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Mandatory qualifications requirements for specialist family violence practitioners

Mandatory qualifications requirements for specialist family violence practitioners

We recently spoke to DV Vic and DVRCV’s Sector Development Advisor, Renae Leverenz about the upcoming rollout of Recommendation 209 from the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence.

Renae shared insights into how the mandatory minimum qualification requirements - rolling out from 1 July 2021 - will impact new and current practitioners and the specialist family violence sector.

What has driven the change in mandatory minimum qualifications for specialist family violence practitioners?

RL: This new policy has been introduced as part of the Victorian Government’s response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Recommendation 209 specifically called for the introduction of mandatory minimum qualifications for specialist family violence response practitioners.

The policy has been designed to recognise and cherish the expertise already within the sector and support existing workers to stay through an ongoing exemption.

What are the key considerations for practitioners entering the workforce?

RL: There are a few points I would emphasise to new practitioners:

The first is that the mandatory minimum qualification is just that - a minimum. So, there may be other skills, knowledge, or experience that an employer is looking for alongside the qualifications. There are also transition arrangements in place to work towards the minimum qualification, so read any advertisement carefully before making any assumptions (positive or negative).

The second is that although having a Bachelor of Social Work makes it easy to tick a checkbox that an applicant meets the mandatory minimum qualifications, it is by no means the only pathway to entry. There is a wide range of qualifications and training that can be spliced together to make up the mandatory minimum qualification. The policy doesn’t limit you to the one pathway.

The third point is that for those who have a related qualification or those who have five years of relevant professional experience, there is a five-year transition period for them to work towards the minimum qualification. That option will remain available until mid-2026.

Finally, people with significant cultural knowledge or lived experience have an important role to play in the sector. For those who bring cultural expertise or lived experience and have faced barriers to education, you can be supported to enter the sector through an ongoing pathway.

How will this change impact existing practitioners?

RL: Those employed as specialist family violence practitioners in Victoria prior to 1 July 2021 are exempt from being required to meet the mandatory minimum qualifications. This exemption will remain in place as long as they are not absent from working as a specialist family violence practitioner for more than four years.

This means that existing practitioners can still take long service leave, carer's leave or other breaks without losing that exemption, as long as they return to that work within the four-year timeframe. And obviously the exemption stays with them if they change employers or move around Victoria - it is the absence of practising in such a role that is key here.

How will the mandatory minimum qualifications benefit Victoria’s specialist family violence sector?

RL: I think the change formally recognises that undertaking family violence work requires a high level of expertise and knowledge. This policy will ultimately strengthen the sector by demonstrating the professional nature of specialist family violence work and increasing its visibility.

Without wanting to take anything away from the variety of qualifications that people could use as a basis for meeting the equivalent qualifications, it will provide a very clear career pathway for those studying social work to consider.

It will mean that family violence electives will become more attractive to students in a diverse range of courses as they keep their career options open, and ultimately contribute to more graduates with knowledge and understanding of family violence.

How will this change impact specialist family violence services?

RL: From a recruitment perspective, complying with the new policy might mean that the selection process takes a little longer than it currently does, at least while the sector gets used to the change.

From a service perspective, the change will ensure that practitioners have a consistent and strong foundation of knowledge and cultural understanding in responding to family violence.

What supports are available during the upcoming transition?

RL: If they have any concerns about the introduction of Rec 209 or are confused about the details in the policy, they should get in touch with me at [email protected].

There are details about the policy on the Vic Government website, and a toolkit for recruiters is also on its way. There will be several information sessions run over the coming months for practitioners and for recruiters so that we can help ease you through the transition.

Find out more about the Mandatory minimum qualifications for specialist family violence practitioners policy and frequently asked questions for practitioners and employers.