Safe and Equal Member Forum 2022 Wrap-Up

Safe and Equal Member Forum 2022 Wrap-Up

Thursday 15 December 2022

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Safe and Equal’s Member Forum was held both in person (for the first time in three years!) and virtually across two jam-packed days, from 27-28 September 2022. 

The Member Forum is an annual opportunity for our sector to come together and consider ‘where to from here?’ – to step back, reflect, listen, and set the vision we want to see for the future of our sector. This year’s forum gave members the chance to centre lived experience and co-production approaches as we explored key priorities for the next 12 months and beyond. 

Day One
Tuesday 27 September

Following an opening address from the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence Ros Spence, we were joined by Commissioner Sue-Anne Hunter, Dr Simone Gristwood and Commissioner Meena Singh for a frank and deeply engaging conversation on how we can better centre First Nations women’s voices in mainstream family violence services. 

“Every single Aboriginal woman who has died at the hands of violence deserves to have her name heard.” 

– Commissioner Sue-Anne Hunter 

The panel discussion focused on four interconnected themes: cultural safety, self-determination, power shifting and sharing, and allyship. Panellists spoke to the importance of understanding more broadly the lack of cultural safety experienced by Aboriginal people in Australia, and how acknowledging the power non-Aboriginal people hold in all systems and spaces is key to shifting power imbalances.  

Of particular significance was the panel’s discussion of the term ‘vulnerability,’ and that the vulnerability and risk experienced by Aboriginal women is a product of being excluded and marginalised by the broader white Australian system. This system and our roles within it must be deeply understood and acknowledged in order to be challenged and dismantled. 

“Being an ally means sitting with the discomfort, sitting in the silence, reflecting and thinking why you want to be in this space…we don’t need white saviours, we need people to give up space for us.” 

– Commissioner Meena Singh 

The powerful conversations that arose from this session carried us into the first in-person workshop, where we heard from members about the changes we can make as individuals or within our organisations to support tangible shifts in the way we approach cultural safety, self-determination and allyship with First Nations people. 

Some key feedback that emerged from these discussions included: 

  • Challenging the way we prioritise white knowledge; for example, Rec 209 
  • Avoiding performative or habitual actions; taking the time to explore deeper learning and understanding 
  • Increasing resources in this space – investing time and money 
  • Challenging racist structures within the workplace; for example, observing January 26 as a day of mourning with the option to work on that day 
  • Shifting power by eliminating pre-determined ideas of outcomes or what an interaction might look like. 

These and other learnings generated from these foundational discussions will inform the peak’s ongoing advocacy agenda, as well as our partnership with Djirra. 

In the afternoon, the focus shifted to workforce sustainability. The first panel discussion was led by Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha on how we can retain expertise and continually build the capacity of our workforce in an ever-changing reform environment. 

Panellists Emma Catford, Emma King and Camille Kingston discussed the difficulties the specialist family violence workforce has faced, particularly following the pandemic. With low unemployment rates and competition for workers across the broader community sector, the challenge lies in maintaining a steady flow of people entering the specialist family violence workforce, as well as enhancing the capabilities of those who are already working within it.  

Despite these challenges, there is work being done in this space to strengthen our workforce. The panel spoke to several programs and campaigns led by government, including the Jobs Guarantee Program and the Jobs That Matter campaign. Panellists also discussed the importance of data, and using an evidence base to understand the workforce needs. 

This was followed by a workshop led by Safe and Equal’s Sector Development Unit, who facilitated a member-guided conversation on workforce challenges and ideas for future-focused solutions. Feedback included issues around pay and conditions, as well as trying to encourage school-leavers to engage in tertiary social work studies. Opportunities for solutions discussed by members included sector-wide graduate programs, paid internships, and leadership training. 

Day Two
Wednesday 28 September

Data was the focus throughout the morning of day two, with presentations on both the Measuring Family Violence Services Demand Project and Safe and Equal’s draft Client Outcomes Framework.  

We heard from member services and survivor advocates as part of a panel discussion on the significance of both projects. Key themes included the incredible significance of data as a whole-of-picture story and a way to shift the conversation from a focus on outputs to outcomes, as well as the importance of collecting feedback from the often-invisible voices of children and young people. 

“There’s a real person behind data points. It’s not just data – these are people.” 

– Mishka*, Survivor Advocate 

Following this, attendees engaged in several roundtable discussions focused on next steps in delivering a client outcomes measurement framework. Some of the feedback from these conversations included the importance of testing the framework with diverse voices including LGBTIQA+ service users, remunerating victim survivors for their time and expertise, and ensuring the framework can be implemented by services under considerable strain and demand. 

After lunch we were joined by Joe Ball and Libby Jamieson from Switchboard to discuss trans and gender diverse inclusion in family violence services. Joe and Libby gave a powerful presentation on the journey of inclusion, with Joe referring to it as “a joint project for our bodies, our lives and our rights to decide.” 

“How are you signalling your commitment to inclusion in the community, so people will come?” 

–  Joe Ball 

Following their presentation, four questions were provided for group discussion, with key feedback from members including: 

  • Shifting language traditionally used in the sector; i.e. ‘women’s refuge’ 
  • Advocating for increased funding to address inclusivity, but also looking at what can be done in the current environment 
  • The need for increased demand data for LGBTIQA+ communities 
  • Ensuring the fear of ‘getting it perfect’ doesn’t stop us from trying, as doing nothing has significant consequences for those experiencing violence who need support. 

“If services aren’t safe, people won’t look to the specialist family violence sector for a response.”  

– Libby Jamieson 

We finished the day exploring how work in the response sector can be amplified and supported by prevention efforts, featuring a conversation with Respect Vic CEO Emily Maguire and followed by roundtable discussions. These conversations produced some fruitful feedback on how the response sector can forge a deeper understanding of the different types of prevention, the complexity of prevention work in the Orange Door model, and how education and training is key to allow practitioners to transition between sectors. 

Virtual Sessions

In addition to the in-person presentations and workshops, a total of nine online sessions ran concurrently and were available to virtual attendees across both days of the forum. These sessions included: 

  • The Family Violence Media and Communications Network Meeting 
  • Case Management Program Requirements 
  • Managing Resistance to Gender Equality 
  • Key learnings from the 8th National Brain Injury Conference 
  • Safe and Equal Member Consultation 
  • Specialist Family Violence Sector Communities of Practice 
  • Rural and Regional Practitioner Session 
  • Health, Safety, and Wellbeing in the Family Violence Sector 
  • Introduction to Primary Prevention 

As was acknowledged throughout the forum, the conversations generated from each session are ongoing, with all feedback informing future activity at Safe and Equal.  

We’d like to say a huge thank you to all guest speakers and to everybody who attended both in-person and online, for sharing your expertise and enthusiasm. We hope you walked away from the forum feeling invigorated and excited for the future of our sector, and the potential for safer and more just outcomes for all victim survivors of family and gender-based violence. The 2023 Member Forum will be here before we know it, and we look forward to continuing these conversations and embarking upon new ones. 

Page last updated Thursday, December 15 2022

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Employment White Paper Response

Employment White Paper Response

7 December 2022

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This submission will focus on the future of work, and the implications of structural change, for the care economy, specifically the specialist family violence sector, as well as job security, pay equity and equal opportunities for women.

Safe and Equal welcomes the focus of the White Paper on a sustainable care industry alongside women’s economic participation, experiences of the labour market and the challenges of ensuring women have equal opportunities and equal pay. There are two foremost components to this submission: the first is, the financial policy approaches required for a sustainable and specialised family violence workforce; and the second is, economic strategies required to tackle issues flowing from the gendered nature of the specialist family violence workforce.

Page last updated Wednesday, December 7 2022

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PiP Member Spotlight: Starlady from Zoe Belle Gender Collective

PiP Member Spotlight: Starlady from Zoe Belle Gender Collective

Friday 2 December 2022

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This month, we spoke to Starlady, Program Manager from the Zoe Belle Gender Collective, about her vital work in training, educating and consulting the family violence and primary prevention sectors on LGBTIQA+ inclusive service provision.

What is your professional background? How did it lead you to prevention work?  

I’ve worked within the LGBTIQA+ sector for the last 10 years delivering training, education, and consultation on inclusive service provision and advocating for LGBTIQA+ rights, especially trans and gender-diverse rights. Over the last few years, we’ve seen significant shifts within the prevention of violence sector in developing LGBTIQA+ cultural competency and inclusion. Our understanding of the intersection of drivers of violence against women and LGBTIQA+ people has significantly developed and there are growing partnerships between our sectors.

The Zoe Belle Gender Collective (ZBGC) has been a part of this shift through our relationship with Rainbow Health Australia who have both consistently consulted with us in the development of resources, such as Pride In Prevention, but also supported our organisation to develop our capacity to work within a prevention framework.

When did you become passionate about gender equality? 

Addressing transphobia, biphobia and homophobia has always been a part of my life. So much of the violence I’ve experienced across my life has consistently been perpetrated by cis men. However, when I started dating cis men after affirming my gender identity as a trans woman/feminine person I experienced significant objectification, fetishisation, and sexual exploitation/violence.

I quickly learned that I wasn’t alone in my experience and that many of the trans women/feminine people around me who dated cis men had very similar experiences. In discussing the supports and resources available we felt that we were being left behind. We didn’t see ourselves reflected in the campaigns addressing gender-based violence, or feel that there was an understanding of the unique issues we faced.

Tell us a bit about what you’re working on now: 

I’m leading a project called Transfemme – it’s both a campaign and website aimed at promoting healthier relationships between trans women/trans feminine people and cis men. The content of the website is drawn from 30 confidential interviews I conducted in mid-2021 and covers topics such as the fetishisation and objectification of trans women/feminine people, navigating consent and pleasure, passing and beauty myths, “coming out” to family and friends, the impacts of gender stereotypes and rigid gender roles, and the impacts of shame and stigma on cis men.

Although the website is targeted towards trans women and cis men we’re hoping in the next year to create new content aimed at their family and friends, noting that transphobia is a driver of violence.

Transfemme Posters

What skills do you use in your role? 

Community development is central to my work, and building and maintaining direct relationships with both community and service providers is essential. We have an advisory group of both trans women/feminine people and cis men that drives Transfemme; in particular, there’s a collective of trans women of color who are very talented advocates.

Professionally we’re often talking about platforming people with lived experience, but we want to support the community to develop their skills and ensure their safety and wellbeing in the process. That takes time, resources and commitment. Community support, and equally our advisory groups invaluable knowledge and expertise, are central to maintaining high-quality and culturally appropriate resources and messaging.

What do you like about working in primary prevention? What drew you here? 

It’s very personal. I want access to healthy relationships like any other person in our society. Unfortunately, transphobia, stigma, and shame impact my relationships. Many of my intimate relationships are secret and hidden. Working in prevention helps me take back my power and gives me hope for the future, not just for myself but also for my community and the people I care for.

What have you found useful in the work that Safe and Equal do to support prevention workers?  

I’ve found the resources that support practitioners in understanding and responding to LGBTIQA+ people’s experiences of family violence incredibly helpful. I often hand out their tip sheet “Top tips for inclusive responses to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Gender Diverse, Intersex, Queer and Asexual (LGBTIQA+) People experiencing family violence” in our training sessions. There are significant missing gaps within resources to respond to LGBTIQA+ people’s experiences of family violence, and I appreciate the continuing efforts of Safe & Equal in being committed to addressing these gaps in their conferences and events.

My favorite resource we developed with Safe and Equal and Rainbow Door was a webinar talking about our website Transfemme and addressing cis men’s violence against trans women/feminine people. In particular, Safe and Equal prioritised the voices of trans women of colour and gave our team a platform to talk about our unique experiences.

Watch the webinar below and download the PowerPoint slides here.

What advice do you have for someone new to the PVAW sector?  

Read Transfemme and Pride In Prevention and reflect upon how trans women fit into gender equity frameworks. Collaborate and develop relationships with trans and gender-diverse organisations. Seek secondary consultation, training, or representatives from organisations such as the ZBGC.

Many of the drivers of violence against trans women/feminine people are the same as the drivers of violence against cis women. Our movements intersect, and we can learn from and support one another in our journey to drive social change.

Whose work do you admire?  

The Rainbow Health Australia team because of their ongoing commitment to support the work of Transfemme, their whole team really went out of their way to ensure our team could thrive in our advocacy. It was a real pleasure to work with people who treated us with the professional respect we deserved, were open to critical feedback and creating innovative solutions.

For more information about the Zoe Belle Gender Collective and Transfemme, contact Starlady here

Page last updated Thursday, December 1 2022

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Resources for your 16 Days of Activism 2022

Resources for your
16 Days of Activism 2022

Friday 25 November 2022

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The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual campaign that begins on 25 November and runs until International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

This year, we’re partnering with Respect Victoria to support local community engagement with the 16 Days of Activism ‘Respect Women: Call It Out (Respect Is)’ statewide campaign. We’ve been working with councils and statewide community health organisations around Victoria, and we look forward to sharing updates on their inspiring grassroots initiatives through our social media channels.

Connect with us here:

For each of the 16 Days, we’ll also be sharing a diverse range of resources from local, national, and international organisations working to eliminate family and gender-based violence. These are summarised below. We hope these resources support you in your learning and activism.

Friday 25 November - International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
Saturday 26 November - Economic Abuse Awareness Day
Check out WIRE’s Respectful Relationships & Money Conversation Kit to learn how to talk about money with partners and family members.

If you or someone you know might be experiencing this kind of abuse, what can I do?

Visit Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand’s Financial Independence Hub – a free, confidential, personalised service supporting people previously impacted by financial abuse across Australia.

Sunday 27 November - Women and gender-diverse people in leadership
Check out these leadership development opportunities for women and girls: 

Monday 28 November - Street harassment

Tuesday 29 November - Media reporting on gender-based violence

Wednesday 30 November - Consent

Thursday 1 December - Porn and gender-based violence

Friday 2 December - Aboriginal Women's Lives Matter
How can I be a better ally? 

