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Understand my rights

If you choose to seek assistance from a family violence service, or are obliged to engage with a statutory agency, it can be a confusing time, and for some people- dangerous due to risks often elevating when someone is trying to leave an unsafe home situation.

The family violence sector takes an empowerment approach to working with those we support. What this means is we want to provide as much information as possible for you to be informed about your options, rights and also to allow you to play an active part in your safety and plans. We also encourage you to ask questions, to challenge us and to advocate for your needs. We will never understand your situation as well as you do.

This page provides some broad advice on what you should be provided with, what you should do if you are unhappy with the service you receive and information about your legal rights.



What Agencies will provide you

When you first make contact with a service, you will be asked to undertake an intake process. The intake process will include undertaking a risk assessment to establish the level of risk you may be experiencing and also to establish your goals or needs.

The agency will provide you with a copy of its:

  • Privacy policy
  • Client Rights
  • How your information will be used and shared
  • How to lodge a complaint or provide feedback to the service

In some instances these may be online and sometimes they may provide you with paper copies. If it is unsafe for you to take them home, you may choose to take them at a later time when you feel safe to do so, or have a friend hold onto them. You can also request more copies if you need them at any point.

Support person

In most instances if you have experienced family violence and are accessing a service, you will be able to bring a support person to your appointments or have someone present while you are on the phone with your worker. It is important to inform your worker that your support person is in the room and to let them know who they are, because some questions we need to ask are sensitive and we may want to make sure that you’re comfortable answering them in front of your support person.

Some things to consider when selecting a support person:

  • Can they listen without judgement?
  • Do you find their presence supportive in stressful or confusing environments?
  • Do you trust them not to share your information with the person using violence or anyone else?

You can have a family member or friend support you, however if you are accessing services such as disability or aged care, you may choose to have one of those workers present.


Keeping notes 

When you are accessing a family violence service, you may also be involved with several organisations at one time. We recommend that you keep a notebook, to briefly record what was spoken about at each appointment. Some information you may consider recording:

  • The name of the service
  • The name of the worker
  • The date of the appointment
  • The agreed actions (were they applying for brokerage, supporting a rental application, were they making a referral to a program etc). Along with dates of all the agreed actions

It might not be safe for you to keep these notes, so you might consider having a trusted friend or family member do it for you. You may also consider whether the safest option for you is to have them in a physical notebook, in a notes app on your phone or on a laptop as it will vary from person to person.

Your worker will also keep notes. However, having your own will allow you to ask questions at your next appointment as to where certain actions have progressed to. Having your own notes allows you to be able to reference which worker is undertaking which task, as we understand there are sometimes many workers engaged with a family.

If you haven’t heard from your worker by an agreed date, it is ok to call and ask for an update. Sometimes things do take longer than anticipated, however they should still be updating you on the progress of actions.

Useful Questions

We know that not everyone who is accessing a service will know what to ask, and we do encourage you to ask as many questions as possible. Some questions you might consider are:

  • Which agency program have I been referred too?
  • What is the wait time?
  • Will they contact me, or should I contact them?
  • What information will you provide them?/ Will I have to retell my story?
  • What support is available for my children to understand the last few months?
  • How long will you be able to work with us?
  • Under what circumstances will you close our case?
  • If you close and there is another incident, how do I get support?

Providing Feedback

Our support agencies often receive very limited feedback about the services that we deliver. We do encourage everyone to provide feedback. Positive feedback allows us to know what we need to continue to do as a service and what was empowering and effective for a client.

Where the service could be improved or you need to make a complaint, we encourage you to follow the agency processes. We can only improve our service delivery if we can identify issues and are informed about them. Most agencies will have a feedback mechanism on their website or will invite you to provide it at the end of service.

Sometimes you will have cause to make a complaint about the service which was provided. Where possible, we recommend the following process:

Step 1. Discuss your complaint with a staff member, or and employee from the place where you are receiving the service.

Step 2. If you have tried to resolve your concerns but you are still dissatisfied with the outcome, you can discuss your complaint with a senior manager at agency.

Step 3. If you cannot resolve your complaint at Step 1 or Step 2, you can choose one of the following ways to make a formal complaint to one of the following:

You can make a complaint about any service provided by the department or one of its funded service providers. DFFH want our services to work for people who need and use them. We can always do better and we listen to people using our services, their advocates and representatives.

