Monash University awarded more than $8 million to support family violence survivors back into work

Monash University has been awarded $8.67 million from the State Government for critical research, the creation of workforce pathways and better legal support for family violence victim-survivors.

The Safe and Equal @ Work and Access to Justice programs were announced today by The Hon. Gayle Tierney, Minister for Higher Education, via the State Government’s $350 million Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund (VHESIF).

Monash’s Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Law are the first recipients of funding from VHESIF at Monash, for the two complementary outputs.

The Faculty of Arts’ Safe and Equal @ Work program will address training and job creation for family violence victim-survivors, women’s homelessness and enhance safety overall.

It will be led by the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre (MGFVPC), with research and professional teams to help provide Victorian family violence victim-survivors with better access to employment opportunities and industry partnerships to enhance gender equality across workplaces statewide.

The Faculty of Law’s Access to Justice program will commence with evidence-based research on Victorian community needs and go on to develop improved legal practices, including for those in rural and remote communities.

Monash Law Clinics will be used as a research site to better understand how remote technologies can enhance access to justice for women and others experiencing family violence and navigating the family law process.

President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AC said the VHESIF funding will help cement the MGFVPC as a leading family violence prevention research centre in Australia and internationally.

“Monash has invested heavily in gender and family violence research and access to justice over the past five years. This funding will support a new program of research focused on ensuring Victorian workforces are safe, and equality for Victorian women including those experiencing family violence,” Professor Gardner said.

“The investment will allow the MGFVPC and the Faculty of Law to accelerate the delivery of high-quality research, develop new professional development offerings to equip Victoria’s current and emerging workforces, and drive access to further funding opportunities locally and abroad.

“Monash is strongly committed to generating innovative research that changes lives, informs policy and improves practice. We thank the State Government for today’s announcement, and look forward to delivering on these commitments through these programs of work.”

MGFVPC Director Associate Professor Kate Fitz-Gibbon said the funding would have a significant impact on victim-survivor support and workplace responses to violence against women.

“This funding will contribute to reducing the economic costs of family violence and enhancing women’s safety,” she said.

“By examining workforce barriers and support for women who have experienced family violence, we can create an evidence based roadmap that educates and supports employers to achieve safety for victim-survivors and gender equality in the workplace.

“It is widely recognised that women and children are the primary victims of family violence and progress towards workplace gender equality will have significant benefits, particularly following the COVID-19 pandemic where there was an increase in the frequency and severity of violence against women during lockdowns.

“Victoria has progressed a world-leading family violence reform agenda over the last five years - this program of work will further establish Victoria as a leader in addressing risks to women’s safety and inequality.”

Associate Professor Fitz-Gibbon will lead the Safe and Equal @ Work program alongside MGFVPC Deputy Director Associate Professor Silke Meyer.

"Access to justice continues to be a major issue in our community,” said Professor Jeff Giddings from the Faculty of Law. “The need for legal help for family violence matters has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“Monash Law builds upon 40 years of pioneering work in this field via our legal clinics and access to justice research. It is our aim to contribute vital research to improve the experiences of people navigating the family law process."

This funding will create 24 Graduate Certificate of Family Violence Prevention scholarships for people with lived experience, PhD and post doctoral research scholarships, research associate and professional roles.

The funding will also support the refurbishment of the Menzies Building at Monash’s Clayton campus to create dedicated facilities for family violence and gender equality researchers and industry leaders.

Announcements of further funding allocations through the VHESIF will be shared by the Victorian Government.