Ask, listen and believe this Are You Safe at Home? Day 2024

Ask, listen and believe this Are You Safe at Home? Day 2024

Tuesday 7 May 2024

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We all deserve to be safe, respected and valued in all our relationships.

Sadly, family violence is more common than many of us realise. It happens in all communities, in all types of relationships and can take many different forms.

That is why this year’s Are You Safe At Home? Day is shining a spotlight on the significant role we can all play in our local communities to recognise and respond to family violence. 

Because family violence often happens out of sight, it can be hard for people experiencing abuse to reach out for support. It’s often the people closest to them – their friends, family members and colleagues – who may be the first to notice something isn’t right.

If you’re worried about someone you know, it can be hard to know what to do. But just by asking, listening and believing, you can have an enormous impact on someone’s journey to safety.

Ask ‘are you safe at home?’

Listen to what they say without judgement.

Believe what they tell you – validate their experiences and let them know you’re there to support.

Ending family violence is everyone’s business – and you have a crucial role to play. This 10 May, start the conversation.

How can you help

  • Raise awareness about the Are You Safe at Home? initiative
  • Share Are You Safe at Home? content through your organisation’s social media and other communication channels – access our communications toolkit here
  • Encourage your colleagues to share the content through their social media network
  • Print and display resources in your office or workplace
  • Learn about family violence and how to have safe conversations by completing our 20-minute eLearn
  • Open up the conversation with your friends, family or colleagues
  • Create space and opportunity for meaningful conversations that could support people in your workplace

New resources

Conversation flow chart

It can be hard to know what to do if you’re worried someone in your life is unsafe. Simply asking, listening and believing them can have a big impact.

This flow chart is only a guide. Approach the conversation in a way that feels right. Please print and share this guide with your communities.

How do I ask someone if they are safe at home?

Posters

Share the word in your local community, workplace, council facilities, sporting club or community group. We invite you to print these posters, and share them far and wide.

Ending family violence is everyone's business - Poster
Ask. Listen. Believe. Poster

Get in touch

If you have any questions about Are You Safe at Home? Day and the resources within our communications toolkit, get in touch with Safe and Equal.

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

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For confidential information, counselling and support for both victim survivors and their loved ones, contact 1800 RESPECT (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). 

For Victorians who need family violence crisis support, contact Safe Steps on 1800 015 188 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).   

For people who are using violence who want to get help, contact the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.   

Page last updated Tuesday, May 7 2024

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Resources to support your Values-Based Messaging from PreventX 2024

Resources to support your Values-Based Messaging from PreventX 2024

Tuesday 16 April 2024

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In our primary prevention work, the ability to craft and deliver messages that resonate deeply with the community is key. At PreventX 2024, we delved into the heart of this crucial practice, exploring how values-based messaging can drive long-term, sustainable change in the addressing family and gender-based violence.

The conference theme, “Messaging for a Movement,” underscored the central role of effective communication in shaping attitudes, behaviours, and societal norms.

Attendees were immersed in a range of panels and discussions, each offering unique insights into effective messaging. From broad public campaigns to targeted initiatives, and from community engagement to advocacy at all levels of government, the conversations illuminated the multifaceted nature of messaging for prevention.

The feedback from attendees echoed the resonance of these discussions. One participant remarked on the value of hearing from a truly diverse range of panellists, emphasising how common themes strengthened their understanding of effective messaging strategies. Another highlighted the positive, upbeat tone of the conference, appreciating the inclusion of often-overlooked voices from faith communities.

In an effort to share knowledge and to continue the conversation from PreventX 2024, below is a series of resources shared by speakers and facilitators during the conference. These materials provide an insight into the wealth of insights, strategies, and experiences shared and discussed throughout the event.

Resources shared at PreventX: Messaging for a Movement

We have categorised resources based on the PreventX 2024 session topics: 

Cross-cutting Resources for Prevention and Values-Based Messaging 

 

Campaigning for Change 

 

Managing Resistance and Backlash 

 

Ethical Storytelling with Victim Survivors 

 

Working with Communities in Primary Prevention 

 

Messaging Across Social Justice Movements 

 

Primary Prevention Across Settings  

 

Financial Safety 

Page last updated Tuesday, April 16 2024

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PreventX: How we can prevent family and gender-based violence right now

PreventX: How we can prevent family and gender-based violence right now

Tue 2 April 2024

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As part of the PreventX 2024 conference, Safe and Equal hosted an in-person event for participants to pitch their innovative solutions and visions for the future of prevention in Australia. The below is a transcript of the welcome and introduction provided by Marina Carman, Executive Director of Primary Prevention.

I’d like to welcome you all here tonight on behalf of Safe and Equal. We hope that you enjoyed the last two days of the PreventX conference. We’re really pleased to be able to present this in-person event as part of the conference.

We’re here tonight to hear some wonderful pitches from practitioners about the next big things in primary prevention. But just to warm up the stage, I wanted to start by giving my own three-minute pitch – about why working in prevention is something that more people should do.

So, here goes:

Are you passionate about changing the world?

Do you want to end family and gender-based violence?

Well – imagine getting paid to do all that!

You’ll get to work with some amazing people, who are committed to social change, just like you. And we’re a bunch who really like interaction, and lots of it – conferences, events, networking, meetings – actually, maybe a few too many meetings.

Anyway, it’s a good thing – because we’re up and out there all the time, changing minds and changing systems that enable violence. You can join the Partners in Prevention network, and a bunch of others like the MAV network and regional women’s health partnerships. So really, you’ll never feel alone – and you won’t be able to escape a community of practice, even if you try.

I’m not going to kid you – it’s not always an easy job. You’ll end up in rooms where you hear attitudes and opinions that make you wither on the inside. You’ll be told that we’re all equal now, so why do women keep complaining? You’ll be told men have it so hard these days, because they have to worry about consent.

Your difficult job is to be curious and delve further to see if you can shift those ideas.

Sometimes, you have to give up and move on. But so often you’ll see the attitudes shift as people realise that there’s a different and better way to look at things. And don’t worry – we’ll arm you with lots of cool statistics, messaging strategies, and a few handy legal and regulatory frameworks. Plus, we have this really great national framework called Change the Story, and a bunch of evidence-based frameworks specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, women living with disability, LGBTIQ+ communities, and refugee and migrant communities. And we’ll word you up on all the technical bits – like drivers and socio-ecological models and stuff like that.

It might seem a bit complicated – but don’t be phased. Upstream drivers are really simple: you change ideas and you change society so that violence is no longer a choice. It takes a long time, but you get to see change every day, in small ways – and that’s the best bit.

There are so many choices about where you can do this work. There’s schools, councils, workplaces, universities and TAFEs. There’s family violence services, sexual violence services, women’s health services, sexual health services, community services, and many more. We’re all across the state and the country – not just metro – and we work with and for a range of communities. You can be a trainer, policy officer, group facilitator, network convenor, project manager, and so many more.

Many of us describe ending up in prevention as ‘an accident’, so you won’t be out of place. We come from lots of different backgrounds: public health and health promotion, international development, communications, political science, even some theatre and fine art majors (you’ll be able to pick those ones). Also, it’s a growth industry. More and more people are choosing prevention.

So get into it, and give it a go!

Page last updated Tuesday, April 2 2024

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Invest in women – accelerate progress

Invest in women – accelerate progress

Friday 8 March 2024

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This International Women’s Day, Safe and Equal welcomes the UN theme to invest in women for their economic empowerment.

We know that women’s access to financial independence, jobs and education are vital to escaping family and gender-based violence, and rebuilding their lives.

We also know women are more likely to be safe if their independence and control over decision-making is valued and supported.

Our work is part of a global movement to ensure that everyone is safe – in their homes, on the streets, and in all aspects of their lives. We stand with all women – including women living in contexts of war and disaster, and First Nations women who continue to face racism and marginalisation as the result of ongoing colonisation.

This International Women’s Day, we will continue our efforts to contribute a world without family and gender-based violence for all women.

Page last updated Friday, March 8 2024

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Ending the cycle of family violence, poverty, and homelessness

Ending the cycle of family violence, poverty, and homelessness

Parity Magazine – Poverty and Homelessness Edition

October 2023

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This article was published in Council to Homeless Persons’ Parity: “Poverty and Homelessness” October 2023 Edition.

Authors: Tania Farha, CEO, Safe and Equal

Key contributors: Ella Longhurst, Policy and Research Officer; Kim Hay, Policy Advisor; and Melanie Scammell, Media and Communications Advisor.

Over the last few years in Victoria, we’ve seen enormous shifts in the way we respond to family violence. Eight years on from the Royal Commission into Family Violence, there have been significant improvements in areas such as risk assessment and management, information sharing and family violence legislation.

However, when it comes to improvements in recovery initiatives – specifically, economic well-being and housing for victim survivors – we still have a long way to go. 

Financial security and safe, accessible housing are two of the most critical pillars in the journey to recovery from family violence. Without them, victim survivors often find themselves trapped, unable to safely escape their perpetrator and rebuild their lives without risking poverty and homelessness. 

These experiences of family violence, poverty and homelessness are inextricably linked and cyclical, impacting a victim survivor in multiple, overlapping ways.  

For many victim survivors, economic abuse features prominently in their lives. Its prevalence is high, with some research suggesting it occurs in some form in around 50 to 90 per cent of cases. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2022 Personal Safety Survey1, one in six Australian women (around 1.6 million) have experienced economic abuse by a partner. This can include things like denying access to household funds, stopping a victim survivor from earning their own money, or controlling all spending and financial decisions. 

The impact of economic abuse on a victim survivor’s financial security and independence is significant and can impact them in a myriad of ways, even after separating from the perpetrator. I’ve seen many cases where a perpetrator has incurred enormous debts in a victim survivors’ name, hidden assets, or weaponised court systems to keep their victim in debt or in poverty. The impacts of this economic and systems abuse can be extreme and are not just economic – they can also impact Family Court proceedings or custody arrangements, further traumatising a victim survivor and her children. 

These tactics are so successfully weaponised by perpetrators because they keep a victim survivor in a constant state of economic distress and fear, and with no money and nowhere else to go, forces them to be financially dependent on and unable to safely leave their perpetrator. 

Financial and economic abuse thrives because of the significant economic inequity that exists more broadly for women. Rigid gender stereotypes that prioritise cis-male privilege and authority are designed to keep women and other marginalised groups in entrenched and inescapable poverty. Women continue to remain disproportionately in lower-paid occupations, and in part-time or casual work.2 They also experience significant pay discrimination, being paid less on average for the same full-time roles across every industry and occupation in Australia.3  

Concerningly, 30 per cent of retired women have no personal income, compared to 7 per cent of men.4 As a result, older single women are now the fastest growing cohort of people experiencing homelessness,5 many of whom are victim survivors of family violence. 

Unfortunately, for people who experience additional forms of structural oppression due to race, disability, age, sexuality, or socio-economic status, the risk of poverty and homelessness is even higher. The risk further increases for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, who are further disadvantaged by ongoing institutional and systemic racism and discrimination. 

The ability to achieve financial equality is an essential component of any individual’s economic wellbeing and independence, and, for victim survivors, is crucial in enabling a safe exit and long-term recovery from abuse. A key part of this is having access to safe and affordable housing options.  

