety into account, it may still be necessary for a tenant to  find temporary safe accommodation while a suitable property is identified.

HACT recognises both the immediate and the long-term negative  effects for people subjected to domestic and family violence and on those who  have witnessed violence, such as children. HACS understands that sometimes the  need to transfer may be based on the need for women and/or children to live  somewhere other than the location where the violence occurred. A transfer may  occur within the area of the original property, or to a different area.

  • Supporting documentation — as  outlined in this policy.
  • Procedure — Housing  Managers are to refer all issues related to priority transfer and domestic and  family violence to a CSC. The CSC will convene a case conference attended by  the applicant, an assessing officer from Gateway Services and any community  support services. If it is determined by the CSC that a transfer is  appropriate, the Gateway Services officer will write up and progress a  recommendation to the MDP for approval.


SafetyBest interests of the child

Remaining in the property

HACS is committed to assisting people subjected to domestic and  family violence to remain in their homes following domestic and family  violence, where it is safe to do so and that is the wish of the tenant. This is  consistent with the strategic directions outlined by the Commonwealth  Government through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NAHA) and  other policy. Through these strategic policies, the Commonwealth Government has  made clear that each state and territory must explore and implement policy and  procedures that work to increase the number of women and children who remain in  their own homes following domestic and family violence.

Under clause 85 of the Residential  Tenancies Act 1997, if a tenant or joint tenant has been excluded  from being at the property by a court order (other than an interim order), the  remaining resident or joint tenant may apply for the tenancy to be put into  their name. In order to do this, the person seeking to be made the tenant must  be eligible for social housing and an application needs to be made to the  ACT Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (ACAT).

Where a tenant is excluded (by Court Order) from a property for  using domestic and family violence, HACS is committed to working with the  remaining tenant or resident or an organisation working on their behalf, in  making their application to ACAT.

SafetyResponsibility rests with the person using violence

Where one occupant agrees to leave the property

If the tenant or joint tenant is a person using domestic and  family violence and agrees to leave the property through their own volition,  the remaining tenant or resident can make an application to HACS to have a  tenancy in their own name in that property.

  • Supporting documentation — written  evidence by one occupant indicating their intention to leave the property  and requesting they be removed as a tenant from that property.
  • Procedure — as  above.

Where a property is transferred to a new tenancy because of  domestic and family violence, HACS will undertake an immediate property  inspection to determine any damage to the property that may have been  caused by the person using domestic and family violence.

For more see  Page 23,  Tenant Responsible Maintenance and page 20  Priority transfer prodcedure.


SafetyResponsibility rests with the person using violence


Waiving prior debt

HACS recognises that economic violence can be a component of  domestic and family violence, where the person using violence may control and  withhold finance and resources as a means of controlling the person subjected  to the violence. HACS recognises that women and children experiencing domestic  and family violence and experiencing homelessness may end up living in  situations of extreme hardship and poverty.

However, the Commissioner for Social Housing does NOT have  capacity to waive debt. Any determination to waive a debt owed to the ACT  Government must be made by a delegate of the ACT Treasurer. This delegate may  determine to waive part or all of a debt where domestic and family violence is  proved to have been a component in the accumulation of that debt and where  repayment of that debt will cause undue hardship.

  • Evidence — the  personal account of the woman experiencing domestic and family violence and/or  documentation consistent with the accepted supporting documentation.
  • Procedure — in  the creation of a new tenancy, consideration may be given to waive some of any  rental arrears where there is evidence (consistent with evidence requirements  outlined in this document) that the arrears are a result of domestic and family  violence AND where payment of these arrears will cause extreme hardship,  particularly in relation to children. The assessment and recommendation to  apply discretion and waive some of the rental arrears will be conducted by the  Manager, Gateway Services or a Regional Manager Tenancy and forwarded to  Manager, Accounts Receivable for forwarding to ACT Treasury for determination.


