For those who have been involved in Family Law and in particular, matters which involve children, the Department of Health and Human Services Victoria (known in short as “DHHS”) is a familiar organisation. This department described itself as having “traditionally developed and delivered policies, programs and services which support and enhance the health and wellbeing of all Victorians”.
The DHHS’s main function has been to assist Victorians who are most in need through housing, disability and children, as well as youth and family services.
The arrival of the pandemic, COVID-19, on Australian shores at the start of 2020, in effect created a state of emergency, particularly in Victoria, which led to several lockdowns for Victorians as the pandemic took hold. This in turn meant a focus on our health system and how best to respond to the needs of the community during the experience of the pandemic. The Victorian Government decided to re-vamp its operations.
From the beginning of February 2021, the DHHS has been separated into two new departments, the first being the Department of Health (which will be known as “DH”) and the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (to be known as “DFFH”). The Victorian government has set up two new websites to allow Victorians to access information about these new departments:
This move has been made in order to provide more focused attention to the Victorian health system, and also to allow a more dedicated approach to the social recovery of our state.
Throughout last year and continuing, the Victorian Government has provided more funding for the former DHHS, and has also increased the capacity of the Department in order to respond to the global pandemic. It continues to work closely with Victorian workers and their unions to manage this transition.
The new DH (Department of Health) will be responsible for the Health, Ambulance Services, Mental health and Ageing portfolios. It will also lead the Government’s public health response to the pandemic.
The new DFFH (Department of Families, Fairness and Housing) will assume what were DHHS responsibilities of Child Protection, Prevention of Family Violence, Housing and Disability. This will include ensuring the delivery of the significant investments from the recent Budget aimed at the desired recovery from the worst effects of the lockdowns, medical, social and economic.
The Department of Premier and Cabinet previously held responsibility for the policy areas of Multicultural Affairs, LGBTQI+ Equality, Veterans and the offices for Women and Youth. In order to allow better alignment with other policy areas focusing on the recovery, these areas of responsibility will be assumed by the new DFFH.