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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