SafetyAcceptance of a woman’s accountResponsibility rests with the person using violence

Transfer with debt

Prior debt with HACS will NOT preclude a transfer where there are  issues of safety for women and children. Any priority transfer must have  involvement with the CSCs to ensure appropriate supports are available.

  • Supporting documentation — as  outlined in this policy.
  • Procedure — a  Housing Manger who believes a priority transfer is required due to domestic and  family violence must refer the matter to a CSC. The CSC will undertake an  assessment and make a recommendation to be forwarded to the Manager, Tenancy  Services or the Senior Manager, Gateway Services for determination. The  involvement of the CSC is a critical opportunity to ensure early intervention  and seek appropriate referrals.

SafetyBest interests of the childResponsibility rests with the person using violence

Tenant  responsible maintenance

Where there is damage to a property caused by domestic and family  violence the following will apply:

  • Evidence — the  personal account of the woman experiencing domestic and family violence and/or  documentation consistent with the accepted supporting documentation, as  outlined in this policy.
  • Procedure —
  • Housing Managers will obtain the police  reference numbers where applicable (recognising that damage is often done by  the person using violence after the woman has left the property and police may  not have been notified)
  • Housing Managers will accept the woman’s  description of her experience of domestic and family violence in the first  instance. They will work with the woman in a respectful and non-judgmental  manner, asking further questions to attempt to ascertain additional  information, prior to the matter being referred to Accounts Receivable.
  • Housing Managers will provide copies of  previously supplied evidence with the file and forward the information to the  Manager of Accounts Receivable. The Manager of Accounts Receivable will assess  the TRM sheet and earmark all Tenant Responsible Maintenance that can be  attributed to domestic and family violence. (This includes damage to walls,  doors, fittings etc.). This amount will be removed from the woman’s account.

If property damage is associated with the incidence of domestic  and family violence, HACT may consider pursuing charges of wilful damage  against the user of violence.


SafetyAcceptance of a woman’s accountResponsibility rests with the person using violence


When complaints are made — for example, noise complaints — in  relation to a domestic and family violence incident involving a tenant, HACS  will employ a respectful and non-judgmental approach to addressing the issue  with the woman (who may be the tenant but is not responsible for the behaviour  that led to the complaint). This approach seeks to ensure that women who  experience domestic and family violence do not perceive themselves as being  blamed for the violence, which is underpinned by HACS’s acknowledgement that  responsibility for the violence rests with the person using violence. HACS  recognises that addressing a complaint with a woman may be an opportunity  for staff to offer support and encourage the woman to develop a safety  plan.

For more see  Page 26,  Appendix A, Practice Guide, ‘How to respond to a disclosure of domestic  and family violence’.

New applicant procedure
Existing Tenant Prioity Transfer Procedure


Appendix A: Practice Guide

Understanding domestic and family violence

Domestic violence refers to acts of violence that occur between  people who have, or have had, an intimate relationship. While there is no  single definition, the central element of domestic violence is an ongoing pattern  of behaviour aimed at controlling a partner through fear — for  example, by using behaviour which is violent and threatening. Family violence  is a more inclusive term and refers to violence between family members, as well  as violence between intimate partners, and involves the same types of behaviours as described for domestic and family  violence.

Domestic and family violence can take many forms and includes  physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, financial and sexual abuse. It can  affect people of any age, race, religion, socioeconomic background, gender,  sexual orientation, cultural and ethnic background. Notwithstanding this, women and children are disproportionately subjected to  domestic and family violence and there are groups of women within our community  who are particularly vulnerable to this violence due to a range of inequalities  that persist in our society and contribute to the further marginalisation of  particular groups, such as women with disabilities, Aboriginal and/or Torres  Strait Islander women, women of diverse sexual orientations and gender  identities, older women and women from CALD backgrounds.

In many violent relationships, the physical and sexual violence  does not begin until after the relationship is well established and for many  women their first experience of physical violence will be during pregnancy.  People who use violence may initially be over-attentive, controlling or even  dominating over their partner, and this behaviour may be considered by the  partner as a compliment or a sign of care or love. In some cases domestic and  family violence continues long after the relationship has ended.

