1800RESPECT and the First Response model

  • General information about the 1800RESPECT service and how it is run
  • An overview of the key changes to the telephone counselling service under the First Response model
  • How First Response has improved telephone counselling calls answered


  • 1800RESPECT is the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service. The Australian Government Department of Social Services has contracted Medibank Health Solutions (MHS) to manage 1800RESPECT since it commenced in 2010.
  • 1800RESPECT is a confidential online and telephone counselling, information and referral service available 24 hours, seven days a week. It provides high-quality support to anyone impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, their families and or friends. Workers and professionals in a range of frontline organisations can also call 1800RESPECT or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au for information, guidance or support.
  • As part of the 1800RESPECT service callers have access to specialist trauma counselling. MHS subcontracts Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia (R&DVSA) to deliver this service.
  • The 1800RESPECT remit extends beyond the telephone and online component of the service.
  • 1800RESPECT has a capacity building mandate and provides resources for frontline workers, specialist and non-specialist sectors, and the community to respond effectively to violence. This includes important digital resources, apps, tools, educational webinars and awareness-raising campaigns.
  • 1800RESPECT works in partnership with the domestic violence and sexual assault sector to improve access to a range of specialist services.
  • With increasing public awareness of domestic and family violence, calls to 1800RESPECT have grown significantly over recent years. Since its establishment in 2010, call volumes have grown from an average of 1,000 calls per month to over 6,000 calls in peak periods. With ongoing promotion and awareness of the service this growth is expected to continue.
  • In September 2015, as part of the Australian Government’s Women’s Safety Package, $5 million was allocated to 1800RESPECT to respond to the growing demand for the service. As part of the new funding an independent review of the service was undertaken by KPMG. The review explored how 1800RESPECT could manage increasing demand, and address the high call wait times and abandonment rates, that were putting women at risk.
  • Following an extensive review it was recommended that 1800RESPECT implement a first responder triage model to ensure all calls are answered quickly, and callers get the help they need, when they need it.
  • 1800RESPECT launched the first responder service model on 16 August 2016.
  • The new service model is staffed by experienced and qualified counsellors with a minimum degree level qualification in relevant fields, training in trauma-informed practice, and no less than two years full time counselling experience. Under the new model callers also have improved accessibility to specialist trauma counsellors provided by R&DVSA due to dramatically improved call wait times and a warm transfer process.
  • Sector and community feedback has been overwhelmingly positive about the performance and quality of the new service. This is backed by compelling data.
  • The new model was overseen by the Implementation Clinical Advisory Group made up of experts across many sectors representing our diverse users and ensuring the model is user informed. Feedback channels have also been incorporated into the system as part of the continuous improvement program.

Improved performance

  • The data demonstrates a dramatic improvement in call wait times and abandonment rates that previously presented an unacceptable risk those needing to access the service.
  • 80 percent of calls to 1800RESPECT are now answered by a counsellor in just 20 seconds.
  • In 2015-16 the average wait time was over 10 minutes. Since the introduction of the new model (September-November 2016) the average call wait time has dropped by almost 95 percent to just 35
  • In 2015-16 the call abandonment rate (calls not answered) was 44 percent. Since the introduction of the new model (September-November 2016) this has dropped to just 5.5 percent.
  • In 2015-16 the number of calls answered was just 2,675. Since the introduction of the new model (September-November 2016) this has increased to 14,883. This means more callers got the support they needed quickly.
  • As a result of the improved performance more callers are now getting through in their first attempt and we have seen a decrease in repeat call attempts.