News and Events

Practicing self care: make a sparkle jar

By WHW Children’s Counselling and Group Facilitation Team
This post uses text from an article written by Aoibheann for whw news


‘Mindfulness’ is a term popping up in fields like education, medicine, business and mental health. Professor of Medicine Jon Kabat-Zinn, often credited as one of the contemporary champions of mindfulness, has defined it as ‘paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally’.

This can mean paying attention to a thought, emotion, bodily sensation or whatever you are noticing in the present moment. Non-judgementally refers to noticing what is happening and then choosing how to respond to it.

Research shows that practicing mindfulness can reduce stress and depression, help manage chronic pain, and support relief from trauma. Anecdotally there is also mounting evidence that practicing being mindful can bring relief to busy minds, help with focus and attention, increase immunity, lead to a greater sense of relaxation and increase our overall wellbeing.

A sparkle jar is a great tool to practice feeling calm and being mindful. A bit like snowglobes, sparkle jars are full of glittery, colourful water which you shake up and then watch as the glitter slows and settles.

It’s a metaphor for all the emotions, thoughts, and sensations swirling around when we feel upset, angry, scared or overexcited. If we pay attention, we can see the swirling glitter start to slow down and settle – just like our minds and bodies can learn to settle down.

Recently Stephanie from the children’s counselling team at Women’s Health West ran a self care workshop where she invited other staff to make a sparkle jar. If you come and visit the office you might notice them sitting on people’s desks as you walk around.

We’ve been getting a lot of feedback from our staff saying how much they love using their sparkle jars. If you’d like some help practicing mindfulness and managing stress at work, it’s really easy to make your own.

How to make your own sparkle jar

  1. Take a clean jar with a tight lid
  2. Add some glitter glue and loose glitter. Only a small amount – less than a centimetre!
  3. Add warm water until jar is two-thirds full and stir to melt the glitter glue
  4. Adjust glitter and glitter glue amounts until you’re happy with the colour and how quickly or slowly the glitter settles
  5. Top up the water so jar is full and place the lid on the jar tightly. You can use a hot glue gun to secure the lid in place.

Your sparkle jar is ready to use – shake it up and watch what happens! Regular practice will give you the most benefit.


For more information

The WHW Children’s Counselling team use mindfulness tools like sparkle jars with children who may be learning to deal with difficult emotions. All of the children we work with have been affected by family violence so there are big emotions involved. There is an excellent short film from the USA called ‘Just Breathe‘, which includes children speaking about their thoughts on mindfulness and their sparkle jars.

If this topic interests you, we suggest these links for further reading:

Standing up for human rights

By Fiona, Family Violence Outreach Worker

Protest_Parliament-House11072015-AbbieJedwab_SMSaturday’s protest on the steps of Parliament House in Melbourne.
Photo courtesy of Abbie Jedwab.

Last Saturday (11 July 2015), over 300 concerned community members, including Women’s Health West workers, teachers, social workers, ex-detention centre workers, and health professionals, came together for a silent protest on the steps of Parliament over the new laws designed to mute reports of violations of asylum seekers’ human rights.

The Human Rights Commission inquiry, The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention (2014), headed by Professor Gillian Triggs, exposed the living conditions of asylum seekers on Manus Island, Christmas Island and Nauru.

The Federal Government responded to the revelations by seeking to silence the professionals assisting them. Instead of investigating reports of abuse, significant barriers to safety and serious hygiene conditions, and rectifying their neglect of children, on 1 July 2015 the government instead introduced the Border Force Act. This act forbids health workers, teachers and other professionals from reporting human rights violations against asylum seekers in detention camps on Nauru and Manus Island.

Despite a professional and ethical mandate to report abuse and neglect, particularly of children, workers who do so will now be punished with up to two years in prison.

The seriousness of the Federal Government’s human rights abuses has led Federal MP Andrew Wilkie to formally request that the International Criminal Court prosecuting authority investigate the Federal Government’s treatment of people seeking asylum, and its contravention to international law.

The ‘We won’t be silenced’ petition has gathered over 500 signatures so far. Please sign and spread the word.

Twitter: #WeWontBeSilenced

Facebook: Health Workers, Teachers, and Community Against the BORDER FORCE ACT

NAIDOC Week 2015: 5-12 July

By Emma Weaver, Health Promotion Worker

I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we work, the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung people of the Kulin nation, and pay my respects to Elders past and present.

NAIDOC Week, held in the first full week of July each year, is a time for all Australians to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society. Melbourne’s West has a strong history of Aboriginal activism for social justice, and there are others continuing this tradition today. I spoke to Karen Jackson, more commonly known as KJ, a prominent Aboriginal woman actively working with and for First Nation peoples in the west of Melbourne.

In profile: Karen Jackson from Victoria University


As the manager of Moondani Balluk – an Indigenous Academic Unit at Victoria University – KJ is committed to ‘pursuing political and social justice, equity and access to education for Aboriginal people’.

She supports and instigates many initiatives through this work, including community correction teams to do community clean-ups and gardening, a bush food nursery for students to learn about bush tucker, and lateral violence workshops for women. She also advocates for improved justice for the Koori community as Deputy Chairperson of the Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee.

KJ is Yorta Yorta on her maternal line and Barapa Barapa on her paternal line. Her family history includes Uncle William Cooper, who was an activist for Aboriginal citizenship rights and led the only Australian petition against Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jews during World War II, despite having no rights in his homeland; Margaret Tucker MBE, a successful artist and writer who set up one of the first Aboriginal childcare centres in Melbourne; and Mollie Dyer AM (daughter of Margaret Tucker) who was an activist in Aboriginal affairs and fundraised significantly to support the continuation of her mother’s childcare centre.

