Rachael Fernald

Rachael's PhD explores women's reports of breaches of Family Violence Intervention Orders and why not all reports are recorded by police.

Family violence is a major social issue that has gained considerable attention in recent years in Australia, including significant efforts to improve responses to women and children experiencing this violence. However, as a family violence support worker, I am aware of a particular circumstance in which responses to family violence continue to be a major problem. In my work, I see women’s reports of breaches to their family violence intervention orders (IVO) sometimes not being recorded by police and such an inadequate response means that the safety of women and children can be highly compromised. This is known in the family violence support field as a negative police response. It is this problem – what are the factors of these police responses and why do they occur – that will be the focus of my proposed research.

My proposed research will be an exploratory study regarding the lack of recording reports of breaches to family violence IVO in Melbourne, Victoria. In attempting to understand the nature of these responses and why they occur as they do, I will examine the experiences of women who are being supported by support workers to report breaches to police, police experiences of responding to these women and their support workers and support workers’ experiences of working with both police and women. This research will explore current practice, identify problems from the perspectives of women, support workers and police. This research will highlight what is working and recommend areas of policy improvement to the current justice response.

Rachael is a Family Violence Case Manager for Uniting Care Victoria.

Expert commentary on...

feminist research, family violence, social work practice.