Our work to support Victorians experiencing family violence has resulted in numerous developments in the energy and water sectors. View all resources here and learn more about our work in this area.
Family violence resources for businesses
Our family violence framework
We have developed a family violence framework that supports better practice in responding to family violence.
The framework includes:
- rules for our regulated energy and water businesses
- guidance for all organisations on better practice responses.
Our work follows recommendations by Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence that we have a role in improving the experiences of people affected by family violence.
This family violence framework forms our ongoing commitment to supporting collaboration between industry, the community sector, and government on better practice in responding to family violence.
Better practice when implementing family violence responses within businesses
We developed a better practice guide to ensure businesses implement safe and effective family violence responses. This guide highlights innovative, cross-sector industry examples that may go beyond the minimum obligations required of energy and water codes under their respective regulatory rules.
The guide is based on five principles:
- Develop an informed approach that works for the organisation.
- Lead from the top and demonstrate accountability.
- Prioritise safety and choice for victim-survivors.
- Build a culture of awareness, internally and externally.
- Acknowledge and address barriers to access.
Family Violence Leaders Forum
Over 100 leaders from the water, energy and community sectors attended the online Family Violence Leaders Forum on Tuesday 29 August, 2023.
This important event was a collaboration between the commission and the Energy and Water Ombudsman of Victoria and provided an opportunity for attendees to hear insights and share learnings about how the water and energy sectors can work individually and together to reduce the incidence of family violence and financial abuse.
Attendees at the forum heard from:
- The Hon Harriet Shing MP, Minister for Water
- Kate Symons, Essential Services Commission Chairperson
- Catherine Wolthuizen, Victorian Energy and Water Ombudsman
- Lara Olsen, Managing Director South East Water
- Catherine Fitzpatrick, Founder & Director, Flequity Ventures and Adjunct Associate Professor, UNSW School of Social Sciences
'Many of us in the room here today have the privilege to influence systems and processes that can change the way our sectors respond to those in the community who need our support. I see it as our collective responsibility as leaders to set the tone and culture of how we respond to those in our community who are experiencing vulnerability.'
- Commission Chairperson, Kate Symons, speaking at the Family Violence Leaders Forum in August 2023.
Better practice in responding to and engaging survivors of family violence
Developed in partnership with Safe and Equal, and in collaboration with the University of Melbourne's Safer Families Centre, the reports provide practical guidance on how to engage with survivors of family violence.
The guidance in the reports can be applied and adapted by essential service providers, regulators and other businesses to enable safe and appropriate responses to consumers experiencing family violence and to support better practice engagement with survivor advocates.
Our role in pressing for change
Family violence impacts on the lives of many Victorians. It can include physical violence, emotional abuse and financial abuse.
The Royal Commission into Family Violence found that essential services could be used by perpetrators of family violence to cause harm.
They might put a service in the name of a victim without their knowledge or consent, or intercept mail that identifies the victim's safe location. The financial impact of family violence (including financial abuse) also means that people affected by family violence may have trouble paying bills, particularly if they've had to move multiple times.
Victorian utilities, local governments and other businesses have demonstrated a great willingness to assist people affected by family violence.
In collaboration with family violence experts we've worked closely with water businesses and energy retailers on how to provide safe and flexible assistance to customers affected by family violence.
This work is complex and continues to evolve. The commission will continue to support shared learning across Victorian businesses to ensure the highest level of support across the state.
'The victim's choices, their ability to participate freely in everyday life is taken from them. It is the deprivation of that basic right, that right to participate freely in every day life, that is what we are here to discuss.'
- Former commission Chairperson, Dr Ron Ben-David, speaking at our project launch in August 2018.
Our family violence work: a timeline
The Royal Commission into Family Violence released 227 recommendations. We were assigned responsibility for implementing recommendation 109, which related to updating the Energy Retail Code and water customer service codes.
We updated the Energy Retail Code to better protect residential electricity and gas customers anticipating or facing payment difficulty and included family violence as part of the eligibility criteria.
We collaborated with family violence experts and water businesses to make changes to customer service codes for water businesses. The changes introduced obligations on water businesses to develop a family violence policy that included minimum requirements defined by the water customer service codes.
We also published our first better practice guide with examples of better practice approached to family violence support. This guide contained examples of policies, including the commission's own family violence policy for staff.
We audited water businesses for compliance with the water customer service code We also began our family violence resources review for the energy retail sector, collaborating with energy retailers, water businesses and family violence experts.
In October 2018 we released an issues paper exploring ways energy retailers can provide family violence assistance that is
safe and effective.
We announced changes to the Energy Retail Code that will come into effect on 1 January 2020. These changes aim to give customers affected by family violence an entitlement to safe, supportive and flexible assistance in managing their personal and financial security.
We published our revised better practice guide with in-depth case examples from across multiple industries. We also reported on the outcomes for customers following the family violence changes to the water customer service codes.
At the Victorian energy open forum on 27 August 2019, we spoke to energy industry stakeholders about our family violence work.
Regular community roundtables kept the commission abreast of the changing nature of consumer issues, including family violence, throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Legislative amendments took effect during December 2021 and March 2022, and the family violence provisions of the updated Energy Retail Code of Practice became enforceable with a broader range of enforcement options, including penalty notices and civil litigation.
On 26 May 2022 we released three reports that provide better practice responses to victim survivors of family violence.
The guidance in the reports can be applied and adapted by essential service providers and other businesses to enable safe and appropriate responses to consumers experiencing family violence and to support better practice engagement with survivor advocates.
These reports were developed during 2020-21 through our partnership with Safe and Equal, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne’s Safer Families Centre and the University’s WEAVERS (Women and children who have Experienced Abuse and Violence: Advisors and Researchers) lived experience group.
On 20 July 2023 we released the report on our review of the family violence provisions in the Water Industry Standards. The report focuses on understanding how the provisions are being implemented by water businesses, and what this means for customers who are affected by family violence.
The review was guided and informed by an Expert Advisory Panel of family violence survivor advocates as well as consultation with water businesses, community organisations, financial counsellors and people with lived experience of family violence.
The review findings demonstrate that while the provisions are working well for most customers, variations in business practice and barriers to access are limiting customer access to support. We have identified eight actions the commission will take that respond to the review findings and identified areas for improvement.
On Tuesday 29 August we co-hosted an online Family Violence Leaders Forum with the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria. Over 100 leaders from the water, energy and community sectors heard insights from experts and shared learnings about how the water and energy sectors can work individually and together to reduce the incidence of family violence and financial abuse. A video recording of the presentations is available on our website.
A guide to businesses implementing family violence responses
This better practice guide aims to support businesses to implement safe and effective family violence responses. In this guide we highlight innovative, cross-sector industry examples that may go beyond the minimum requirements of our energy and water codes.
Multisector family violence resources
Developed in partnership with Safe and Equal, and in collaboration with the University of Melbourne's Safer Families Centre, these reports provide practical guidance on engaging with victim-survivors in our work. The reports also provide guidance to support better practice among essential service providers and other businesses.
Energy and water family violence resources
Changes to our rules for customers affected by family violence
View documents that outline changes we made to energy and water codes in relation to our family violence work.