KJ has been instrumental in setting up hubs for Aboriginal people to gather in the west and in her role on the Wyndham Aboriginal Community Centre Committee. This work continues to provide community with spaces to come together to share experiences and learn about services. KJ said this is important in the west as ‘many Aboriginal people feel disconnected from their Aboriginality here’ having moved from their country and community.

When I asked KJ to name some challenges Aboriginal women in the west experience, she said ‘many are fearful of institutions and protective of their children’ because of the forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their mothers in our recent history. The impact has been ‘inter-generational trauma’. Many Aboriginal women are fearful that their children will be taken away if they are seen as impoverished. They worry about sending their children to school without lunch, money for lunch or school uniforms as this may create an awareness among authorities of poverty.

An achievement for Aboriginal women in the west in recent years, in KJ’s opinion, has been ‘the Footscray Community Arts Centre Indigenous Advisory Group, which is made up of mostly women’. The Footscray Community Arts Centre itself is a focal point for Aboriginal women and Elders to come together to produce art. Successful Aboriginal artists in the west include Vicki Couzens, Ngardarb Riches and Paola Balla. The strong art movement in the west is a beacon of the strength and resilience of Aboriginal women in our community.

Some NAIDOC Week activities in Melbourne’s west

  • During NAIDOC week and all of July, as Artist in Residence at Victoria University for Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit, Paola Balla is exhibiting a series of works at VU at MetroWest that explore ideas about Aboriginal sovereignty, decolonisation and identity. Paola Balla is also conducting a workshop on Saturday 25 July where participants can create a one-off piece about identity, connection and belonging. You can register for the workshop here.
  • During NAIDOC week and for all of July and August, you can also go to see Blak Side Story. This is a multimedia exhibition exploring contemporary Aboriginal identity and sharing stories from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members in Melbourne’s west, presented by Footscray Community Arts Centre in association with Moondani Balluk and the Boon Wurrung Cultural Foundation.
  • This year marks ten years of the Victorian Indigenous Art Awards celebrating the quality and diversity of art practice among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. You can go and see a selection of some of the best indigenous artwork at the Art Gallery of Ballarat from 8 August.
  • If you prefer to let your fingers do the walking, we recommend this great website for finding out more about prominent Aboriginal people and sites in the west through history: http://www.bonmarartleewik.net/people/

Western Leaders Unite to End Men’s Violence Against Women

If you knew that men’s violence against women was caused by gender inequality and you wanted to set things right, how would you go about it? You’d probably want to get lots of people involved at all levels of society – influential ones would be good. Imagine collecting all the leaders in a room and talking to them about what they could do to end violence against women.

Westunites audience and panel discussion

That’s just what the Western Metropolitan Regional Management Forum did on 25 June. One hundred and thirty community and business leaders from Melton, Brimbank, Moonee Valley and Hobsons Bay gathered to listen to Tim Cartwright, Acting Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, paint a picture of just how prevalent men’s violence against women is in the western region.

He was followed by Professor Bob Pease, Chair of Social Work at Deakin University, who described how gender role theory and sexism are linked to men’s violence against women. Bob went on to outline a list of twenty really simple and practical things men can do to challenge sexism such as listening when women are talking without interrupting them.

Tweet quoting Bob Pease at westunites forum

Fiona McCormack, Domestic Violence Victoria CEO, then debunked the myths and exposed the causes. For example, it’s quite common to hear people ask ‘why doesn’t she leave?’ This question absolves the man of his actions and encourages the woman to take on the blame.

Tweeting quoting Fiona McCormack at WestunitesWomen’s Health West CEO Dr Robyn Gregory went on to describe the prevalence of family violence. Women’s Health West now receive around 800 police referrals a month. But it’s preventable: Robyn spoke about the Preventing Violence Together Partnership for the western region, and how local leaders can get involved. She described practical actions leaders could take in their workplaces to change workplace culture, influence policies and conditions that maintain gender inequity, embed gender equity in staff recruitment and monitor their organisational progress toward this absolutely achievable goal.


New condom machines at Footscray Library

The Action for Equity partnership is excited to announce that condom vending machines have been installed in the public toilets at Footscray Library.

Access to condoms is a key public health consideration, because using condoms and lubricant consistently and correctly can prevent the transmission of sexually transmissible infections (STIs), including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV and blood borne viruses, and can protect against unwanted pregnancies.

Research shows that the male condom is the single most efficient available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV and other STIs. Research also suggests that young people, particularly young men, prefer to access low-cost condoms from semi-private places such as local parks, school toilets and shopping malls.

So while the machines might seem pretty ordinary, they can support big outcomes for the sexual and reproductive health of people in the west.

Installing these machines is part of a regional strategy to improve access and availability to condoms by increasing the number of vending machines in public places. Women’s Health West, on behalf of the partnership, would like to acknowledge Maribyrnong City Council for implementing the condom vending machine project within the City of Maribyrnong.

The condom vending machine project is one of a number of objectives under Action for Equity, the sexual and reproductive health plan for Melbourne’s west.

For more information about the project, please contact us on 9689 9588.

Footscray library CVM_FBThe new condom vending machines at Footscray Library are unassuming but mighty.
Photo by Chiedza Malunga