Take time to learn about and reflect on First Nations history and the impacts of colonialism on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

If you are an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person experiencing family violence, contact these services in Victoria: 

Djirra
1800 105 303
Mon-Fri, 9am-10 pm

Elizabeth Morgan House
1800 364 297
24/7

Visit the Safe and Equal’s service directory for more Victorian family violence services.

Sunday 4 December - Equality and respect in sports

Monday 5 December - Family violence and trans and gender diverse people

  • Check out Transfemme, a website with stories, tips and resources to support healthier relationships between trans women and men.

Tuesday 6 December - Elder Abuse
If you or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse, there is support available.  

You can call Seniors Rights Victoria on their confidential helpline – 1300 368 821. 

You can also visit Compass (www.compass.info), which is a website dedicated to providing information and resources on elder abuse across Australia. 

Remember – if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call triple zero (000). 

Want to learn more?

Check out our campaign resources and upcoming events for the 16 Days of Activism campaign here.

Page last updated Thursday, November 24 2022

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Preventing violence against women top of the agenda for the 16 Days of Activism in Victoria

Preventing violence against women top of the agenda for the 16 Days of Activism in Victoria

Wednesday 23 November 2022

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The 16 Days of Activism is a platform to call for change, and to remind us all that preventing violence starts with changing the culture that allows it to happen.

Respect Victoria and Safe and Equal are thrilled to partner on the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence campaign in Victoria, supporting more than 100 community events and initiatives across the state.

Kicking off on Friday 25 November, the campaign encourages individuals, families, and communities to lead with respect and take small steps towards equality to help prevent violence against women.

“The 16 Days of Activism is a platform to call for change, and to remind us all that preventing violence starts with changing the culture that allows it to happen,” said Respect Victoria CEO Emily Maguire.

“Violence against women is preventable, and it’s a challenge that belongs to all of us.”

“We will never eliminate family and gender-based violence unless we address the attitudes and behaviours that allow this violence to thrive – this is where prevention is key,” said Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha.

From Bendigo to Sunbury, Mildura to Whittlesea, organisations, community groups and councils are getting involved from across Victoria to take a stand against violence.

On the agenda are conversations that cover topics like men and masculinity and women in sport, art installations designed by young people that focus on gender equality, events for kids and families centred around respect and equality, and health education sessions.

“The diversity and breadth of events taking place this year is exciting and reflects just how important eliminating gender-based violence is to Victorians,” said Ms Farha.

“Engaging Victorian communities in these events highlight that we all have a significant role to play, that challenging and calling out gender inequality is everybody’s responsibility.”

“The 16 Days of Activism gives us all an opportunity to think about how we can take steps towards equality in our homes, relationships, workplaces and communities,” said Ms Maguire.

“This could look like talking to your kids about the gendered stereotypes they may face, choosing to have a chat with a mate if they make a sexist joke, or having an open conversation with your partner about how the housework is divided up,” said Ms Maguire.

The 16 Days of Activism campaign will run from Friday 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and finish on Saturday 10 December (Human Rights Day).

Find a calendar of Victorian events, plus resources and toolkits for organisations and individuals on the Safe and Equal website.

Join us at the Walk Against Family Violence on Friday 25 November – walk in the city, or walk in your local area. Find out more and register on the Safe Steps website.

Watch ‘Stories of Respect’ campaign videos on Respect Victoria’s website which encourages men to work together to break down stereotypes about gender.

Page last updated Thursday, November 24 2022

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Meet our Fast Track response course graduate, Kerry

Meet our Fast Track response course graduate, Kerry

Thursday 10 November 2022

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We recently spoke to Kerry, a senior specialist supervisory family violence practitioner from Berry Street, about her experiences with the response stream of the Fast Track program.

About Kerry

When Kerry joined Fast Track, she had been in a senior specialist supervisory family violence practitioner role with Berry Street, the Northern Specialist Family Violence Service in Melbourne, for about two years. Before this she had worked for many years as a specialist family violence practitioner for various organisations, in pilot projects, and in integrated family services and residential care, after completing a Diploma in Community Welfare.

Prior to completing Fast Track, Kerry progressed into a new role at Berry Street as Family Violence and Disability Practice Leader for the North Eastern Melbourne Area (NEMA). In this role, she works with the specialist family violence and sexual assault sector to help them tailor responses to the needs of people with disabilities. It includes capacity and capability building of practitioners regarding the intersect between family violence and disability, and supporting the development and implementation of Disability Action Plans. Kerry highlights this new role has provided the “opportunity to position myself in way that I can provide a disability lens” in the family violence sector, “ensuring I represent the voice of victim survivors with disability” in a variety of forums.

Planning strategically and building connections for positive change

Kerry credits some of the skills and knowledge she learned at Fast Track with helping her obtain her new role and succeed in it. “When you work as a specialist family violence practitioner, you are dealing with risk and safety and client facing work. You don’t have the opportunity to get involved in things like submitting a tender, developing programs etc. So, when I applied for this role, I was able explain what I would implement into the program, as I had just learned about them!”, she explains. Attending Fast Track and talking with other participants and mentors also gave her confidence to apply for this new opportunity. The course “helped me realise that actually I have a lot of experience that is valuable in this field. Not just family violence specific skills, but partnerships, all other transferrable skills that we spoke about in Fast Track”, she observes.

Kerry is using a variety of learnings from Fast Track in her new role. She found Fast Track helped her to reach out to a wide range of people proactively and build connections between the family violence and disability sectors. “That’s something I got from Fast Track. Marketing my role and the initiative, reaching out to people proactively”, she explains, “And it’s been successful because other professionals will say ‘Oh you’re Kerry!’ and now people are reaching out to me – from the disability sector. So that is really positive”.

Kerry is finding her new role is “a role where you can really see some changes happening – in both sectors … It’s program level and organisational level, so the changes that are being implemented are long-lasting changes”. For example, she has been able to collect and co-ordinate resources that integrate a family violence and disability lens that weren’t readily available before and share these widely through monthly bulletins. She’s excited to see that her bulletins are being forwarded to additional stakeholders who are then reaching out to her to discuss the content: “It’s really getting out there beyond what I’m doing. It’s reaching a lot of people in the sector, it’s just fantastic”. She has seen organisations taking steps to implement Disability Action Plans because of the resources and support she has provided, and she has created new networks in the family violence and disability sectors. “The feedback is that some organisations did not know each other existed, and they are now in touch”.

Kerry’s manager, Kelly, agrees that her work is having a broader impact. “Kerry’s drive and advocacy around the inclusion of people with disabilities and about the intersection of disability and family violence has raised a lot of awareness within our leadership and broader team”. Kelly also highlighted that Kerry is very proactive in creating opportunities for the family violence and sexual assault workforces to continue to improve their frameworks relating to disability, access and inclusion.  Kerry takes multiple approaches in this way, including holding events for the staffing group, and generating highly relevant information about intersections with disability.

Kerry’s new role involved developing a project plan to guide her work, which she says “was a totally new concept for me, I would have had no idea! But I could use the template from Fast Track to guide me in developing mine”. She used what she learnt at Fast Track to create a program logic model to help her think about: “What do I want to achieve short-term, medium-term, what are my long-term goals and how am I going to reach them? I’ve never had a role like that, but doing the task for Fast Track as my final assessment meant I knew how to go about that.”

Manager Kelly has also noticed Kerry’s increased knowledge about how to advance ideas, projects or plans, and greater confidence to progress things that can benefit her team or the sector. Kelly has seen Fast Track strengthen Kerry’s strategic thinking, helping her shape initiatives in ways that make them more likely to be accepted at higher levels of the organisation. For example, Kerry is supporting the Family Violence Leadership Team to create an Access and Inclusion Action Plan for people with disability, including Berry Street staff and clients “She is a real driver, which is what we need in this role – but she’s also very collaborative and seeks to invite participation from the workforce and consider the sustainability of this work. It’s a fantastic combination”.

Fast Track also highlighted for Kerry the importance of data and evidence around unmet needs, for example, when making a case for funding. This meant she could see in her new role that data about disability wasn’t being adequately captured by many family violence services – feedback she has been able to provide to working groups she is involved in.

Kerry found the mentoring through Fast Track to be a great opportunity. She was paired at her request with a mentor from her own workplace. She found this beneficial as it meant she had one-on-one time with a senior person from her organisation who, ordinarily, she would not have asked to spend this time with. It also meant her mentor could help her develop work more likely to be adopted by her organisation: “So this gave me the opportunity to book 3 hours of [the mentor’s] time and sit with her and work on this. That opportunity is precious, you just don’t get that”.

Continuing to grow

Whilst Kerry still loves case management work, she appreciates how Fast Track and this new role have given her the opportunity to think more strategically and develop new ideas she wouldn’t have had time to do while focused on case management. “I can utilise time for reflection and to think about developing new ideas to support my work. Because the work is not crisis driven, it’s given me the opportunity to think differently, I appreciate that.”

Fast Track has helped Kerry have the confidence and motivation to seek out further learning opportunities: “I feel like I’ve had so much growth … I want to keep developing and growing like this”. She was successful in a scholarship application to attend a three-day conference and she is currently attending a series of leadership workshops. She is considering doing an Advanced Diploma in Community Sector Management. Kerry explained that Fast Track and her subsequent work experience gave her “the confidence to put myself out there”, to apply for new opportunities and introduce herself to new contacts.

Overall, Kerry is strongly supportive of more people in her sector being able to attend Fast Track: “It is a hugely beneficial program. I hope funding is continued, to allow others the opportunity to participate”. Her manager, Kelly, agrees Fast Track is valuable for developing emerging leaders in the family violence sector: “Fast Track is a really important growth and retention opportunity to support emerging leaders, a critical tier of our expanding workforce. Yes, it’s benefited Kerry, but it’s also benefited our service and other services within the North East Metropolitan region”.

Applications for the Fast Track response course are now open, closing 17 January 2023. Learn more and apply here.

Page last updated Thursday, November 10 2022

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Meet our Fast Track prevention course graduate, Shweta

Meet our Fast Track prevention course graduate, Shweta

Thursday 10 November 2022

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We recently spoke to Shweta, a Health Outreach Team Leader from GenWest, about her experiences with the primary prevention stream of the Fast Track program.

About Shweta

Shweta is a Team Leader for Health Outreach with GenWest, a family violence support service helping people in Melbourne’s west. She works specifically with migrant and refugee communities. Her main role is leading a team that provides bi-lingual health education, with a focus on gender equity, women’s health promotion and primary prevention of violence.

Family violence prevention is a newer area of work for Shweta. She notes: “I had zero previous experience in this industry! I was born in India, and my professional qualifications are in marketing and communications. All my working life there I was in film and television.” After migrating from India, Shweta worked in arts marketing in Australia and communications in Indonesia.

While in Indonesia Shweta worked closely with refugees, including fundraising and education work for refugee-led organisations, and setting up a community centre for refugee women. Shweta’s experience working with refugees, and her experience of migrating to Australia, inspired her to apply for a role with GenWest supporting migrant and refugee communities. She was particularly excited to see a role seeking people who spoke her language, Hindi.

Shweta saw Fast Track advertised and asked GenWest if she could take part. She explains:

“I had the lived experience, and the leadership experience, but the gap was knowledge of family and gender-based violence. The opportunity to work at GenWest opened a whole new career pathway, and the training I received as part of my role armed me with critical sector insight and a feminist and intersectional approach to prevention. The Fast Track program came at a very opportune time for me to accelerate and augment my understanding and knowledge of this work.”

Sector knowledge and program planning for inclusive prevention

Fast Track helped Shweta gain an inside understanding of the family violence sector, including primary prevention. She found that the academic language and acronyms the sector use can be a major barrier for people who are new, particularly for people not from Australia. She explains: “First, understanding the language – that was really helpful. I also really loved understanding the frameworks, the drivers of violence and the framework that sits under that here in Australia, and the historical perspective”. She noted: “It gave me a huge sense of confidence in terms of industry knowledge”.

Shweta chose a male Fast Track mentor, which helped her learn about what’s happening in the sector around engaging with men. She found this very interesting and useful to complement her work with women from diverse cultures. “We had some really interesting conversations, as I come from a very patriarchal society … learning about the work being done in the sector around engaging with men was especially important for me”, she explains. “My mentor was extremely accessible and I will call on him again in the future.”

Shweta’s manager, Rosie, also observed how Fast Track helped Shweta build her confidence and understand how she can use her existing skills in her work to address the gendered drivers of violence in multicultural communities. She notes Shweta now has: “A greater ability to have a clear vision for her own work. She is very ambitious – both for her own career, but also what she can envision doing for the community”.

Fast Track helped Shweta significantly improve her understanding of project management. She enjoyed learning about program logic models particularly: “I had no idea what this is!” she explains, “It’s not really used in the industry I came from. That was really helpful, that structure … I’m really using what I started developing there”. Shweta was on a one-year contract initially, but her role has now been extended for two further years due to additional funding. She is using what she learned at Fast Track with her manager, Rosie, to help plan the next stages of the project. Rosie is finding Shweta’s enhanced confidence in relation to project management and planning really valuable as they create a new program together, as Shweta can now take on activities like drafting project plans and logic models.

Expanding her impact

Shweta’s manager Rosie highlights that Shweta’s enhanced confidence and capabilities after doing Fast Track are having a positive impact more widely at GenWest: “We are benefitting from her new energy and drive, especially post-lockdowns. I have benefited from her doing that course so much, she’s so enthused and confident and capable”.

Rosie noticed that Shweta is also sharing what she learned by supporting her own team to build their project management skills. Rosie explained: “So she’s savvy with her efforts, and the team is purposeful about how they are investing their resources and efforts, why they are doing things a certain way. And I am sure that has directly benefitted the community”.

Rosie also describes how Shweta has been able to apply what she learned at Fast Track about primary prevention frameworks to help culturally and linguistically diverse communities: “She has really taken those, and translated those in ways that she needed to, to apply in communities that are not Western … It’s a reminder of the opportunity that comes from something like Fast Track – this is exactly what we want to see, she is a real powerhouse!”

Shweta now describes logic models as “a great framework for my thinking”, which have helped her plan the next two years of her work at GenWest more strategically.

“The learnings from Fast Track have provided me with the language and structure to map out the direction in which we will expand the health promotion work at GenWest for migrant and refugee women”.

