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.
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.