However, the current state of housing in Australia is putting even more strain on people experiencing family violence, with a critical lack of suitable housing and crisis accommodation available. This is well known by our state and federal governments yet has reached crisis levels, with family violence now the leading cause of homelessness for women and children in Australia.6 

In Victoria, our dedicated refuge system can only support around 160 households, meaning hundreds of victim survivors, including children, end up being placed in unsafe and unsuitable motel accommodation, many for weeks at a time. I recall a specialist family violence service deeply concerned about a victim survivor they were supporting who had been placed in unsafe motel accommodation with her children for more than 50 days. While the service was doing everything they could to support their client, without a place to call home, there was little hope of moving beyond crisis interventions and into recovery.  

Beyond refuge and crisis accommodation, Australians across the board are feeling the impacts of a deeply unsustainable housing system – and these issues are exacerbated for people experiencing family violence. With private rental properties prohibitively expensive and a social housing system buckling under significant demand and long wait times (despite family violence being a factor for prioritisation), there is little to no access for victim survivors. This leaves many with an impossible choice: do they remain in an abusive home, or do they escape and face homelessness?  

Additionally, even if a victim survivor is supported to remain in their own home, the absence of affordable housing options can mean their perpetrator is unable to find suitable accommodation, making them more likely to attempt to return and perpetrate abuse. 

Without immediate government action and investment into bolstering the systems and structures that are meant to support victim survivors to escape abuse, develop economic freedom and recover from violence, these cycles will never be broken. 

This is not new information – our sectors have been fiercely advocating for these changes for decades. While there have been wins, we are yet to see the bold and brave long-term initiatives and investment to make meaningful and lasting change.  

What is needed? Firstly, we need to address the ongoing housing crisis in this country. We need an immediate increase to crisis accommodation capacity, mandates to support victim survivors to access affordable private rentals, ongoing investment into initiatives that enable and support victim survivors to remain safe in their homes (and housing options for perpetrators of violence), and significant investment in and prioritisation of the development of more social housing properties. 

We also need an immediate overhaul of our social security system to ensure it is respectful, accessible and inclusive. This means increasing social security payments beyond the poverty line with a particular focus on parenting payments for single mothers and those on job seeker, eliminating cruel and punitive compliance and mutual obligation measures for victim survivors, and eliminating additional barriers to accessing financial support for women on temporary visas, who are ineligible for many existing income and housing support initiatives.  

Finally, we need substantive structural change to disrupt the gender pay gap and workforce inequality, including increased wages for female dominated industries, and initiatives to support victim survivors to find meaningful and long-term employment. 

Every victim survivor deserves the right to live a life free from violence. To have that chance, they must be supported to reach economic independence, financial security, and have access to safe, long-term housing options. Otherwise, many will be forced to remain in unsafe and potentially fatal relationships to avoid a lifetime cycle of poverty and homelessness.  

Footnotes

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021–22, Personal Safety Australia, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-and-justice/personal-safety-australia/latest-release
  2. Morgan A and Boxall H 2022, ‘Economic Security and Intimate Partner Violence in Australia During the COVID-19 Pandemic’, ANROWS, http://anrowsdev.wpenginepowered.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Economic-insecurityand-IPV-during-the-C19-RR2.pdf
  3. Workplace Gender Equality Agency 2021, The ABS Data Gender Pay Gap, https://www.wgea.gov.au/data-statistics/ABS-gender-pay-gapdata#:~:text=Australia’s%20national%20gender%20pay%20gap,earned%2C%20women%20earned%2087%20cents
  4. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020, ‘Retirement and Retirement Intentions, Australia’, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/retirement-and-retirement-intentionsaustralia/latest-release#income-at-retirement
  5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2022, Specialist Homelessness Services Annual report 2021–22, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/homelessness-services/specialisthomelessness-services-annual-report
  6. Council to Homeless Persons 2022, Homelessness and Domestic and Family Violence, https://chp.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Homelessness-and-Domestic-and-Family-Violence.pdf

Page last updated Thursday, January 18 2024

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Nurturing hope during the 16 Days of Activism

Nurturing Hope

during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence

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⏲️ Reading time: approx 15 minutes

🎧 This piece includes audio and video (with transcripts) from our hopeful contributors.

To maintain a movement, we need hope. And this movement, to end family and gender-based violence, is one we must work to maintain hope for.

It is preventable. We can get there. Working together to individually and collectively maintain hope is crucial in our efforts to create a world free from family and gender-based violence, where everyone is safe, thriving and respected.

We are not meant to do this work alone, nor are we required to rely on self-care and individual resilience…in moments when hope is hard to grasp, it is possible to borrow the hope of others.

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Vikki Reynolds

PhD, RCC

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that takes place from 25 November (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day). 

Throughout the campaign, communities across the globe engage in a range of activities, events and advocacy efforts to draw attention to the prevalence of gender-based violence, and to promote initiatives that work towards its eradication. 

To commemorate this year’s campaign, we wanted to explore the concept of hope in family violence work. To support this, we asked colleagues from across the sector to share what hope looks like to them, and how they maintain hope in their work to end family and gender-based violence. 

This article centres the personal stories and experiences of many different people, who have varied feelings and opinions about hope. We want to acknowledge that the work we all do can be hard – and for many, the world feels particularly heavy right now. It’s our intention for this piece to serve as an act of collective care and for it to exist beyond the 16 Days of Activism, to help us continue our mission to end family and gender-based violence. 

In late 2022, the Centre Against Violence facilitated an art program with survivors of family and sexual violence. Over the course of a year, participants worked with therapists and artists to produce works of art that gave voice to their experiences and celebrated their strength. When it came time to exhibit the works at a local gallery in the Ovens Murray region of Victoria in August of this year, opening night was quickly booked out. 

“The hope in the room was incredible,” reflects Centre Against Violence CEO, Jaime Chubb. “All the artwork showed experiences of intense sadness, isolation, and trauma – yet all of the women who created them were strong and excited for the future.” 

For those who attended the exhibition, many of whom work exclusively in the crisis space, being able to step back and see what recovery could look like was a powerful – and hopeful – experience. 

“Seeing this allowed me to remember that ‘recovery’ isn’t just about becoming safe or moving on from the violence,” says Jaime. “Recovery can actually be about learning how to live with the story and the memories, and building a life that acknowledges the experiences and celebrates the enormous strength it took to survive.” 

Advocacy work in the family and gender-based violence space is a journey marked by highs and lows, victories and setbacks. Achieving long-term structural and societal change can often be challenging, and at times, progress feels frustratingly slow. As individuals, seeking out and maintaining a sense of hope in our work is not just important, but crucial. Sometimes, it is the only thing that gets us out of bed, out the door, and keeps us here when things get tough – which can be often. 

Nurturing and maintaining hope in our efforts to address family and gender-based violence is an active pursuit. The things we see and experience that remind us that the outcomes we are working towards are possible and worth continuing to fight for are uniquely individual. 

Hope stretches beyond expressions of unconstrained optimism, beyond passively waiting for the world to improve. It does not exist in isolation, nor to placate or minimise the very real despair, anguish and frustration experienced by those advocating for meaningful change, and by those who are subject to multiple and intersecting layers of systemic marginalisation and discrimination. Conversely, hope is often driven by these feelings – as an inner rebellion, a way for us to channel our emotions into action. Hope can be angry. It can be fierce. It can be an act of defiance against detractors. 

Hope doesn’t preclude feeling sadness or frustration or anger or any other emotion that makes total sense. Hope isn’t an emotion, you know? Hope is not optimism. Hope is a discipline… we have to practice it every single day.

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Mariame Kaba

American activist, grassroots organiser and educator

Listen to Safe and Equal life member Keran Howe on finding hope in the collective:

Read the transcript
Keran Howe: “Knowing we’re part of a chain that stretches back through the history of women’s wisdom and persistence in the struggle for justice. And that will stretch forward, as other women continue with passion – and compassion. That gives me a certainty of what’s possible, if we keep on working together to build a better, fairer, safer world.”

Individual experiences of hope within family and gender-based violence advocacy do not exist in a vacuum. Each moment, each experience, each choice made to maintain and nurture hope is interconnected, an expertly woven tapestry driven by what has been, and what can be. 

The movement to eliminate family and gender-based violence in Australia as it exists today is informed by a long line of people who have come before us; individuals and groups who sought to radically change the way Australia viewed family and gender-based violence. These change-makers – from the grassroots activists who created Australia’s first women’s refuges in the 1960s and 1970s, to the First Nations and LGBTIQA+ activists still working to dismantle the significant discrimination and marginalisation their communities experience to this day – form a collective that spans generations and will continue far beyond our lifetimes.  

For Joe Ball, CEO of Switchboard, hope stems from reflecting on this rich history of collective advocacy, and all that has been achieved against incredible odds. 

“Change is always possible,” he says. “I know this because I have witnessed so much change for the better in my own lifetime for LGBTIQA+ people. I am a huge fan of history, and it tells us that even things that seem like completely intractable structures can crumble; whether that is the Berlin Wall or discrimination against transgender people. If it is built and controlled by people, then it can be transformed.” 

In outer-western Melbourne, this idea of change and transformation is very real for Djirra, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation providing support to Aboriginal people who have experienced family violence. Earlier this year, Djirra opened the doors of Djirra in the West, a service located in Melton – which has the highest rates of family violence incidents in north-west Melbourne. 

For Antoinette Braybrook, CEO of Djirra, the launch was a full circle moment – and a reiteration that change is always possible. “[My] family has been in the Melton area for more than 50 years. We were the first – and only – Aboriginal family for many years,” says Antionette. “Today, this western corridor is the fastest growing Aboriginal population, [yet] here was a clear gap in dedicated, culturally safe services for our people. We knew the demand was there in the west – and that meant Djirra [had to] be there too.” 

For the team at Djirra, opening the Melton space is the first step in expanding services across Victoria, and ultimately, forms part of their aim of transforming the lives of Aboriginal women across the state. This idea of the potential to work together for transformation – no matter how complex, or how slow moving – isas a driver of why we do the work that is echoed by many. 

“Over the years, I have realised that in order to create a new and better world, we cannot only focus on what needs to be dismantled, but [we must find] ways of mobilising and working together to imagine what we will build in its place,” says Maria Dimopoulos, Board Chair of Safe and Equal. 

“Like so many around me during the late 1980s and early 1990s, I joined the feminist movement and; dedicating myself to raising diverse voices that could attest to the histories, strength, resilience, endurance, vision, and survival that are part of the experiences of migrant and refugee women,” says Maria. 

“When migrant and refugee women are involved and their voices truly heard, they change the face of gender and intersectional equality. They alter assumptions, expand horizons and push boundaries.” 

It is this incredible sense of the collective that so often fosters hope. It is the feeling we are a part of something bigger than our individual selves and experiences; and that, as a connected force, real change is possible. This spreads far and wide: across communities, across the sector and across the continuum, from prevention, to early intervention, to response and recovery. 

“Our community experienced a homicide of a woman recently,” says Margaret Augerinos, CEO of the Centre for Non-Violence. “This was tragic and extremely distressing for many… [but] coming together during a community vigil to express our collective grief also supported us to express hope that gendered violence is preventable. 

We left with a concrete understanding that we are not alone; that we all have a part to play… that we all can take efforts to inform and influence others around us,” she describes. “Out of tragedy came understanding, hope and renewed commitment to working together.” 

“As practitioners working to prevent family and gender-based violence, we’re in the business of social change – and this isn’t an easy business,” says Marina Carman, Executive Director of Primary Prevention at Safe and Equal. “But wow, you meet some great people…and what gives me hope is seeing all those little lightbulb moments – both for ourselves and the people we’ve changed – and knowing each one is part of a growing sea of lights.” 