A future in prevention

Shweta is now working on a leadership development plan for herself and her team. Regarding her own career, she says: “Longer term, I see myself still working in prevention, definitely with migrant and refugee women”. After her current health outreach project, she would love to set up a project to help educate CALD women about gender and sexuality, topics she notes are rarely discussed in some cultures.

Overall, Shweta describes Fast Track as “an invaluable exercise” for increasing her knowledge about the family violence sector in Australia. “I feel like an insider and not an imposter anymore!” she exclaims. She observes that “the language we use in this industry is really hard. It’s such a barrier, it’s so academic … Some people who were on the course with me who are not as familiar with the space, for them it was great. And even some people who do work in the sector, there was still language they weren’t familiar with too!” She found that the facilitator was inspiring, the mentoring was excellent, and she enjoyed networking with the other participants on the course. Rosie also agrees that Fast Track is a valuable program for the sector, and hopes that GenWest can put forward other staff members to participate in the future.

Applications for the Fast Track prevention course will open in 2023. Learn more and join the waitlist here.

Page last updated Thursday, November 10 2022

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Safe and Equal’s response to the Federal Budget October 2022

Safe and Equal’s response to the Federal Budget October 2022

Friday 4 November 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the Albanese government’s first budget and acknowledges the tough financial circumstances in which it is being delivered.

This budget is an important first step towards implementing the new National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children. The Federal Government has committed $1.7 billion over 6 years towards women’s safety initiatives, including: 

  • $1.3B dedicated to response initiatives, including $39.6M to meet increased demand for the Escaping Violence Payment and $12.6M for a pilot program to assist victim survivors of family violence on temporary visas 
  • $169.4M over 4 years from 2022-23 (and $55.4M per year ongoing) to provide an additional 500 frontline family violence workers across Australia 
  • $13.4M over 4 years from 2022-23 to develop a 10-year National Housing and Homelessness Plan 
  • The establishment of a $10B Housing Australia Future Fund, including $100M for crisis and transitional housing options for women and children fleeing violence 
  • $225.2M in funding for primary prevention activities focused on stopping violence family and gendered violence from occurring in the first place 

While a much-needed increase in investment into family violence response and prevention initiatives is welcomed, we know that what’s been announced in this budget is not enough to achieve the agenda of the National Plan.  

Critical gaps remain in funding for areas of frontline service delivery and housing, which must be addressed if we are to achieve the National Plan’s ambitious goal of eliminating family violence in a generation. 

This includes increasing investment into meaningfully quantifying what funding is needed to deliver sustainable services and meet national demand for family violence support. It also involves implementing mechanisms to ensure funding provided enables long-term employment contracts for family violence workers and pay at a level commensurate with the specialist skills and qualifications required. 

We need more sophisticated data collection and analysis, to build a whole of system view and move towards measuring and improving outcomes for survivors.  

Additional investment is also critical to meet the crisis and long-term housing needs of all victim survivors, including women on temporary visas and other priority cohorts who suffer some of the worst housing outcomes.  

This budget is a good starting point for investment into long-term primary prevention efforts. Achieving generational change to prevent and ultimately end family and gender-based violence is going require investment from all levels of government to match the scope and scale of work – and the expertise needed to do this over time. 

Eliminating this violence is possible, and it will take sustained and purposeful investment across a range of initiatives. The first Action Plan associated with the new National Plan, and the next Federal Budget in May will provide ample opportunities to address these gaps and deliver additional funding to achieve safe and fair service responses for all victim survivors of family and gender-based violence.  

We look forward to continuing to work with the Federal Government to develop the action plans and deliver on the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children. 

Page last updated Friday, November 4 2022

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PiP Member Spotlight: Jodie Leahy from Nillumbik Council

PiP Member Spotlight: Jodie Leahy from Nillumbik Council

Friday 28 October 2022

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We spoke to our Partners in Prevention network member Jodie Leahy about her work in driving gender equity advocacy at Nillumbik Shire Council, and what she has found useful throughout her primary prevention career.

What is your professional background? And how did it lead you to prevention work.

I completed my Bachelor of Social Work at Victoria University. There I learnt about feminist and structuralist theory. My working background was in the response sector, I then moved into prevention around 9 years ago.

In 2014, I was a Social Worker at a council, and I started representing the council at the primary prevention networks. I was drawn in by the collective action, and the amazing work that people were implementing across their different settings. Prevention is really hopeful work.

Coming from response and building my knowledge of prevention and the health promotion model, it’s been great to see more of a connection between response and prevention work. Back then we didn’t have ‘Change the Story’, so seeing the evolution of this work has been really interesting.

Was there anything about those networks that inspired you?

I think the collective action, the amazing work that people were doing. When I first started, I wanted to get to know as many prevention workers as possible and build that peer support network.

When did you become passionate about gender equality?

I think I always was, but I didn’t have a name for it. In Uni, I enrolled in women’s studies and thought “This is what I’ve been looking for, this makes total sense.” Over the years my understanding has grown through listening, watching, reading and having many passionate conversations.

Raising my children – a daughter and a son – has made me even more passionate. They know mum advocates for equity. With the support of my partner, we are raising them to be passionate about gender equality and social justice. I also love how much they continue to teach me!

Tell us a little bit about what you’re working on now.

In 2019, Nillumbik Council received funding under Free from Violence.

15 gender equity advocates, including myself, were trained in Gender Equity 101. We then went out to our team meetings and introduced this topic to the whole organisation. We wanted gender equity as a permanent part of the agenda. It was about building conversation.

The next time we recruited advocates we got more people from the infrastructure area, including the depot and engineers, they presented to teams about our journey of gender equity, unconscious bias, gender, and intersectionality. It created a good understanding of this work and why we’re doing it. It also created multiple touch points to reach community, which wouldn’t be possible with one person.

The advocates are now being trained to complete Gender Impact Assessments to build capacity across Council and embed this practice as part of what we do.

It’s no longer just me doing this work within the organisation and I see that as progress. We have a whole team of staff across the organisation championing this work.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence – Nillumbik Shire Council

Gender Equity in the Early Years – Nillumbik Shire Council

What skills do you use in your role?

In my work, I use a lot of relational skills. Building connections and collaborative partnerships is important to me. I’m very open to learning and appreciate that we’re all learning together and supporting each other. Humour is also big focus for me, I like to have fun with my work.

What do you like about working in primary prevention?

In the primary prevention sector, you’re not in it alone. You may feel alone at the start, but once you build your support network around you, you realise you are part of a community and it’s very rewarding.

What have you found useful in the work that Safe and Equal and PiP do to support prevention workers?

I’ve really appreciated the opportunities to network, PreventX has been useful to hear what other people are doing and to be inspired. I’ve found the range of resources useful. Every month, I update our council intranet with new resources to share with the equity contact person in each team. This keeps gender equity and primary prevention on the agenda.

What advice do you have for someone new to the people sector?

Take the time to learn – you don’t need to know it all instantly. We’re all learning as we work in this space. You can get support by building up the network around you.

It’s important to have organisational care and support in this work, and important to have people you can debrief with when you need it because it’s emotional work and it has its challenges.

Whose work do you admire?

I admire all the people that work alongside me fighting for social justice and the amazing women who have gone before me. What I learn from them helps me in my work.

Page last updated Friday, October 28 2022

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Safe and Equal responds to the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032

Safe and Equal responds to the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032

Monday 17 October 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the launch of the second National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children, and its significant aim to end violence in one generation.

The new National Plan, running across 10 years from 2022 to 2032, is Australia’s united response to address one of our society’s most complex and critical problems.  

Ending family and gender-based violence – which is entirely possible – requires ongoing commitment, dedicated resources, and clarity of roles and responsibilities across all levels of government and throughout the community. A National Plan that recognises the importance of specialist service providers and professionals, one that promotes consistent standards and tangible, measurable outcomes to support and strengthen system capacity and capability in preventing and responding to family violence and sexual assault, is crucial. 

Significantly, the new National Plan clearly articulates the essential leadership role that specialist family violence services play in working with victim survivors and perpetrators, as well as building a robust evidence-base and informing policy development and system design. 

“Our specialist workforces are the frontline responders to the wicked scourge of family violence across Australia,” said Safe and Equal Chief Executive Officer Tania Farha. 

“Their expert understanding of the drivers, dynamics, risk factors and impacts of family violence is extremely nuanced and integral to effective, inclusive and trauma-informed responses to victim survivors.” 

“I have seen first-hand the impact these highly skilled professionals have on the safety and wellbeing of the victim survivors they support. It is crucial that all levels of government prioritise the sustainable resourcing of our sector, so they can continue to do this critical work,” said Ms Farha. 

The development of the second National Plan, which has involved consultation with specialist experts, allied sectors and people with lived experience, brings together approaches from all parts of our community and all levels of government to show that everybody has a role to play when it comes to eliminating family and gender-based violence. Importantly, the Plan also highlights the necessity of addressing the gendered drivers of this violence through targeted primary prevention initiatives. 

“Unless we address the underlying causes, we will continue to respond to the symptoms rather than stopping this violence from happening in the first place,” said Ms Farha. 

“We cannot eliminate violence in one generation without a concentrated focus on tackling the deeply ingrained attitudes, beliefs and structures that drives gender-based violence.” 

The second National Plan is a significant milestone in itself, but its implementation is where the hard work begins. We look forward to working collaboratively with governments, specialist services and with victim survivors to develop the first five-year Action Plan, which will set out in more detail what needs to happen to achieve these significant goals.

We have a real opportunity to change the course of our nation – let’s get to work. 

View the National Plan here.

Page last updated Monday, October 17 2022

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Five-year legislative review – Submission to the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor

Five-year legislative review – Submission to the Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor

15 September 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Family Violence Reform Monitor’s Independent legislative review of family violence reforms.

We understand that this review is primarily focused on reviewing Parts 5A and 11 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (the Act), and that this encompasses the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme (FVISS), the Central Information Point (CIP) and the Multiagency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) framework. As non-legal experts, our capacity to comment specifically on the Act is limited. However, as the peak body for specialist family violence services in Victoria and given our specific involvement in the MARAM and Information Sharing Sector Capacity Building Grants, we are in a unique position to comment on the extent to which the intention of the legislation is being realised through implementation and practice. We are also well placed to identify the emerging issues and barriers to successful implementation of the Act and where there are opportunities for improvement.

In preparing this submission, we have widely consulted with our members, including managers and senior practitioners working in The Orange Door sites, Disability Practice Leadership and the Risk Assessment Management Panel (RAMP) community of practice. Safe and Equal hold funding from the MARAM and Information Sharing Sector Capacity Building Grants. The expertise and knowledge of Safe and Equals MARAM and Information Sharing Advisor, the associated community of practice, and the historic knowledge of the reforms held by Safe and Equal member organisations and staff also inform this submission.

We heard consistently through our consultations that the family violence reforms, and in particular the MARAM framework and FVISS have provided a valuable authorising environment and common language for consistent and collaborative practice. However, it is a challenging task to effectively differentiate between the efficacy and impact of the legislation and the implementation of this legislation which is supported by practice guidance, frameworks and tools. Despite these challenges, we know that inconsistent implementation and interpretation of the legislation results in failure to realise the intent of the reforms.

With this in mind, this submission is structured around main themes which emerged from consultations with our member organisations and communities of practice regarding strengths and challenges of aligning to and implementing the MARAM and FVISS, as well as engagement with the legislation itself. These themes include the critical need to centre the voices and experiences of victim survivors from marginalised communities to ensure that the system is safe for everyone, implementation and finally the interface between the Act and other legislative and systemic frameworks. Within each theme, we highlight strengths and challenges and make recommendations for potential improvements and further investigation.

Page last updated Thursday, September 15 2022

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Change takes time: Safe and Equal calls for a continued focus on family violence in their 2022 Victorian Election Platform

Change takes time: Safe and Equal calls for a continued focus on family violence in their 2022 Victorian Election Platform

Wednesday 7 September 2022

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Ending family violence is complex. Even with the incredible investment into improving Victoria’s response to family violence in recent years, barriers and gaps still exist.

“The Royal Commission into Family Violence laid the groundwork for some significant changes to the way we prevent and respond to family violence in Victoria,” said Louise Simms, Safe and Equal Acting Chief Executive Officer.

“But change takes time. If we want to end family violence, we need renewed commitment and ongoing action from government.” 

Safe and Equal, Victoria’s peak body representing specialist family violence services, is calling on all parties to commit to these five key priorities ahead of the 2022 Victorian election: 

  1. Investing more in specialist family violence services to meet escalating demand 
  2. Growing, developing, and retaining specialist workforces  
  3. Eliminating the impossible ‘choice’ between violence and homelessness  
  4. Addressing system gaps and barriers to make services accessible for all 
  5. Investing meaningfully into primary prevention 

 “Eliminating family violence is going to take ongoing, coordinated action,” said Ms Simms. 

“We’re seeking commitment from across the political spectrum to address these issues and ensure that every person experiencing family violence in Victoria can access the support and safety they need, when they need it.” 

Read the full Election Platform here. 

Page last updated Wednesday, September 7 2022

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Breaking down the ABS report ‘Domestic Violence: Experiences of Partner Emotional Abuse’

Breaking down the ABS report ‘Domestic Violence: Experiences of Partner Emotional Abuse’

Wednesday 31 August 2022

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According to a new report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 3.6 million Australians have experienced emotional abuse from a partner.

In the report Domestic Violence: Experiences of Partner Emotional Abuse, the ABS provides an analysis of data from the 2016 Personal Safety Survey (PSS), identifying key characteristics that are associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing emotional abuse from a partner. 

Let’s break this down.  

What does the ABS mean when they refer to ‘emotional abuse?’ 

According to the report, the ABS defines ‘emotional abuse’ in the PSS as specific behaviours or actions that: 

“…are aimed at preventing or controlling [a person’s] behaviour, causing them emotional harm or fear. These behaviours are characterised in nature by their intent to manipulate, control, isolate or intimidate the person they are aimed at. They are generally repeated behaviours and include psychological, social, financial (also known as economic abuse), and verbal abuse.”