Domestic and family violence cysle


Understanding power and control

The central element of domestic and family violence is ‘an  ongoing pattern of behaviour aimed at controlling a partner through fear’. The power and control wheel was developed in Duluth, Minnesota, following  interviews with women who had experienced domestic and family violence, who  were asked to identify the ways in which they felt they were controlled.

The power and control wheel provides a simplified understanding  of various forms of domestic and family violence from the perspective of the  woman being subjected to the violence. It is important to note an emerging area  of concern, the use of technology to facilitate domestic and family  violence, which is an additional and contemporary means of exercising power  and control.

Power and control wheel

The power and control wheel

At the centre of the wheel is the purpose of all violent tactics  in the relationship, which is the intention of one party to exercise and  establish power and control over another.

A person who uses violence believes he or she has a right to  control their partner and may use some of the tactics found in the power and  control wheel by:

  • telling them what to do and expecting obedience
  • using force to maintain power and control over  partners
  • feeling their partners have no right to  challenge their desire for power and control
  • feeling justified in making the person subjected  to domestic and family violence comply
  • blaming the abuse on the partner and not  accepting responsibility for wrongful acts.

The tactics shown in the wheel are examples of how power and  control are exercised against the person subjected to violence:


  • limiting outside involvement
  • making a partner avoid people/friends/family by  embarrassing or humiliating them in front of others
  • expecting a partner to report every  move and activity
  • restricting the use of the car
  • moving residences

Emotional and mental abuse

  • putting the partner down or name calling
  • ignoring or discounting their activities and  accomplishments
  • withholding approval or affection
  • making the partner feel as if they are crazy in  public or through private humiliation
  • unreasonable jealousy and suspicion
  • playing mind games

Economic and financial abuse

  • preventing the partner from getting or keeping a  job
  • withholding funds
  • spending family income without consent and/or  making the partner struggle to pay bills
  • not letting the partner know of or have access  to family/personal income
  • forcing the partner to ask for basic necessities


  • driving recklessly to make the partner feel  threatened or endangered
  • destroying property or cherished possessions
  • making the partner afraid by using  looks/actions/gestures
  • throwing objects as an expression of anger to  make the partner feel threatened
  • displaying weapons

Using children or pets

  • threatening to take the children away
  • making the partner feel guilty about the  children
  • abusing children or pets to punish the partner
  • using the children to relay messages

Using privileges (perceived or cultural)

  • treating another like a servant
  • making all the big decisions
  • being the one to define male and female roles
  • acting like the master or queen of the castle

Sexual abuse

  • sex on demand or sexual withholding
  • physical assaults during sexual intercourse
  • spousal rapes or non-consensual sex
  • sexually degrading language
  • denying reproductive freedom


  • threats of violence against significant third  parties
  • threats to commit physical or sexual harm
  • threats to commit property destruction
  • threats to commit suicide or murder

Physical abuse

  • biting/scratching
  • slapping/punching
  • kicking/stomping
  • throwing objects
  • locking another in a closet or utilising other  confinement
  • sleep interference and/or deliberately  exhausting the partner with unreasonable demands and lack of rest
  • deprivation of heat or food
  • shoving another down steps or into objects
  • assaults with weapons such as knives/guns/other  objects


The non-violence wheel

The non-violence wheel was developed in consultation with women  who have experienced domestic and family violence and is designed to be used  with the power and control wheel. It aims to describe the changes needed to  move from a violent relationship to a respectful relationship.

In a respectful relationship, power is shared between both  parties; neither partner has power or control over the other. Respect is the  foundation of the relationship, and trust and love stem from this mutual  respect. Arguments and disagreements are possible and likely, even in a respectful  relationship, but it is possible to acknowledge and resolve differing  understandings and perspectives in a considerate, non-threatening and  non-violent manner. There is no excuse for violence in a respectful  relationship. It is possible for a violent relationship to become a respectful  relationship.

