Family Violence Informed Practice in AOD Work

Family Violence Informed Practice in AOD Work

Odyssey House Victoria (OHV) is a state-wide, specialist treatment organisation dedicated to improving the lives of individuals who experience significant or long-term problems from alcohol and other drug (AOD) use. We recognise that AOD use can have a significant impact on children and other family members. We provide information and support, counselling and parenting education as wrap-around services supporting individuals with AOD and their families and children.

As a child safe organisation, OHV is committed to child safety and wellbeing. OHV is also an Information Sharing Entity (ISE) prescribed under the Family Violence Sharing Scheme (FVISS) and Child Information Sharing Scheme (CISS).

Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence

The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence was completed in 2015 and resulted in complex and large-scale system reforms being introduced. As an Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Service, Odyssey House Victoria looked at increasing our family violence capacity by embedding a family violence lens in an AOD agency.

The Victorian reforms meant that there were significant changes in cross sector collaboration through the introduction of the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) framework, the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme (FVISS) and the Child Information Sharing Scheme (CISS). In the midst of those significant reforms Odyssey House Victoria learnt about the Safe and Together™ Model which provides the missing link that gives us the shared language we need to inform our practice change and also embarked on the Kody Project.

Kids in Focus

From 2002 to 2009 we undertook two projects to develop models of care for families where parents had a substance use problem. The resulting model is a family-centred approach that emphasises the safety and wellbeing of children in addition to parenting and family support. The success of the two projects led to OHV being awarded the contract to provide the Kids in Focus (KIF) services. This service has been funded by the Federal Australian Governments ever since.

KIF is a specialist child and family support program offered by Odyssey House Victoria that provides a range of intensive services to families affected by parental alcohol and other drug problems. The program aims to identify and address both the needs of the parents and their children. Our target group is parents with one or more children between the ages of 0-13 either in their care or working towards reunification. We provide support, counselling, parenting education, recreational and therapeutic groups for children and their families and other supports to build and enhance family and social connections.

Safe and Together™ Model

OHV first learnt of the Safe and Together Model in 2018 while participation in the Safe and Together Addressing Complexity (STACY) Research Project with Dr Cathy Humphrey’s. As an AOD agency, OHV found itself facing sweeping legislative changes that were aimed at shifting the way key sectors worked together to improve family violence practice. While the legislation changes provided a structure to enable cross-sector collaboration and guidelines to assess risk, practice tools and principles of working at the intersection of AOD and FV was lacking. The Model provides a framework to understand how FV can cause or exacerbate AOD issues and interfere with treatment or recovery efforts. OHV looked to the Safe and Together Model to equip clinicians with practical and robust tools to understand the intersection between AOD and FV for victim survivors and people who use violence while ensuring that children were always kept at the centre of practice. By integrating the Safe and Together Model, MARAM and information sharing schemes, OHV created a blueprint to guide AOD/FV intersectional work.

Community of Practice sessions play a key role in embedding the Safe and Together Model into practice, and brought the teams together in building confidence and skills in working at the intersection of AOD and FV. OHV auspiced two Family Violence Advisors who were based in the community-based AOD services targeted at adults, and they continue to play a key role in providing secondary consultations on FV informed practice.

OHV became the first AOD agency across the world to join a partnership with the Safe and Together Institute. 3 senior clinicians have since completed the training to now provide Safe and Together training as well.

KODY Project

Family violence services and drug and alcohol services have been inappropriately siloed given co-occurrence of these problems is common. This project aims to evaluate an innovative program which integrates these services, focuses on fathering to ensure recognition of the needs of children (50% of family violence victims) and provides all-of-family support to ensure the safety and well-being of women and children.

The increase in both alcohol consumption and family violence during COVID highlights the project’s relevance, while the focus on fathering holds potential benefits by interrupting intergenerational abuse, with immediate advantages to children.

The KODY project recognises the combined impact of harmful behaviours, drugs and alcohol, on family relationships. In this program, fathers participate in both the Caring Dads program and AOD counselling, while mothers, fathers and their children will have the opportunity to work with Kids in Focus. The KODY Project is a program to help fathers improve their relationships with their children and end controlling, abusive or neglectful behaviour to enhance the safety and wellbeing of children. The program seeks to develop fathers’ ability to engage in respectful, non-abusive parenting with the mothers of their children. During this program, fathers will engage in AOD counselling as a part of the KODY project.

Please contact Anne Tidyman at or 0466 268 932 for queries on Safe and Together Training.

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