Domestic and family violence

The department’s approach to domestic and family violence aims to strengthen the capability of all staff in recognising, responding to and supporting children and young people who may be experiencing or using domestic and family violence, and educating students on respectful relationships (primary prevention and early response).

Our Approach

The NSW Department of Education (the department) is committed to keeping children and young people safe and ensuring their wellbeing. Domestic and family violence (DFV) is one of the most common risk factors to children's educational outcomes and wellbeing and affects 1 in 4 children in Australia. It is one of the most reported issues to the department’s Child Wellbeing Unit (CWU). DFV can have long lasting and devasting impacts on the physical, spiritual, psychological, developmental and emotional safety and wellbeing of children and young people. DFV may increase the likelihood of a child experiencing physical, emotional and sexual abuse and all forms of neglect. A child or young person can be exposed to DFV either directly or indirectly (e.g. by witnessing, overhearing or experiencing the effects of DFV being done to someone else). In responding to children and young people who are experiencing or using DFV, it is important to recognise children and young people as victim-survivors in their own right.

Guiding Principles

The department’s approach to DFV is guided by the following:

  • children and young people are recognised as victim-survivors in their own right
  • children and young people’s best interests are protected and upheld
  • children and young people have a voice in responses that impact them, when developmentally appropriate
  • response should be culturally safe and trauma-informed
  • response is guided by best practice, and
  • response is collaborative.


The department’s approach to DFV is aimed at building staff capability to recognise, respond and support children and young people who may be experiencing or exhibiting DFV and contribute towards the primary prevention and early intervention phase of the NSW Government’s holistic approach to DFV. Our approach involves:

  • building staff capability for early recognition and response: building staff knowledge and skills in recognising, reporting and supporting children and young people experiencing or using DFV; supported by policy, procedures, staff training on child protection risks, including mandatory reporting, and support from the department’s Child Wellbeing Unit.
  • building awareness and education: The underlying intention of DFV is to attain and maintain power, and driven by multiple factors including rigid gender roles and social norms and attitudes condoning violence. Educating children and young people early on respectful and healthy relationships is one way to encourage positive and healthy behaviour, and empower students to recognise risks to safety and implement protective strategies.
  • fostering collaboration: The department will work with both internal and external stakeholders in responding to children and young people experiencing or using DFV to ensure the approach is consistent, holistic and based on evidence.


Our approach aims to:

  • support students early who are experiencing or using DFV through a collaborative, coordinated and child-focused approach
  • support and strengthen staff understanding and response to DFV so staff are skilled and confident in identifying, responding to, and supporting students experiencing or using DFV
  • promote a child-focused response so children and young people’s best interests are upheld

What is domestic and family violence?

Domestic and family violence (DFV) refers to any behaviour in a domestic relationship which is violent, threatening, coercive or controlling and causing a person to live in fear for their own or someone else’s safety. It is usually a part of a pattern of ongoing controlling or coercive behaviour.

(Source: NSW Department of Justice, It Stops Here: Safer Pathway Overview)

What is a domestic relationship?

Domestic relationships can include intimate partner relationships and family relationships.

  • Intimate relationship: refers to people who are (or have been) in an intimate partnership, whether or not the relationship involves or has involved a sexual relationship.
  • Family relationship (broader definition): includes people who are related to one another through blood, marriage or de facto partnerships, adoptions and fostering relationships. It includes full range of kinship ties in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, extended family relationships, and constructs of family within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer communities.
  • People living in the same house, same residential care facility and reliant on care may also be considered to be in a domestic relationship if their relationship exhibits dynamics which may foster coercive and abusive behaviours.

(Source: NSW Domestic and Family Violence Plan 2022-2027)

What is domestic abuse?

From 1 February 2024, the NSW Government introduced a legal definition of ‘domestic abuse’. This definition was inserted into the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 as Section 6A.

Domestic abuse is defined as any behaviour (including actions) by a person directed against another person with whom they have a domestic relationship that is:

  • violent or threatening,
  • coerces or controls the second person, or
  • causes the second person to fear for their safety or wellbeing or the safety or wellbeing of another person.

A domestic violence offence is any offence where the conduct falls within the definition of domestic abuse.

(Source: Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007)

What is coercive control?

