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Violence against women and their children affects everybody. It impacts on the health, wellbeing and safety of a significant proportion of Australians throughout all states and territories and places an enormous burden on the nation’s economy across family and community services, health and hospitals, income-support and criminal justice systems.

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ANROWS hosts events as part of its knowledge transfer and exchange work, including public lectures, workshops and research launches. Details of upcoming ANROWS activities and news are available from the list on the right.

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About ANROWS

ANROWS was established by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments of Australia to produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.

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To support the take-up of evidence, ANROWS offers a range of resources developed from research to support practitioners and policy-makers in delivering evidence-based interventions.

‘Let’s take the Lead, Keeping our Women, Children and Community Safe’


Boronia Multicultural Services (BMS)

 

What is the project about?

The project focuses on primary prevention strategies by raising awareness of how gendered roles and responsibilities contribute to domestic and family violence against women and their children. Research shows that there are certain factors that consistently drive higher levels of gender-based violence (see Change the Story, Our Watch, ANROWS and VicHealth, 2015). These include the following key drivers:

  • condoning of violence against women;
  • men’s control of decision making and limits to women’s independence;
  • stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity;
  • disrespect towards women; and
  • male peer relations that encourage aggressive behaviours.

Aims

Our project focuses on challenging these drivers of violence. The aims of our project are:

  • to reduce violence in target communities;
  • to challenge set values and beliefs that contribute to a power hierarchy within the family unit that lead to family violence;
  • to empower men, women and young people with the right information, knowledge and understanding about healthy and unhealthy relationships, positive communication, negotiation and mutual respect between genders; and
  • to challenge gender stereotypes, particularly in parenting (one of these stereotypes is that the care of children is the responsibility of mothers and that there is a limited role for fathers in attending to the needs of children).

Project activities

  • a camp for men and their sons;
  • 10 workshops and seminars for community members, including senior citizens;
  • celebration of International Women’s Day, Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day;
  • dads and kids workshops in schools; and
  • BMS staff training on the Our Watch, ‘Change the Story’ framework.

Action research focus

Our action research explored how to prevent violence against women and girls by raising awareness of how gendered roles and responsibilities contribute to a hierarchy of power. We investigated the impact of raising the awareness of: fathers taking on caring responsibilities; parents providing equal opportunities to both boys and girls to reach their full potential and communities promoting respectful and equal relationships between men and women, boys and girls.

Research activities

  • 14 evaluation surveys from sons and 20 from fathers during the fathers and sons camp.
  • 40 pre-and post-workshop attitudinal surveys.
  • Debriefing and reflection after project activities with staff and volunteers.

 

Where was the project conducted?

The project is being conducted in Parramatta and Cumberland Local Government Areas in NSW.

 

Time frame:

January 2018 – June 2020.

 

How has this project impacted communities, organisations and the region?

  • The project has created increased awareness of the things people can do to prevent violence against women. For example, encouraging boys to take on domestic duties in the house.
  • Participants in workshops and forums learned about the importance of parents providing equal opportunity to both boys and girls.
  • The camps for men and their sons reinforced the importance of fathers taking on caring responsibilities for their children including reading to kids and attending to babies from an early age.
  • Workshops and forums promoted role modelling in the community through positive relationships with our partners.

 

What worked well?

  • Using positive language and avoiding the use of ‘violence’ on flyers and other promotional material.
  • Providing the information on the drivers of violence during events, such as Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day and other community events.
  • Inviting parents together with their children and engaging both in gender equality activities. Kids encouraged the parents to attend the event thus boosting attendance.
  • Taking fathers and sons out of their usual environments and away on a camp ensures you have an attentive, enthusiastic audience. The kids at the camp were given the opportunity to tell their fathers what they wanted most from them. Some of the responses were as follows:
    • ‘I wish daddy plays with me’;
    • ‘stays home’;
    • ‘plays video games with me’;
    • ‘wish daddy take holidays from work’;
    • ‘take time to play with me’; and
    • ‘want daddy to read to me’.

These were powerful responses coming from the kids to their fathers and father figures in their lives, which highlighted the importance of fathers being involved in caring responsibilities.

  • Promoting workshops at inter-agency networks, networks of schools and community events and being persistent in doing so helped increase the receptivity of the community to hosting project activities.
  • Workshops provided young people with the opportunity to discuss the difference in stereotypes between home and school and to introduce them to ways to challenge stereotypes.

 

What did not work?

Strategies were amended when we experienced difficulties and on the advice of our participants. A few of the early aspects of the project that were later amended or addressed included:

  • We put the language of domestic violence on flyers, which alienated the communities.
  • Some community members have avoided further engagement because their communities feel targeted by violence prevention programs.
  • There were sometimes differences of opinion among communities on how things should be. An example of this was the attitude of some community members that women are better suited to be carers than men.
  • Some participants equated gender equality with women’s desire to rule the world.

 

What did you learn from the project?

  • Partnerships with organisations and community leaders broadened the reach of the project and gave the project access to hard-to-reach sections of the community.
  • Parents are willing to modify parenting practices to ensure their children are not exposed to violence.
  • Statistics paint a picture of the extent of family and domestic violence in the community.
  • Opportunities such as the camp for men and their sons can give fathers the opportunity to assume caring responsibilities for their children because their partners are not present.
  • Participants in the Father’s Day Dinner indicated that they would like to have more parenting workshops, family fun days and experience connecting with people from other cultural groups.
  • Participants in the camp requested more information on positive parenting, opportunities for fathers and sons to participate in activities together, how to answer children’s questions on puberty and work/life balance.

 

Do you have suggestions for policy-makers, educators or service providers?

  • Grant paid parental leave to fathers to enable them take more caring roles in the family. Feedback from participants raised a lack of awareness of the 2 week paid parental leave for fathers, whether this short period was enough for bonding with a child and the accessibility of these provisions to all workers, particularly those in low-skilled employment or in a less powerful position in the workplace.
  • Involve fathers in caring responsibilities by making playgroups, pre-natal and ante- natal classes, child-care centres and other services working with children welcoming to fathers. Advertising material should also encourage the participation of fathers by using gender-neutral language, pictures and colours to make them more comfortable for men.

 

Where to from here?

BMS will continue to raise awareness of the drivers of violence based on the Our Watch, ‘Change the Story’ framework through events with fathers and children, community forums, workshops with community organisations and faith groups and youth forums and assist communities in taking action to reduce violence against women and girls through partnerships with community groups and seeking funding to expand the reach of the program.

 

People and organisations to thank:

We’d like to thank all the participants in our programs and partner organisations, the Australian Government Department of Social Services, ANROWS and Our Watch.

 

References:

Our Watch, ANROWS & VicHealth. (2015). Change the Story. Melbourne: Our Watch

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