The National Forum for Family Violence Prevention Legal Services

The National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS) Forum was established in 2012 and is the national Peak body representing FVPLS agencies around Australia that provide specialised legal and non-legal services to First Nations people affected by family violence. 


The FVPLS Program is unique in Australia and internationally and has been operating for 25 years.  FVPLS agencies are the only services in Australia that deliver a combination of specialised legal and non-legal family violence prevention services and programs, solely to First Nations people. The FVPLS sector is led by a network of First Nations women CEOs, and the majority of FVPLS staff are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which ensures cultural competency within the FVPLS network and deepens engagement and trust with First Nations clients and communities.

More than 90% of FVPLS clients are First Nations women and children victims / survivors of family violence.

Sixteen FVPLS agencies operate in every State and Territory in Australia, in areas where more than 50% of First Nations people live, often in rural, remote and very remote communities.  

FVPLS agencies reduce family violence by providing a holistic suite of family violence Prevention, Early Intervention, Crisis Response and Recovery services and programs to First Nations victims of family violence.

First Nations women often do not report family violence or seek help because of a fear of losing their children, their housing, and their lives, as well as a distrust of police and other authorities and other reasons.  Where adequate funding is provided, FVPLS agencies deliver a range of community education, wellbeing and outreach programs and services to assist women, children and communities develop strength and resilience, break inter-generational cycles of violence, and seek FVPLS assistance sooner to reduce the harm caused by family violence.

In addition to non-legal support, FVPLS prioritise front-line integrated legal representation and services, where clients and their children receive legal advice and representation while being assisted with court support, child protection advice and advocacy, counselling, service referrals, case management, and kinship liaison. Legal services and support are generally provided by FVPLS agencies in the following areas:

  • Family violence

  • Protective restraining orders

  • Family law

  • Child protection

  • Victims’ compensation

  • Witness assistance

FVPLS agencies provide First Nations people access to equal protection of the law and other human rights, which would otherwise be unavailable in many of the locations in which FVPLS agencies operate.

Family Violence affecting First Nations people 

The Australian Government has recognised the disproportionate and severe forms of family violence affecting First Nations people compared to others in Australia, and it published the following data in 2022:

~ First Nations women report 3.1 times the rate of violence compared to other women in Australia.

~ Three in 5 First Nations women have experienced physical or sexual abuse by a male intimate partner.

~ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are almost 11 times more likely to die due to assault.

~ Hospitalisation rates from family violence are 32 times higher for First Nations women compared to other women in Australia.

~ Intimate partner violence contributes 10.9% of the burden of disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women aged between 18 and 44, which is higher than any other health risk factor including alcohol or tobacco use and obesity and is 6.3 times higher than other women in Australia.

~ Family violence against women is the “leading reason for the disproportionately high numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children removed from their families”, and two-thirds of First Nations adults who experience family violence share a home with a child.

All governments have committed to achieving Closing the Gap Targets such as Targets 12 and 13:

Target 12 Closing the Gap: By 2031, reduce the rate of over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 45 per cent.

Target 13 Closing the Gap: By 2031, the rate of all forms of family violence and abuse against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children is reduced at least by 50%, as progress towards zero.

FVPLS agencies and the National FVPLS Forum contribute to the achievement of the Closing the Gap Targets by reducing family violence and the avoidable removal of First Nations children, and by improving the health and wellbeing of First Nations people, strengthening children’s kinship connections and parenting outcomes, reducing women’s homelessness and incarceration, and in many other ways.

Because of a lack of funding, however, many FVPLS agencies struggle to deliver the services and programs that are needed by First Nations clients and communities.  Commonwealth funding for FVPLS agencies has never been based on actual need or the costs of providing services, and funding for the FVPLS Program has remained significantly lower than the funding provided to other legal assistance sectors and many social service organisations.  This lack of funding is worsened because of the increased costs of delivering services in the isolated locations in which many FVPLS agencies operate.

The National FVPLS Forum and FVPLS agencies continue to call upon the Australian, State and Territory governments to support FVPLS community-controlled organisations around Australia with “a dedicated, reliable and consistent funding model designed to suit the types of services required by communities”, to reflect the commitment they have made through the Priority Reforms of the Closing the Gap National Agreement.

The National Forum acknowledges and respects the traditional custodians whose lands we are fortunate to live and work on
and we pay our respects to all Elders past and present.


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