Harmony logo A pilot study in primary care

to respond to family violence

in culturally diverse communities


In Australia, an estimated one in six women has experienced family violence over her life-time. Often the first professional an abused woman comes in contact with is her healthcare provider offering a unique opportunity for support. Australia benefits from the increasing diversity of its migrant populations, of which South Asians are an emerging group, accounting for 2.1% of the Australian population in the 2011 census. Yet a culturally appropriate response to enhance the safety of South Asian and other immigrant women and their communities is currently lacking.

The Australian government has identified the crucial role of an effective primary care system to reduce the health damage caused by family violence. Yet, to date, there have been no intervention studies in health care settings that focus specifically on the needs of immigrant communities. Increasingly, Australia's healthcare system is enriched by bilingual South Asian GPs who may be immigrant doctors or born in immigrant families and educated here. Doctors are highly regarded authority figures in communities and if trained and adequately supported, can play an important role in supporting women who experience family violence, and enhancing their safety.

Harmony is a randomised controlled trial that aims to test the feasibility and effectiveness of a systems intervention to improve the capacity of primary care clinicians (GPs, nurses and others) to enquire about family violence, provide first line support, and offer confidential referral to culturally diverse women patients. The pilot study, adapted from a successful UK model, is being trialled in 4 general practice sites in Melbourne's northern and western suburbs.


The Harmony intervention

The intervention consists of 3 main strategies:

  1. Clinical and administrative staff training on identifying and responding safely to family violence, focusing on working with culturally diverse populations
  2. Case work support for women by a specialist bilingual South Asian case worker based at family violence specialist agency for culturally and linguistically diverse communities
  3. Ad hoc consultations between clinicians and the case worker for support and feedback on referrals


The feasibility and effectiveness of this pilot intervention will be measured through process and outcome assessments. Primary outcomes are the rates of family violence identification and referral as recorded in patient medical records.
Interviews with clinicians and women patients will yield feedback on the process, and the value that such an intervention might offer as a health systems and inter-sectoral response to family violence.

who we are

The research team

Harmony is a collaborative, cross cultural project conducted by an international multi-disciplinary team of social science and medical academics who specialise in family violence research at leading Australian, UK and Indian institutions.

The chief investigator of the project is Prof Angela Taft at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. The co-investigators are:

Mridula Shankar is the project coordinator. For enquiries, please contact Mridula at m.shankar@latrobe.edu.au or +61-3-9479 8784.

The associate investigators are:

  • Dr Elizabeth Hindmarsh
  • Dr Douglas Boyle, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Collaboration with InTouch Multicultural Centre against Family Violence (InTouch)

La Trobe University is collaborating with InTouch, the only accredited family violence specialist agency working with women from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities. InTouch will co-facilitate the GP training, and provide specialist family violence case work support for patients and ad-hoc consultations with doctors at participating practices.

Our collaborators at InTouch are:

  • Maya Avdibegovic, CEO
    Maya was born in Bosnia and graduated from Sarajevo University. She fled war-torn Bosnia in 1992 and lived in Germany for three years before migrating to Australia in 1995. Maya has qualifications in education, accounting and business management. Since she joined inTouch in 2009, the agency has expanded its work across the continuum of family violence and implemented a range of innovative initiatives, leading inTouch towards its long-term goal of becoming a multi-disciplinary service – 'a one-stop-shop' – for CALD victims of family violence. Being a refugee and a migrant herself, Maya is passionate about supporting migrant women and their families to settle in Australia and have equitable access to services.
  • Roshan Bhandary, Program Manager
    Roshan has been working as a program manager at InTouch for the last 7 years. She has a Master's degree in Sustainable International Development and a post graduate diploma in Women's Studies. She has worked in the area of family violence, women's rights and community development internationally and locally for over 15 years. Being from a CALD background and a migrant herself, she brings a wealth of knowledge and skills in working with multicultural communities across the violence continuum. She has been instrumental to the development and implementation of various innovative projects at InTouch. She is a trainer for the inTouch DV-alert program. 
  • Harmony South Asian case worker

Study Resources

If you are a clinician in the intervention arm of the pilot study and want to access information and referral resources to assist a patient, please click on the link below. You will be prompted to enter the password given to you.

Study resources

If you have any questions, please contact Mridula Shankar on 9479-8784 or at m.shankar@latrobe.edu.au