You can go to DFFH if:

  • You feel a service is unsatisfactory
  • You did not receive enough information or choice
  • You were denied respect, dignity or privacy.

When handling your complaint DFFH will:

  • Provide information that is helpful, accurate, and easy to understand
  • Be courteous and considerate in our communication
  • Promptly refer requests to the appropriate person
  • Respond to your matter within a reasonable time
  • Keep you informed of progress or delays.

Department of Families, Fairness and Housing


The Victorian Ombudsman will accept complaints on:

  • Councils
  • Victorian government departments eg

    • Department of Families, Fairness and Housing
    • Department of Education
    • Department of Justice and Community Safety
  • Victorian government organisations eg

    • WorkSafe Victoria
    • VicRoads
    • Fines Victoria
  • Victorian universities and TAFEs
  • Publicly funded community services
  • Prisons
  • Certain professional boards eg

Anyone can make a complaint:

Victorian Ombudsman


Advocacy Services

There are services you can seek assistance from, to advocate on your behalf if you are having difficulties getting a service or getting the assistance you need. You may also want to seek their assistance if you feel they can articulate your needs to the service.



Gippsland Disability Advocacy Inc

Elder Rights Advocacy

Rainbow Network

If you choose to seek assistance from a family violence service, or are obliged to engage with a statutory agency, you maintain certain rights and there is certain legislation in place to protect you and your children. These include:

  • Freedom of Information- Your right to request access to documents and ask for your personal information to be amended if it is incorrect or misleading.
  • Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014-  Your information which is held by a Victorian Public Sector must adhere to the Information Privacy Principles.
  • Child Safe Standards- Organisations within the Victorian Public Sector must comply with the Child Safe Standards to protect children and young people.
  • Equal Opportunity Act 2010- Organisations in the Victorian Public Sector have a positive duty to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation as far as possible.
  • Health Records Act- Organisations have a duty to use and collect your information for its intended purpose.

Victorian Public Sector Agencies are legally obliged to comply with the above legislation and there are Commissioners who monitor their adherence and who provide resources. You can contact a Commissioner if you feel the service you have been working with has breached their obligations.

The Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner oversees the Victorian Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014.

The Acts applies to all Victorian public sector agencies and Ministers including government departments, local councils, public hospitals and health services, public schools, universities, TAFE institutes, and statutory authorities.

Their website allows you to make complaints, download resources and find more information.

Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner

The Commission for Children and Young People monitors:

  • Youth Justice
  • Out of Home Care and Child Protection
  • Preventative Detention

They also support the 11 Child Safe Standards which apply to all Victorian Public Service Organisations.

The Commission for Children and Young People website allows you to:

  • Report a concern or allegation
  • Download resources
  • Become involved as a young person and share your story

Commission for Children and Young People

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission can assist you to understand your rights relating to:

  • Disability Rights
  • Employee and Workplace Rights
  • First Nations People’s Rights
  • LGBTIQ Rights
  • Older People’s Rights
  • Racial and Religious Rights
  • Women’s Rights
  • Youth Rights

When you access services through a family violence agency, they are subject to the Equal Opportunity Act, which outlines how organisations which provide goods, services, accommodation or healthcare have a responsibility to ensure they provide service without discrimination. They also have a responsibility to make sure their premises and services are safe and free from sexual harassment or victimisation.

You can also make a complaint and download resources from their website.


The Health Complaints Commissioner oversees the Health Records Act. Health service providers such as hospitals and dentists, and organisations such as schools, gyms, insurers, employers and government agencies, all collect and hold personal and health information as health records.

Health information should be collected with your consent and used or disclosed for the primary purpose it was collected, or for a directly related and reasonable secondary purpose.

The Health Complaints Commissioner allows you to make complaints if you believe your information has been misused.

Health Complaints Commission

The Victim of Crime Commissioner takes complaints on if you feel you have been mistreated by:

  • Victorian Police
  • A prosecuting agency
  • Victims service

Victim’s of Crime Commissioner

Who can help?

There are free legal services can assist you to navigate and understand whether your rights have been legally breached and if you need to make a formal complaint to a Commissioner or pursue other legal options available to you. We can also discuss issues relating to family violence such as:

  • Child Protection Cases
  • Tenancy issues
  • Fines accumulated as a result of family violence
  • Among other things.

Young people can also seek their own legal advice independently of any parent or guardian.

Go to our Find Help Page to view the list of free legal services available.

Find Help