“I am extremely moved by the unlikely heroes, the underdogs, the people who speak up when they have everything to lose,” says Joe Ball. “The first person who dissents to injustice, the survivor who seeks to remedy a system that failed them, the family member who dedicates their life to change after their loved one is killed, the person who doesn’t want vengeance, even when they have every reason to. I look at all these people and I am filled with hope that human beings can be miraculous, especially – or perhaps because of – the darkest times.” 

[Hope is] intersectional feminism, recognising the power of victim survivors in their hopes, resistance and collective strength.

Through amplifying diverse voices and fostering solidarity, we can together work towards a society that values social justice and wellbeing for all, dismantling oppressive structures in the process.

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Bree Hewatt

Practice Development Leader
Berry Street

When we step back to look at the wider picture, it’s clear we’ve come a long way. There have been incredible changes to the way Australia recognises and responds to family and gender-based violence in the last few decades – and particularly, in the last eight years. 

Despite this, we know much more needs to be done – as a collective, and particularly for those who are trying to nurture hope amongst incredible oppression and marginalisation. 

“Even with the failed referendum, I still have hope for change,” says Antoinette Braybrook. “Our women are strong, courageous and resilient, and deserve better. This is why Djirra creates spaces where women’s business and collective wisdom can be celebrated, where there’s strength and healing in cultural identity. And most of all, where women are self-determining individually and collectively.” 

“It’s important to not lose sight of the appalling rates of violence against Aboriginal women,” adds Antoinette. “But where the hope comes is that we have the solutions, and we have the wisdom to make real change.” 

“Elizabeth Morgan House was established by strong and staunch Aboriginal women,” says Kalina Morgan-Whyman, CEO of Elizabeth Morgan House. “We strive to honour them every day in our work to uphold the rights of women and children to live a life free from violence,” she adds. 

“We have a commitment to providing the space and support so every woman can heal and not be defined by acts against them, outside of their control.” 

Watch Nadia Mattiazzo, CEO of Women with Disabilities Victoria, share what makes her hopeful in her work: 

Read the transcript
Nadia Mattiazzo: “What makes me hopeful in my work, and it’s a recent development, is the release of the Royal Commission Report – the Disability Royal Commission. We spent a number of years listening to and hearing the stories of women with disabilities speaking to the people and to the commission, and now we have their stories out there in the community as part of the report. I think it’s a really good opportunity for the nation to come together, and to implement the recommendations of the report, as opposed to individual states or individual sectors of individual states trying to do small pieces of work. I’m really looking forward to what the recommendations – and the implementation of those recommendations – hold.”

For disability rights activist and Safe and Equal life member Keran Howe, hope comes from working within an ever expanding and evolving sector – one working to be more inclusive of all people who experience violence. 

Listen to Keran Howe: 

Read the transcript
Keran Howe: “Witnessing changes that we’ve created together. The greater knowledge that now exists about women with disabilities experiencing violence. The growing commitment of family violence services to open their doors and respond to women with disabilities and join us in addressing our rights.”

“Our work as allies must always be grounded in humility, collaboration, and accountability,” says Maria Dimopoulos. “In our spheres of influence, we need to interrupt social and political injustice by challenging the practices and policies that protect privilege and keep it in place.” 

“We can use our own privilege to ensure that power is more equitably shared,” says Maria. “We can shine a light on every program, every action and endeavour we are engaged in, asking: Whose voices are being sought out and heard? Who decides what is important, right, beautiful, true, and valued?” 

“Hope in action is working with other specialists, protecting that moment in time when a victim survivor reports family violence.

In that moment, she is believed, she matters. Nothing is more important than her safety. In the crisis response bubble, we are left wanting equality and safety more than ever before for those who report – and for those who never will.”

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Rhonda Cumberland

Consultant
On For Change

The things that keep us engaged in family and gender-based violence advocacy are as wide and varied as the things that brought us to the sector in the first place. For many, being able to recognise the connections between the impacts of our day-to-day work and the bigger, broader picture of long-term structural change is where hope lies. 

“[It’s] being able to see positive changes in the lives of the women and children we work with,” says Kalimna Andy, Manager of Family Violence Services at Elizabeth Morgan House. 

“I am inspired by the resilience and strength displayed by our women and feel honoured they trust myself and Elizabeth Morgan House to walk along-side them to overcome the many advertises they face.” 

Nicole Du Toit, Advanced Family Violence Practice Leader at WAYSS, agrees. 

Watch Nicole Du Toit share what keeps her hopeful in her work: 

Read the transcript
Nicole Du Toit: “What keeps me hopeful in my work is the ability to have an impact on women and/or children’s lives. Whether that be from the crisis point, to recovery, it’s enabling women to have that self-determination and autonomy to make choices in their lives, to have control over where they go or how they keep themselves safe…that’s often taken away from them. And sometimes, it’s finding those little wins or silver linings that you are having a lot of change.”

For Pania Craik, Team Leader of Family Violence at Quantum Support Services, hope comes from the strength and resilience of victim survivors. 

“When women and children first come into our service, we often experience the hope that they are holding onto – the hope to live a life free of family violence and its impacts,” says Pania. “[As we begin] walking alongside someone in their journey, we often see that hope turn into empowerment – and that is why we do what we do.” 

“For me, the hope usually comes from children and young people,” says Jaime Chubb. “[The] best moments involve seeing them smile, their excitement at finding out they get a house, their resilience to start again, their ability to still love and forgive,” she says.

“My office sits next to our reception area – the difference to a young person’s demeanour when they are greeted and treated with respect and compassion still gives me goosebumps.” 

When survivor advocate Conor Pall had the opportunity to speak at this year’s Walk Against Family Violence in Melbourne, he chose to focus on hope – and the meaningful action required to turn hope into real change for victim survivors.  

“Hope is weaved throughout our stories,” said Conor. “It was in every submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence seven years ago. Victim survivors wrote in in the hundreds – sharing stories of survival and the failings of the system. 

“Each story was different – but each was bound by a common thread – hope. This hope lives within every one of us… a story. A principle – that everyone has the right to safety and freedom. Freedom from violence, safety from the people who use it, [and the] space to heal and recover from its impacts.” 

Listen to survivor advocate Marie Allen on what hope means to her: 

Read the transcript
Marie Allen: “Being a survivor of family violence, the hope for action in that was when I finally had enough of the family violence, and how I could see it was ruining my health, destroying the development and growth of my daughters, and everything felt like we were walking with a big, dirty, dark cloud over us. Having the strength to take that hopeful action to get away…my hands couldn’t stop shaking, my body shouldn’t stop shaking, but I kept moving forward to deliver that action – to escape from family violence. It was so, so difficult. But that’s where that hope and taking action for that hope worked for me.”

We’ve always gotta remember, being a survivor of family violence, it’s always there, but at the end, we always find a way to move on. The scars will always be there, but we always find ways to move on, and look for more hope, and action that hope.

Listen to Keran Howe:

Read the transcript
Keran Howe: “I’ve worked for many years in the areas of preventing and responding to violence against women. What’s made me hopeful? Well, I guess a certain amount of questionable optimism has kept me hoping and working for change, year in, year out. And, of course, working with women who are faced with crushing situations – but are not crushed – and who keep on trying to make things better for themselves and their children.”

Nurturing hope when things are hard

This work is hard. Working to challenge gender inequality and the deeply ingrained beliefs and behaviours that allow this violence to thrive is hard. Working to support victim survivors in an underfunded and overwhelmed system is hard. Sharing lived experiences of violence to advocate for change is hard. These barriers can be incredibly overwhelming – particularly when it’s difficult to see progress. Finding – and nurturing – hope during these times can not only feel challenging, but impossible. 

But if we have learnt anything from our time with colleagues during this year’s 16 Days of Activism, hope is always there – we just need to be deliberate about how we seek it out. We can adjust what it looks like in any given moment or any given context. And if others are struggling to see it, we can take the opportunity to share it. 

Hear from Nadia Mattiazzo:

Read the transcript
“There are often instances when it’s really hard to feel hopeful, or to acknowledge hope. I find that there is hope everywhere, so even if you are working within a space…there is something small that happens that gives you hope. You run with that, you pick that up, you encourage that. You talk about that to other people you acknowledge that to the individual or the group. I think that then sets continuing hope.”

The idea of recognising and celebrating each step forward – even if painfully slow – is pivotal to nurturing hope when things are hard, says Margaret Augerinos. 

“It is important to acknowledge change is slow and incremental,” she says. “Honouring hope in a small way is also about honouring intention. Even if change is slow to come, we do our work with a strong belief that what we do matters and makes a difference.” 

“For me hope sometimes needs to be an action,” says Jaime Chubb. “I feel more hopeful when I feel like we a moving forward – even if it’s in a tiny way.”  

“Fostering hope within the challenging context of family violence is undoubtedly difficult, but my commitment to a holistic approach is key to supporting the women on their healing journey,” says Kalimna Andy. 

“Taking a holistic perspective recognizes that healing is a multifaceted process, addressing not only the immediate challenges of violence but also the broader aspects of well-being, cultural connectedness, social and emotional support.” 

Keran Howe believes hope can be found in reflection – looking back and recognising how far we’ve come, and the systemic changes that have occurred as a result of decades of fierce advocacy.  

Listen to Keran Howe:

Read the transcript
Keran Howe: “Seeing the reforms that we’ve effected – that fires my belief that change does happen, even if it is so slow and sometimes feels like we are going backwards.”

Watch Nicole Du Toit: 

Read the transcript
Nicole Du Toit: “I think you honour hope in small ways by finding the silver lining, finding the small win. Anything positive that comes out of it should be the way you honour the hope and continue to do what you do.”

Looking to those we advocate alongside – nurturing hope as part of a collective – is also pivotal. Margaret Augerinos finds a sense of hope in new or emerging advocates. 

“[It’s] seeing and experiencing the passion and commitment that young people entering our sector have for ending gendered violence and working towards social equality,” she says. “The future is bright.” 

Jaime Chubb agrees. “Honouring hope also means seeing the people in our work – it can become overwhelming to only see the big picture of family violence all the time,” she says. 

For Pania Craik, being part of the collective also means being a source of hope for those who need it. 

“I sometimes remind myself that we could be the last bit of hope others have,” she says. “One quote I love reads, ‘Don’t lose hope: when the sun goes down, the stars come out’, and I think this would resonate with a lot of people.” 

Stories from survivors give me hope – their resilience, their hope for the future, their strength.

Thinking about future generations, and how they might view gender, power and intersectionality differently … the fact that change is always possible, and that in times of crisis there is the possibility of real shifts and structural changes too.

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Kellie

Sessional Advisor
Safe and Equal

Creating meaningful change through family and gender-based violence advocacy is a long game – far beyond our lifetimes. There’s no denying the work is hard, and keeping hope alive can be difficult. But it’s important to remember that hope is often found in unexpected places. It’s in the smallest of moments, in the tiniest of wins. It’s in leaning into the collective as a form of self-care. 

“We honour hope in our sector when we defend specialisation, when we practice solidarity, when we disagree, when we listen to our BS radar, when we laugh at the same thing, when we advocate harder, when we persist,” says Rhonda Cumberland. 

Keeping hope alive is something we can focus on individually and collectively. We also need our systems and governments to come to the table and contribute to the momentum of collective hope. Keeping family and gender-based violence on the agenda with adequate funding, workforce pathways and support, ensures we can continue to do this critical work and maintain our hope within that.