Examples of emotional abuse as defined by the ABS include: 

  • Trying to stop a person from contacting their friends, family, or community 
  • Constantly putting someone down 
  • Limiting a person’s access to household money 
  • Threatening to remove access to a person’s child/children. 

With this definition in mind, the data collected in the PSS found that an estimated one in four women (or 2.2 million) have experienced emotional abuse since the age of 15, from either a current or former partner. 

Does this differ to coercive control? 

The term ‘emotional abuse’ is often used interchangeably with coercive control, but they are not the same. Coercive control is not a separate form of family violence – rather, it is a part of all family violence, including emotional abuse. 

Think of it this way: coercive control is a pattern of abusive behaviours and tactics used by a perpetrator to gain power and control over a victim survivor. It is not a ‘standalone’ type of family violence. All forms of family violence can be used by a perpetrator to gain and maintain power and control. 

It’s also important to remember that when we talk about family violence, we are talking about patterns of abusive behaviours that are used to control someone in a family, family-like or intimate relationship, and to make that person feel afraid for their safety and wellbeing. It can take many forms – not just physical or sexual abuse. Similarly, all forms of family violence can be separate, or can occur together. 

The behaviours defined by the ABS as emotional abuse include a range of tactics associated with other forms of family violence, such as financial abuse. 

With that in mind, what does the ABS data say? 

Women with disability, single parents and people experiencing financial stress were more likely to experience abuse 

The report highlighted several characteristics that were linked with higher rates of emotional abuse. 

For instance, women aged between 30 and 54 experienced the highest rates of emotional abuse, while women aged over 65 were less likely to experience abuse. 

6.3% of women with disability or a long-term health condition had experienced partner emotional abuse, compared to 4.1% of women without disability or a long-term health condition.  

Women who were single parents of children under 15 years old were more than twice as likely to experience partner emotional abuse, compared with women from all other household types. 

Both men and women living in households who had experienced cash flow problems within the last 12 months were more than twice as likely to experience partner emotional abuse as those who did not experience cash flow issues. Similarly, women living in households that were unable to raise $2000 in a week for something important were almost twice as likely to experience partner emotional abuse. 

The most common emotional abuse experienced was threatening and degrading behaviours 

76% of women who had experienced emotional abuse by a current partner had experienced that abuse in the form of threatening or degrading behaviours. 41% had experienced abuse in the form of controlling financial behaviours. 

Significantly, of the 1.7 million women who experienced emotional abuse by a previous partner, 88% experience threatening or degrading behaviours, and 63% experienced controlling social behaviours. 

The data from this report further highlights that regardless of what forms it takes, family violence is always underpinned by power and control. Coercive and controlling behaviours are found across all types of family violence, not just emotional abuse. 

Find out more about different forms of family violence here. 

For more information on family violence, including how you can seek support for yourself or a loved one, visit Are You Safe at Home? 

Page last updated Wednesday, August 31 2022

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Supporting communities to help end family violence: Safe and Equal launches ‘Are You Safe at Home?’ videos

Supporting communities to help end family violence: Safe and Equal launches ‘Are You Safe at Home?’ videos

Wednesday 24 August 2022

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Conversations about family violence are important - and we want to spread the word that anyone can make a difference simply by listening and offering support.

That’s why we’ve created four new videos for our Are You Safe at Home? initiative. These short animations, which are available in 15 community languages, have been created to support family, friends and colleagues of people who are experiencing family violence.  

‘Family and friends are often the first ones to know something isn’t right. They play a crucial role in identifying and responding to family violence in the community,’ said Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha. 

‘We know that starting the conversation can be hard, which is why these videos and resources are so important. They’re simple but powerful tools to help people support loved ones who are experiencing abuse.’ 

We need your help! 

Media has the power to reach so many different communities – including people who may not know what family violence is, or what they can do to help their loved ones.  

We are asking for your support to help raise awareness across Australia – through sharing the videos on your digital channels, social media, or by linking to the Are You Safe At Home? website at the bottom of any articles you publish on family violence. This is an invaluable way for your readers to access information and support. 

Please reach out via media@safeandequal.org.au if you have any questions, or if you would like to work with us on an upcoming story. 

Page last updated Wednesday, August 24 2022

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Safe and Equal responds to proposed consent legislation reforms

Safe and Equal responds to proposed consent legislation reforms

Thursday 11 August 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the recently proposed reforms to consent legislation in Victoria. These amendments mean that, legally, consent for sexual activity must be actively sought and can be withdrawn at any time. Significantly, this would mean the law recognises that consent cannot be given if coerced under fear or force.

The introduction of this legislation is an important and historical moment in Victoria, and an incredible step forward in upholding the rights of victims of sexual violence.  

“By amending these laws, the Victorian Government is sending a clear message to victim survivors: that they’ve been heard, they are believed, and they deserve better legal recourse,” said Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha. 

“It also sends the message to perpetrators that sexual assault in all forms will not be tolerated by our justice system.”  

Family violence and sexual assault are inextricably linked. Family violence is an ongoing pattern of power and control which results in a victim survivor living in constant fear for their safety. These proposed changes recognise this, and acknowledge that consent cannot be freely given when there’s a threat of family violence. 

“Perpetrators of family violence use a range of complex tactics to maintain control over victim survivors,” said Ms Farha.  

“These tactics, known as coercive control, completely erode a victim survivor’s sense of safety and identity and instil a permanent sense of fear – that’s why these changes are needed.” 

The implementation of this legislation must be supported by broader awareness raising, professional development and education for young people. We know this is on the agenda and urge the government to prioritise the full scope of work needed. 

Changing the law is just one step in recognising and responding to sexual assault and family violence. There’s more work to do, including implementing the rest of the recommendations outlined by the Victorian Law Reform Commission in the Improving the Response of the Justice System to Sexual Offences Report. 

We commend the Victorian Government for prioritising what is an incredibly complex area of law reform and look forward to working together to create stronger outcomes for victim survivors of sexual assault and family violence and, ultimately, preventing this violence before it occurs. 

We also acknowledge that these reforms would not have been possible without the tireless advocacy of many victim survivors – to them, we say thank you. 

Page last updated Thursday, August 11 2022

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Response to the Inquiry into children affected by parental incarceration report

Response to the Inquiry into children affected by parental incarceration report

Tuesday 9 August 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the release of the final report from Victoria’s Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee’s inquiry into children affected by parental incarceration.

The report details how shockingly invisible these children are within the system, and the significant harms they experience when deprived of the opportunity to grow up with their parents. The Inquiry’s findings make clear the lack of appropriate community support available to children and families affected by parental incarceration, and the failure of the justice system and courts to consider the rights and needs of children when making custodial rulings. 

Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha commended the Committee’s recommendations for longer-term, sustainable funding for organisations that support these children and families. 

Organisations that support children and families of incarcerated parents do significant and highly-specialised work. It’s great to see their vital expertise acknowledged and prioritised in the report, she said. 

We welcome all recommendations contained in the report, and are particularly pleased to see the following: 

  • Legislative reform should be enacted to reduce the growing prison population in Victoria. 
  • That the Victorian Government implement systemic data collection processes to identify the number of children impacted by parental incarceration, including the children of parents on remand. 
  • That Victoria Police, in collaboration with legal and community stakeholders, implement a review mechanism for family violence matters capable of identifying instances where a victim survivor may have been misidentified as the primary aggressor in an incident and provide information about a process for the withdrawal of criminal charges. 
  • That the Victorian Government actively and continuously consult with children and families affected by parental incarceration in designing and implementing appropriate systemic changes and improved supports for this cohort. 
  • That the Victorian Government develop a long-term sustainable funding model to resource community organisations that support children affected by parental incarceration and their families. 

Importantly, the Committee’s findings highlight that family violence is a significant driver of women’s imprisonment. Without appropriate support for women and mothers experiencing family violence, we will continue to see unfathomably high rates of incarceration, and the increased risk of harm to children.

Even short periods of imprisonment can result in catastrophic implications for women and their children. We can’t ignore the links between structural gender inequality, family violence and the rising rates of women in Victoria’s prisons.

– Tania Farha, Safe and Equal CEO 

The report further highlights the improvements to systemic data collection required to address the invisibility of children and young people whose parents are in prison. As we simply don’t know how many Victorian children currently have a parent in prison, we cannot offer appropriate supports, or work to improve the system to better meet their needs.  

Notably, this report was released on National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Children’s Day (4 August). We know that women, and in particular Aboriginal women, are the fastest growing cohort in Victorian prisons. As the report states, 20 per cent of Aboriginal children will experience parental incarceration, compared to 5 per cent of non-Aboriginal children.  

These statistics are unacceptable and require urgent action. We recognise the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the face of ongoing colonisation, racism and discrimination, and acknowledge that these factors lead to the over-incarceration of Aboriginal people. 

We are heartened to see such considered and actionable recommendations, despite the undeniable complexity of the issues detailed in the report. We look forward to working with the Victorian Government and our colleagues in the justice sector to achieve meaningful and long-lasting outcomes for these children. 

Read the full report here.

Page last updated Tuesday, August 9 2022

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Family violence, homelessness and pregnancy: Keeping the perpetrator in view

Family violence, homelessness and pregnancy: Keeping the perpetrator in view

Wednesday 3 August 2022

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This op-ed, written by Safe and Equal's Policy Manager Kate Mecham, first appeared in Volume 35 of Parity Magazine, Australia's national homelessness publication.

A note on language: Safe and Equal recognises that family violence impacts people across a diversity of gender identities, social and cultural contexts, and within various intimate, family and family-like relationships. Consequently, we predominately use the gender-inclusive terms ‘victim survivor’ and ‘perpetrator’ to acknowledge the complex ways family violence manifests across the community. Importantly, the term ‘victim survivor’ refers to both adults and children who experience family violence, recognising that children and young people who experience family violence are victim survivors in their own right. However, where references are being made specifically to the experiences of women, we use gendered language to accurately reflect this. As this article refers to people who are pregnant — who are predominantly women, I have chosen to use gendered language in this article.

As the peak body for family violence services in Victoria, Safe and Equal is very pleased to sponsor this edition of Parity and draw attention to the interconnections between pregnancy, homelessness and family violence.

We know that pregnancy and immediately post-birth are times of increased risk of family violence. In the case of intimate partner violence, as relationship dynamics begin to change with the impending birth of a baby, family violence may start for the first time or it may escalate if already present, putting both mother and baby at risk. For young people who are pregnant, family violence risk may be present in the form of intimate partner violence and/or from their family of origin who may not be supportive of the pregnancy, further complicating the level of risk experienced and the types of supports needed to support young mothers and their children.

It is common for women and young people to find a new impetus to leave family violence when they become mothers, or when it becomes clear that their children are also being affected by the violence. Violence against themselves may be tolerated, but violence against their children is not. Thus, pregnancy creates both an opportunity and risk — an opportunity to engage with victim survivors of family violence to talk about safety, and a risk as pregnancy is already a time of increased risk that increases again at times of separation or when planning to leave.

We know that family violence is the leading cause of homelessness among women and children. Many mothers are faced with the dreadful choice of remaining in a violent relationship or taking their children and leaving only to be faced with the very real prospect of becoming homeless. Family violence is also the leading cause of youth homelessness, as many young people who experience family violence leave home to escape. For young women experiencing homelessness, the risk of family violence, sexual assault and pregnancy increases.

‘No woman should be forced to make the choice between putting herself and her children at risk of homelessness or continuing to experience family violence’.

This nexus of pregnancy, family violence and homelessness is why this edition of Parity is so important. Research on the experiences of women who are pregnant and homeless has demonstrated that a vast majority of these women have experienced family violence. In the mix of pregnancy, medical needs, homelessness, possible drug or alcohol addiction and/or mental illness, where is the perpetrator?

When working with women who are pregnant and homeless, these critical questions must be asked. Is this woman a victim survivor of family violence? Is attempting to leave family violence the reason they are homeless? Are we recognizing and supporting both the woman and her children’s acts of resistance and efforts to stay safe in the face of violence? Where is the perpetrator? Is the system keeping them in view? Do services know where they are, what they are doing, and how their actions may have impacted and still be impacting the mother and child?

Are we viewing mental illness or substance abuse through a trauma‑informed lens, which may reveal that these issues are a response to family violence‑related trauma? Are we recognising that, for some of these women and children, family violence may still be occurring? That this trauma is not an event they have left behind, even if they are being linked in with other services?

If the abuse, violence, coercive control and resulting fear are ongoing, recovery from family violence is not possible. Are we able to acknowledge what a mammoth task it may be for the mother to effect certain changes in her life at this time? Are we able to adjust service expectations accordingly, with a view to keeping both mother and child safe and — ideally — together?

In such scenarios, it is critical that we shift our focus to the perpetrator of family violence and assess to what extent their actions are the root cause of many other issues someone who is pregnant and homeless may be experiencing. If the family violence risk from the perpetrator was removed, how might the health, wellbeing and safety of each woman and her baby be improved?

Fortunately, Victoria is starting to make this shift. The introduction of the family violence Multi Agency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM) framework is supporting non-specialist family violence services who work with victim survivors of family violence to better assess the safety needs of both adult, child and adolescent victim survivors. The Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme (FVISS), Child Information Sharing Scheme (CISS) and rollout of the Central Information Point (CIP) all are enhancing services’ abilities to share risk-relevant information about perpetrators and victim survivors to better inform risk assessments, safety planning and holistic service delivery.

These reforms are still in the early days of implementation, and their full effect on outcomes for victim survivors, including women who are pregnant and homeless who have experienced family violence, is still yet to be felt. But they are also not enough on their own. Even when fully implemented, much will rely on the expertise and experience of individual practitioners to be able to utilise these tools effectively. It is, therefore, necessary that sectors are resourced to support their staff to use these tools and work collaboratively with other sectors to answer these critical questions through multiple practice lenses to get the best picture of what a client needs.

We also need housing.

Homelessness cannot be solved without housing. No woman should be forced to make the choice between putting herself and her children at risk of homelessness or continuing to experience family violence. We cannot reasonably expect anyone to address mental illness or substance abuse issues when they are homeless, managing a pregnancy and faced with the prospect of bringing a baby into the world without a safe place to live. We also need more crisis accommodation for young people who are independently fleeing family violence, either from an intimate partner or family of origin, to stop the intergenerational impact of family violence.

