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Forum brings together key partners to combat intimate partner and family violence

Addressing violence against women

November 2018

Forum brings together key partners to combat intimate partner and family violence

Forum brings together key partners to combat intimate partner and family violence

Strategies to deliver services to people affected by domestic and family violence were a key focus of a high-level forum held in the lead-up to White Ribbon Day.

White Ribbon Day is a national campaign designed to prevent violence against women, which remains a significant public health issue in NSW.

Sydney Local Health District's Domestic Violence Forum attracted about 60 representatives from key community organisations and NGOs, partner agencies, Family and Community Services as well as District staff.

"It's critical that all of us continue to collaborate so that we can work towards further improving the health and wellbeing of women at risk – or those experiencing violence," Sydney Local Health District Chief Executive Dr Teresa Anderson AM said.

Data shows that while men can be victims of domestic or intimate partner violence, most people who experience domestic and family violence are women in their own home, and the violence is perpetrated by men they know.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey, published last year, found that:

  • Three-quarters of the survivors of intimate partner violence in Australia are women
  • One-in-four women in Australia had experienced violence by a partner and
  • One-in-nine children under 15 had witnessed physical assaults towards their mother by a partner.

During the forum, researcher Dr Sue Heward-Belle from the University of Sydney updated participants on the progress of two major action research projects.

Director of the Jannawi Family Centre Biljana Milosevic provided practical tips for implementing safe services in situations where domestic violence is being experienced.

And Stephen Walton from the Education Centre Against Violence highlighted the key principles of mens' behaviour change programs.

Dr Anderson said the Cross Agency Domestic Violence Action Plan underpins the District's strategic and integrated approach to delivering timely, supportive and effective programs with key partners.

"We want to continue to build on this relationship to foster an exchange of information and discussion about domestic violence prevention and intervention policies, and to work together on activities and projects," she said.

Dr Anderson highlighted several of the significant steps taken in the District in the past 12 month that build on services and resources to help those in need.

The Children's Ward at RPA became the first paediatric ward in Australia to roll out domestic violence routine screening to all mothers and female carers who are looking after a sick child.

Previously, routine screening for domestic or family violence took place in antenatal and early childhood health services and for women attending mental health and alcohol and other drugs services.

The Domestic Violence Routine Screening in Paediatrics initiative was recognised by the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect for its innovative approach to identifying and supporting victims of family violence. The program was also a finalist in the 2018 NSW Health Awards.

In May, a community domestic violence counselling team began, funded through the Ministry of Health's Violence, Abuse and Neglect Clinical Redesign initiative, with the aim of establishing effective referral pathways.

The District's Principal Aboriginal Health Worker, Toni Smith, created the Tidda-Links project, which aims to raise awareness among indigenous women about sexual assault and domestic violence services. Tidda-Links also aims to collaborate with Aboriginal women to identify culturally safe strategies for increasing access to these services.

Dr Anderson said the District is also boosting support for staff who are impacted by domestic violence, either through personal experience or vicariously through patients. Staff will be offered specialist clinical supervision to help them better support patients. An extra staff member will be recruited to the Employee Assistance Program.

Renee Lovell, the manager of the District's Domestic Violence and Women's Health Service, said participants had positive feedback about the presentations at the forum.

"The message from all of the presenters is that domestic violence is everybody's business," Ms Lovell said.

"And their take home message… is to hold the perpetrator to account. And you can do that in a number of ways. There are opportunities to plant the seed for change in any encounter," she said.

White Ribbon, a campaign to prevent violence against women, is marked on November 23.

This year's theme is: Together, we can end men's violence against women in our community.

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