  • Coercive Control is a form of domestic abuse that involves patterns of behaviour which have the cumulative effect of denying victim-survivors their autonomy and independence. This abuse can be physical, sexual, psychological or financial, and can cause serious harm
  • It can be non-physical and is aimed at controlling, intimidating, isolating, harming, punishing, ‘gaslighting’ or frightening a person. It can undermine self-confidence, self-efficacy and establish a relationship of domination.
  • Coercive control has been identified as representing the ‘core’ of DFV behaviours. Coercive control, including put downs, humiliation and surveillance, has traumatic and pervasive impacts on victim-survivors. It can mean different things to people from different cultures.

(Source: NSW Department of Communities and Justice website Criminalising coercive control in NSW)

What does DFV look like?

DFV is not always physical. It can also be emotional, financial, psychological, spiritual and social, and can include stalking, neglect, and coercion. DFV can include, but is not limited to:

  • Acts of, or inflicting fear of. physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, social, cultural, spiritual, identity and economic/financial violence or abuse
  • technology-facilitated abuse
  • stalking, intimidation and harassment
  • identity-based abuse, such as capitalising on a victim-survivor’s fear of exposure or experience of discrimination to control and coerce them e.g. threatening to expose someone
  • threats and endangerment to children and acts to undermine a person’s relationship with their children or their ability to parent
  • exposure to DFV e.g. a child witnessing or being forced to participate in violence against another victim-survivor
  • threats of or acts to withhold medicine or assistance-of-care needs
  • threats of deportation due to migration or residency status
  • threats to self-harm or harm to others, including children or animals
  • systems abuse (e.g. by making false reports or using criminal or family law systems to intimidate and perpetuate control)
  • isolating the person from family, friends and other support networks, including support services and systems.

Who is impacted by DFV?

While DFV can impact anyone, some cohorts are more at-risk of experiencing DFV. They are:

  • Women
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
  • People who are culturally or linguistically diverse
  • People with disability
  • People who identify as LGBTIQA+
  • People living in rural and/or remote areas
  • People from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Indicators of DFV

Indicators of DFV vary, often according to the child’s developmental stage, and the nature and frequency of the violence. DFV can impact many parts of a child or young person’s life, and each student may be impacted differently. A child or young person may be exposed either directly or indirectly to DFV by witnessing or hearing instances of violence. It is important to note that one indicator in isolation may not imply exposure to DFV, rather, indicators need to be considered in the context of other indicators, severity and the student’s circumstances. For a comprehensive list of DFV indicators, see the department’s webpage Indicators of abuse and neglect.

Prevention (awareness raising/education)


The department contributes to the whole-of-NSW prevention efforts of DFV by raising awareness and developing staff capability to recognise and respond to possible indicators of DFV (for early identification and response). The department’s annual mandatory child protection training enables staff to build awareness on emerging child protection issues and response. The Child Protection Update 2021 focused on DFV.


Supporting students to develop understanding and skills for establishing non-coercive and respectful relationships is an integral component of addressing violence within communities. ‘Teaching and learning’ is at the centre of the department’s work to support prevention and early intervention to domestic and family violence. Students from Kindergarten to Year 12 learn about respectful relationships, abuse, power, coercion, protective strategies, the effect of violence on relationships and domestic violence prevention. This is delivered through the mandatory Child Protection and Respectful Relationships Education as part of the Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) syllabus for K-10 and Life Ready for Year 11 and 12 students. Quality assured external programs on Respectful Relationships and Consent Education will be added to the Student Wellbeing external programs catalogue.


Staff play a key role in the protection of children and young people from DFV through early identification and response. All staff are trained and have a duty to recognise safety, welfare or wellbeing concerns for children and young people that arise from or during the course of their work and take appropriate action. See Child Protection Procedures.


The department supports students experiencing or using DFV through a comprehensive and collaborative approach involving specialist services and organisations both within and external to the department. This is in recognition that an effective response is one that is consistent and coordinated involving specialists in key areas.

Providing students with a school environment in which they feel both physically and psychologically safe is an important priority. Support will vary depending on the child or young person’s circumstances, personality, cultural background, history and individual needs, and should be tailored for each presentation. Sometimes it will be more appropriate to ask another staff member to provide support, especially where they have a good relationship with the student.