The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence very clearly found that children experience the effects of family violence prior to birth. Yet the service infrastructure and amount of safe, affordable, long‑term housing to support women who are pregnant and experiencing family violence and homelessness remains insufficient to address their needs. We are immensely pleased that attention is being drawn to this group of women and children and look forward to the ensuing conversation about what is needed and how to best support them.

Page last updated Wednesday, August 3 2022

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Fast Track Prevention Program Wrap-up

Fast Track Prevention Program Wrap-up

Wednesday 27 July 2022

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In the last week of June, the Fast Track prevention program held their end-of-program forum and final workshop for round 3.

Fast Track is a 10-week online program that supports professionals in the prevention and response sectors advance their careers by building skills in leadership, advocacy, partnerships, and program design.  

A cohort of 24 practitioners completed the course from a range of organisations and regions across Victoria. The final workshop focussed on advocating for change, with Emily Maguire (CEO, Respect Victoria) and Diana Sayed (CEO, Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights) joining us for a panel discussion. The level of engagement throughout the program was high, with participants feeling a real sense of camaraderie and reinvigoration to continue their work in prevention.  

I have enjoyed this course immensely! I have not only learned a lot but have practical knowledge and skills to apply to my practice in Family Violence Prevention work and have made some great long-time relationships/networks with amazing people from the course. Thank you so much for the opportunity!

-Fast Track prevention program participant

The end-of-program forum was a success, attended by Fast Track participants and managers, mentors, and staff from DFFH and Safe and Equal. The forum was an opportunity to connect and celebrate participants’ hard work, with presentations showcasing enhanced knowledge and skills that they can apply in their workplaces. The session begun with a discussion between Tania Farha and participants around leadership, what participants valued from the program, and future hopes for leadership within the sector. The scaffolded learning outcomes covered in each weekly module alongside support from their mentors enabled participants to identify and design a workplace project to implement back in their organisation. Some workplace project logics presented at the forum included: 

  • Building a rural gender equity workforce; train the trainer model
  • Supporting multicultural and faith communities to prevent family violence, and
  • Embedding gender equality into teaching practice for the community education sector.

The Fast Track program is now entering an evaluation phase; we have partnered with Lirata and look forward to conducting a thorough evaluation of the program and sharing the analysis and findings later in the year. Discussions are currently in progress regarding the future funding of Fast Track, to join the waitlist for upcoming prevention leadership development opportunities, please click here 

Page last updated Wednesday, July 27 2022

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Being brave with Elizabeth Morgan House

Being brave with Elizabeth Morgan House

Monday 30 May 2022

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From Kalina Morgan-Whyman, CEO, Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women’s Service Inc. 

This National Reconciliation Week, we are reminded that we need to ‘Be brave. Make change.’

It has never been more important for Aboriginal women and children to have allies in our ongoing efforts to advocate for their human rights. The statistics are shocking: 

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 5 times more likely to be victims of homicide than other Australian women. More than half (55 per cent) of these homicides are related to family violence.    
  • Aboriginal women constitute 34% of the female prison population and are only 2% of the general population.    
  • 87% of Victorian Aboriginal women in prison are themselves a victim of sexual, physical or emotional abuse.  
  • Aboriginal children are taken from their families by child services at 8 times the rate of non-indigenous children.   

Getting help is difficult because of a lack of cultural appropriateness in many services, and fears from Aboriginal women that access to support leads to interacting with a system that would remove their child or lead to further violence. Everyday, our case workers are supporting women and children through a system that discriminates and further traumatises them. Aboriginal women and children need culturally appropriate services so they are safe and can heal.  

We are seeing how Aboriginal women are treated in the news at the moment, with the latest coronial enquiry into an Aboriginal woman’s death in custody. We hear stories of a lack of medical care and inhumane treatment all the time. Aboriginal women incarcerated in Victoria receive grossly inadequate healthcare. This failure is causing preventable and treatable illnesses to become chronic, and in too many cases, is directly resulting in the deaths of Aboriginal women.  

There must be change. 

Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women’s Service (EMH) is Aboriginal-led, for Aboriginal women and children. We remain the only high-security refuge for Aboriginal women in the state, with accommodation for just four families at one time – not nearly enough to accommodate the referrals received.  

EMH is committed to advancing the International Human Rights principles for our women and their children. The safety of women is paramount, and we seek to address power, systems, structure, gendered inequality and discrimination that exists and impacts our Aboriginal women. 

EMH is taking up the challenge with an ambitious agenda to provide leadership in this space. There are ways you can help: 

Donate to us here: https://www.givenow.com.au/elizabethmorganhouse.  

Add Aboriginal women’s voices to your work – contact us to find out how.  

Follow us across social media and help spread the message that Aboriginal are strong, resilient, wise and brave. Reach out to find more ways to partner with us. 

www.emhaws.org.au/get-involved 

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Page last updated Monday, May 30 2022

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#SeenAndBelieved: LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day 2022

#SeenAndBelieved: LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day 2022

Friday 27 May 2022

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Saturday 28 May is LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day – an opportunity to raise awareness and increase visibility of domestic, family and intimate partner violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex, queer, and asexual people.

What began as a Brisbane-based awareness day in 2020 is now a national initiative – one that centres the voices of LGBTIQA+ communities and aims to educate allies, organisations and the general public about the systemic discrimination, erasure and additional barriers LGBTIQA+ people face when trying to seek domestic violence support. 

For Elvis Martin, a youth advocate and member of Safe and Equal’s Expert Advisory Panel, LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day is a reminder of the work that is still needed to ensure all LGBTIQA+ people can access safe and inclusive support. 

“Because so many people view family violence as something experienced by cisgender heterosexual women, perpetrated by cisgender heterosexual men, it can be really hard for anyone outside of that binary to be seen and acknowledged as a person experiencing violence,” he said.

“This makes it very difficult to access support – if we don’t realise that what we are experiencing is family violence, and the system isn’t recognising it, we fall through the cracks.” 

Research indicates that people who identify as LGBTIQA+ experience family violence and intimate partner violence at similar rates to those who identify as heterosexual. Private Lives is Australia’s largest national survey of the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQA+ people, conducted by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) at La Trobe University. The third edition of the survey, released in 2020, found that more than two out of five survey respondents reported experiencing intimate partner violence, and two out of five survey respondents reported experiencing family violence, predominantly from parents and older siblings.  

The survey also highlights the unique circumstances in which LGBTIQA+ people may be subjected to violence, including rejection or abuse after ‘coming out’ to family members. As a young person, Elvis’ experience of family violence directly intersected with experiences of homophobia and discrimination. 

“For a long time, I did not know that what I was experiencing was family violence,” he said.  

“I didn’t know what to think – I would just tell myself that I was experiencing ‘conflict’ with my family. I did not see it as family violence until someone else named it.” 

After recognising that what he was experiencing was family violence, Elvis realised there were further systemic barriers for LGBTIQA+ people seeking support that other communities may not face.  

“For starters, there are not many LGBTIQA+ specialist family violence services, and many people don’t know who or where they are,” he said. 

“Adding to that are the ongoing experiences of systemic discrimination and prejudice LGBTIQA+ communities are subjected to. This can increase our distrust of services, so even if we know a mainstream service is there, we might be hesitant to reach out.” 

Challenging systemic discrimination and prejudice is key to the theme of this year’s LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day – #SeenandBelieved. For Elvis, having people name the violence and ask about his safety was life-changing.  

“Just having someone say that to me made me feel seen and believed. It gave me the confidence to seek professional support, which was something I was unable to do previously,” says Elvis. 

“But we can’t just rely on professionals – because there are less LGBTQIA+ family violence services, the community has a really important role in supporting each other,” he adds. 

“Just being there for someone who is experiencing family violence is so important. You don’t have to tell them what to do, just be there for them, don’t judge them, and let them tell you what they need.”

After overcoming some very difficult circumstances, Elvis now uses his lived experience to educate others in the community and amplify the voices of the LGBTIQA+ community. It is his hope that with initiatives like LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day, more people will feel supported to disclose abuse and reach out for help, and services will become safer and more inclusive for LGBTIQA+ people. 

“There is so much power in having these conversations. The more awareness we raise, the more our experiences are validated, the more we feel seen and respected, and the more government and policy makers must listen and change.” 

For more information on LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day, visit https://www.dvafoundation.org/. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, you can contact Rainbow Door on 1800 729 367 (10am – 5pm, every day) or QLife on 1800 184 527 (3pm-midnight, every day) for LGBTIQA+ peer support, information and referral, or 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 (24 hours, 7 days).

Page last updated Friday, May 27 2022

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International Day Against LGBTIQA+ Discrimination

International Day Against LGBTIQA+ Discrimination

Tuesday 17 May 2022

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Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia, also known as IDAHOBIT. The date commemorates when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from the Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems on 17 May 1990.

IDAHOBIT reminds us we must stand with and celebrate LGBTIQA+ people and communities across the globe, raise awareness and acknowledge there is still significant work required to eliminate LGBTQIA+ discrimination. People who identify as LGBTIQA+ experience family violence and intimate partner violence at similar rates to those who identify as heterosexual. However, LGBTIQA+ people face systemic discrimination, erasure, and additional barriers to accessing tailored family violence support. 

Safe and Equal stands against homophobia, biphobia, intersexism and transphobia. We recognise the ongoing violence and discrimination that LGBTIQA+ people face on a daily basis, particularly in the context of family violence, and continue to advocate for change. We celebrate the wisdom, strength and humour of LGBTIQA+ communities, and strive to make our organisation an inclusive space where everyone is welcomed and valued. 

There is a lot of work occurring across the organisation to promote and support LGBTIQA+ community partnerships and collaboration. Recently, we partnered with Switchboard to develop a tip sheet to help practitioners responding to family violence provide LGBTIQA+ inclusive support.  

Last week, we joined with gender equity and women’s safety organisations across the nation to speak out in support of inclusion, dignity and respect for trans women. This Fair Agenda initiative is in response to the disturbing attempts by some political candidates to foster division by attacking the rights of trans women to participate in community and professional sports. We are deeply concerned about this divisive, hate-filled debate and its potential to fuel increasing violence against trans women and girls. You can read the joint statement and add your support here 

We are also proud to be working towards achieving our Rainbow Tick accreditation, which ensures Safe and Equal is a safe, inclusive and affirming organisation and employer for LGBTIQA+ communities.  

Finally, we are excited to be co-hosting an upcoming webinar with Switchboard and the Zoe Belle Gender Collective, to commemorate LGBTIQA+ DV Awareness Day on Thursday 26 May. The webinar is an opportunity to learn how we can better respond and support trans women of colour who are experiencing family and intimate partner violence.  

These are all important steps, but there is much more work to be done to ensure our sector can provide safe and inclusive support to all LGBTIQA+ people. 

If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can support and advocate for the LGBTIQA+ community, for IDAHOBIT and beyond, take a look and share content from Minus18 and Switchboard, two organisations doing critical work towards supporting and creating space for LGBTIQA+ people. There’s also a page on the Safe and Equal website that provides more information on how services can support LGBTIQA+ people experiencing family and domestic violence, including a list of specialist services and programs. 

Page last updated Tuesday, May 17 2022

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Submission to the Inquiry into children affected by parental incarceration

Submission to the Inquiry into children affected by parental incarceration

11 May 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Inquiry into Children of Imprisoned Parents. As the peak body for specialist family violence services that provide support to victim survivors in Victoria, our response to this inquiry centres the devastating and long-term impacts of family violence on children and their incarcerated family members.

The majority of women and gender diverse people in prison are survivors of violence and trauma (experienced either in childhood or as an adult) and up to 70% of women in prison are parents. Victoria is experiencing a dramatic and unacceptable increase in the number of women being incarcerated (137.82% over the previous decade), including a dramatic rise in the number of unsentenced women entering the prison system on remand (43% of the total number of women in prison in 2020). Women risk losing housing, employment and custody of their children while imprisoned. Even short periods of imprisonment due to remand can result in catastrophic implications for women and their children, furthering the legacy of family violence, trauma and structural disadvantage.

Concerted and urgent measures to address the drivers of women’s incarceration are required to stop Victoria’s “prisons functioning as a substitute for social and community infrastructure.

Page last updated Wednesday, May 11 2022

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Start a conversation to end family violence

Start a conversation to end family violence

Tuesday 10 May 2022

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Today (May 10) is Are You Safe At Home? Day – a chance to start a conversation to end family violence.

When the first round of Melbourne lockdowns occurred in March 2020, people experiencing abuse found themselves stuck at home with their perpetrators 24/7 – without the respite that work, socialising and daily life had otherwise provided. Calls to helplines dried up as women were unable to reach out for support without alerting their perpetrator. 

During this time, family violence services started reporting an increase in ‘third parties’ – friends, family members and neighbours – contacting them with concerns about someone in their life.  

It was from these circumstances that Safe and Equal developed Are You Safe at Home? – a campaign to reduce the stigma and fear associated with asking the question, and to support communities to feel more comfortable identifying and responding to family violence. 

Expanding to a national campaign in 2022, the new Are You Safe at Home? website provides people experiencing abuse with information about what family violence is, ways to stay safe, and where to find support. Asking the question can be tough, so the website also includes information for friends, family and community members on how to respond appropriately if you suspect someone you know is experiencing family violence, centered around asking, ‘are you safe at home?’. 

‘For someone experiencing abuse, having someone ask about your safety can be incredibly meaningful. To have someone actually name what you’re experiencing as violence, believe you and offer non-judgmental support can be life-changing.’

– Tania Farha, Safe and Equal CEO

This morning’s live-streamed event to launch the very first Are You Safe at Home? Day provided an opportunity to centre the voices of lived experience and learn about the significant role individuals can play in the fight to end family violence.  

Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, Gabrielle Williams, gave a powerful opening address that articulated the significance of community engagement and support in preventing and responding to family violence. 

‘Where people are, is where this conversation needs to be. It’s as simple as that,’ she said. 

