Wrap-up by Nicola Harte, Communications Manager
On 19 November 2014, 110 people gathered at Footscray Community Arts Centre to pause and examine our collective part in working towards the health, safety and wellbeing of women in the west this year. Reflecting on our behaviour, actions and plans helps us to make the best decisions, to do the best work or just to be the best person we can be, which is why the Women’s Health West’s AGM is so important.
The business part of the meeting was ably run by Acting Chair Samantha Merrigan, who was also re-elected to the board unopposed. We bid a fond farewell to Jan Collyer after 25 years of annual audits, to Treasurer Karen Passey after 6 dedicated years on the board, and to retiring board directors Leigh Russell and Claire Culley.
CEO Dr Robyn Gregory thanked the staff and our partners for their tireless energy this year, especially considering the impact of service demand on our ability to meet client need. She explained that a 54 per cent increase in police referrals in 2013–14 alone, has culminated in a 256 per cent increase over the past four years, while our family violence funds in that period increased by only 25 per cent. She called for greater funding for case management and much greater investment in prevention of men’s violence against women as a component of a long-term strategy to not only reduce service demand but, more importantly, create non-violent, gender-equitable and respectful communities.
Each year the board celebrates notable contributions of staff to the kind of workplace culture Women’s Health West aspires to achieve through the presentation of Staff Innovation Awards. This year the GOYA award recognised Debra Wannan for her constructive provision of up-to-date finance information while holding the business unit together at a time of change. The MAAT award went to Luise who, for 12 years, has spoken up for the rights of women, be they clients, colleagues or communities, in a gentle, strong and thoughtful manner. And the VITA award went to Melanie Sleap who has been a diligent, hard worker in both the family violence and health promotion teams and whose sophisticated youth engagement skills have been invaluable in the You, Me and Us project, which mentored 47 peer educators to co-deliver respectful relationship education sessions to over 3,500 young people.
Women’s Health West clearly has an extremely talented, dedicated and committed staff group and we acknowledged staff who have worked for the organisation for ten years and over:
- Hatice has been a family violence outreach worker at Women’s Health West since 2004 and, knowing the importance of strong partnerships, has fostered connections with colleagues ever since
- Victoria also joined us that year and we thank her for her deep commitment to social justice and her creative flair, for the anti-violence song she composed and performed with colleagues in Federation Square and many other accomplishments
- Meriem Idris’ achievements over fifteen years with Women’s Health West were acknowledged, not only for her ongoing commitment to the vision and mission of the organisation, but also for attaining her Bachelor of Business and through continual study and dedication becoming the Finance Coordinator.
At this point, as in previous years, we then introduced the feminist debate. Dr Kristin Diemer and Rodney Vlais were charged with the task of arguing that women are not responsible for their own safety, and Senior Sergeant Sue Nolan and Clementine Ford argued the affirmative. MC Nelly Thomas introduced proceedings by describing the way men’s violence against women is treated in the media and the avalanche of talkback ‘feelpinion’ (I feel strongly about this and I have an opinion) that inevitably finds ways to excuse men’s behaviour and condemn women.
The debate was lively, uproarious, serious, thought-provoking and, in some spots, mystifying; but I won’t do any of it justice, so watch for yourself.
Women’s Health West sincerely thanks all the speakers, Nelly Thomas, everyone who attended, the lovely folk at Footscray Community Arts Centre, and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre for the delicious food. For further details of our challenges and accomplishments over the year please check out the 2013/14 annual report.