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Project 15: ALRC Family Violence Consultation Project

Headshift was engaged to assist the Australian Law Reform Commission to run an online engagement pilot with their stakeholders. This project provides a case study of how an agency can improve its online engagement capabilities by following best practice in the use and  management of Web 2.0 tools and community management practices (based on the guidelines developed for Project 8). The report concluded that online consultation is an effective and adaptable engagement technique and such consultations require the right combination of planning, technology and technique to be successful.

Author comments

At Headshift, we have extensive experience with facilitating online engagement in many different contexts, both through the tools we build and the community management services we offer. In our practice, we frequently find that people make assumptions about both the technology and the online engagement process itself, and that some government agencies are risk adverse. So we thought it vitally important to the objectives of the Taskforce that they could point to case studies that highlight successful practices and demonstrate practical outcomes.
The ALRC was identified as an agency that had pioneered methods to achieve open and consultative processes, consequently this project aligned with the support from the Government 2.0 Taskforce and provided an opportunity to demonstrate, in a pilot environment, online engagement in practice. The project partnership, between Headshift and the ALRC, was to conduct an online stakeholder consultation as part of the ALRC’s Inquiry on:

  • the interaction in practice of State and Territory family/domestic violence and child protection laws with the Family Law Act and relevant Commonwealth, State and Territory criminal laws; and
  • the impact of inconsistent interpretation or application of laws in cases of sexual assualy occurring in a family/domestic violence context, including rules of evidence, on victims of such violence.

The Family Violence Consultation Pilot is a closed online community that enables frank and open discussion in a secure environment between a specific group of stakeholders spread across Australia and the ALRC. The ALRC identified a number of key issues and invited participants from the Women’s Legal Services to discuss them, give their opinions and talk to the ALRC and other participants about any other issues they felt were relevent. The responses will be used to inform the ALRC’s consideration of the issues raised by this Inquiry. Suggestions and case studies provided bythe consultation participants may be used in ALRC publications, although no individual will be identified without giving prior consent.

Time has worked against us a little, but it has been a valuable experience to watch the participants gradually come online, start interacting informally and then, as they become confident about the process, start to provide some thoughtful and detailed feedback about the consultation topic.

This case study demonstrates two important aspects of online engagement:

  • online consultations are a valuable technique in their own right, because it enables agencies to engage with stakeholders in a way which is more convenient.
  • online consultations need the right combination of planning, technology and technique to be successful.

The Project 15 case study report will outline the engagement processes for the design and set-up of the online community, including some early findings and recommendations for future applications of a similar nature. As a companion case study to the Online Engagement Guidelines (Project 8), it provides a valuable model for agencies considering online consultation.

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