Minister Williams went on to acknowledge the importance of awareness-raising campaigns in further educating the public, saying ‘the community at large has more of an understanding of what family violence is, due in large part to campaigns like this.’ 

Following Minister Williams’ address, MC and AFLW Richmond player Akec Majur Chuot facilitated a discussion with Elvis and Mishka* two survivor advocates who both have had experiences with being asked ‘are you safe at home?’. 

For Elvis, who experienced family violence related to his identity as a young LGBTQIA+ person, being able to name what he was experiencing as family violence was complex and difficult. 

For a long time, I thought family violence was only experienced by women in intimate partner relationships,’ he said.

‘If someone would have asked me…I might have opened up about my experience and maybe that would have fast-tracked my recovery.’ 

Mishka* shared her similar experience with being unable to recognise that she was experiencing family violence, but had supportive work colleagues who were able to name the violence and provide pathways to safety. 

‘Quite often the last person to realise they are a family violence victim is the victim themselves….my colleagues knew I was a family violence victim before I did,’ she said. 

Both Elvis and Mishka* highlighted the importance of bystander intervention – particularly of being non-judgemental and asking the individual experiencing violence what they need for support. 

‘If you see a red flag, it doesn’t do any harm to call it out and ask the question…you’ve planted a seed,’ said Mishka*. 

‘Just be a good listener. Be there for someone, listen to what they are going through,’ added Elvis. 

Both advocates advised that having regular check-ins, offering practical support and remaining patient and understanding can really make all the difference. 

‘What my colleagues did was slowly build me up, and show me I was valued and cared about, and that the violence was not my fault,’ said Mishka*. 

‘That gave me the strength to save myself, to get myself safe.’ 

Safe and Equal would like to thank Elvis, Mishka*, Akec and Minister Williams for providing their advocacy and support in the launch of Are You Safe at Home? Day. 

Click here to view the livestream of the Are You Safe At Home? Day event.

For more information and resources, please visit www.areyousafeathome.org.au. 

 

*names have been changed. 

Page last updated Tuesday, May 10 2022

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Are You Safe At Home? Five words that can start a conversation to end family violence

Are You Safe At Home? Five words that can start a conversation to end family violence

Monday 9 May 2022

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When Jennifer* was in a decades-long abusive relationship, it was her mother Susan’s* unwavering love and practical support that gave Jennifer the confidence to seek help and safely leave.

For Mishka*, a simple but powerful question from her manager started a journey to safety she never thought possible. 

When the first round of Melbourne lockdowns occurred in March 2020, people experiencing abuse found themselves stuck at home with their perpetrators 24/7 – without the respite that work, socialising and daily life had otherwise provided. Calls to helplines dried up as women were unable to reach out for support without alerting their perpetrator. 

During this time, family violence services started reporting an increase in ‘third parties’ – friends, family members and neighbours – contacting them with concerns about someone in their life. 

It was from these circumstances that Safe and Equal developed Are You Safe At Home? – a campaign to further educate and support communities to start the conversation to end family violence.  

Are You Safe At Home? provides people experiencing abuse with information about what family violence is, ways to stay safe, and where to find support. Asking the question can be tough, so the Are You Safe At Home? website also includes information for friends, family and community members on how to respond appropriately if you suspect someone you know is experiencing family violence, centered around asking the question, ‘are you safe at home?’. 

‘By asking ‘are you safe at home?’, you’re saying ‘I see you, I believe you, I care.’ The person may not act on it right away, but you’ve planted a seed that there is another option, and that support is there when they are ready,’ said Jennifer*. 

‘My ex was convicted of serious offending, but what got me safe and out wasn’t the system, it was good bystanders. It was my colleagues, my boss, people who saw red flags when I couldn’t, and said and did lots of little things. The sum of those little things made a life changing difference. That’s why I’m still alive,’ said Mishka*. 

‘We must not underestimate the crucial role family, friends and community members can play in identifying and responding to family violence, and supporting loved ones to safety,’ said Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha.  

‘By providing clear information about what to look out for, what supports are available, and how to start the conversation, the Are You Safe At Home? campaign is designed to break down the fear and stigma associated with talking about family violence in the community,’ said Ms Farha.  

In 2022, the Are You Safe At Home? campaign is expanding with the launch of the very first Are You Safe At Home? Day on Tuesday 10 May. 

Hosted by Safe and Equal, the live-streamed event provides an opportunity to centre the voices of lived experience and learn about the significant role individuals can play in the fight to end family violence. You can access the livestream here 

‘For someone experiencing abuse, having someone ask about your safety can be incredibly meaningful. To have someone actually name what you’re experiencing as violence, believe you and offer non-judgmental support can be life-changing,’ said Ms Farha.   

‘This May, we’re asking the public to ask the question and start the conversation – because we all have the right to feel safe at home.’ 

(*not their real names) 

www.areyousafeathome.org.au

Page last updated Monday, May 9 2022

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Safe and Equal responds to announcements in the Victorian Budget 2022/23

Safe and Equal responds to announcements in the Victorian Budget 2022/23

Wednesday 4 May 2022

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We welcome the investment into expanding refuge and crisis accommodation capacity, with the establishment of two new core and cluster refuges, six new Crisis Accommodation Program (CAP) properties, and upgrades to three existing refuge properties.

This investment will only go so far towards addressing the critical shortage of specialist crisis accommodation for people experiencing family violence in Victoria.

Safe and Equal CEO, Tania Farha said, “We hope this is just the start, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Victorian Government to significantly increase refuge capacity to ensure that all victim survivors who need it can access secure, specialist family violence crisis accommodation.”

In this incredibly lean budget, we also welcome an $18.7 million crisis case management uplift aimed at meeting increasing family violence demand, as part of a broader $43 million package for victim survivor programs.

This is, however, a short-term investment and will not create the sustainable footing our services need to support people experiencing family violence on their journey to safety.

“To deliver the best quality services to victim survivors of family violence, the specialist family violence sector needs a sustainable funding increase that enables services to respond not just to skyrocketing demand, but also increasingly complex support needs and a rapidly changing service environment,” said Ms Farha.

This budget does not include any commitment towards specialist family violence workforce capability building, which makes it difficult for the sector to quickly attract, recruit and skill up more workers. Ongoing issues around sustainability, increasing demand and funding shortages have resulted in high levels of staff turnover and burnout, with recruitment and retention of this specialist workforce a critical challenge. While an uplift in funding to meet demand is certainly welcome, increasing capacity means finding new people and skilling them up to hold significant caseloads, complexity and risk.

Ms Farha said, “In a very difficult year, we’re pleased to see some funding going where it’s really needed. Workforce shortages remain an unresolved challenge and something we will be keen to work with other community services and the Government to address this year.”

We welcome the continuation of funding for Respect Victoria and hope the government’s ongoing investment strategy will continue to reflect the need for concerted, coordinated efforts and activity across the prevention continuum.

The Victorian Government has demonstrated national leadership in its approach to preventing and responding to family violence since the Royal Commission. We look forward to continuing to work together to establish a sustainable system that can both stop violence before it happens and provide every victim survivor with the support they need to escape and recover from family violence, when they need it.

Download the Safe and Equal response to the State Budget 2022 here.

Page last updated Wednesday, May 4 2022

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Fast Track Response Program Wrap-up

Fast Track Response Program Wrap-up

Tuesday 12 April 2022

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Last week, Safe and Equal held their end-of-program forum and final workshop for round 3 of the Fast Track Response program.

Fast Track is an intensive leadership program that helps professionals in the prevention and response sectors advance their careers by building skills in leadership, advocacy, partnerships and program design. 

A cohort of 21 professionals completed the course in round 3, with representatives from Berry Street, Centre Against Violence, Drummond Street Services, Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women’s Services (EMH), Family Life, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand, Safe Steps, WAYSS Ltd, and WRISC Family Violence Support.  

The end-of-program forum was a great success, attended by Fast Track participants, mentors, and staff from Family Safety Victoria and Safe and Equal. The forum opened with a discussion between Tania Farha and participants around leadership, what participants valued from the program, and future hopes for leadership within the sector. Each participant then presented the workplace project logic they had designed during the program. The learning outcomes covered in each weekly module alongside the mentorship program supported participants to identify and design their projects, the presentation of which showcased the hard work invested and the strengthened capacity of participants. 

Workplace projects presented included: 

  • A project to connect each Aboriginal Team within the Orange Doors, to improve referral pathways and strengthen connections between teams across Victoria 
  • An audit to understand the type of barriers services face to effective and timely collaboration, followed by the implementation of targeted interventions to address these barriers (such as networking events and cross-sector meetings), and the development of processes for a formal feedback loop to monitor and review these barriers and interventions  
  • A project to encourage greater contribution from all team members in meetings, not just from management. This project aimed to address the need for a healthy, positive team culture where staff feel safe and supported to speak up and share ideas.  

Forum attendees were very impressed with all workplace project presentations, with Family Safety Victoria and the Safe and Equal Practice Development Advisor expressing interest in staying updated on the programs’ status and outcomes. 

“I just wanted to say a quick thank you for the last 10 weeks, I cannot believe how fast it went! I was really surprised at how relevant, specific and targeted the course content was, it was challenging without being overwhelming and I am thankful for the opportunity to be part of it.”

– Fast Track response program participant

This was the final funded response round for 2022, and upcoming courses are yet to be confirmed. You can add yourself to the waitlist for future Fast Track programs or for other potential leadership development opportunities here 

Page last updated Monday, April 11 2022

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Safe and Equal Response to the NHHA Issues Paper

Safe and Equal Response to the NHHA Issues Paper

3 March 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Productivity Commission’s review of the effectiveness of the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NHHA).

Housing, homelessness and family violence are inextricably linked. Family violence is one of the biggest drivers of homelessness and base funding for the specialist family violence sector is currently funded under the NHHA. In Victoria, the specialist family violence system has undergone significant reform following the Royal Commission into Family Violence in 2016. Despite unprecedented investment in the family violence system, unfortunately, housing outcomes for victim-survivors of family violence have not improved. Forty-seven percent of people seeking support from a homelessness service in Victoria do so due to family violence.

The NHHA is an important policy mechanism by which funding for social housing and homelessness services, including specialist family violence services, flows from the Commonwealth Government to the states and territories. It establishes that the Commonwealth and state governments have a mutual interest in ending homelessness and improving housing affordability. This and past agreements have been successful in providing critical resources to the homelessness sector, including specialist family violence services, and, to some extent, have been successful at growing and maintaining social housing stock. It is vital that we continue to have such agreements between the Commonwealth and state governments.

However, the desired outcomes of the NHHA have not been achieved. In fact, by most measures, things have gotten worse. It is therefore timely for the Productivity Commission to conduct this review. Within our submission, we make four recommendations on how to make the next and future NHHAs stronger and more effective. These are:

  1. Develop a National Housing and Homelessness Strategy to sit above the NHHA,
  2. Take a gendered approach to a National Housing and Homelessness Strategy and
    the NHHA,
  3. Improve data collection relating to priority cohorts, specifically victim-survivors of
    family violence and those experiencing intersecting forms of marginalization, and
  4. Increase the quantum of funding delivered through the agreement to truly meet
    demand for social housing and homelessness support services.

Page last updated Thursday, March 3 2022

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Submission to the Social Housing Regulation Review Interim Report

Submission to the Social Housing Regulation Review Interim Report

3 March 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Social Housing Regulation Review Interim Report.

Housing, homelessness and family violence are inextricably linked. Therefore, as the peak body for specialist family violence services in Victoria, Safe and Equal has a special interest in making sure social housing meets the needs of victim survivors and supports their safety. Proper regulation is one mechanism to help achieve this.

The Panel has taken a broad view of regulation and the Interim Report touches on several topics outside of Safe and Equal’s remit and expertise. We therefore will not be commenting on every aspect of the Interim Report, but rather seek to share our thoughts on relevant proposals from a family violence perspective.

Safe and Equal commend the panel for a thoughtful interim report that is focused on fundamentally improving the way social housing is delivered and provided to social housing tenants. We look forward to continuing to work with Panel to ensure social housing regulation can produce the most positive outcomes for current, prospective and future social housing tenants, particularly those who are victim survivors of family violence.

Page last updated Thursday, March 3 2022

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Feedback for the Draft National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022 – 2032

Feedback for the Draft National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022 – 2032

28 February 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the opportunity to comment on the draft National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032 and we note the work and effort it has taken to get to this point.

National strategies are critical if we ever hope to comprehensively address our society’s most wicked problems. To reduce, and ultimately end, family violence and violence against women and children, we need all parts of our community and all levels of government to commit to tangible, measurable actions, and for these to be backed by dedicated funding.

In order to do this, we need a clear overarching vision, objectives, outcomes and targets.

The National Plan should articulate the roles and responsibilities for each level of government in addressing family violence and violence against women. It should identify the drivers of violence, and the systemic and structural barriers to accessing support and safety, and attribute responsibility for addressing these to the appropriate level of government. Concrete actions and targets should flow from this.

The National Plan must clearly articulate what the Commonwealth Government’s overall plan is to end violence against women and children, and this must include specifics. The National Plan must also articulate a mechanism for how progress will be measured and evaluated. The evaluation of the previous plan and consultation reports that informed the development of this draft have not been publicly released, so we are unable to comment on whether the draft accurately reflects and builds upon these learnings.

It is critical that the Evaluation Plan and Outcomes Framework mentioned in the draft are developed in consultation with the specialist sectors and people with lived experience, and that they are made public to ensure accountability for this plan’s implementation. The Commonwealth Government has committed to open and transparent engagement with victim-survivors and the community in developing this National Plan. We call on the Government to revise this plan to articulate a concrete plan forward for how we as a nation will address family violence and violence against women and children.

Page last updated Monday, February 28 2022

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Welcome step in ensuring Victoria’s future social housing supply

Welcome step in ensuring Victoria’s future social housing supply

Friday 18 February 2022

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Victoria’s peak body for specialist family violence services, Safe and Equal, and Victoria’s state-wide family violence service, Safe Steps, welcome the Victorian Government’s announcement today of a new Social and Affordable Housing Contribution Fund.

