Violence against women impacts around one in six female workers, highlighting family violence as a critical workplace issue.
Established in 2020, Are You Safe at Home? is a national awareness raising initiative designed to break down the fear and stigma associated with talking about family violence by providing clear information about what to look out for, what supports are available, and how to start a conversation if you’re concerned someone you care about is experiencing abuse.
Following the recent introduction of universal paid domestic and family violence leave across Australian workplaces, the focus of Are You Safe at Home? Day 2023 was to shine a spotlight on the significant role colleagues and employers can play in recognising and responding to family violence.
This year, Are You Safe at Home? Day amplified the need for a cultural shift across all workplaces, to destigmatise conversations about family violence at work and to provide the tools and skills to recognise the signs of family violence and respond safely. To kick off the 2023 campaign, Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha joined Future Women’s Sally Spicer for a conversation on Instagram Live to discuss Are You Safe at Home?, the crucial role workplaces can play, and tips for what to do and what not to do when starting a conversation about family violence.
The panel discussion
“It’s a human right to be safe – and it’s an OHS right to be safe at work.”
Katie Alexander, Survivor Advocate
Hosted at EY in Melbourne’s CBD, Safe and Equal alongside Thriving Communities Partnership held a morning tea attended by over 60 business leaders and sector experts, for a robust discussion on how to create sensitive and responsive workplaces for employees at risk of experiencing family violence.
The morning commenced with a Welcome to Country from Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Diane Kerr and an opening address from David Larocca, Oceana CEO and Regional Managing Partner at EY, who highlighted that Are You Safe at Home? Day is a reminder that conversations on family violence are not just the responsibility of governments, but everybody in the community – including workplaces.
David’s address was followed by an in-depth panel discussion hosted by Ciara Sterling (CEO, Thriving Communities Partnership), featuring insights from:
- Rosie Batty AO, family violence advocate
- Katie Alexander, survivor advocate
- Caroline Wall, Head of Customer Vulnerability, Commonwealth Bank
- Tania Farha, CEO Safe and Equal
- Professor Kyllie Cripps, Director Monash Indigenous Studies Centre
The discussion gave guests the opportunity to listen to and reflect on stories shared by panelists on what meaningful and effective change in an organisation can look like.
The panel spoke to the significance of family violence as a workplace responsibility. Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha reflected on the results of the recent National Community Attitudes Survey (NCAS), saying, “There’s still almost 50% of Australians who think family violence is not happening in their own community.” Head of Customer Vulnerability at Commonwealth Bank, Caroline Wall highlighted the parallels between the statistics and workplace environments – that it is confronting to consider that within any business, there may be a large number of people experiencing family violence, as well as a number of people perpetrating it.
“I knew there was gossip. I knew there were career opportunities I was overlooked for, because I was viewed as a weak link.”
Survivor Advocate Katie Alexander on the impact an unsupportive and unsafe workplace had on her career progression.
Survivor Advocate Katie Alexander shared her powerful story of both positive and negative experiences as a victim survivor in the workplace. Katie called for lived experience advocates to be included across the spectrum of employer responses – in the development of organisational policies and procedures, on the Board, as well as in workplace education and training. Katie also highlighted the need for choice and control in how a victim survivor discloses family violence at work, and the options presented to them.
This was reiterated by Professor Kyllie Cripps from Monash University, who spoke of the multitude of different aspects that form an individual’s identity and the way they interact with the world. Due to systemic discrimination and marginalisation, the options for many people seeking family violence support can be limited. Kyllie encouraged business owners to take an intersectional approach to experiences of family violence in the workplace, saying, “we have to be mindful of the individual in front of us and what they’re carrying.”
The need to go beyond leave provisions and to embed cultural shifts within a workplace was then discussed. Tania stated that without this shift, staff can never feel safe enough to disclose and seek support. Rosie highlighted that leadership from the top-down is key, as well as fostering a workplace culture of respect and equality for people to feel safe and able to do their best work. “At the crux of all of this is respect. When you feel respected, valued, and appreciated, you thrive,” said Rosie.
As the panel took questions from the audience and gave their final thoughts, the key message was clear: all organisations can make a difference, but it requires nuance, consideration, action and reflection.
Simultaneously, Safe and Equal hosted three webinars across South Australia and Northern Territory (in partnership with Northern Territory Council of Social Services and Embolden Alliance), Victoria and New South Wales (in partnership with Domestic Violence NSW) and Western Australia (in partnership with Centre for Womens Safety and Wellbeing). Over 240 attendees from across Australia joined us throughout the day.
Emma Morgan, Strategic Projects and Engagement Manager, and Rebeca Carro, Lived Experience Program Officer, explored what family violence is, what the signs are, and how to have safe and respectful conversations with colleagues about family violence.
The webinar also included a powerful interview between Bec and Olga, exploring Olga’s particular experiences of being supported and not supported in their workplace while they were experiencing family violence and what that meant for their journey to safety.
Resources shared throughout these webinars included:
Are You Safe at Home? Day 2024
We will be back for Are You Safe at Home? Day on 10 May 2024. Keep up to date with the campaign by subscribing here.
Want to know more?
Continue your learning with our free Are You Safe at Home? eLearn
The Are You Safe at Home? eLearn is self-paced and takes 20 minutes, so it fits into a busy work schedule. It’s designed to equip you with the skills to recognise and respond to family violence. Register for the eLearn here.
Supporting Safe and Equal Workplaces
To learn more about how Safe and Equal can work with your organisation to recognise and respond to family and domestic violence, please visit our website or reach out to Robyn Stone, Business Partnerships and Engagement Advisor, at email@example.com.
Make a donation
We all have a role to play in ending family violence in our community. Your donation can strengthen our work in preventing and responding to family and gender-based violence. Make a secure donation to Safe and Equal using your credit card on the GiveNow website. Donate here.
Start the conversation
Most importantly, you don’t have to be an expert to support someone experiencing family violence. You can start small by opening up the conversation, listening and offering support. You can ask the question, ‘are you safe at home?’.