“We cannot forget how much the pursuit for safety costs victim survivors; costs us, as a nation,” says Conor Pall. 

“We need our government to continue its bold leadership post-Royal Commission”, he says. Yes, the 227 recommendations have been acquitted. Yes, we have made so much progress. But people are still experiencing violence at rates higher than before. Our work is not done. We need to continue the momentum we have created.”  

Momentum from our nation’s leaders, combined with the momentum in our own work, from primary prevention and early intervention through to response and recovery, is critical to realising our collective vision of ending family and gender-based violence. 

“I think for our work, hope needs to be really broad,” says Jaime Chubb. “Its heavy to spend your day thinking about and responding to some of the worst things that humans can do to each other.” 

“But there are so many beautiful and hopeful moments in the world, we should take the time to focus on them in our work. We also need to maintain the hope for our own lives – our families and children, our friends, our communities.” 

 A very big thank you to all who generously contributed their thoughts and wisdom to this piece, and to our broader 16 Days of Activism social media campaign. Alongside these contributions, ‘Nurturing Hope’ was written and curated by Melanie Scammell, Media and Communications Advisor at Safe and Equal. 

Page last updated Thursday, December 7 2023

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Is someone you know in an abusive relationship? Here’s 6 things you can do.

Is someone you know in an abusive relationship? Here’s 6 things you can do.

Friday 8 September 2023

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With 1 in 4 women in Australia having experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15*, the chances of you knowing someone who has experienced family violence is high. But as individuals, it can be hard to know how to help. Safe and Equal CEO Tania Farha explains what family violence can look like and gives us 6 tips for supporting our loved ones who may be experiencing abuse.

This year, 35 women have already been killed by men’s violence in Australia^. This is unacceptable, and signals that we have a long way to go to eliminate family and gender-based violence in this country.  

For many of us, this can often feel overwhelming and frustrating. Why aren’t we doing more? Is it completely hopeless? Will this never end? 

But the reality is, it doesn’t have to be like this. Family violence is entirely preventable. And as individuals, we all have a part to play in preventing it. 

Of course, government plays a significant role. We need ongoing commitment and investment from all levels of government, to increase funding for the specialist family violence services who support victim survivors, and for prevention initiatives to stop violence before it starts. This is crucial. 

But as individuals, we also have an important role to play. 

Recently, I spoke to the team at Future Women as part of their outstanding podcast series, ‘There’s No Place Like Home.’ The series focuses on the warning signs of domestic violence, and what friends and family can look out for. 

As discussed in the podcast, for many victim survivors it is the people closest to them who will be the first to notice something isn’t right. It is these people – the best mates, the work colleagues, the next-door neighbours – who are in a unique position to offer support and make a difference. 

Maybe you’ve seen some concerning signs, things that feel like red flags. But maybe you don’t know what to say, or how to help.  

The first thing I would say is don’t ignore that instinct. Chances are, your gut is right.  

But what if you’re not sure it’s family violence? 

 

Family violence isn’t just physical abuse. 

Family violence can take many forms – physical, emotional, financial – and it’s common for a victim survivor to experience several of these.   

But there’s one term that people have been talking about a lot lately, and that is coercive control. 

Coercive control is a phrase that has become more commonly used in recent years but can be tricky to understand. Basically, coercive control is a pattern of abusive behaviours and tactics used by a perpetrator to gain power and control over a victim survivor. 

Some examples of how coercive control can manifest in many different and overlapping include: 

  • Isolating someone from their family and friends  
  • Controlling what someone wears 
  • Gaslighting, constant criticism and humiliation  
  • Jealous and possessive behaviours, like constantly accusing someone of cheating or being flirtatious 

Because abusers can be very good at hiding or masking their behaviour, coercive control can be quite difficult to clearly define or see from the outside. It can be as subtle as a look or a word. An action that seems harmless on the surface can cause a victim survivor to feel incredibly fearful. It’s this feeling of fear that an abuser will use as a way to exert control.  

So – you’ve noticed something is wrong and you want to do something about it. But what do you do? 

 

1. Start small.

One of the most common things we hear from friends or family members is that they are really worried about their loved one but have no idea how to bring it up. Much of this fear is rooted in feeling like they’ll say the wrong thing, that they’ll upset the person or cause them to retreat.  

While this can be a risk, it’s really important to say something if you are concerned. Abusers are banking on everybody staying silent and looking the other way. It’s this silence that allows the violence to thrive.  

You can start small by finding a time to talk with them alone, in-person, and preferably out of their own home, in case their abuser is using spyware to monitor them. Invite them for a walk or to your place for a coffee. 

It can be awkward to start the conversation, so I’d suggest checking in with them. You can ask how they’re feeling, or how things are going at home. If you feel ready, you can gently share some of the things that have been worrying you. Some examples include: 

“I’ve noticed [your partner] calls and texts you a lot, and you seem stressed when you’re talking to him. Is everything okay?” 

“I’ve been worried about you. I’ve noticed some things in your relationship that are concerning me. Can we talk about it?”  

Even if the conversation doesn’t go the way you planned, at the very least you have planted a seed. Your friend will know that someone is noticing what is going on, and cares about their well-being. 

 

2. Boost their confidence. 

Perpetrators of family violence are experts at eroding a victim’s self-esteem, to the point where they might feel like they deserve the abuse, or that what’s happening to them is normal. 

Think about it this way – if someone is constantly putting you down and making you feel worthless, eventually you might start to believe it. Over time it can become extremely difficult for a victim to see clearly that what is happening to them is not okay, and that it’s not their fault. 

I like to tell friends and family members who are worried that their biggest job is to bring some of that confidence and self-worth back – so the person experiencing family violence can start to see that they deserve a life free from abuse.  

That seems like a big task, but it can be done in little ways. Remaining judgement-free and gently reminding the person that what is happening isn’t their fault is a good start. 

Tell them they’re important to you – that you care about them, and they don’t deserve what is happening to them.  

Even if they don’t believe you at first, over time these few small actions can make a huge difference. 

 

3. Don’t say, ‘why don’t you just leave?’ 

There are a few reasons for this.  

First and foremost – one of the most high-risk times for a victim survivor is just before and during the first few months after they leave a violent relationship. Women are at most risk of being killed or seriously injured during this time. It’s important that if your loved one wants to leave, they have a safety plan in place (more detail about this below). 

Additionally, part of building up someone’s confidence and self-esteem is to support them to take control of their choices and actions. The ability to make their own decisions is precisely what their abuser is taking away from them.  

Victim survivors know what they need to be safe, and they’re the experts in managing their own risk. Sometimes safety looks like remaining in the relationship with some supports in place, or until they can safely leave. 

While you might feel frustrated that your friend hasn’t immediately left the relationship, you need to trust that they know what’s best for them at that moment. 

 

4. Listen to what they need and offer practical support. 

It can be hard to not immediately jump in with suggestions of what you would do if you were in their shoes. But again – part of building up their confidence and self-esteem is listening and respecting their autonomy.  

Ask them, ‘what can I do to help?’, or ‘what do you need from me?’. 

Offer support with practical things, like childcare or running errands. This can give your friend the space to breathe and consider their next steps.  

Help them make a safety plan. It can include things like: 

  • A code word that they can use to let you know they need police assistance 
  • Teaching their children to run to a neighbour if the house isn’t safe, or how to dial 000 and ask for police 
  • An overnight bag filled with clothes, medications and copies of keys that they can grab if they need to leave quickly 
  • Keeping copies of their important documents at your house 

You can let them know about specialist family violence services that are available and offer to help them make contact. You can call national hotlines like 1800 RESPECT, or find a service in their local area. If you’re unsure of what services are available, a good place to start is the list of services on the Are You Safe At Home? website. 

If they’re employed, you can let them know they are entitled to 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave – this came into effect this year, and everybody is entitled to it, even casual employees. 

 

5. They don’t want to talk? Don’t push them. 

Talking about abuse is really hard. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of shame and stigma that exists around family violence. There’s also a lot of fear – many victim survivors are terrified if they talk about the abuse, their perpetrator will find out. 

For whatever reason, if your friend isn’t ready to talk or acknowledge what is happening – this is okay. 

Don’t pressure them if they’re uncomfortable. Even though you might be really worried, or think you’re being helpful, you may inadvertently make them close off to you. 

If you sense it’s not the right time, or that they don’t want to talk, just let them know you care and you’ll be there when they’re ready. 

 

6. Look after yourself. 

There’s no way around it – this stuff is really hard and can take an emotional toll. It’s scary and upsetting to know someone you care about is being abused. It can feel overwhelming and draining. But remember – you’re not expected to ‘save’ your loved one or solve the family violence on your own. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed, there are services available to support friends and family members too. You can always call 1800 RESPECT or Lifeline if you need to talk. 

And if you’re not ready to bring up the family violence, that’s okay. Don’t underestimate the power of showing your loved one that you see them, they matter, and you care.  

 

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, always call triple zero (000). 

If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, there are services that can provide support and advice. 

For support across Australia, contact 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit 1800respect.org.au 

For more information on support services in your state, visit Are You Safe At Home?.  

To learn more about the warning signs of domestic violence, and what you can be looking out for, listen to season two of Future Women’s podcast, There’s No Place Like Home. 

To learn more about how you can implement a tailored and accessible domestic and family violence leave policy in your workplace, check out Safe and Equal’s workplace family violence services. 

*Personal Safety Survey 2021-22, Australian Bureau of Statistics

^Destroy the Joint, 2023. NB: There is limited data available on family violence deaths, so this figure is likely higher. This figure also does not include children, several of whom we know have been killed due to men’s violence this year. 

Page last updated Friday, September 8 2023

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Safe and Equal supports the call for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament

Safe and Equal supports the call for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament

Tuesday 22 August 2023

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As the peak body for specialist family violence services in Victoria, Safe and Equal is committed to walking alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services and communities, and listening to what Aboriginal people say is needed to address inequality and injustice.

Ahead of the Voice to Parliament referendum this year, Safe and Equal stands in solidarity with First Nations peoples and supports the call for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.  

We acknowledge and respect the diversity of viewpoints held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around the referendum and recognise the Uluru Statement of the Heart as one way forward, with voice one element of this. We support an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament alongside other meaningful action, including treaty negotiations, truth-telling processes, implementing the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and funding Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations adequately to meet the service and support needs of their communities. 

Safe and Equal respects First Nations people’s rights to self-determination and cultural safety. Now and always, we stand strongly opposed to racism, denial of history and wilful blindness to ongoing inequality and injustice. No matter the outcome of this referendum, we will continue to listen to, stand with and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their efforts towards justice, equality and control of their own lives and futures. 

Read our full statement on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament here. 

 

Want to learn more?  

Read more about the Voice to Parliament at Reconciliation Australia 

IndigenousX regularly publishes features and opinion pieces on the Voice to Parliament, from First Nations writers like Celeste Liddle and Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts. You can find all articles here. 

Read statements on the Voice to Parliament from the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, and Mallee District Aboriginal Services. 

Check out news coverage and explainers on the Voice to Parliament referendum from SBS News, The Guardian, The Conversation and ABC News. 

The Guardian Australia has launched a special podcast series on the referendum as part of their Full Story podcast feed, titled The Voice Ask Me Anything. Episodes are released fortnightly – you can find them all here. 