This fund, expected to raise over $800 million and provide 1,700 new social and affordable homes annually over the next ten years enables sustained, ongoing investment to increase Victoria’s social housing supply. 

“Many victim-survivors of family violence exit our emergency accommodation into homelessness services due to lack of affordable housing,” said Rita Butera, CEO of Safe Steps. “Lack of access to housing is also a key reason why many victim-survivors are not able to leave situations of violence or return to violence,” she said.

Tania Farha, CEO of Safe and Equal said, “We look forward to working with government on ensuring priority is given to victim-survivors of family violence and that social housing providers that work with these groups are included as part of the funding. It is absolutely vital that a specific allocation is provided for the too many victim-survivors of family violence so they can be safe from violence and rebuild their lives.”

Both said they hoped some of this fund would also be allocated to increase the number of refuges.

“Social housing is so critical for the people we work with, and this fund will go a long way in delivering these. However, demand for emergency accommodation and refuge continues to outpace supply,” said Ms Butera.

Ms. Farha added, “It is really important that we look at the crisis end as well as the pathways to longer-term housing.”

Page last updated Friday, February 18 2022

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Meet Safe and Equal’s new Board Chair

Meet Safe and Equal’s new Board Chair

Tuesday 15 February 2022

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Safe and Equal is excited to announce Maria Dimopoulos AM has been appointed Board Chair, commencing in February 2022.

Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha welcomed the appointment. 

“Maria is a lauded human rights advocate and champion of diversity and gender equality. Her extensive experience and expertise, particularly around the rights and meaningful inclusion of women from migrant and refugee backgrounds in policy and system reform aligns strongly with our strategic goals and purpose,” said Tania. 

Maria has made significant contributions to policy development, research and community education, including as a member of the federal Access and Equity Inquiry Panel and as the inaugural Chairperson of the Harmony Alliance – Australia’s national coalition of migrant and refugee women. Maria has also contributed to state and federal family and gender-based violence prevention and response strategies, including as part of the National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children which oversaw the development of the First National Plan to End Violence against Women and their Children. She has undertaken extensive research with diverse communities and organisations and has been published in the Feminist Law Journal, Family and Domestic Violence Clearinghouse, and the Australian Institute of Criminology. She is also the co-author of the book Blood on Whose Hands? The Killing of Women and Children in Domestic Homicides, published by the Women’s Coalition Against Family Violence. 

“I look forward to supporting the great work of Safe and Equal, in particular the partnerships with First Nations communities and organisations,” said Maria. 

“I am committed to governing Safe and Equal with an intersectional feminist lens as a way to expose uneven power relations and structural oppressions, in order to support gender equality and social justice.”  

A recipient of Member (AM) of the Order of Australia and an inductee to the Victorian Honour Roll of Women, Maria was formerly Special Advisor, Multicultural Communities, for the Department of Justice and Community Safety. She is also a Board member of the Coronial Council of Victoria, Reconciliation Victoria, the Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre, and the National Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity.  

Maria takes on Chair responsibilities from Stacey Ong, who has led Safe and Equal’s Board as Interim Chair since September 2021. 

“I am proud to have worked as part of the Transition Board and with the staff of Safe and Equal as Interim Chair for the last five months. I look forward to seeing Safe and Equal and the sector move into the next period and welcome Maria’s expertise and leadership,” said Stacey.  

“The staff and Board would like to thank Stacey for her governance and leadership, particularly through the final stages of the merger and launch of Safe and Equal,” said Tania.  

“We are excited to continue our work across the continuum of prevention to recovery, to achieve our vision of a world beyond family and gender-based violence where women, children and people from marginalised communities are safe, thriving and respected.”  

Page last updated Tuesday, February 15 2022

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Current Scheme Implementation and Forecasting for the NDIS: Response to the Terms of Reference

Current Scheme Implementation and Forecasting for the NDIS: Response to the Terms of Reference

February 2022

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Safe and Equal welcomes the opportunity to contribute to this inquiry on the Current Scheme Implementation and Forecasting for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Given our central position in the Victorian family violence system, we are well placed to provide insights into the unique and complex experience of family violence for people with disabilities and the provisions victim-survivors need to access support and safety.

This submission will focus on the intersection between the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and specialist family violence services, as these are two service systems that victim-survivors with disabilities are likely to encounter if they report family violence or seek help.

This submission will outline the prevalence of family violence against people with disabilities and the need to embed a family violence and trauma-informed lens throughout the NDIS, before responding directly to section (b) in the Terms of Reference.

Page last updated Tuesday, February 1 2022

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Reflecting on the establishment of Safe and Equal’s Expert Advisory Panel

Embedding family violence lived experience

Reflecting on the establishment of Safe and Equal’s Expert Advisory Panel

Tuesday 1 February 2022

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Following the development and release of the Family Violence Experts by Experience Framework, Safe and Equal began work in 2021 to prioritise embedding the voices of those with lived experience within the organisation. A key step in this work was the establishment of the peak’s first survivor advocate advisory mechanism, the Expert Advisory Panel.

As we commence our second year of working with the Expert Advisory Panel, it is timely to reflect on how we have implemented principles of the Experts by Experience Framework in our organisation, and what we have learned along the way.

Recognise 

The Experts by Experience Framework is based on the belief that responses to family violence will be most effective and safe if they are informed and developed in partnership with victim survivors. 

The recognition that victim survivors hold valuable knowledge and expertise about family violence and the service system is reflected in key Safe and Equal documents, including our Strategic Plan and the Code of Practice. 

To support staff to understand and recognise the value of lived experience and how it connects to their work, we undertook surveys and workshops in an effort to determine organisational readiness for engagement with lived experience and survivor advocacy. These spaces provided staff with the opportunity to share and discuss their fears and excitement for this work, and highlighted gaps where more work was required to build capacity and inform our pathway forward. They also provided us with more understanding of the different sources of lived experience in the sector – including the lived experience of clients, survivor advocates and the workforce. 

These tools will form part of an ongoing process, particularly as new staff commence within the organisation.  

Safety 

“I was happy you considered me although I was still experiencing family violence, because you can still be in the middle of the situation and do advocacy. My most powerful advocacy has been when my case has been active. It is disempowering when someone decides I can’t advocate. We can assess our own safety.” 

Expert Advisory Panel member

 

Following the recruitment process was complete and members of the Panel were confirmed, we worked with each individual to identify and understand any legal, physical, emotional or cultural safety considerations. Where risks to safety were identified, we explored what support or protections were needed to enable safe participation. These include: 

  • Using a pseudonym for external communications and/or events 
  • Not sharing email addresses publicly 
  • Reviewing any quotes or stories before publication, to ensure they are captured in a way that protects anonymity 
  • Taking breaks during meetings as required, and encouraging panel members to switch their cameras off if needed 
  • Turning comments off on social media 

As safety considerations can change over time, it is important to revisit these risks frequently. 

Value 

The Experts by Experience Framework outlines the importance of not only recognition for survivor advocate expertise, but also financial remuneration for their time and contributions. 

While there are many ways to ensure survivor advocates are remunerated for their work, we elected for members of the Expert Advisory Panel to be engaged as employees of Safe and Equal. This is due to the nature of the role, to ensure panel members accrue superannuation, and our desire to engage panel members as staff of the peak. 

Transparency 

Establishing transparent processes in the way we engage with survivor advocates has been a major element of this work. Having a purpose and providing clear information supports survivor advocates to make informed decisions about what they participate in, including the nature of the engagement, degree of influence, time commitment and any limitations.  

To foster transparency and clear communication, we initially chose to provide written project briefs to survivor advocates, as well as verbal briefs in meetings or on phone calls. Feedback from panel members indicated that we have an over-reliance on written communications, and that this is not always accessible. To mitigate this, we have been exploring the use of short, pre-recorded video briefs. 

“When I’m in a trauma space I’m not reading; it’s 5 bullet points at most because of limited brain storage. So, it’s a balance – enough information, but (you) don’t want to overwhelm people.” 

Expert Advisory Panel Member

 

Panel members also have the opportunity to review work they have provided input to, to ensure all points have been accurately represented. Where possible, we also provide feedback on how their contributions have influenced change, big or small. 

Accountability 

Building in processes for accountability in all aspects of this work builds trust, as well as opportunities for innovation and continuous improvement. Through surveys, group reflections and workshops, there are regular opportunities and avenues for survivor advocates to let us know what is working well, and more importantly what is not working or could be improved.  

In 2021, we undertook a ‘health check’ panel, where we heard what was working well and identified opportunities for improvement, including: 

  • Sending reminders the day before meetings 
  • Recapping old and new business at the start of each meeting  
  • Setting up a WhatsApp group for communications between meetings
  • Using different forms of communication, not just written, e.g., video, images 

Support 

“From the get-go I felt like I could be honest and open and felt safe to do so. I think that is because of a human approach, caring and holding space…I didn’t go into the space thinking I had to perform – I could be a human and that’s a huge relief.”  

Expert Advisory Panel member

 

Throughout the establishment of the Expert Advisory Panel, it has been incredibly important to ensure the space is safe and supportive. This has included incorporating formal and informal trauma-informed support, such as: 

  • Access to a family violence-informed Employment Assistance Provider 
  • Warm referrals to specialist services as required
  • Generating a set of shared values for the panel
  • Using a check in and check out discussion tool
  • Allowing survivor advocates to engage in ways that work for them on the day 

The wellbeing of panel members is a top priority. We have learned that making these supports readily available has enabled survivor advocates to more comfortably participate in the panel and feel safe to ‘step back’ or implement boundaries when needed. 

“Advocates can be ‘messy’. We are trying to manage our triggers but also being passionate about the work. Push into that too, ‘how do we help you on your messy days? and how do we support you on those days?” 

Expert Advisory Panel member

 

Trust 

Identifying and addressing power imbalances and taking the time to understand each person’s motivations and values has been integral to building trusting relationships and has allowed the Expert Advisory Panel to work collaboratively and honestly with each other and with Safe and Equal. This is always a work in progress, but some strategies we have implemented to address power imbalances include: 

  • Having check-ins that all staff, survivor advocates or people in other roles participate equally in
  • Ensuring the Safe and Equal team show up authentically, model vulnerability and are honest about what they are bringing into a space
  • Being mindful of who else is in the space and not out-numbering survivor advocates, as this changes the power dynamic
  • Ensuring people who are in the meeting have a clear role and purpose, and that this is communicated clearly
  • Following through on implementation changes that the panel suggests
  • Being mindful of which voices are being heard, and which voices are not – making a concerted effort to create space for the quieter voices to be heard 

“I didn’t feel a power imbalance. I didn’t feel like I had to front up with presentation or personality that would fit. Sometimes as a victim survivor I get torn or feel I have to mask authenticity to fit in with workplace expectations. I didn’t have to battle a notion to prove you are experienced enough to do the work.”  

Expert Advisory Panel member

 

Reciprocity 

Partnering with and learning from the members of the Expert Advisory Panel relies on establishing trusting and authentic relationships and being open to continuous learning and improvement. We have learned it is important to approach this work from a place of mutual learning, with curiosity and without all the answers. For us, this has meant proactively seeking feedback and being open to welcoming critique, implementing suggested changes in a timely manner, and asking questions to understand.  

This process has also highlighted the importance of approaching work with the panel in a way that welcomes ‘blue sky thinking’ – panel members bring a lot of advocacy experience, but also skills and expertise in a number of different areas that add significant value to their contributions.  

Inclusion 

“For [Safe and Equal] to welcome people with a criminal record, was a huge benefit and relief. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have applied.” 

Expert Advisory Panel member

 

To support inclusion of diverse voices and perspectives, we wanted to be clear and deliberate about seeking engagement from victim survivors whose voices may not usually be heard. This involved reflecting on and acknowledging the ways that gender inequality intersects with other forms of inequality and oppression, such as colonialism, ableism, white supremacy, racism, homophobia, transphobia and classism.  

In seeking engagement and insight from a broad range of perspectives, it was critical to remove existing barriers for victim survivors who experience marginalisation and systemic oppression. One example of this was around police checks. As an organisation, we were transparent of the need for selected panel members to complete a police check, however explicitly stated that a police check result would not necessarily prevent someone being successful in the role. 

“What surprised me about the process is getting appointed to the committee. It is really important to have different perspectives and acknowledge experience of LGBTIQA+ victim survivors.”  

Expert Advisory Panel member

 

As diverse as the panel of survivor advocates are, they do not represent the views and experiences of all victim survivors. The work to remain aware of missing voices is ongoing, as are efforts to elevate and create space for others, including working collaboratively with other survivor advocacy groups such as inTouch’s Noor and Women with Disabilities Victoria’s Experts by Experience working group. 

Sustainability 

Like many in the specialist family violence sector trying to meaningfully embed the voices of lived experience, resourcing and sustainability remain prevailing issues. While we continue to put in place creative methods to fund this work including private sector grants, philanthropy and utilising fee for service models, of key significance is the cultural shift and genuine commitment to ensuring victim survivor expertise is at the centre of everything we do, from the Experts by Experience Implementation Plan, to budget submissions and government advocacy. 

Taking careful steps to meaningfully engage with lived experience voices has had considerable impact. Survivor advocates were pivotal in informing and leading key pieces of work within the organisation, including the Safe and Equal name and branding, shaping our submission to the Successor National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children, and co-designing and delivering a Children and Young People Forum, among many others.  

For us, the implementation process has provided ample learnings. We have learned that seemingly small projects or pieces of work can have a large influence and impact, and fostering genuine and authentic relationships is vital and enables us to know when things are challenging or not working well. We have also learned that to ensure maximum influence, we must ensure survivor advocates have the opportunity to work on a project from the beginning. 

Through these learnings, we have also discovered gaps and complexities that require more attention, including the irregular nature of hours and work for survivor advocates, and the need to create further opportunities for emerging advocates to gain experience and build capability. Importantly, more funding is needed for the sector to implement this work. 

Having the opportunity to work alongside survivor advocates is a privilege, and the individuals in these roles are incredibly generous with their experience and expertise. We look forward to continuing to partner with the Expert Advisory Panel to support work across all areas of Safe and Equal in 2022. 