In some cases, women who experience domestic and family violence  may feel overwhelmed by or responsible for the violence they have experienced.  The non-violence wheel may be useful for HACS staff when engaging in  conversations with clients who may be feeling hopeless or guilty about their  situation.

rompting a woman to talk about her hopes for the relationship and  what she believes she can do to achieve this can be empowering for her, but may  also lead her to the realisation that she is not in control of or responsible  for her partner’s behaviour.

Non-violence wheel


The effects of domestic and family violence on  children

In homes where domestic and family violence occurs, children are  also at high risk of suffering physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Whether or  not they are subjected to physical violence, children exposed to domestic and  family violence suffer significant emotional and psychological trauma which is  similar to that experienced by victims of child abuse.

Living in an environment in which domestic and family violence  takes place can be distressing and traumatising for both children and young  people. For example, observing property damage as a result of domestic and  family violence (holes in walls, kicked in doors etc.) can serve as a constant  reminder of the violence and be a trigger.

When children experience domestic and family violence, it can  affect their behaviour, development, relationships, emotions, learning ability,  cognition and physical health.

Some of the ways children are impacted include:

  • aggressive or defiant behaviour
  • being anxious, fearful or withdrawn
  • negative self concept
  • lack of trust
  • developmental delays
  • feeling responsible for the violence
  • post traumatic stress and other psychological effects
  • Increased risk of using violence or being  subjected to violence as adults

Seeking support in relation to domestic and family violence  demonstrates to a child that violence is not acceptable and can be  stopped.

For more information visit: Link


Leaving a violent relationship

Women return to violent relationships for many reasons. It is  important not to question a woman’s reasons for remaining in a violent  relationship. The reasons are personal and sensitive, and questioning may be  perceived as judgement or victim-blaming, which may result in the woman  disengaging and lead to further risks to her safety. These reasons include:  fear of the partner, a desire to continue the relationship for the sake of  children, pressure to return to the relationship from children, family members  or friends, a cultural or religious community, lack of access to safe and  affordable alternative accommodation, and limited support networks and  resources. Many women may leave and return a number of times, cycling in and  out of homelessness. HACS acknowledges that this pattern often forms part of  the pathway permanently out of a violent relationship. This understanding  informs the commitment of HACS to providing non-judgemental responses and  services that place responsibility for the violence on the user of violence and  not the person subjected to violence.

Statistically, women are at the greatest risk of physical and  even fatal violence when leaving, and planning to leave, a violent  relationship. As a violent relationship is underpinned by a dynamic in which the  user of violence has power and control over the person subjected to violence,  planning to leave and leaving constitute challenges to the power of the  dominant person in a relationship. A person who uses violence may sense that  their power and control in a relationship is being challenged if the person  subjected to violence starts making arrangements to leave, which might include  calling friends, family and support services for advice and support, and  packing emergency bags including personal identification and other  documentation. The user of violence may increase their use of violence,  manipulation or monitoring to prevent their partner from leaving. In many  cases, the violence continues after the woman leaves the relationship as a  means of coercing her into returning to the relationship, and this tactic is  often successful as returning to the violent relationship becomes the perceived  safer option for the woman.

It is crucial that the safety of women and children be  prioritised; it should also be acknowledged that leaving a violent relationship  may not be the desired or safest option for many women. In light of this, HACS  is committed to supporting women and children experiencing domestic and family  violence regardless of whether the violent relationship continues. This aligns  with HACS’ commitment to providing respectful, non-judgemental support that  prioritises safety and self-determination.

Safety planning

When speaking with a woman who is considering leaving a violent  relationship, encourage her to develop a detailed and personalised safety plan  in consultation with trusted friends, family members, and specialist domestic  and family violence services. Encourage the woman to consider her and her  children’s immediate physical safety, accommodation options, financial  resources, and access to important documents and other essential items.

