Facing the Ethical Challenges of Family Violence



The Centre for Ethical Leadership was delighted to present Kym Peake, Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services (Victoria), as guest speaker for the Vincent Fairfax Speaker Series on Tuesday 24 October. Kym, an alumna of Ormond College, spoke in detail about “Facing the Ethical Challenges of Family Violence”.

The Ethics of Constrained Resources

From 2005 to 2015, the number of reported family violence cases in Victoria tripled.  In May 2017, the Victorian government announced $1.91 billion in additional funding over four years to help fund the 227 recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence (Victoria). 

And while this sounds like a large sum of money, Kym spoke at length about the ethical dilemmas on how to best spend the money to implement the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

“We must always strive to promote outcomes that are good for society. But in practise, of course, it is far more complex,” said Kym.

For example, one of the Royal Commission’s recommendations is to make perpetrators accountable. For the Department of Health and Human Services (Victoria), this recommendation raises questions about appropriate distribution of limited resources.

“A classic tension surrounds the issue of how much should be committed to supporting the perpetrators of family violence. Do they deserve counselling support? To be accommodated at public expense? Do they deserve an opportunity to reform? If a dollar spent on a victim is one less dollar to spend on his victim – where do you draw the line, and what do you base this decision on?” said Kym.

VFF Fellows were inspired

Vincent Fairfax Fellow, Penny Gleeson, attended the event and said it left her feeling inspired.

“Kym's speech was a welcome antidote to cynicism about public policy and political debate in Australia. As a VFF Fellow engaged in policy it was inspirational to hear her horizon-wide perspective on the daily challenges of the public sector.

“As Kim noted, public sector leaders are typically and justifiably focussed on outcomes and supporting their Ministers. What is rarely identified, let alone articulated, is the ethical and philosophical values that underpin what these leaders do - the 'why' behind the 'what'.

“Through her speech I suspect that Kym has raised a broader set of questions for the public sector: what ethical principles should guide its decision making? How should those values be articulated? How should the sector engage in a meaningful discourse with the community? It will be fascinating to see if and how the sector responds,” said Penny.


Jane Glover, also a Vincent Fairfax Fellow, was impressed by the Department’s resolve to take action on family violence.

“The Department of Health and Human Services is at the coal face of many social challenges…what surprised me was the determined focus on reform, future - fit thinking, flexibility, agility, capability and capacity, the critical importance of addressing the moral and ethical issues of family violence and the deep life changing impacts on the individual, family, society and the social returns,” said Jane.

Future Vincent Fairfax Speaker Series Events

The Centre for Ethical Leadership runs three Vincent Fairfax Speaker series events each year. Two events for 2018 have been confirmed:

  • Wednesday 21 March 2018 - Guest speaker, Chairman AICD, Elizabeth Proust AO FAICD, will discuss Ethics in the Boardroom. This event will be held in Sydney. Tickets open early 2018.
  • Thursday 28 June – Guest speaker, CEO ANZ, Shayne Elliott, will discuss Ethics in Banking. This event will be held at Ormond College in Melbourne. 

Contact us if you would like to join the mailing list for our events.
Download a transcript of Kym Peake’s speech “Facing the Ethical Challenges of Family Violence”. 



Source: https://www.dropbox.com/s/a3t3lvzlmwfd6cr/Facing-Ethical-Challenges-Family-Violence-Centre-for-Ethical-Leadership.pdf?dl=0