Page last updated Tuesday, August 22 2023

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Victorian Disability Family Violence Crisis Response Initiative

Victorian Disability Family Violence Crisis Response Initiative

Tuesday 20 June 2023

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The expansion of eligibility criteria means victims of family violence who have disability-related needs including mental health, chronic health or ageing issues or have a temporary injury resulting from family violence can now access the Disability Family Violence Crisis Response Initiative. Broader criteria means more support is available to more women and children, but the future is uncertain.

“When Henry was removed from the house it took eight weeks to get someone to come in and do something as basic as give me a shower. They removed my carer but didn’t put anything in place to back that up.”

– Witness statement of Melissa Brown, Royal Commission into Family Violence1

Women with disabilities are particularly at risk of violence because of their experience of discrimination on the basis of both disability and gender. Research shows that women with disabilities experience violence at a higher rate and for longer periods of time than women without disabilities2. In fact, over one-third of women with disabilities experience some form of intimate partner violence3. They also encounter significant barriers to receiving appropriate services and adequate justice responses to their experiences of violence4.

In cases where the woman’s intimate partner is her carer, reporting the violence means she faces losing disability supports in addition to experiencing violence. Moving to ensure safety has more implications for women with disabilities than for other women; it can mean changing support providers and requiring assistance to manage a new environment. Despite the greater risk of family violence and the level of supports required, women with disabilities are under-represented in the family violence system.

Since 2011, the Disability Family Violence Crisis Response Initiative (DFVCRI) has provided immediate crisis supports to women and children with a disability who are experiencing family violence. These practical supports include attendant care, equipment hire, Auslan interpreters and transport costs associated with a disability.

As Melissa Brown’s witness statement above to the Royal Commission into Family Violence (RCFV) demonstrates, access to the DFVCRI has been limited. In some cases, the woman’s disability didn’t fit the narrow definition in the Victorian Disability Act (2006) in others, increased awareness of the Initiative could have helped.

Fortunately, the RCFV recognised the need to make a specific recommendation to extend eligibility to a wider group of women and children whose disability fell outside the Act5. As a result, the DFVCRI can now assist women and children who are experiencing family violence and have disability related needs including mental health, chronic health or ageing issues or have a temporary injury resulting from family violence.

The fund was created due to a recognition that disability services are not designed to respond to crisis needs. While Victoria’s new Flexible Support Packages support disability services to respond to family violence needs, they can’t offer the dedicated disability advice and liaison available through the DFVCRI.

The Disability and Family Violence Liaison Officer is located at Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre, and can help workers across the state assess whether a woman or child’s experience falls within the extended criteria for immediate supports. They can also provide secondary consultation and advise about longer term disability supports after the 12 week period, including flexible support packages. 

More information

Disability and Family Violence Liaison Officer, Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre

Short-term funds can be provided for up to 12 weeks to a maximum of $9,000 per person. During this period, a family violence worker will work with the woman to develop a longer term plan to address the family violence risk.

1: http://www.rcfv.com.au/MediaLibraries/RCFamilyViolence/Statements/WIT-00… 2: Woodlock D, Healey L, Howe K, McGuire M, Geddes V and Granek S: Voices Against Violence Paper One: Summary Report and Recommendations (Women with Disabilities Victoria, Office of the Public Advocate and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, 2014): 3-4: Ibid; 5: Recommendation 178 states that “the Victorian Government extend eligibility for the Victorian Disability Family Violence Crisis Response to assist people with disabilities who are victims of family violence and are not eligible for services under the Disability Act 2006 (Vic) but who nevertheless require assistance. Such eligibility should apply when these individuals do not have access to alternative supports.” 

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Family violence a workplace issue for Are You Safe at Home? Day 2023

Family violence a workplace issue for Are You Safe at Home? Day 2023

Thursday 25 May 2023

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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

Are You Safe at Home? Day Panel at EY

“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. 

Are You Safe at Home? Day Panel

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. 

The webinars

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.

Logos: NTCOSS, Embolden, DVNSW, Centre for Women's Safety and Wellbeing

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 robynstone@safeandequal.org.au.  

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?’. 

Page last updated Thursday, May 25 2023

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PiP Member Spotlight: Sam House from City of Kingston

PiP Member Spotlight: Sam House from City of Kingston

Monday 24 April 2022

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This month, we spoke to Sam House, Social Policy and Planning Officer from City of Kingston, about her vital work with Active Kingston, supporting local clubs to promote gender equality and diversity, including through upcoming initiatives with Proud2Play.

Social media handles: www.linkedin.com/in/samhouse01 
Length of time a PiP member: Over five years 
List of PiP activities attended: Various in-person and online events, including the PiP 2017-18 seminar series with guest speaker, Dr Marion Frere – my then-CEO in the Office for Prevention and Women’s Equality. 

A headshot of Sam House

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

My introduction to working in the prevention of family violence space was serving as the Secretariat of the Victorian Government’s then-Indigenous Family Violence Partnership Forum and later, in a policy officer role within the Office for Prevention and Women’s Equality – Respect Victoria Establishment Team (then Department of Health and Human Services).  

I moved to local government, coordinating a 12-month community-led, place-based project with the City of Kingston which engaged cultural and faith diverse community leaders in training to prevent family violence and promote gender equality in their organisations and communities. From there, I’ve been leading Council’s work to prevent family violence, including the implementation of their Prevention of Family Violence Action Plan 2019-2021 and more recently, Year 2 and 3 annual actions to prevent family violence under Kingston’s Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2021-2025. 

When did you become passionate about gender equality?  

Personally, it was probably when I wasn’t allowed to join the same Scout troop as my older brother because I was a girl and they didn’t have any female leaders. This led to the recruitment of their first female leader and my pioneering as the first female Scout of that unit!  

Professionally, it was my role in helping establish Respect Victoria and gaining a deeper understanding of the research and evidence-base around the overwhelming and disproportionate rates of men’s violence against women and children in Victoria. I am a passionate advocate for the role we can all play to challenge gender inequality (and other social justice inequities), which drive family and gender-based violence. 

(I think the recent implementation of Gender Impact Assessments across public sector agencies, including teams and departments not normally engaged in this space, will be instrumental in helping embed an intersectional lens in program and service delivery, and advance gender equality in Victoria)!  

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

We recently briefed Council on key outcomes of its 16 Days of Activism campaign for 2022, which included an engaging webinar on ‘Equality and Respect in Sport: Promoting gender equality on and off the field’ (recording available here). We’re continuing to work with Active Kingston on how we can support local clubs to promote gender equality and diversity, including through upcoming initiatives with Proud2Play.  

Our free online (and hardcopy) primary prevention toolkit has also launched, developed with the Kingston Family Violence Working Group. The toolkit includes a poster series in English and eight other languages and a set of social media tiles that promote equality and respect across a range of settings (see www.kingston.vic.gov.au/services/health-and-support/prevention-of-family-violence > ‘Promoting equality and respect). 

What skills do you use in your role?  

Brief writing, presentation skills, project management, time management, stakeholder engagement and coordination, understanding of the policy and legislative landscape in Victoria and within our region, and active listening to ensure Council is adequately responding to community need.  

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

I believe primary prevention is such as an important part of the work to end family violence in Australia and ‘stop it before it starts’. I like that primary prevention can empower people as advocates in this space, with increased knowledge and capability to recognise and challenge the underlying drivers of family and gender-based violence and contribute to positive change.  

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

Previous training workshops to build the foundations of understanding family violence 101 have been valuable for groups such as our internal Family Violence Staff Support Officers. Safe and Equal’s leadership around the statewide 16 Days of Activism has also been incredibly valuable to supporting key initiatives in Kingston.   

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

To quote Change Our Game Ambassadors, Lauren Foote and Mel Jones OAM, who were such valuable contributors to our recent 16 Days of Activism webinar, ‘Ripples [of this work] can spread pretty far’, ‘The dividends will probably show long after we are in these positions but that as we know is the way of social change sometimes’. 

Whose work do you admire?  

I admire the work of many women who are leading and advocating in this space at the national and state level, including author Jess Hill, Kit McMahon (WHISE), Amy Prendergast (Respect Victoria), Dr Ramona Vijeyarasa (architect of the Gender Legislative Index), Dr Manjula O’Connor (Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health and author) and our male allies, including Dr Michael Flood (XY Online) and AFL player and Our Watch Advocate, Ben Brown.  

Join the 3,400+ practitioners who are influencing social change in Victoria. Subscribe to receive our monthly Partners in Prevention bulletins and stay up to date on upcoming events and activity.

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Page last updated Monday, April 24 2023

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Achieving Safe at Home responses for victim survivors: programs and policies

Achieving Safe at Home responses for victim survivors

Programs and Policies

Tuesday 18 April

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This article was published in Council to Homeless Persons’ Parity: “Safe at Home” March 2023 Edition.

Authors: Courtney Wamala, Personal Safety Initiative Coordinator and Kate Mecham, Policy Manager – Safe and Equal

The concept of a Safe at Home response for family violence victim survivors was developed in recognition that, when a victim survivor wishes to stay in their current home and it is safe for them to do so, they should not be required to leave following an incident of family violence.  Instead, the perpetrator should be held accountable and removed from the property.

Research into homelessness and family violence has demonstrated that providing victim survivors with a Safe at home response is crucial to enabling them to maintain some stability following the experience of family violence and can reduce homelessness among victim survivors. 1 In order to support victim survivors to remain safely in their homes, a full system approach needs to be applied to remove the perpetrator from the property, keep them in view and ensure that they are being held accountable for their behaviour. This full system approach requires family violence support services, housing services, the police, the court system, child protection and any other relevant services (e.g., mental health, alcohol, and other drugs etc.) to come together and consistently turn their attention to the perpetrator, how their actions are impacting on the victim survivor’s safety and to seek to address that behaviour.  As part of the full system approach, and to assist victim survivors to remain safely in their homes, specific programs have been developed and implemented in Victoria, including the Personal Safety Initiative (PSI) and the Flexible Support Packages (FSP) programs.

The PSI and FSP programs were funded and implemented in Victoria following the Royal Commission into Family Violence after it was identified that one of the ways to support victim survivors to remain safely in their homes would be through the implementation of security responses in the home and provision of brokerage to support this.

The PSI program provides targeted security advice and responses for victim survivors of family violence. There are 17 PSI Coordinators across the state, each with extensive knowledge of family violence and security responses that can be implemented to assist victim survivors. Victim survivors can be referred by a case manager to the PSI program for a safety and security audit to be conducted on their home, which will then identify security measures that should be installed on the home based on the perpetrator’s behavior and the layout of the property. Security measures can be installed on a property that the victim survivor shared with the perpetrator or on a new property if the victim survivor was required or chose to relocate. Security measures that may be recommended include but aren’t limited to security doors, CCTV, technology sweeps of devices, bug sweeps of homes and cars, dash cameras, additional locks, and personal safety devices. Brokerage to fund the installation of these security items can be provided through the FSP program.

FSP providers are also located in regions across the state of Victoria and work closely alongside the PSI Coordinators – in some cases they are located in the same agencies. Brokerage provided by the FSP program is not limited to funding security items. Rather, the program was created to provide victim survivors (both adults and children) with a brokerage program that is holistic and can fund any items that will aid with their recovery from family violence, such as food vouchers, counselling sessions, educational costs, housing costs and legal costs. In the context of safe at home responses, having access to this flexible brokerage money can be critical to help a victim survivor establish themselves in their home independent of the perpetrator.