Page last updated Tuesday, February 1 2022

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Responding to Children and Young People’s Experience of Family Violence

Responding to Children and Young People’s Experience of Family Violence

Monday 31 January 2022

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As the specialist family violence sector continues to develop and evolve, children and young people impacted by family violence still need urgent and dedicated support.

Held virtually on 10 November 2021, ‘Responding to Children and Young People’s Experience of Family Violence’ was the final session in Safe and Equal’s 2021 Specialist Family Violence Leadership Group Forum.

The session provided an opportunity for leaders in the sector to hear directly from young people impacted by family violence, and to further explore what it really means for our sector to recognise and support children and young people as victim survivors in their own right.  

Youth advocate panel discussion: working with young people in their own right 

Setting the scene for the morning was the youth advocate panel discussion moderated by Tash, a survivor advocate and member of Safe and Equal’s Expert Advisory Panel. The five youth advocate panelists, Apryl*, Elvis, Liam*, Millie* and Kaitlyne, provided unique insight into how systemic responses can evolve to be more inclusive and responsive to children and young people, based on their experience and expertise.  

When discussing what it would look like for a service to work with a young person in their own right, panelists described the feeling of being ‘invisible’ in services and being seen as an extension of a parent rather than as an individual person. There are different, individual support needs required for children and young people, and services need to directly engage with them to ensure their needs are prioritised and seen as separate to the needs of adults, as well as other children and young people. Family violence can impact each child or young person differently – even those within the same family. 

The panel discussed gaps in the current service system, particularly around the lack of dedicated funding or support available for victim survivors turning 18, for young people from diverse cultural backgrounds, and for young LGBTIQA+ people experiencing family violence. Panelists described how complicated and overwhelming it can be to navigate services and environments, which can feel like a full-time job. They recommended a more holistic approach, where services consider the intersectionalities that impact young people and provide warm referrals and support accordingly.  

The importance of staff training, sector collaboration and the inclusion of lived experience within service frameworks was also highlighted by the youth advocates as integral to creating meaningful, ongoing change. The panel discussed how essential it is that children and young people see themselves reflected at all levels of an organisation, including as Board members.  

Prioritising the needs of children and young people in system reform  

In her keynote address, Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People Liana Buchanan noted that this event was the first time children and young people had been brought together with the specialist family violence sector in this way. 

Calling for the ongoing prioritisation of children and young people in public policy and service design, Commissioner Buchanan reflected on the immense work that has been done in this space, particularly following the Royal Commission into Family Violence, but acknowledged that there is much more to be done.  

“We cannot afford to take such a long time to improve responses to children and young people who are experiencing family violence.”

Liana Buchanan, Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People

 

Break-out room discussions 

Break-out rooms during the forum provided an opportunity for participants to reflect on specialist family violence responses to children and young people and consider future directions in policy and system reform. Key needs and priority advocacy areas that emerged from these discussions include: 

  • Increased funding and resources to support children and young people 
  • Tools, resources and training for services to create a safe and supportive environment for children and young people 
  • Advocacy for stronger responses to children and young people within our sector 
  • Embedding of lived experience to ensure services are accessible 
  • Increased investment and capacity for refuges to respond to the needs of children and young people.

We would like to thank the staff, members and survivor advocates who contributed their time and knowledge to this event. We hope to continue this conversation and build on our practice and policy expertise to provide children and young people with safe and responsive support and services. 

Page last updated Monday, January 31 2022

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Tailoring inclusive support for our communities

Tailoring inclusive support for our communities

Wednesday 26 January 2022

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Safe and Equal is proud to partner with specialist organisations Djirra, Berry Street's Y-Change Lived Experience Consultants, Switchboard, inTouch, Women with Disabilities Victoria, Seniors Rights Victoria, and Flatout to develop a suite of practitioner resources to support tailored and inclusive responses to family violence occurring across diverse communities and contexts.

Family violence is an intersectional social problem with far-reaching impacts that reinforce structural disadvantage and marginalisation across many different communities.  

While family violence can impact anyone, there are social, structural and systemic barriers caused by historic and ongoing discrimination that has seen certain groups excluded from or unable to access services, government programs, and equitable justice responses. Ageism, ableism, colonisation, criminalisation, homophobia, poverty, racism, sexism, transphobia and other forms of discrimination can all increase the severity and lasting impacts of family violence. 

To disrupt these barriers, responses to family violence must be inclusive, tailored and flexible. Victim survivors of family violence must be understood as the experts of their own experiences, with their own unique backgrounds, life experiences, perspectives, identities, strengths, hopes and needs. 

We have partnered with seven specialist organisations who support the most marginalised members of our community who experience intersecting forms of discrimination and violence, to provide practice guidance for tailored and inclusive family violence support. 

Read on for more information on each of the resources. 

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Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 

This practice guidance has been prepared for family violence workers who are responding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing family violence. This may include women and children who are experiencing family violence in the context of intimate partner violence, and/or women and children experiencing family violence in the context of kinship relationships and arrangements. 

This self-directed learning guide has been developed in partnership with Djirra, written from the perspective of an Aboriginal writer with experiences and input from other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. It is prepared predominantly for family violence practitioners who are not Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

This practice guidance is a starting point to spark more questions, think about your own practices, and continue your learning.  

Supporting children and young people 

The voices of children and young people impacted by family violence are often invisible. This guide for family violence practitioners working to support children and young people has been co-produced with Berry Streey’s Y-Change Lived Experience Consultants – a group of young people aged 18-30 with lived experience of socioeconomic and systemic disadvantage who challenge the thinking and practices of social systems through their advocacy and leadership. 

The guide explores key considerations for supporting children and young people with lived experiences of family violence and features several practical activities you can do with children or young people accessing your service. The guide is complimented by a colouring-in activity that was also co-produced by Y-Change. The artwork and colouring-in activities were created by artist and illustrator, Chadai Chamoun.  

Find out more about Y-Change’s work here. 

Supporting LGBTIQA+ People 

People of all genders, sex and sexual orientations can experience family violence. Many lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex, queer, and asexual or aromantic people have family violence experiences that mirror those within heterosexual and cisgender families and relationships. 

Because of biphobia, homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism and heteronormativity, there are also some distinctly different risk factors and barriers to support experienced by LGBTIQA+ people.  

We’ve partnered with Switchboard Victoria to develop a tip sheet to help practitioners responding to family violence provide LGBTIQA+ inclusive support, assessment, safety planning and referrals. 

Switchboard Victoria is a community based not for profit organisation that provides a peer-based support service for LGBTIQA+ people and their friends, families and allies. 

Supporting criminalised women 

Victim survivors who have been criminalised experience high rates of family violence and trauma, and the severity and impacts of this can be significant.  

The term ‘criminalised women’ is used to encompass women who have been imprisoned, have had contact with police for other matters, and/or who engage in criminalised activities such as illicit drug use or sex work.  

Victim survivors whose experiences of family violence intersect with their experiences of being criminalised, including experiences of incarceration, may experience discrimination in the family violence response system. This can increase their risk and impact their access to safety and support. 

Flat Out is a state-wide homelessness support and advocacy service for women who have had contact with the criminal justice and prison system in Victoria. They are an independent, not for profit, community-based organisation that is managed by and for women. Flat Out is committed to co-creating safer spaces, fostering support and self-determination for sistergirls, intersex, transgender and gender diverse women. 

To support services and practitioners to provide safe and inclusive responses to criminalised women, we have partnered with Flat Out to develop a tip sheet to help family violence practitioners understand systemic harm and violence and resist systemic collusion.  

The tip sheet is accompanied by a poster for display in a service. The poster is aimed at criminalised women and seeks to empower them to access the tip sheet and provide it to a service or practitioner they are working with. 

Criminalised women informed and shaped this resource, and we thank them for generously sharing their knowledge and experiences. 

Supporting people from migrant and refugee communities 

Family violence is widespread and is not inherent to any culture, country, or community. Victim survivors from migrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking backgrounds experience the same forms of family violence as the broader community. 

Because of racism, discrimination, language barriers, and differences in cultural contexts, people from migrant and refugee communities in Australia can be disproportionately impacted by family violence because they face some distinct risk factors and experience additional barriers to support. 

inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence is a specialist family violence service that works with women from migrant and refugee backgrounds in Victoria, including women who have experienced forced marriage.  

Forced marriage is a violation of human rights, a slavery-like practice, and a form of family violence that affects many people – especially women – in our community. While forced marriage is recognised by the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic), it has been acknowledged that the family violence system needs to improve capability to identify and respond to forced marriage in the context of family violence. 

To support this, we have partnered with inTouch to co-design a tip sheet to help family violence practitioners understand what forced marriage is, the signs to look out for, and best ways to support someone who has experienced forced marriage. This practice guide draws on the position paper Forced Marriage in Australia, published by InTouch in June 2021. 

Supporting people with disability 

In July 2021, we partnered with Women with Disabilities Victoria to deliver a webinar on person-centred risk assessment with victim survivors with disability.  

Facilitated by Keran Howe, panelists from Women with Disabilities Victoria’s Experts by Experience Group, the Office of the Public Advocate and family violence practitioners contributed their diverse perspectives and experiences. Together, they explored compounding risk factors and barriers to safety that people with disability experience. 

The webinar also explored ways specialist family violence practitioners can adapt their practice to ensure people with disability feel safe, heard and supported during risk assessments.

Supporting older people 

If you are supporting someone who is older or lives with an older person, it is vital you can recognise elder abuse and respond appropriately. 

Evidence shows there is a high prevalence of elder abuse perpetrated by adult children, and this can be a complex context for practitioners to support the safety and wellbeing of elder victim survivors.  

We have developed this resource in partnership with Seniors Rights Victoria, a specialist service that provides information, support, advice, and education to help prevent elder abuse and safeguard the rights, dignity and independence of older people. 

Seniors Rights Victoria identified that practitioners would benefit from increased guidance to support them to identify elder abuse, and to uphold the rights and safety of older people in intergenerational households – particularly when the older person may not be the primary client of the service. 

Page last updated Wednesday, January 26 2022

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Safe and Equal 2022 Budget Submission: Calling for a sustainable footing for the specialist family violence sector

Safe and Equal 2022 Budget Submission: Calling for a sustainable footing for the specialist family violence sector

Tuesday 18 January 2022

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Safe and Equal, Victoria’s peak body for specialist family violence services calls for an urgent uplift in funding for the specialist family violence services sector in the 2022 State Budget.

Whilst the significant amount of investment in improving Victoria’s family violence system following the Royal Commission is much welcomed, a range of complex factors are creating clear gaps and pressure points. These must be addressed immediately to ensure every victim survivor can access the support and safety they need at the time they need it.  

In Victoria, specialist family violence services are not funded at a level that meets increasing demand. The lack of funding not only impacts victim survivors but also results in high levels of staff turnover and burnout, with extreme difficulties recruiting and retaining experienced staff. 

Workers face constant job insecurity due to short-term contracts and are often paid less than those working in other community sectors. Increases in community awareness and pathways to support have further increased demand for services, creating rising pressure within the system as services struggle to keep up with an ever-growing client base, and an unprecedented number of high-risk and complex cases due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic that require more time and resources. 

“The demand for specialist family violence services is at an all-time high and the lack of funding is having a significant impact on not only the capacity of these services to support victim survivors, but the wellbeing of the workers who support them.Although the impact of COVID has contributed to strain on these services, the identified gaps and needs outlined in our submission should not come as a surprise to the state government. Specialist family violence worker capacity, emergency accommodation and services for children and young people are historical issues that require urgent attention.” – Tania Farha, CEO, Safe and Equal.

With current Victorian refuge capacity limited to accommodating 160 households at one time, and growing numbers of victim survivors requiring emergency accommodation, the availability of flexible crisis, transitional and long-term housing is integral to managing complex risk and keeping victim survivors safe from their perpetrators.   

It’s so difficult [for] the workers to be able to support [victim survivors] in that space when they have no stability and no safe space to sleep, or they don’t know where they are going to be next week.” – Team Leader, specialist family violence service.

A lack of clarity, consistency and resourcing in response to children and young people experiencing family violence is also a critical gap that must be addressed. Funding and structural limitations and a lack of minimum standards means the system is struggling to provide tailored, specialist responses to children and young people as victim survivors in their own right.  

The complexity of family violence work means it is vital the sector maintains a high-quality, specialist function. This includes the retention of a highly skilled and healthy workforce, the embedding of lived experience across all system responses, and peak body support and coordination to support workforce development, access and inclusion, and data capabilities.  

Safe and Equal’s budget submission to the Victorian Government calls for urgent funding to support several areas: 

  1. An uplift of core funding for all specialist family violence services to sustain and respond to increasing demand.  
  2. A 20% increase in funding levels allocated to infrastructure costs to enable all specialist family violence services to meet the prerequisites of contemporary community organisations.  
  3. The immediate implementation of a fit-for-purpose, flexible costing model. 
  4. An immediate increase in crisis accommodation places to enable 320 households to be accommodated on any night.  We also call for the prioritisation of 1000 dwellings for victim survivors of family violence to be built immediately as part of Victoria’s Big Housing Build, and a greater proportion of new social housing to be set aside for victim survivors of family violence in recognition of the proportion of people seeking support from supported housing services as a result of family violence.   
  5. Immediate funding to boost the specialist support provided to children and young people experiencing family violence. This includes the creation of a best practice framework for supporting children and young people along with additional 17 specialist practitioners to champion and lead best practice approaches to working with children and young people.  
  6. The creation of an ongoing Healthy Worker Fund (HWF) to support the health and well-being of the specialist family violence workforce.  
  7. The creation of an Embedding Lived Experience Fund (ELEF) to support the uptake and implementation of the Experts By Experience Framework.   
  8. Additional resourcing for sector coordination, capacity building and professional development to support innovation, best practice and sustainability of specialist family violence services.  

If adequately funded, the areas outlined above will enable the specialist family violence sector to respond to not just increasing levels of demand and client complexity but to a rapidly changing service environment stemming from the unprecedented level of government and systemic reform.   

View the 2022 Budget Submission here.

Page last updated Tuesday, January 18 2022