Misunderstandings, misalignments, and motivation for changing systems

Professionals’ accounts of working with families experiencing domestic and family violence in the child protection system


  • Susan Heward-Belle University of Sydney
  • Renee Lovell Sydney Local Health District & Sydney Institute for Women, Children, and their Families
  • Melissa Luong Burwood Community Welfare Services Inc.
  • Hayden Tucker BSW Hons University of Sydney
  • Nina Melander BSW Hons University of Sydney


Domestic violence, family violence, child protection, practice issues, sector reform, collaborative practice


The child protection and domestic violence sectors continue to struggle to effectively respond to the complex needs of survivors of domestic violence. This article reports the findings of a study investigating the perceptions and work practices of twenty-five Australian practitioners who work with families to attend to safety concerns of children who experience domestic violence. They reported dissatisfaction with the persistence of systems which hold mothers solely accountable for their children’s safety and render violent fathers invisible. Practitioners also expressed motivation to develop better system-wide and collaborative responses to families that are based upon feminist principles that promote gender equity, are person-centred, culturally respectful and violence informed. This however can only be achieved through wide-scale policy and legislative reform.  


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Special focus on Women and Children