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Domestic Violence Women Column

Happenings on the Hill – Royal Commissions and NFPs

3 min read
Royal Commissions

Welcome to Happenings on the Hill – Happenings on the Hill is a fortnightly column specifically for the Third Sector by Tanck.

Earlier this year I penned an article for Tanck to mark International Women’s Day. I wrote that my “feminist heart was full” – and it generally was.  Yes, like many, I was sceptical of the commercialisation of IWD – and for my own part, weary of feeding into tokenism.  

But for the first time in a long time, I had genuine hope. It felt as though we had national leadership that meant we could focus on progressing the fight for equality in earnest – not simply holding the ground. 

But that optimism faltered last week, with the murder of four women in one week in South Australia. According to Destroy the Joint these women are the 49th, 50th 52nd and 53rd this year to allegedly be violently killed by men known to them.  

The Domestic and Family Violence sector and the broader SA community are rightly calling on the State Government to establish a Royal Commission into Domestic and Family Violence. 

As a South Australian, I add my voice to this call.  

This is because, as we have seen in other jurisdictions and policy areas, Royal Commissions shift the power dynamics in policy development for the better.  

Royal Commissions provide a platform for lived experience, the magnitude of which is found nowhere else in the policy process. 

And importantly, Royal Commissions provide the not-for-profit/for-purpose sector with a more equal playing field, in their capacity to influence the public discourse.  

After a week like last week, effectively channelling the emotion and urgency we feel into existing mechanisms for consultation can truly spur government towards real change. As some of the people ‘on the ground’, NFPs hold stories and statistics that, when presented effectively, can alter a government’s thinking on an issue. 

But with any Royal Commission, it is important to recognise that a Commission’s recommendations are only part of the equation – it is the government’s response to the findings of Commissions that will deliver the real outcomes.   

And within this question of “how will the Government respond?”  lies the need for NFPs to take a strategic approach to Government Engagement over the life of any Royal Commission, to ensure their voices are heard in the formulation of that response.     

It is crucial to look beyond the formal process of engaging with the Royal Commission and take steps to amplify the voice of your clients and/or their families through decisive and deliberate engagement with political stakeholders and policymakers. At Tanck we work with our clients to build a strategic engagement plan for the life of a Royal Commission that contains defined engagement actions.  

This engagement could look like this:  

  • Developing a clear and concise document that reflects your organisation’s submission, making sure to include your key recommendations; 
  • Providing regular updates and feedback to key stakeholders, positioning your organisation as a thought leader and trusted adviser;  
  • Considering if and how to shift clients and/or their families into becoming advocates – creating direct platforms for them to share lived experience with political stakeholders and policymakers; and 
  • Taking time to review your organisational footprint and engage with MPs and Upper House Members through localised case studies and stories. 

It is vital to make sure you build relationships across all parties in the chamber. The Government that establishes the Royal Commission will not necessarily be the Government that responds and/or is responsible for implementing recommendations.   

As we sit within the 16 days of global activism to end gender violence (25th November – 10th December), whether for a Royal Commission into family violence or any other Royal Commission, it is a good time to remember the power that NFPs hold to influence both public discourse and government on an issue and how you can effectively harness that via government engagement. 


Ellen McLoughlin is an associate at Tanck, based in Adelaide. With qualifications in public policy and social planning she has spent 10 plus years working in the broader labour movement and has previously worked for Federal and State Members of Parliament.


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