PSI and FSP are great initiatives to support victim survivors who wish to remain safely in their homes. However, these programs can only do so much. Rates of homelessness among women and children remain high and family violence continues to be the main reason that women and children report they seek support from a homelessness service. 2 As noted above, a whole system approach needs to be applied to aid with the safety of victim survivors. However, research conducted by McAuley Social Services on safe at home responses3 found that in addition to needing a whole of system response, there are systemic and structural barriers that impact on victim survivors’ ability to stay safe in their homes and get on the path to recovery from family violence.

First, the justice system needs to provide a stronger and more consistent response when holding perpetrators accountable for their actions and behavior. Too often victim survivors face barriers when reporting ongoing incidents of family violence and breaches to Intervention Orders, resulting in either the perpetrator not being charged or charged inappropriately. Many victim survivors also find it difficult to find legal support, further compounding the challenges they face when dealing with the justice system. There are limited legal support options available for victim survivors and these supports can be expensive. Lack of access to legal support significantly reduces the likelihood that victim survivors will get just outcomes, increases the chances of perpetrators weaponising the legal system against them, and significantly increases the stress and trauma experienced by victim survivors.

Second, the current programs in place to work with perpetrators are not providing the results needed. These programs are rarely well coordinated with victim survivors and victim survivor programs. More research and evaluation of effective programs needs to be developed to improve the way services work with perpetrators. Strengthened links and collaboration with victim survivors and victim survivor programs is also needed to ensure the work being done in perpetrator specific and allied services is contributing to victim survivors feeling safer. Alongside this, strengthened coordination across allied services, such as alcohol and other drug and mental health services, which have contact with perpetrators is also needed. These services have a valuable role in information sharing to inform safety planning for victim survivors and reinforcing a whole of system response to keep perpetrators accountable for their behavior, not collude and demonstrate that violence is unacceptable. This can help ensure that the work being completed with the perpetrator within perpetrator specific programs is reinforced.

Third, many victim survivors face economic barriers to staying safely in their home. We know that women are more likely than men to be under employed, in insecure work, working in lower paid, traditional female dominated industries, and paid less than their male counterparts in similar roles.4 We also know that during the COVID-19 pandemic, women were more likely to lose their jobs and that women’s rates of employment have been the slowest to bounce back. 5 This economic exclusion, coupled with the high costs of housing and the impacts of financial abuse as part of family violence, results in many victim survivors being unable to afford to stay in their home without the perpetrator’s additional income. This can lead to victim survivors defaulting on mortgage payments or accruing rent arrears and potentially ending up homeless. Moving into cheaper private rental properties or social housing are rarely options due to the lack of affordable housing and long social housing waitlists. If we want more victim survivors to be able to stay safely in their homes, we need economic reform that increases income support payments to livable levels and increases access to well-paying jobs for women. We also need systemic reform to the housing market and policy to make housing more affordable and we need significant and sustained investment from all levels of government into expanding the volume of social housing stock.

To increase victim survivors’ ability to remain safely in their homes, if they wish to do so, we need a whole of system reform that continues to fund programs like PSI and FSPs and brings a wide range of community services, together with police and courts to work toward victim survivors’ safety and perpetrator accountability. We also need government policies that intentionally and actively seek to reduce the systemic and structural barriers that still prevent many victim survivors from being able to stay in their homes and put them at risk of homelessness.

No single solution on its own will enable a safe at home response. It requires sustained political will at all levels of government and an ability to think of solutions beyond the homelessness and family violence sectors. However, in Victoria, we already have many of the ingredients we need for success: family violence literacy, common risk assessments and information sharing to keep the perpetrator in view are all increasing. Many of the reforms that came out of the Royal Commission into Family Violence have laid the groundwork for us to strengthen safe at home responses. Family violence and homelessness among victim survivors is preventable. Ensuring people experiencing family violence can remain safely in their homes is a critical part of that puzzle.

Footnotes

  1. Department of Families, Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (2008) The Road Home: A National Approach to Reducing Homelessness – A White Paper Ch 3 Turning off the tap p 33 https://apo.org.au/node/2882; The Victorian Government (2016) The Royal Commission into Family Violence Ch 9 A Safe Home http://rcfv.archive.royalcommission.vic.gov.au/Report-Recommendations.html
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Specialist Homelessness Services 2020-21: Victoria https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/7b4924b3-a48b-4150-9fac-7de836dcccfd/VIC_factsheet.pdf.aspx
  3. McAuley Community Services for Women (October 2021) Family Violence, homelessness and ‘safe at home’: Data state of knowledge
  4. Equality Rights Alliance Women’s Voices for Gender Equity (2019) National Plan on Gender Equality: Economic Wellbeing http://www.equalityrightsalliance.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/19703-ERA-Economic-Wellbeing-web.pdf
  5. Wood, D; Griffiths, K; Crowley, T. (2021) The Grattan Institute. Women’s Work: The Impact of the COVID Crisis on Australian Women https://grattan.edu.au/report/womens-work/

Page last updated Tuesday, April 18 2023

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Agency and choice are key to recovery from family violence

Agency and choice are key to recovery from family violence

Tuesday 18 April 2023

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This op-ed was published in Council to Homeless Persons’ Parity: “Safe at Home” March 2023 Edition.

Author: Louise Simms, Executive Director – Policy, Communications and Engagement

Safe at Home responses – centred around supporting victim survivors of family violence to remain in their current home – are critical in our efforts to ensuring the family violence service system can meet the unique needs of every person experiencing abuse and can promote autonomy and choice on the road to recovery. 

Family violence is unique in the community services context. It is the only social issue whereby the agent of risk is another person; someone who is actively making choices to cause others to experience fear and danger. Perpetrators use violence to gain and maintain power and control, and they adapt their tactics based on the strategies victim survivors put in place to protect themselves. 

This is the operating context for family violence services – we call it ‘dynamic risk’. The role of the family violence system is to identify, assess and manage family violence risk. To do this effectively, our systemic responses should be just as dynamic.

Safe at Home, as a principle and a commitment, can be a powerful driver of flexible responses aimed at achieving whatever ‘safe at home’ means for each victim survivor.

With no two individual experiences of family violence the same, service responses – including Safe at Home responses – must be flexible to meet people wherever they are on their journey to safety. This flexibility, and the restoration of agency and choice, is critical for victim survivors’ long-term recovery. 

But what does it mean to truly meet a victim survivor where they are? 

While all experiences of family violence are different, something all victim survivors can relate to is the erosion of their sense of self. This kind of abuse chips away at a person’s autonomy and their ability to make decisions – something that can take years to rebuild, long after the immediate threat has been resolved. Many victim survivors talk about the experience of having a perpetrator tightly control or remove every possible freedom in their lives, and the impact this has on their confidence and their capacity to leave an abusive relationship and regain independence. When a service system is inflexible and unable to provide choice or autonomy for its users, it mimics the power and control of family violence and can make it very difficult for victim survivors to feel safe and secure. 

In many ways, this replication of a ‘power over’ dynamic and removal of individual agency is embedded in the way our family violence system is structured and funded. The system is focused on minimising risk and is not set up to restore choice and autonomy as a priority. Most policymakers have never accessed the systems they design, and the result is a system that does not respond to victim survivors as experts in their own needs and safety – something we must consistently challenge if we want to see change. 

One of the ways we can do this is by expanding the approaches available to enable victim survivors to remain safe in their own homes, if this is what they want to do. How we do this can look incredibly different – it can mean safety and security adaptations and so much more. For example, it could be creating opportunities for financial literacy and supporting access to employment, because, as we know, financial and economic stability is crucial for a victim survivor’s recovery from abuse. It could be ongoing, long-term counselling, or increased access to legal support. 

With family violence the number one driver of homelessness among women and children in Australia, this is not only about offering flexibility and choice, but about preventing homelessness in an already over-stretched housing system. 

Systemic and structural barriers exist across the family violence service landscape, including within Safe at Home responses. Programs can only do so much to keep victim survivors safe and hold perpetrators accountable without a whole-of-system effort to bring together a wide range of community services, as well as police and justice responses all working towards a common goal. Part of this is the recognition that what enables a Safe at Home response looks different for everybody. 

Anything the service system can do to restore a victim survivor’s sense of agency in their safety and recovery is valuable and should be prioritised. Much of this can be supported by meaningful engagement with people’s lived experiences of family violence and of accessing support services. By embedding lived expertise in system and service design, we can shift to a ‘power with’ approach, remain accountable and identify areas for improvement, while also creating opportunities for victim survivors to engage with the system as consultants, advocates and leaders. 

Agency, autonomy and choice are key elements in someone’s recovery from family violence. When, at its core, a family violence system does not view those who use it as the experts in their own safety needs, it renders victim survivors unable to make decisions about their lives and hinders an integral component of their recovery. 

Family violence is complex, and the way we respond to it requires nuance and a long-term, concerted effort from our service system via a wide range of responses. Safe at Home responses are an integral part of this, though they are by no means the only response. We need to view being ‘safe at home’ as a guiding principle that informs the structure of our family violence system, one that is equipped to provide flexible and tailored responses that centre the expertise and agency of all victim survivors. 

Page last updated Tuesday, April 18 2023

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Personal Safety Survey and National Community Attitudes Survey Results 2023

Personal Safety Survey and National Community Attitudes Survey Results 2023

What have we learned and what do we still need to know?

Thursday 30 March 2023

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  • 1 in 4 women has experienced violence by an intimate partner or family member since the age of 15 
  • 1 in 4 women has experienced emotional abuse by a cohabiting partner, since the age of 15 
  • 1 in 5 women has experienced sexual violence, since the age of 15 

Source: Personal Safety Survey, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2023. 

Author: Marina Carman

In March this year, the reports on the latest rounds of two major national surveys about family and gendered violence were released. Safe and Equal’s Executive Director of Primary Prevention, Marina Carman, takes us through the results of both surveys, why they are important, and the data gaps that remain. 

  • The Personal Safety Survey (PSS) is conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. It is based on earlier surveys focussed on women, but has been conducted population-wide in 2005, 2012, 2016 and in 2021-22. A total of 11,905 people completed the latest survey, drawn from a random sample of households. The survey includes people aged 18 and over, with questions about the nature and extent of violence experienced since the age of 15.  
  • The National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS) is conducted by ANROWS. It began in 1987, and is conducted every four years. The 2021 survey included 19,100 people aged 16 and over, through a random selection of phone numbers. The survey includes questions about how participants understand violence against women, their attitudes towards it, what influences their attitudes, as well as attitudes to gender equality and preparedness to intervene. 

Both surveys are conducted periodically (every four years), and use roughly the same questions each time. So they give us a snapshot at particular points, and allow for tracking of broad societal level changes. These surveys are key sources of data to inform reporting against indicators in the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032. 

Why is this important? 

Statistics can be a powerful way to convince people about a social problem, and particularly to argue for the prioritisation of government policy and investment. Numbers that quantify how many people experience family and gendered violence are critical for gaining attention and arguing the need for change. Meanwhile, numbers that tell us about attitudes towards violence are important in tracking progress in changing attitudes that drive violence, and helping us prevent it in the future. 

But numbers only tell part of the story. They give us a greater understanding of family and gendered violence, but we also need to understand how best to use them, and their limitations as well. 

When using and quoting statistics, the best available data will be the most ‘representative’ data. The most representative data is population-level data – and it is expensive and time-consuming to collect and analyse – so it’s extremely valuable. 

