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News and Events

Victoria Police Recidivist Strategy

Victoria Police defines recidivism as ‘events where police have recorded family violence against individuals or in locations on three occasions or more within the preceding twelve-month period’. As a result, three or more reports referring to a particular victim, perpetrator or location are described as recidivism.

WHW undertook a small project to explore the role of women’s services in responding to recidivism. Overseas research highlights the need to hold men accountable for their violence rather than focusing on removing victims from the violent situation. It may be easier to remove a victim than confront a perpetrator, but this approach means that victims bear the responsibility for the violence. WHW requires a minimum of one full time worker to work directly with women and collaboratively with police and men’s programs.

image of police carMelton police recently introduced a family violence unit and its role will be to respond to recidivism. We expect other police family violence units across the region to follow their lead.

Learning more than English

Congolese Financial Literacy Program

In July and August 2012, Women’s Health West partnered with Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre to deliver a financial literacy program to Congolese women. The program was held at Spectrum in Sunshine, a venue familiar to Congolese women dispersed throughout the west.

Over six weeks, seven women met to explore topics derived from community consultations including budgeting, bills, Centrelink, banking and mortgages. Facilitators developed an understanding of how money systems work in the Congo and the challenges associated with negotiating the way things are done in Australia.

For instance, women spoke of collective or group savings systems, a method used both in the Congo and in Australia where each month every member of the group contributes a set amount (e.g. $500) the sum of which is allocated to each group member in turn. This enables women to save more and have a ‘lump sum’ to be able to purchase big items. However workers or banks have asked women why they suddenly have more money and this has had a negative impact on other parts of their life. It was useful for the participants to talk with workers from Centrelink and various banks about this problem and work on some solutions.

‘People only learn English, but it’s important to learn about day-to-day life, like paying bills.’
Participant, Congolese FLP

A key part of the program involved linking women with service providers who could help them with specific concerns. Services included Consumer Affairs, the Sheriff’s Office, Bendigo Bank, the Smith Family and WISE Employment. Women felt far more confident to access these service providers once they had met the workers in person. It was safer and more familiar than going to an impersonal institution. Many immediately made follow up appointments to eliminate communication difficulties they were likely to experience if they tried to make an appointment at a later date.

Sharing lunch was important too. Each week one of the women cooked traditional Congolese food; eating together provided a great opportunity for participants to talk informally with presenters and ask lots of questions. It also meant presenters and the project workers could learn more about Congolese culture. This financial literacy program has been a rich learning experience for participants, presenters and project workers combined.

We plan to run this successful program in 2012-2013 with different groups of newly arrived women according to settlement needs. Beyond that date the impact of cuts to the integrated health promotion program leave the future of this program in doubt. For more information please contact us on 9689 9588.

By Kirsten Campbell, Health Promotion Worker, first published whw news ( Ed3, 2012)

Our Community, Our Rights

Hope for a New Beginning

The first phase of Our Community, Our Rights (OCOR) – comprising human rights based advocacy workshops, and project development support with South Sudanese women in the west – is complete.

Participants engaged in a sequence of seven human rights based advocacy workshops on topics including racism and discrimination, health, rights at work and in education and safety. WHW then supported them to plan their own human rights based advocacy project on a topic they identified as important to their community.

As a result OCOR participants developed Hope for a New Beginning a project designed to work with the Equatorian South Sudanese community to understand the problem of violence against women and begin to identify solutions. The project group consulted extensively with community leaders to gain their support and then ran a day-long workshop on Saturday 25 August at Footscray Uniting Church.

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WHW in the media

Check out these three articles in the Age describing the need for increased funds for family violence support services.

Children victims of funds shortfall

22 August 2012 | The Age
At least a thousand children left traumatised after witnessing domestic violence in Melbourne each year are missing out on specialist counselling because of funding shortfalls. Women’s Health West said that in 2009-10… 3150 children in Melbourne’s west saw family violence. CEO Robyn Gregory said… WHW had government funding for only 1.6 full-time positions and was able to offer its specialist counselling service to only 86 of these children.

Victims of state crime rise forgotten

22 August 2012 | The Age
THE Coalition won office vowing to ”get tough on crime”. Recent crime rises are entirely driven by domestic violence… Yet the state budget ignored the associated needs of tens of thousands of victims of domestic violence. The agencies that work to protect them face a funding crisis… The latest $40 million blowout in the PSO program is about 13 times the total budget for Women’s Health West, the sole agency for domestic violence victims in Melbourne’s west.

Domestic violence services in crisis

21 August 2012 | The Age
VICTORIA’S domestic violence agencies are facing a crisis as cash-strapped services struggle to cope with a surge in cases, leaving women more exposed to violent situations. Robyn Gregory, of Women’s Health West, the only service agency in Melbourne’s west, said…it meant staff were being removed from managing women trapped in complex situations because they were responding to the crisis cases.

Director wins young leader award!

WHW heartily congratulates our board director Cath Bateman who just received the Sally Isaac Memorial Scholarship Fund Award!

The $10 000 scholarship award aims to foster and encourage future young female leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to improve community life.

Cath’s lengthy list of achievements includes running more than 30 programs with over 400 young women, starting two feminist websites and globe-trotting to represent Australia at conferences in Hong Kong, Zurich and Istanbul. The scholarship will support Cath’s studies in feminist economics.

We also want to highlight and congratulate WHW health promotion worker, Kirsten Campbell who was shortlisted for the award in recognition of her fabulous work to prevent violence against women, race-based discrimination and economic insecurity. Brilliant work Kirsten!

WHW is extremely proud to have been so well represented at the awards and thanks Local Government Professionals and the Australian Communities Foundation for providing a forum to recognise young women’s achievements and develop their potential.