New Australian Research Framework released

The Safer Families Centre of Research Excellence has released a new framework to guide researchers and policy makers in the ethical engagement of victim-survivors in co-produced research and evaluations.

The framework draws on the experience of the WEAVERS lived experience group

Co-funded by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the University of Melbourne, the new Australian framework will also be used as the basis for consultation with victim survivor groups in other countries to develop location-specific standards.

“There is currently considerable interest in engaging people with lived experience in family, domestic, and sexual violence in the development of services, policies and research, however, there are no agreed standards, definitions or conceptual understandings to support researchers do this work in an ethical way,” said Dr Katie Lamb, Department of General Practice and Primary Care, and Research Fellow with the Safer Families Centre of Research Excellence.

The new framework was developed using co-design approaches by researchers Dr Katie Lamb and Professor Kelsey Hegarty from the Department of General Practice and Primary Care in partnership with victim survivor co-researchers from the WEAVERs co-design team, Lula Dembele, Fiona and Nina.

The framework draws on the experience of the WEAVERS, a group of women with lived experience that was established in 2016 to show that engaging victim survivors as co-researchers can be empowering and promote autonomy.

“Triggering should not be used as a weapon to exclude survivors from participation. Survivors are pretty good at knowing what they can and can’t do and we have all sorts of strategies and tools to help us,” said Fiona, a co-researcher.

“Working ethically with victim-survivors of domestic, family, and sexual violence is critical to making research outcomes applicable in the real world,” said Lula Dembele, a victim survivor, co-author, and survivor advocate.

“To do the work well and ensure that the research process empowers people with lived-experience, research institutions and researchers need to be willing and ready to share power, knowledge, and the benefits of producing research.”

According to Ms Dembele, research that seeks to prevent and reduce domestic, family and sexual violence should uplift and build the confidence of victim survivor co-researchers.

“Research organisations need to be careful to ensure their processes do not repeat or mirror behaviours of silencing and reducing victim survivors’ agency as experienced in abusive relationships. If done ethically and supportively, opportunities to apply lived experience in research participation can be a powerful tool of healing and rebuilding lives for victim survivors,” Ms Dembele said.

The Australian Framework for the Ethical Co-Production of Research with Victim-Survivors is available here.