What do we know from the PSS? 

In the 2023 release, many measures of experiences of violence against women were stable, but levels of violence by cohabiting partners and sexual harassment were down. The survey was completed during the pandemic when many people were either locked down or working more from home. 

The sample size is significantly smaller (11,905 down from 21,250 in 2016). The ABS notes on methodology suggest that this was due to resource issues and additional requirements introduced to keep participants safe (private interviews). But the sample is still large and representative. 

Any changes downward in prevalence are good but reported levels of violence against women are still high. In addition, other research and data have suggested an increase in family and gender-based violence during the pandemic, so it is currently unclear what these results mean in terms of trends over time. In any case, we need sustained action to drive change home over the long-term. 

What do we know from the NCAS? 

Results from the 2021 survey of the NCAS show that understanding and attitudes regarding violence against women and gender inequality have improved slowly but significantly over time. Improvements in understanding of violence against women and rejection of gender inequality are closely related to rejection of violence against women, though the latter has improved more slowly. 

Attitudinal rejection of sexual violence improved, and there was higher recognition of some forms of technology-facilitated abuse, stalking and behaviours that constitute coercive control. However, rejection of domestic violence has remained unchanged since 2017, and participants were more likely to recognise domestic violence than to understand that it is disproportionately perpetrated by men against women.  

In the latest survey, compared to previous ones, significantly fewer respondents recognised that men are more likely to commit domestic violence and that women are more likely to experience physical harm from domestic violence. This is a key finding in informing the targeting of future messages and interventions. 

While most respondents reported attitudes that reject gender inequality, less progress has been made with certain attitudes held by a minority (i.e. attitudes that undermine women’s leadership, reinforce rigid gender roles in specific areas, limit women’s personal autonomy, normalise sexism and deny that gender inequality is a problem). Similarly, some attitudes that condone violence against women were more likely to be reported by a minority of respondents (i.e. attitudes that minimise the seriousness of violence, shift blame onto victims and survivors, mistrust women’s reports of violence, objectify women and disregard consent). 

Women and non-binary people had higher understanding and rejection of violence against women and rejection of gender inequality than men. Other demographic factors were also examined and there were differences in responses according to gender, age, sexuality, country of birth, formal education, employment, etc. However, the contribution of demographic factors wasn’t found to be the most important thing predicting or shaping the results. 

The NCAS report outlines a detailed set of implications, many of which support the need for primary prevention initiatives aimed at reinforcing the gendered nature of violence, addressing backlash and resistance, and adopting a ‘gender-transformative’ approach to target gender norms and other drivers of violence. The NCAS is particularly useful in providing details about specific attitudes that are slower to change, and where intervention is particularly needed. 

What do we still need to know? 

The PSS doesn’t tell us enough about the experiences of a range of communities. 

  • Household sampling and telephone interviews can limit the inclusion of people without a fixed address or in care settings. 
  • Some communities may be less likely to be fully open about sensitive issues if being interviewed, compared to an anonymous survey (e.g. LGBTIQ+ communities). 
  • This was the first time the PSS asked about sexual orientation. It didn’t ask about gender diversity. It also doesn’t provide reporting of results disaggregated (separated out) by any other demographic factor other than gender. 

In the 2021 NCAS a number of improvements were made, compared to previous surveys: 

  • The survey implemented the 2020 ABS Standard for Sex, Gender, Variations of Sex Characteristics and Sexual Orientation Variables, and provided data from non-binary and gender diverse participants for the first time. 
  • It also introduced new questions about recognition of particular forms of violence targeted at people because of their migrant or disability status, gender experience, sexuality or religion. 
  • Separate reports will be released detailing results from participants by age, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants and people born in a ‘non-main English-speaking country’. 

These population-level surveys are really important – and while they can always be improved – they can’t ask and answer all questions. Surveys can tell us who experiences violence and by whom, what sort of violence and when, as well as how people think about violence at a point in time. But they can’t tell us everything – especially why or what works to change this. We have an evidence base that addresses these questions, and we need a broad and inclusive national research agenda to fill in gaps and build on this further to inform our efforts. 

How do we use statistics? 

Quoting statistics can be powerful. But it needs to be done carefully, so we’re properly acknowledging sources and representing the findings accurately. Overusing or relying too heavily on statistics can also present a negative picture, and this can make the current situation seem inevitable and even accidentally reinforce the ideas we are trying to change.  

To shift people towards change, statistics about violence need to be placed within a story that starts with a positive vision for the future, explains what drives violence against women and other forms of family and gendered violence, and ends with suggestions for action and practical solutions everyone can get behind.  

For more on statistics you can use in your work, see: https://safeandequal.org.au/resources/fast-facts-2022/ 

Author: Marina Carman 

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‘Cracking the code’ to end family and gender-based violence

‘Cracking the code’ to end family and gender-based violence

Wednesday 8 March 2023

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This day and every day, we all deserve to feel safe, included and equal.  

This International Women’s Day, we are moving beyond morning teas to spotlight the work going on across the year to bring the gendered issues that women experience to light.  

Organisations from across Victoria are working hard to build a birds-eye view of the challenges facing both people experiencing violence and the services that support them. By building evidence and our understanding, we can find and promote inclusive, sustainable solutions to modern issues and build a safe and equal future for all. 

Today we want to spotlight some of the research being done in Victoria to ‘crack the code’ to end family and gender-based violence: 

This is the work going on across the state. On an individual level, there are ways that we can help to build the bigger picture for our community and workplace decision-makers: 

  • Leveraging the research above to inform conversations and outcomes in your workplace 
  • Funding organisations to continue this important work  
  • Ensuring that emerging research captures diverse experiences 

Learn more and get involved with UN Women Australia’s #IWD2023 campaign here: https://unwomen.org.au/get-involved/international-womens-day/ 

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Ochre Ribbon Week

Ochre Ribbon Week

Friday 17 February 2023

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This week is Ochre Ribbon week, an Aboriginal-led advocacy campaign running each year from 12 until 19 February.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women deserve to be safe in their relationships and communities. 

Ochre Ribbon Week raises awareness about the devastating impacts of family violence on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. 

Statistics indicate that Indigenous women experience disproportionate levels of violence – both structural and interpersonal – and face significant barriers to seeking support. 

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) Report, three in every five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have experienced physical or sexual violence. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are also 32 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence, and 11 times more likely to die due to assault, compared to non-Indigenous women.  

These statistics are shocking, and highlight how colonisation, systemic discrimination, structural inequality and racism intersect with gender inequality to increase and intensify First Nations women’s experiences of violence. 

At Safe and Equal, we recognise the critical work of Aboriginal community-controlled organisations in the specialist family violence sector and beyond, and we’re working to amplify First Nations women’s calls for action to end the violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, especially women and children.  

As 2023’s Ochre Ribbon Week comes to a close, we want to highlight the messages and advocacy from Djirra’s social media campaign, which includes information and education on Ochre Ribbon Week, National Apology Day, and what family violence can look like: 

You can show your support by following and listening to Djirra and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations on social media, including: 

Page last updated Friday, February 17 2023

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Paid Domestic and Family Violence Leave: beyond the legislation

Paid Domestic and Family Violence Leave: beyond the legislation

Thursday 16 February 2023

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Everybody should feel supported to thrive at work, especially when things are unsafe at home.

You may have seen it on the news or heard about it at work: the Australian Government has introduced 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave into the National Employment Standards. 

What is paid domestic and family violence leave?

In short, paid domestic and family violence leave provides employees with paid time away from work so they can deal with the impacts of family violence. 

The leave is legislated and mandatory – meaning all employers have to offer it to their staff by the allocated deadline. For businesses with over 15 employees, this legislation came into effect on 1 February. For small businesses, the deadline to implement domestic and family violence leave is 1 August. 

The leave is referred to as ‘universal’ – meaning it is available to all employees, including casuals. It will also be available upfront – instead of accruing leave over time, an employee can access all 10 days of leave as soon as they need it, with the leave ‘resetting’ each year on an employee’s start date anniversary. 

The introduction of these leave entitlements shows how much Australians recognise the impact family violence has on the community, and the key role workplaces have in being part of the solution. 

Family violence is a workplace issue

We know that family violence is a prevalent and complex social issue, one that has devastating and long-lasting impacts on all parts of people’s lives. 

It also has a significant impact on the economy, costing Australia an estimated $1.9 billion per year. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, between 55% and 70% of women who have experienced or are currently experiencing violence participate in the workforce. That’s around one in six female workers. It’s safe to say most – if not all – workplaces will employee someone who is impacted by family violence. 

Given these figures and how much time we spend at work (most women employed in Australia work over 20 hours per week), there’s clearly a crucial role for employers in preventing and responding to family violence. 

Going beyond leave entitlements

The introduction of paid domestic and family violence leave can make a world of difference to someone experiencing abuse. It means they will be able to keep their jobs while taking the steps they need to keep themselves safe.  

To be able to take paid time off to attend an appointment with a specialist family violence service, go to court to obtain an Intervention Order, or arrange a lease and move house, means a victim survivor has a real chance at safely escaping abuse and can begin their journey to recovery.  

The introduction of this leave is an important and long overdue change – but there is a lot that workplaces will need to consider beyond just making it available to staff. 

In Monash University’s 2021 report Safe, Thriving and Secure: Family Violence Leave and Workplace Supports in Australia, access to paid domestic and family violence leave is highlighted as an important part of a broader framework of workplace responses to family violence. The report describes the significant work required across Australian workplaces to embed a culture and policy environment that is safe and respectful and supports victim survivors to thrive in their jobs. 

Employers will need to consider how leave can be requested and accessed discreetly; for example, under the legislation this form of leave cannot be displayed on a payslip. Both employers and colleagues need to be prepared to respond safely and effectively when someone in the workplace shares that they are experiencing violence. This includes knowing what specialist support is available and approaching the conversation with sensitivity, while maintaining privacy and confidentiality.   

More broadly, it’s critical employers cultivate a compassionate, trauma-informed and supportive culture within the workplace to ensure victim survivors feel safe and able to disclose abuse. This involves ongoing training for all levels of staff that supports an increased understanding of family violence, how to be an active bystander, and staff rights and responsibilities in relation to an accessible domestic and family violence leave policy. 

These skills are complex and nuanced and require time and consideration to embed properly. If you’re thinking about how to implement domestic and family violence leave in your workplace, there are lots of supports available. 

Workplaces have a real opportunity to support the big-picture change that’s needed to eliminate family and gender-based violence. Employers who develop a trauma-informed understanding of family violence, and prioritise a workplace culture of support, safety and respect will not only increase staff retention, performance and engagement, but will give victim survivors the best chance of recovering and thriving.  

For more information on how you can implement a tailored and accessible domestic and family violence leave policy in your business, check out Safe and Equal’s workplace family violence services. 

Page last updated Thursday, February 16 2023

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Midsumma Carnival 2023

Midsumma Carnival 2023

Thursday 19 February 2023

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Safe and Equal and Elizabeth Morgan House are excited to partner for this year’s Midsumma Carnival, working together to raise awareness and increase safety and support for all people who may be experiencing family violence. 

We’re co-hosting a culturally safe and affirming space at Carnival, where people can relax, yarn and learn more about inclusive family violence support services for LGBTIQA+ and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.  

What is family violence?

Family violence is when your partner, ex, carer, family member or someone you’re in a ‘family-like’ relationship with uses threatening, controlling or violent behaviour that makes you scared for your safety and wellbeing. 