For more  information visit: Link

It is possible and indeed necessary to safety plan with women and  children who remain in violent environments. If the woman has children,  encourage her to develop a safety plan in consultation with them, as well as  trusted friends, family members, and specialist domestic violence services.  Consider referring the woman to the DVCS for assistance with safety planning.

For more  information visit: Link


How to apply for protection orders

A protection order is a civil law order for which a person  applies at the ACT Magistrates Court. There are two types of protection orders  in the ACT:

  • a Domestic Violence Order or DVO
  • a Personal Protection Order or PPO.

A DVO is used when the applicant and the respondent are in a  ‘relevant relationship’, for example, an intimate relationship or familial  relationship (which includes kinship relationships).

A PPO is used when the applicant and the respondent are not  related and are not in a relevant relationship, for example, housemates.

A protection order prevents future violence by prohibiting and/or  restraining certain behaviour between parties such as in-person and over the  phone contact, harassment, intimidation, and property damage. The applicant  must demonstrate that there is an immediate risk to their physical safety based  on recent events, which is considered on a case-by-case basis by the court.  Police reference numbers relating to recent incidents are useful but police  involvement is not necessary to satisfy the requirements for a protection  order.

It is possible to have a protection order with conditions that  allow the woman and/or her children to live with or have contact with the  person using violence. A DVO can be sought for up to 24 months and an  extension can be sought at least three weeks before the order expires.

The DVCS Court Advocacy Program supports clients to apply for  DVOs. A person does not have to be an existing DVCS client to access this  service. A person can self-refer for court support by calling 6280 0900 or you  can complete an over-the-phone referral on the client’s behalf.

Legal Aid ACT provides legal advice and representation in DVO  matters from the Domestic Violence and Personal Protection Order Unit located  at the Magistrates Court.

For  information and appointments call: 6207 1874, or 1300 654 314  (main office ).
For more  information about applying for protection orders in the ACT see: the Women’s Legal Centre booklet, Your Court Your Link


Immigration and domestic and family violence

Women from CALD backgrounds living in Australia who experience  domestic and family violence may not be aware of their rights or the law in  Australia.
Women who are not permanent residents, but have sponsored migrant  arrangements as spouses or partners and are experiencing domestic and family  violence, often feel compelled to remain in the violent relationship rather  than end the relationship and be forced to leave Australia.

The domestic and family violence provisions of Australia’s  migration program allow people in this situation to apply for permanent  residence in Australia after the breakdown of their relationship if they have  experienced domestic and family violence committed by their spouse or de facto  partner.

They need to supply evidence to the Department of Immigration and  Border Protection to prove the existence of the relationship and to prove that  the domestic and family violence has occurred.

For more  information see: Link

Also, the Department of Social Services has produced a booklet, Beginning a Life in Australia, which  is available in 37 languages.

For more  information see: Link

Refer to the Practice Information section for advice about what  to do when you suspect domestic and family violence.

HACS can register a sponsored migrant under the above  circumstances, on the standard housing register. Allocation may be considered  when the sponsorship arrangement has broken down due to domestic and family  violence.

Once proof of this violence has been accepted by the Department  of Immigration and Border Protection, Centrelink may grant the person who has  been subjected to domestic and family violence a Statutory Income — most  commonly Special Benefit.

It is important to note that proving this violence may take many  months and during that period the sponsored migrant is not entitled to any  Centrelink benefit or Medicare assistance.

Assessment Officers must seek discretion on behalf of the Commissioner to waive  clause 9(1)(c) (the six-month residency criteria) under Hardship (Clause 10 of  PRHAP) if the applicant has not resided within the ACT for the six-month  period.

Mandatory reporting requirements on child abuse and  neglect

In the ACT workers and professionals are not required by law to  report instances of a child’s exposure to domestic and family violence. In  recognition of the seriousness of this type of harm to the developing child,  some states and territories have different reporting requirements.

