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.
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.