Finalist 2023

A Practical Guide to a Whole-of-Council Model for Preventing Family Violence and all Forms of Violence against Women

Designed by Nous Group / Commissioned by Victorian Department of Families, Fairness and Housing / Implementation partner: Municipal Association of Victoria / Visual Design by Narelle Sullivan

Practical guidance developed with local councils for local councils to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women

To provide consistent, evidence-based guidance for the primary prevention of family violence and violence against women within local government, the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing engaged Nous Group to lead a co-design process with councils, subject matter experts and community partners. The Municipal Association of Victoria provided implementation support.

We analysed councils’ primary prevention efforts, then led an intensive five-week co-design process to develop the Local Government Guide to Preventing Family Violence and All Forms of Violence Against Women. We tested with stakeholders to ensure the guide was accessible, understandable, practical and flexible enough to support local contexts.

Design Brief:

Primary prevention aims to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women from ever happening. Rather than intervening or responding to risks or acts of violence, primary prevention is a long-term strategy that seeks to identify and address the underlying drivers, such as gender inequality and discrimination, before violence occurs.

Local government is a key partner in primary prevention. Councils are well-placed to influence community attitudes and behaviours as service providers, large local employers and municipal leaders.

Councils have delivered primary prevention for many years but approaches across Victoria have been inconsistent. Councils have different levels of capability, buy-in and resourcing to deliver primary prevention work. The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) commissioned Nous Group to co-design a consistent, evidence-based primary prevention approach with local government to guide activity and measure performance, and the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) provided critical implementation support to local councils.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

Nous' co-design approach to developing the Local Government Guide for Preventing Family Violence and All Forms of Violence Against Women involved significant engagement with council staff and partners to ensure that those who would ultimately use the tool contributed directly to its design.

We developed an initial report on the current state of primary prevention in local government and the opportunities for councils to incorporate prevention practice into their daily work. We did this through consultations with councils, women's health services, peak bodies and public health experts. A whole-of-council model identified the four 'domains of influence' for primary prevention: workplace, service provider, community connector, and councillors as leaders and decision-makers.

Next, we worked directly with councils to convert the model into practical guidance for councils’ everyday work. Council staff, women’s health services and other key stakeholders shaped the guide through an intensive five-week co-design process, supplemented with sector subject matter expert workshops. We tested the final guide with a range of stakeholders to ensure it clearly communicated the model, provided practical guidance, would drive consistency and was flexible enough to support all councils. The testing identified that, to complement the full guide, councils would benefit from a summary version to engage councillors and senior leaders in conversations about primary prevention and help them empower their council staff to effectively utilise the guide in their work.

Following this, DFFH commissioned Narelle Sullivan to complete the guide and summary guide’s visual design, which drew on key concepts developed during the co-design process, reflected Victorian Government branding and supported the final products’ usability.

Design Excellence

Uptake and success of the primary prevention for local government model relies on a guide that is easy to understand and use. We selected a co-design approach to place the user experience at the centre.

The guide considers high quality, fit-for-purpose user experience through:

  • content, structure and focus; determined by end-users through the co-design process
  • plain language and explanation of key concepts and terms with no assumed knowledge
  • compelling visualisations to simplify complex information and capture key concepts
  • use of four ‘journeys’ for readers, enabling the wide range of users (all staff at council) to interact with information relevant and tailored to them
  • emphasis on examples and case studies to illustrate instruction
  • use of templates, activities and instructions for practical work.

Stakeholders and users have praised the guide for its clear articulation of complex issues, straightforward language, nuanced guidance and overall design.

Developing the guide through a facilitated co-design process sets a new benchmark and standard for how state and local governments, subject-matter experts and community partners can create a shared, consistent and adaptable solution that can be applied effectively across Victorian geographies and contexts. Bringing together diverse expertise, experience and perspectives from across the state has resulted in a pragmatic, usable guide that will be an effective tool for preventing family violence and all forms of violence against women in our communities.

Design Innovation

The project went beyond the strong theoretical foundation and varied work that has already occurred in primary prevention of family violence and violence against women and innovated it by taking a whole-of council approach, driven by council end-users. These included gender equality and primary prevention specialists; as well as those working in the councils’ people and culture teams and areas such as early years, emergency management, planning, and sports and recreation.

Local governments had long undertaken primary prevention work, and other organisations had produced literature and guidance to support that work; however, these approaches had not delivered consistent outcomes or embedded work across council. Our design of the guide was therefore innovative in that it:

  • took a whole-of-council approach. The work focused on embedding primary prevention in all of council’s work, not just in the targeted or visible work of gender equality or primary prevention officers and teams. This enables more to be done with fewer resources, as primary prevention is part of everyone’s business-as-usual. It also enables more effective interventions, as primary prevention activity is undertaken in a wide range of settings.
  • was co-designed with users. We worked directly with the council officers who would likely lead the primary prevention work, as well as their colleagues from across council, and community/health partners. This established buy-in and shaped a guide that was fit-for-purpose and practical within the local government context.
  • created an original conceptual model for the role and efforts of council in primary prevention. The project defined the different roles or domains in which council can work to undertake primary prevention. Using illustrations and simple articulations we were able to capture councils’ spans of influence and demonstrate that everyone has a role to play in primary prevention.

Design Impact

The Local Government Guide to Preventing Family Violence and All Forms of Violence Against Women was launched formally in June 2023 and will enable Victoria’s 79 councils to undertake critical primary prevention work across their domains of influence, equipping them to prevent family violence and all forms of violence against women in a more consistent and effective way. It is available at

The guide has been piloted in 15 councils since mid-2022, resulting in significant progress in understanding their starting position, planning for change and establishing new prevention initiatives.

Some examples are:

  • a rural council in South-Eastern Victoria has partnered with local employers in the region to deliver active bystander training
  • a northern metropolitan council is setting up an internal gender equity working group
  • two rural councils in Central Victoria are working together to implement Free From Violence initiatives, with some shared actions.

Councillors have indicated that “as a council that is new to this work, this guide is incredibly helpful for our organisation” and “the domains of influence have been a great communication tool to share with others”.

As the Minister for Prevention of Family Violence at the time of the project, Ros Spence, summarised, “Local governments play a pivotal role in their communities, engaging with people of all backgrounds, in many places and at all stages of life, making them ideal partners in our work to prevent family violence and violence against women. The new guide provides a roadmap to support them in this work."

MAV President Cr David Clark agreed, saying that Victorian councils have an unrivalled capacity to reach into and across communities on the issue of family violence prevention. “Councils are working alongside sports clubs, businesses and community groups to drive real, sustainable change and we’re thrilled the guide will continue to support and extend this critical work.”

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