Forms of child abuse and neglect which must be reported in the  ACT are physical and sexual abuse.

If you suspect or believe on reasonable grounds that a child or  young person is experiencing abuse or neglect or you wish to discuss your  concerns about a child or young person, you should telephone Child and Youth  Protection Services Centralised Intake Service  as soon as possible on 1300 556 729.

For more  information see:


How to respond to a disclosure of domestic and  family violence

HACS plays a pivotal role in responding to the immediate and  long-term accommodation needs of women and children who have experienced  domestic and family violence, and also has an important role to play in the  identification of and provision of supports in response to domestic and family  violence situations. HACS staff may be required to respond to disclosures of  domestic and family violence in a range of contexts, including at annual  inspections and home visits, when speaking to clients on the phone, and through  the Gateway. It is expected that HACS staff will provide a respectful and  non-judgemental response and will endeavour to determine the woman’s situation,  any safety risks and support needs in order to facilitate relevant referrals.

It is crucial to provide respectful and non-judgemental support,  regardless of whether a woman decides to leave or remain in a violent  relationship. The paramount consideration remains the safety of the woman and  her children. It is important to remember that telling someone may be the  critical first step towards greater safety and may eventually result in the  woman leaving the violent relationship.

You can always call DVCS on 6280 6999 (during  business hours, 6280 0900 at all other times) to discuss a situation, seek  advice and guidance, or debrief about what you have observed while ensuring the  identity of the client remains confidential. Alternatively, you can contact  1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
If a woman discloses domestic and family violence:

  • Acknowledge how difficult it may have been to  talk about it and tell someone about her situation. Acknowledge her strength  and courage in doing so.
  • Assess her immediate safety and that of any  children involved.
  • If  you are out in the field and the situation becomes unsafe for you, the woman or  her children, call 000 (triple zero) for emergency police assistance. Notify  your manager as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Alternatively, encourage the woman to leave with  you and return to Nature Conservation House to develop a support plan in  consultation with DVCS and other services as required.
  • Ask the woman if she would like support in  relation to her situation and offer to refer her to a domestic and family  violence service such as DVCS.
  • The  DVCS operates a 24/7 crisis line (6280 0900) and provides respectful,  non-judgemental and culturally-sensitive support and safety planning, as well  as crisis intervention and referrals to relevant services in the ACT. DVCS also  provides a court support program, a young peoples’ outreach program, support  groups and case tracking of family violence offences in the Magistrates Court.


For more  information on DVCS see: Link
For more  information on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)—the national sexual  assault, domestic and family violence 24/7 counselling service and online  counselling— Link

  • For many women, making the initial call to a  support service is a significant challenge. The woman may be struggling to  accept that the behaviour she is experiencing constitutes domestic and family  violence; she may have concerns about being judged or simply told what to do  rather than having her views and hopes for the relationship acknowledged. Many  women in violent relationships want the relationship to continue but the  violence to stop. Reassure the woman that DVCS takes a non-judgemental,  person-centred and safety-oriented approach to supporting people (women, men  and children) who are subjected to violence and also people who use violence.  If the woman provides consent, complete an over-the-phone referral to DVCS by  calling 6280 6999 during business hours or 6280 0900 at all other times. If the  woman feels comfortable to contact DVCS herself, encourage her to do so.
  • If the woman does not consent to DVCS contact or  declines to take any other action, offer to provide her with the contact  details for DVCS and reassure her of DVCS’ confidentiality, expertise and  accessibility (i.e. that DVCS is empathetic, non-judgemental, person-centred  and safety-oriented).
  • Offer the woman follow up contact and use these  opportunities to re-offer support and referrals, and encourage her to develop a  safety plan.


  • Discuss what happened with a manager.
  • Assess with a manager if there is a need for a  notification in relation to children.

