Family in Harmony: Facilitating responsible and non-stigmatising attitudes and practices toward domestic violence in the Chinese community
Centre for Holistic Health (CHH)
What is the project about?
The project takes a culturally appropriate approach, which integrates prevention, early intervention and community capacity building, to raise community awareness, reduce cultural stigma, encourage help-seeking and facilitate families’ discussion and reflection on beliefs and expectations about gender.
- promote and enhance healthy and safe families, harmonious relationships and a sense of accountability for harming behaviours and consequences;
- enhance families’ capacity to handle conflicts and risk;
- facilitate collaborations, networks and partnerships with key stakeholders to enhance proactive responses towards family violence;
- raise awareness of family violence and relevant support services in the Chinese community; and
- encourage help-seeking from formal services.
The project approached individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds and status, including: community members, community leaders, agencies, social clubs, churches, and media. The programs were facilitated in two major Chinese dialects, Cantonese and Mandarin, so as to collect different perspectives and address language and cultural differences. The project was delivered through: conversations, workshops, training, small group sessions, counselling and referral services for individuals and families. The project activities included:
- seminars about family violence in the wider community;
- cultural awareness training for clinical practitioners;
- engaging families through workshops and groups that challenge gendered expectations and rules in relationships; and
- engaging community leaders and faith groups on issues of family violence.
We provided flexible options when delivering the services, such as organising meetings in the evenings and on Saturdays for people who worked Monday to Friday. We reached out to the faith groups and social clubs to conduct community sessions for their members.
Action research focus
Our action research evaluates:
- the effectiveness of community awareness activities to increase participants’ understandings about family violence and reduce the stigma of discussing family violence; and
- what our staff should know in order to facilitate community discussions about family violence and help-seeking.
The project collected data from:
- participants/clients who attended our activities;
- our partner organisations
- relevant network meetings; and
- our project team.
The project used the following methods to collect data:
- feedback surveys and pre- and post- questionnaires;
- focus groups;
- recording verbal feedback after each program; and
- observing participant contributions on the project’s social media accounts.
The numbers of participants who contributed their feedback after different project activities were:
- Community seminars / talks (119 participants)
- Domestic Violence training to faith groups (75 participants)
- Workshops for families on respectful relationships (39 participants)
- Cultural awareness training for clinical practitioners (30 participants).
Where was the project conducted?
The project was mainly conducted in the Eastern Metropolitan region of Melbourne, but there were some participants from other regions, including some from remote areas.
The following organisations have been working in partnership with us in this project:
- Victoria Legal Aid
- Victorian Police
- Relationships Australia
- Link Health & Community
- Monash Council
- Whitehorse Council
- SBS Radio (Chinese program)
- AusChannel (Chinese Radio)
- Mental Health Professional Network – Chinese Focus
- Chinese Workers Network Meeting
July 2017 – June 2020.
How has this project impacted communities, organisations and the region?
Feedback collected from participants in the project highlighted that:
- The community awareness activities increased participants’ knowledge of family violence, reduced their sense of shame around disclosures of violence and challenged gendered expectations and practices of help seeking.
- The workshops and groups helped participants to reflect on and challenge gendered expectations and rules that can affect relationships.
- The training for community and faith leaders increased their knowledge about the limits of their role, how to refer people on to services and resources for further information and support about family violence.
Quotes from participants who attended our focus groups or interviews included:
1. From the general public:
- “It is not a shame to disclose my experience of family violence.”
- “There are many forms of family violence that I did not know.”
- “I did not realise that I might have tended to blame myself it was my problem to trigger his emotion.”
- “Women have their rights to speak up.”
2. From the families who attended our workshop:
- “My beliefs can determine how our relationship to be, a harmonious or dysfunctional one.”
- “Everyone needs to be responsible for their aggressive behaviour and
- “I enjoyed the non-judgemental environment that made me feel free to talk.”
- “I realised that I had copied some dysfunctional values and coping from my parents, but I do not want to pass on these to my children.”
3. From the community leaders who attended the training:
- “We need to remind ourselves about our boundaries and limitations when we offer our help.”
- “We know where to get information and where we can refer our people to.”
- “I thought family violence was only physical violence and aggressive behaviour, now I realise it is more than that.”
The following points further demonstrate the success of the the project:
- We received increased requests by Chinese churches to conduct family violence training for their leaders and their church members. We even received a request from a church in Ballarat to conduct a seminar to their church members.
- There was a significant increase in the number of self-referrals from women experiencing family violence.
- There was a lot of interest in attending the workshops for families.
- We also joined a few working committees promoting the prevention of family violence: City of Monash Council and City of Whitehorse Council. The network aims to enhance local partnerships and develop working strategies.