Family violence experienced by LGBTIQA+ people can include a range of verbal, emotional, psychological, financial, physical, and sexual abuse, intimidation and threats. People use a wide range of abusive behaviours to maintain power and control in relationships. No matter what form it takes, family violence is never acceptable. 

Family violence occurs in all communities

Everybody deserves to feel safe and respected at home and in their relationships. However in Australia, LGBTIQA+ people are reported to experience family violence at similar, if not greater rates than those in heterosexual relationships. 

Because of biphobia, homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism and heteronormativity, there are different risks and barriers that may stop LGBTIQA+ couples, parents and young people from accessing support for family violence. Learn more about family violence tactics and barriers to support for LGBTIQA+ communities here.  

This Midsumma Carnival and beyond, we can make a difference by recognising and celebrating LGBTIQA+ people, relationships and families. We all deserve to feel safe at home.  

LGBTIQA+ people have a right to safety from family violence

If you’re a LGBTIQA+ person experiencing family violence, you are not alone. You can access support from these services:

Switchboard – QLIFE
Phone counselling for the LGBTIQA+ community between 3 pm to midnight every night.
1800 184 527

Victoria Police LGBTI Liaison Officers
LGBTI Liaison Officers (also known as GLLOs) are located at police stations throughout the state. They have been provided with extra training to support members of the LGBTIQA+ community.
Call 03 9247 6944 to find out your closest LGBTI Liaison Officer.

Suicide Call Back Service
24-hour telephone counselling to anyone who is feeling suicidal or anyone who is supporting someone who is feeling suicidal
1300 659 467

Lifeline
24-hour telephone counselling to anyone who is in crisis or feeling suicidal.
13 11 14

Safe Steps
24-hour family violence response line for anyone.
1800 015 188

Sexual Assault Crisis Line
24-hour telephone crisis counselling service for people who have experienced both past and recent sexual assault.
1800 806 292

DirectLine
24-hour drug and alcohol counselling and referral service
1800 888 236

About Midsumma Festival

Midsumma is Australia’s premier queer arts and cultural organisation, bringing together a diverse mix of LGBTQIA+ artists, performers, communities and audiences.

Their primary event, Midsumma Festival, runs over 22 days in Melbourne’s summer (January/February) each year with an explosion of queer events that centre around hidden and mainstream queer culture, involving local, interstate, and international artists. Visit the Midsumma website for the 2023 program.

Midsumma Festival 2023

About Midsumma Carnival

Midsumma Carnival is an iconic outdoor celebration that has become one of the biggest highlights in the LGBTIQA+ annual calendar. The event provides a fitting opening to a three-week Festival each year. In itself, Carnival is a huge single-day event running from 11am until 10pm in Alexandra Gardens in Melbourne’s CBD, with a massive set up and overall coordination required for delivery each year. Midsumma Carnival attracts a broad attendance across age ranges and demographics, truly celebrating a day of inclusion and diversity in all its forms. This popular annual event is free to the public. For more info, check out the Midsumma website. 

Download our Midsumma Carnival posters

'Family Violence Occurs in All Communities' Midsumma Poster
LGBTIQA+ people have a right to safety from family violence A3 poster

Thorne Harbour Health and the Zoe Belle Gender Collective developed two posters celebrating our LGBTISBQA and queer First Nations communities. Visit their website to download the posters.

Page last updated Thursday, January 19 2023

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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. 

Image for Safe + Equal_Djirra-18

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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Calling for a sustainable footing for the specialist family violence sector

Calling for a sustainable footing for the specialist family violence sector

Tuesday 18 January 2022

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An unprecedented amount of investment has been made in improving Victoria’s family violence system following the Royal Commission. While this has been welcomed by the family violence sector, there remains a range of complex issues which are creating clear gaps and mounting pressure on the emerging system. As the Victorian government gears up to release the 2022 state budget, we are calling for an urgent uplift in funding to secure a sustainable footing for the specialist family violence services sector, so every victim survivor can access the support and safety they need at the time they need it.

Where are the gaps?

There are ongoing issues around service sustainability, demand and resourcing in the specialist family violence sector. Essentially, services need funding at a level that meets increasing demand.  

An increase in community awareness means more victim survivors feel comfortable seeking support, however without adequate funding services cannot keep up with this ever-growing client base. Services are having to triage cases, meaning those who are assessed as lower risk will wait longer for case management. Wait times are only increasing as we see more high-risk and complex cases, due in part to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

It is also important to note that while we know from years of anecdotal evidence that demand for family violence services is reaching unsustainable levels, meaningful and reliable data is complex and difficult to collect. Without ongoing government investment and commitment to data collection and analysis, we will never have the whole picture on demand.  

What we do know is that team leaders and managers from many of our member organisations have expressed concern at the impact demand issues are having on victim survivor safety, and staff wellbeing and mental health. Workers want to do the best for their clients but the ever-rising demand for services, and the impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in high levels of staff turnover and burnout.  

Our indicative data suggests that most specialist services are working at a significantly reduced capacity due in part to worker burnout and staff retention issues, creating added pressure for remaining staff. One specialist service reported that the number of intake and assessment staff taking mental health days increased by at least 50 per cent during 2020. Services have difficulty recruiting and retaining experienced specialist staff, meaning new and inexperienced workers are holding significant caseloads, complexity and risk. They are reporting that after two to three years, workers are moving on to other, more secure jobs outside the specialist sector – jobs that pay more and are able to provide longer-term contracts.  

System reforms arising from the Royal Commission into Family Violence, while welcomed, have meant that many services must implement significant changes to meet new industry requirements, using existing core funding. This adds extra pressure to an already buckling workforce at full capacity. 

As services grapple with unsustainable demand and resourcing issues, the lack of crisis accommodation and long-term housing remain critical system gaps that require immediate attention. Currently, in Victoria there is only capacity to accommodate 160 households in refuge. We know the need is much higher.  

This significant lack of available refuges has meant victim survivors are often placed in motels. This year, Safe Steps supported an average of 97 victim survivors in crisis accommodation each night, with some months averaging as high as 120 people per night.  

While using motels as a form of emergency accommodation has been necessary, it is not suitable for victim survivors of family violence whose lives are at significant risk. Motels are simply unable to provide the level of care and safety required.  

Another critical gap is the lack of clarity, consistency and resourcing in responses to children and young people experiencing family violence. Funding and structural limitations along with a lack of minimum standards means the system, while trying, is struggling to provide tailored, specialist responses to children and young people as victim survivors in their own right.  

What is needed?

To deliver the best quality services to victim survivors of family violence, Safe and Equal is calling for an urgent increase in funding for the specialist family violence sector. This funding must be at a level that enables the 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. 

This doesn’t just mean money for more workers to deliver more services to clients – although this is also needed. It is about investing in the longevity and sustainability of the specialist family violence sector, to ensure the best outcomes for victim survivors – both adults and children.  

It means: 

  • Longer-term staff contracts with a minimum of 3 years 
  • Longer-term program funding 
  • Increased wages for specialist family violence workers that reflect the complexity of the work, the skill set and level of qualifications required to work in the sector 
  • Increased funding to support staff professional development and wellbeing, to ensure highly skilled workers remain in the sector and do not experience burnout  
  • Immediate implementation of a fit-for-purpose, flexible costing model, and increasing funding for infrastructure costs, to enable all specialist family violence services to meet new requirements arising from reforms 
  • An immediate increase in specialist family violence crisis accommodation to enable 320 households to be accommodated on any night, the prioritisation of 1000 dwellings for victim survivors to be built immediately as part of the Victorian Big Housing Build initiative, and a greater proportion of new social housing to be set aside for victim survivors of family violence. 

For the system to be effective, all parts must be appropriately and adequately resourced to ensure people seeking support do not encounter roadblocks. There are many reforms and changes to the system in recent years that have made for a more inclusive, integrated system. These are certainly worth celebrating. However, the very sustainability of the system is under significant pressure from issues around demand and resourcing – issues that require immediate attention to ensure improvements gained over the last five years are not in vain.  

Read our submission to the 2022 Victorian State Budget.

Page last updated Tuesday, January 18 2022

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Everyone has the right to be safe at Christmas

Everyone has the right to be safe at Christmas

Tuesday 21 December 2021

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For many, the holiday season brings a sense of joy and celebration. It’s a time for reflection and festivity, a time to get together with family and friends – some of whom we may be seeing for the first time in almost two years. But for others, this is a time of fear.

December and January have long been the busiest time of year for specialist family violence support services. This is reflected in data on calls to services and police, which dramatically increased during the 2020-21 holiday season. According to Victoria Police figures, more than two thirds of all assaults reported between Christmas and New Year’s Day were related to family violence, with police attending a family violence incident every five minutes.

By the time all the presents have been opened, the food eaten, and the crackers popped this Christmas, there will have been approximately twice as many family violence assaults compared to other days in the year. These increases come on top of already alarming rates of family violence seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These numbers are staggering. Yet they don’t even paint the whole picture, as we know most people experiencing abuse will never contact the police. Many, however, will tell a friend, family member, or colleague.

So what can we, as a community, do to help? We all have a part to play in preventing and responding to family violence by looking out for friends, family and neighbours, and knowing what action to take if we are concerned someone may be experiencing abuse.

 

How do I know if it’s family violence?

Family violence is a pattern of threatening, controlling or violent behaviour that makes someone feel scared or unsafe. While it impacts people of all genders, identities, age groups, sexual orientations, cultural backgrounds and walks of life, most family violence is perpetrated by men, against women.

It’s also important to remember that family violence doesn’t always involve physical abuse. It can also include behaviours like threats, financial control, and emotional abuse. It is often cyclical – there may be periods of time without violence, and times where the violence is heightened. No matter what form it takes, family violence is never acceptable.

 

Common signs to look out for:

Someone who is experiencing family violence may not openly disclose that they are being abused, but there are often signs that indicate something is not right.

They may withdraw from loved ones or seem depressed. Their partner, ex-partner or family member may undermine their credibility, criticise or humiliate them publicly. They may seem afraid or nervous when this person is around, or may have cuts, bruises and other injuries with unlikely explanations. Perhaps they have mentioned their partner or family member’s temper or jealousy to you. Maybe you have seen their partner constantly calling, texting or monitoring their movements.

For children or young people who may be experiencing family violence, the signs can be harder to recognise. Sudden behaviour changes like difficulty concentrating, not wanting to go home, ‘acting out’ or becoming angry and aggressive at friends and family can mean there is something going on.

 

What can I do?

If anyone is in immediate danger, always call the police on triple zero (000). If there is no immediate risk, the best thing you can do is find an opportunity to speak with the person you’re concerned about alone, and approach them with sensitivity and empathy. For people experiencing abuse, being asked a simple question like ‘are you safe at home?’ can make a world of difference.

If someone discloses violence or abuse to you, it’s important you listen without judgement or criticism – the violence is never their fault. Saying ‘just leave’ is not helpful – there are many reasons why someone may be unable or unwilling to leave an abusive partner.

Help build confidence by acknowledging their bravery in sharing. Tell them that you believe them, and you want to help.

Help them make a safety plan – this could include being their emergency contact, agreeing on a code word or signal they can use if they need help, looking after copies of important documents and items in case they need to leave home quickly, or providing practical support like childcare or assistance with errands.

Let them know professional support is available – a good place to start is the list of Victorian services on the Are You Safe At Home website.

It can be scary to ask the question, but it could be the greatest gift you give