Supports can include:

  • School counselling: All NSW public schools have access to the school counselling service. School counselling staff play a major role in supporting students who have been exposed to DFV including those students who are a secondary victim to a homicide. Staff are required to follow Child Protection: responding to and reporting students at risk of harm policy and procedures when responding to students at suspected risk of harm.
  • Network Specialist Facilitators: Network Specialist Facilitators are aware of and maintain a good working relationship with local specialist services such as mental health support, emergency accommodation, and women’s shelters that can be used to support students and their families.

Other support can include interagency meetings: The department’s Child Wellbeing Unit works with Child Wellbeing Units in NSW Police, NSW Health and with the Department of Communities and Justice to provide a coordinated response to child safety and wellbeing issues, including domestic and family violence. The department is part of the interagency Safety Action Meetings that bring together representatives from key government and non-government agencies to respond to victims who have been assessed as being a serious threat of domestic and family violence. The department’s representatives are Senior Education Officers from local School Services Teams who participate in 46 local Safety Action Meetings across NSW on a fortnightly basis.

More Information and Support


  • The guidance on the Child Protection webpages deals with sensitive issues. The information may raise strong emotions and bring issues or experiences to the surface.
  • Take time out if you feel emotionally impacted. Consider some strategies that you use to look after your own wellbeing or visit the department’s Weekly Wellness page at Weekly Wellness ( for holistic and practical wellbeing strategies and resources.

If you feel distressed, or need help, contact a support person or service to discuss your feelings in a helpful and constructive way. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) (staff only) can be a good place to start. If you require support, call EAP 24/7 on 1800 060 650.

Mental health organisation that is a reliable source of mental health information, support and hope.

The National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma. They advocate for and provide support to people who have experiences of complex trauma, and those who support them, personally and professionally.

To report suspected child abuse or neglect (open 24 hours/7days)

  • 13 21 11

The department's Employee Assistance Program (staff only)

Sets out the essential online safety steps for anyone in a domestic and family violence situation.

National trauma counselling and recovery service for people of all ages and genders experiencing sexual, domestic and family violence. Free, confidential and available 24/7.

Headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation. They support young people with mental health, physical health (including sexual health), alcohol and other drug services, as well as work and study support, with a focus on early intervention.

Free, confidential 24/7 online and phone counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25.

Australia’s leading suicide prevention service and 24/7 crisis support.

National telephone and online support, information and referral service for men with family and relationship concerns.

The Mental Health Line is NSW Health's 24/7 statewide phone service which links people with NSW Health mental health services. It is a free service.

Provides free 24/7 counselling and referrals to women experiencing domestic and family violence.

24/7 crisis counselling, information and support, medical care and forensic examination, ongoing counselling, group work, and court preparation and support for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can contact your local hospital or visit the NSW Health Sexual Assault Services website for contact details of your local Sexual Assault Services.

QLife provides anonymous and free LGBTIQ+ peer support and referral for people in Australia wanting to talk about sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings or relationships.

Anonymous and confidential, ReachOut is a safe place where young people can openly express themselves, get a deeper understanding and perspective on what’s happening in their lives, connect with people who will provide judgement-free support, and build the resilience to manage their challenges now and in the future. Designed with – and specifically for – young people, ReachOut is 100% online, anonymous and confidential, and lets young people connect on their terms.

Leading provider of relationships support services for individuals, families and communities. Advocate and promote the importance of respectful relationships with respect to positive individual mental health outcomes and general community outcomes.

A national resource for LGBTQ+ communities and service professionals working with people who have experienced sexual, domestic and/or family violence.

Free nationwide service providing 24/7 phone and online counselling to people affected by suicide. They offer crisis support to anyone in Australia who is aged 15 years and older.

Contact list of services and support, and information about DCJ funded programs, services and support for all families, Aboriginal families, and families with diverse cultural and language backgrounds, as well as Protection our kids.

ThinkUKnow Australia is an evidence-based education program led by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), delivered nationally in partnership with police and industry partners to prevent online child sexual exploitation.

13YARN is the first national service of its kind for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people in crisis, offering a confidential one-on-one over the phone yarning opportunity and support with a trained Lifeline Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporter for mob who are feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty coping. Available 24/7 across Australia.

National counselling, information and support service for domestic, family and sexual violence. Free, confidential, and available 24/7.

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