Helping primary care support victim-survivors of family and domestic violence

Domestic and family violence is a huge public health issue that can have a profound and long-term effect on the health and wellbeing of families, communities and society. GPs play a critical role in helping victim-survivors of family and domestic violence, as they are often the first point of professional contact within the health system. It has been estimated that GPs are likely seeing between one to two women per week who have experienced domestic and family violence – and yet only a third of these women disclose their experience to their GP.

In 2017, the Federal Government provided funding to Brisbane South Primary Health Network for the ‘Recognise, Respond, Refer’ program, providing front-line training for professionals in primary care to help them recognise people exposed to domestic and family violence, respond appropriately and work collaboratively with agencies across the health and domestic violence sectors that are best placed to help.

Anne Redman, Director, Evaluate

Recently the government funded a pilot which expands on this program. Its aim is to further enhance the capacity of primary care to respond to domestic and family violence and support those who are experiencing it. A central feature of the pilot is that it anchors the role of primary health care as a key component of a successful multi-sectoral response to domestic and family violence in our society.

The Sax Institute is partnering with Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) to evaluate this pilot, which targets the whole spectrum of primary care staff – not just GPs and practice nurses, but also practice managers and reception staff, as well as other allied health professionals (such as psychologists). Data collection took place over the second half of 2021, and the full evaluation will be completed in early 2023. 

“We’re proud to be partnering with ANROWS on this important evaluation,” says Anne Redman, who heads up the Sax Institute’s health and social policy evaluation team.

“The pilot aims to enhance the capacity of health professionals to support people experiencing family and domestic violence, and to connect primary care with the critical work of the family and domestic violence service response system. Understanding if and how this works is important evidence that will inform future service and policy directions.”

The most recent federal budget, handed down in March, committed significant funds for an additional four years to extend the Recognise, Respond, Refer program.

Find out more about the Sax Institute’s Evaluate service here.

If you have a program or policy that needs evaluating, contact