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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 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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Men Against Violence (MAV)


Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW (ECCNSW)

What is the project about?

Aims

  1. The MAV project aims to engage Wellbeing Connectors to empower men from CALD backgrounds (Arabic & Punjabi) to become the pipeline for change and challenge current perceptions towards DV (Domestic Violence) in their community. The key to creating change is to build the capacity and resilience from within the community.
  2. Wellbeing Connectors were trained to facilitate informal conversations with men on preventing DV in both small groups and with individuals. A day training was provided by White Ribbon Australia and two days accredited training was provided by Lifeline. These conversations were held during men’s activities and at regular meeting places that men frequent. This includes gatherings in tea/coffee houses, sports events, at social activities and at places of prayer.
  3. The MAV tried to find out attitudes and behaviours in Arabic and Punjabi and other cultures towards violence against women.

Project activities

Wellbeing Connectors met with men from Arabic and Punjabi backgrounds through a social approach in informal gatherings. They were able to raise issues of DV in some conversations over the course of the initiative, taking into account the sensitivity of the cultural context and stigma around publically discussing DV in the communities involved in the project.

ECCNSW’s Wellbeing Connectors conducted 78 informal conversations and spoke to 376 people from Arabic and Punjabi backgrounds. During the conversations, 153 participants pledged to (or indicated that they would) speak to another 5 people in the community about the services available. Some men did not pledge to talk to others about DV prevention due to the stigma surrounding these issues. Men reported finding it hard to discuss the issue due to cultural and religious sensitivities, which suggest that DV is a private matter.

Action research focus

Understanding the effectiveness of the Wellbeing Connectors for raising awareness of DV and exploring attitudes towards Violence Against Women in the Arabic and Punjabi communities where this project was conducted.

Research activities

ECCNSW collected data from feedback reports that Wellbeing Connectors filled in after every conversation. The feedback reports were similar to short surveys with a majority of free response questions. 70 feedback reports were returned by Wellbeing Connectors.

Where was the project conducted?

The project was conducted in the Western Sydney region of NSW, in the following areas: Auburn, Bankstown, Blacktown and Parramatta.

Time frame:

July 2018 – June 2020.

 

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

Impact on communities:
  • The role of Wellbeing Connectors is effective in helping to raise awareness of issues of DV in settings where they are not usually discussed and providing men with information about support services available. 50% of men contacted by Wellbeing Connectors indicated through ‘pledging’ that they would pass the information provided on to another 5 men in their community.
  • Where there were multiple conversations with the same groups of men, the feedback reports show that men became more aware of signs of DV and the conversations helped them to know which services to access when they came across or heard of DV issues in their community. One of the Wellbeing Connectors recorded a participant’s view in their feedback report that, “If we have the awareness, we will be able to prevent many bad things from developing.”
  • These conversations also explored some aspects of Australian law with participants.
Impact on organisations
  • The project increased networking with the members of the Advisory Committee, which enabled ongoing consultations on a bimonthly basis and through emails and phone calls with NSW Police and ANROWS.
  • ECCNSW also became member of SydWest Multicultural Services’ Advisory Committee for another project in the CALD PAR initiative and a member of the Arab Council reference group for DV.

 

What worked well?

The project successfully:

  • recruited 6 Wellbeing Connectors from both cultures;
  • established an Advisory Committee, which has 11 representatives from both backgrounds (Arabic & Punjabi);
  • conducted training for Wellbeing Connectors and equipped them with necessary information to facilitate meaningful conversations with other men in their own communities;
  • produced a digital story in two languages, Arabic and Punjabi; and
  • established a good network between organisations working on prevention in the local area.

 

What did not work?

  • Wellbeing Connectors were not able to connect with as many people in one community and the stigma around DV did not allow for open discussions about the issue. As a result, few sessions were conducted.
  • As part of this initiative, ECCNSW offered to extend support to NSW Police through enabling officers to call up Wellbeing Connectors so that they could offer advice based on cultural expertise during charging or police interaction in courts or at police stations. While Wellbeing Connectors were not engaging with perpetrators directly, the Connectors did undertake training with NSW Police to assist with this role. However, Wellbeing Connectors have not been contacted by Police or courts for any cultural advice or any assistance, suggesting that this model of providing cultural advice may not be a viable part of the Connectors’ role in the future.

 

What did you learn from the project?

In the 70 feedback reports from their informal conversations, 6 of the Wellbeing Connectors indicated that the men they spoke to felt that DV is a prevalent issue in their community. Their observations in feedback reports highlighted that:

  • Many factors inform prevention projects with these communities, including religious factors, financial stresses, language proficiency, mental health (particularly for those newly arrived from the war in Syria and Iraq), ageing and health issues. Issues of belonging in Australia and homesickness also impact on how men receive prevention initiatives. These factors make an intersectional approach to delivering prevention material crucial to effective project implementation.
  • The men from Arabic and Punjabi backgrounds, who were engaged in this project, rely on religious and community leaders to get advice on daily issues. They do not have a good understanding of services available within their areas.
  • The majority of men engaged through the project indicated that they thought DV only included physical acts.
  • Communication and awareness activities are very important to building community understanding of DV.
  • Education about DV is limited and difficult to access in various cultures.
  • DV prevention cannot be addressed without time, resources and attention to cultural sensitivities.

 

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

While the conversational model of delivering prevention information used in the project was effective, setting boundaries for the role of Connectors in informal spaces is important. For example, Connectors were trained to recognise the signs of DV, respond and refer men on if they needed to access DV response services. Supplementing this training with regular debriefing sessions for Connectors with the Project Coordinator was also one way this project ensured that boundaries were maintained and safety was promoted.

Further investment is needed to:

  • Increase awareness about DV issues in different cultures.
  • Provide materials, resources and services in different languages to enable community members to have a clear understanding of DV issues.

 

Where to from here?

  • ECCNSW got funding to run the MAV project until June 2020. ECCNSW will be working with Sudanese and Tamil communities in this extension period. The work will continue with the same approach.
  • The current Wellbeing Connectors are equipped and qualified to become role models in their own communities for preventing violence against women and they will continue having conversations about preventing violence where possible.
  • Ongoing funding is needed for DV issues.

 

People and organisations to thank:

All advisory committee members, ANROWS and partners working within the DV field.

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