- We make use of social media to promote the prevention of family violence in the Chinese communities.
- We have done a series of radio programs to talk about family issues that include family violence, family laws, family relationships, gender equality, and family conflict together with AusChannel (Chinese radio). Audio programs can be accessed at any time from the AusChannel App and our CHH social media account. We also widely circulate them among our social chat groups. Most of the topics attracted over 500 viewers and listeners.
- We have gathered over 300 followers who are interested to receive information and news about family and services. We have been making use of these platforms to engage Chinese communities. Our success demonstrates that these are very effective and efficient ways to get in touch with more audiences.
What worked well?
- We used the language of “family in harmony” and “relationship enrichment” to reduce the stigma of addressing family violence directly. We received positive feedback about this approach.
- Our project is culturally specific. We produced a Chinese resource booklet for the community. Our workers speak community languages and this helps to engage the community and facilitate discussion.
- Mainstream workers and professionals were very positive about the training we conducted to improve their knowledge of Chinese family relationships, family dynamics and the skills they gained to engage and work with Chinese families.
- We developed some case scenarios to reflect typical beliefs, thoughts, and understandings about family violence from a cultural perspective. These helped to facilitate deeper self- reflection and discussions among participants.
- While women make up the majority of participants, men were successfully engaged through the relationship enrichment workshops for couples. Programs for couples arranged in the evening and weekend successfully engaged more men and people who worked Monday to Friday.
- Participants said they previously felt reluctant and were ashamed (they will lose face) to openly share their experience, even if they felt helpless and very worried about their safety. After attending our workshops, participating in the discussion and listening to other people’s stories, these participants had better knowledge of their rights, and said they would now think more about the negative impacts of keeping silent. Participants felt empowered by the slogan “Say No to Violence”.
What did not work?
- We were able to collect the most data from women because more women participated in activities. We hope that in the future we can gather more data from men. Our team did not have any male workers and this would have helped to engage Chinese men.
- We tended to collect the most data from people aged between 40-50 (82%). We expected to collect data from a more diverse group.
What did you learn from the project?
- Many participants expressed resistance to the idea of full gender equality. However, they agreed that respect is essential. To address the gender drivers of family violence more work and education should will be needed for younger generations.
- Our staff have reflected on their own cultural beliefs and gender expectations. These reflections help us to review our current strategies to promote prevention of family violence in Chinese communities.
- The production of the digital story taught us how to use digital media to promote prevention messages in the Chinese communities.
- The workshops for families helped participants reflect on dysfunctional beliefs and their negative impacts. Our Centre has planned to have more activities to target parents and families.
- Our feedback from surveys and other methods, highlighted that language barriers disadvantage people in articulating their needs, so they might rely more on their personal network, or sometimes get information from informal networks, such as social media or friends. Community members sometimes obtained information and advice in a very indirect way, such as through a friend of a friend, or advice from people who have experienced a similar situation. Cultural workers who understand their language and culture will help break down these barriers, and act as a bridge between communities and services.
- Church members might know some families experiencing family violence, but they may not know how to support them. Other than police, they know very little about family violence services. They worry about giving the wrong advice. In this context, we learned it would be helpful to provide training to church members to increase their knowledge of family violence, introduce basic concepts of family law, procedures for reporting violence and information about support services available in the community.
Do you have suggestions for policy-makers, educators or service providers?
- We recommend a review of communities’ access to information about family violence. Many participants didn’t know the different forms of violence and lacked knowledge about Australia’s Family Law, they could not get proper information from the community and didn’t know where to get information.
- Participants suggest information and resources should be easily accessible in public settings, such as libraries, schools, child care centres, universities, clinics, churches, hospitals, and train stations.
- New migrants did not have enough information about their rights and what kind of protection the government can provide to protect victim-survivors. Some topics or information about family laws, family violence, police roles and community services should be included as essential information for newly arrived migrants.
- More platforms for new migrants to build up mutual support networks are needed.
Where to from here?
In 2018, we put in two proposals to seek funding from the state government and local council to undertake family violence prevention projects in the Chinese community. We were successful in both of them. We expect to generate more evidence to further consolidate our service delivery approach in the prevention of family violence. Moreover, we plan to work closely with local communities to enhance partnerships and improve referral pathways.
Our Centre is undertaking a pilot project to talk about family violence, gender equality and respectful relationships with a younger generations of migrant families. This project is tailored for children aged from 6-12. We make use of puppet plays to deliver messages and facilitate sharing and discussion. We have conducted two holiday programs in 2019 and received very good feedback from both parents and children. We expect to raise the awareness of family violence and respectful relationships among different age groups through this project.
People and organisations to thank:
Victoria Legal Aid
Link Health & Community
SBS Radio (Chinese program)
AusChannel (Chinese Radio)