When you suspect domestic and family violence

  • It is important to frameyour intervention in terms of safety and, if possible, identify  examples of concerning behaviour to discuss with the woman.
  • If appropriate and safe to do so, respectfully  advise the woman that you have concerns for her and her children’s safety based  on your observations. For example, you may have observed holes in walls and/or  other property damage or the woman may have made comments to you which suggest  she’s being subjected to controlling or manipulative behaviour by her partner  or family member. For example, the woman may tell you she has no control over  or access to her finances, she is being monitored by her partner or she  modifies her behaviour so as not to upset or anger her partner or family  member.
  • Ask the woman if she would like support in  relation to her situation and offer to refer her to a domestic and family  violence service.
  • If the woman provides consent, complete an  over-the-phone referral to DVCS by calling 6280 6999 during business hours or  6280 0900 at all other times. If the woman feels comfortable to contact DVCS  herself, encourage her to do so.
  • It may not be safe to have this conversation  with the woman if the violent person is present during your visit or if you  suspect their phone conversations are being listened to or monitored. If this  is the case, ask the woman to nominate another time or provide your contact  details for her to call you when it’s safe to do so.
  • Consider having a sticker or other marker on  your folder or bag that identifies domestic and family violence as a  community issue. This sends a message that you are willing to provide support.
  • Talk to your Manager and/or a CSC about  additional supports or strategies that might be useful for the woman about whom  you have concerns.

Looking after yourself at work

HACS acknowledges that supporting  women and children who experience domestic and family violence can have a  significant impact on staff members. Hearing about traumatic and violent  incidents can be upsetting and overwhelming. It can also have a negative impact  or triggering effect on staff members who may have personal experience of  domestic and family violence.
In these instances, it may be useful  to approach your colleagues or Manager for support. You can also seek support  from a RED Contact Officer, or through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP),  which is a comprehensive service designed to assist you in meeting the  challenges and demands of your work and personal life.

Alternatively, you can anonymously  contact DVCS or 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).  The 1800 RESPECT telephone and online counselling services are available  for workers to discuss the personal impact of working with people who have  experienced trauma. You can call 1800 737 732 or chat online 24 hours a  day, seven days a week.

For more  information see: Link


Relevant HACS legislation and business rules

  • Housing Assistance Act 2007
  • Housing Assistance Public Rental Housing Assistance  Program 2013 (No 1)External Link
  • Housing Assistance Public  Rental Housing Assistance Program (Housing Needs Categories)
  • Determination 2011 (No  2)
  • Domestic Violence Modifications  Business Rule. Allows for the alteration of window and door  locks, lighting and landscape modifications as recommended by specialist  domestic and family violence and/or homelessness services.
  • Director Housing ACT  Instruction —Appropriate  documentation to support applicants suffering from domestic and family violence. Includes  a list of accepted services from which letters of support will be accepted for  entry into the priority application system.
  • Housing ACT Operational  Guideline N/2008-171. Allows  for Commissioner ’s discretion to waive financial interest in a property in  the case of domestic and family violence. Allows for safety to be a  consideration in determining ‘hardship’.

World Health Organization - Violence Against Women: Global Picture Health  Response

Personal Safety Survey, Australian Bureau of  Statistics (ABS), 2012.

Personal Safety Survey, ABS, 2012.

Jan Breckenridge, Susan Rees, Kylie Valentine  and Samantha Murray, Meta-evaluation of  existing interagency partnerships, collaboration, coordination and/or  integrated interventions and service responses to violence against women: State  of knowledge paper, ANROWS, 2015. See:

Ibid, p4.

Ibid, p5.

Ibid, p3.

COAG 2011, National plan to reduce violence against women and their children:  Including the first three-year action plan, p2, FAHCSIA,  Canberra.

Women’s Legal Centre, Your Court Your Safety.
See Link

See: Link

Our Watch, Link

Domestic Violence Crisis Service (January 2015),  Staying Home after Domestic Violence.

ANROWS Meta-evaluation, p3.

This information is adapted from the Domestic  Violence Crisis Service website Link

COAG definition Link