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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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Free of violence – Community to all


South’s Community Hub (SCH)

What is the project about?

Aims

The aim of the project is to understand the attitudes and behaviors that lead to violence in CALD communities, especially focusing on leaders from African communities including: Somalian, Ethiopian, Rwandan, Burundian, South Sudanese and Eritrean communities.

Project activities

The project activities have included:

  • community conversations;
  • a community and service provider forum;
  • a Peer Support group for Men from East and Horn of Africa communities at the Multicultural Men’s Hub and Shed;
  • the development of digital stories in different languages;
  • South’s Community Hub, Refugee & Immigration Legal Service (RAILS), in partnership with TAFE –Inala Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), delivered the ‘Good Life’ Learning (Restoring Relationships) workshop for new and emerging communities; and
  • cultural competency training and ongoing consultative support for service providers.

Action research focus

  • the need for awareness and community understanding about violence, and the extent and effect of violence or violence-supportive attitudes;
  • behaviours, gendered expectations and cultural legacies that contribute to the engagement and the experience of women and their children within the target community (East African community); and
  • the gendered-nature of violence against women, its drivers and the ways it may manifest in relationships.

Research activities

  • Information gathering through a series of community conversations to capture the understanding of communities about domestic and family violence (DFV), including its prevalence and impact and how communities address and prevent violence.
  • 27 DFV community conversations were held and part of the community conversations were gender–specific. The total number of participants in the conversation was 167 people, including 84 men and 83 women. The participants represented communities from Ethiopia, Burundi, Congo, Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar and Syria. Over half of them settled in Australia between 1996 and 2010, and the rest arrived after 2011. The majority of them are from refugee backgrounds.
  • Observation of the Community and Service Provider Forum, entitled, “Strong Family and Strong Community”.
  • The findings from the conversations were discussed by communities and stakeholders at the forum in order to develop a series of action plans that will support CALD communities to be active participants in preventing and addressing DFV in their respective communities.
  • Observations from project staff and participants, verbal feedback and evaluation surveys were collected from the 12-week Multicultural Men’s Hub and Shed group. There were written evaluations from 25 participants after the first week, from 12 participants in weeks two to seven and from six participants in the last week.
  • Participants in the 8 week TAFE English language program prevention sessions were given the opportunity to do artwork and drawings about what they had learned to evaluate the sessions.

 

Where was the project conducted?

Multicultural Development Association, Catholic Care and the Community Leaders Gathering, Inala Community House, in Brisbane, Logan and Toowoomba, Queensland.

 

Time frame:

November 2017 – June 2020

 

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

  • Participants at the Multicultural Men’s Hub and Shed group agreed that men need to reflect on their behaviour and assist other men to stop using violence.
  • Participants at the Multicultural Men’s Hub and Shed group helped with the production of “Men Managing Change” digital stories.

 

What worked well?

  • The Multicultural Men’s Hub and Shed group is an effective model to engage CALD men because it provided a safe and non-judgemental space to discuss respectful relationships.
  • Community conversations worked well as a model, especially when community leaders and key people in the community worked as bi-cultural workers to run the community conversations.
  • Allowing communities to decide convenient times for discussions and the depth of conversation enabled engagement in community conversations. The flexibility of the project worker and the small size of the organization allows for this level of responsiveness.

 

What did not work?

  • A digital literacy workshop, which was delivered alongside the project’s prevention activities in order to engage the community in a holistic way, engaged women, but not men in the community. The project staff and volunteers reflected that this was most likely due to the timing of the workshop during the day when most men were at TAFE classes or work. Whereas many men did not express interest in the workshop, many of the women expressed a need for basic computer skills that would allow them to access services online.
  • Pre-planning the conversations and forum date did not work because planned dates conflicted with religious observance and cultural festivals. Having greater flexibility and waiting for community members to set the date and time allowed for robust community engagement over several community conversations.

 

What did you learn from the project?

Overwhelmingly participants said:

  • DFV is an issue in their community.
  • Community members need more information to better understand DFV and the legal consequences.
  • Language and cultural barriers prevent people from getting help.
  • Communities have concerns about cultural competency in mainstream services. For example, there is a perception in some localities in Brisbane that police make things worse when they intervene in conflict, because community members often do not understand the actions or processes of police officers. In general, community leaders felt that the law needs to work better with culture and engage with the power that leaders have in communities to create change. Some women who participated in the project also felt they had not been fully heard or believed when they did seek help from the police. Queensland Police have had meaningful engagement with the project and attended the project’s community forum to hear community feedback.
  • Communities understand the terrible impacts of DFV both on those experiencing it as well as on the community as a whole.

The project established that communities have particular strengths including:

  • the value placed on family and seeking help for conflict;
  • community spirit and working collectively; and
  • the value placed on respect for elders and leaders.

The community conversations increased participants’ awareness of the gendered drivers of family violence and helped identify and mobilise support for key areas of action to prevent family violence in a number of CALD communities. These key areas of action included:

  1. Preventing DFV through education campaigns e.g. video campaigns on family violence not being part of our culture.
  2. Sending positive messages to families through organising family-friendly events to celebrate family values, respect and safety for everyone.
  3. Providing strength-based training for community leaders and elders in safely supporting those experiencing family violence.
  4. Identifying and supporting role models and champions to promote safety and respect for all community members.
  5. Co-designing culturally appropriate and empowering training in the prevention of DFV for community members.
  6. Providing training and drop-in spaces and support groups to deliver prevention messages alongside training in life skills to help with settlement needs.
  7. Engaging with traditional community methods of addressing DFV through support groups for men and women and training bicultural or community liaison workers to create connections between law enforcement, service providers and community members.
  8. Training community leaders in the prevention of violence against women and transformative approaches to conflict.
  9. Increasing the awareness of service providers and law enforcement agencies about the complexity of the resettlement experience for refugee communities and providing them with opportunities to engage with community members.
  10. Ensuring a whole-of-community approach to engagement with prevention initiatives.

 

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

From this deep grassroots experience of delivery and collaborations, we recommend the different aspects of this project, including: ‘Community Conversations’, the ‘Multicultural Men’s Hub and Shed group ’ and the ‘Good Life learning TAFE-AMEP program’ and the ‘Managing Change Digital Story’, be used as  a model for the engagement of CALD communities in preventative, community education-focused engagement programs. We strongly encourage continued partnerships with community and church leaders, TAFE and existing men’s sheds to deliver prevention material and provide opportunities for conversations that empower both men and women with knowledge on how to prevent DFV and build peaceful families.

A more comprehensive violence prevention and reduction program could be developed, with broader stakeholder engagement and contribution, including with the Department of Justice, Police and other agencies. Trust and understanding between agencies and communities needs to be enhanced in order to build a coordinated and strategic approach that is consistent with: current policies, the values of the adult education system, the individual and cumulative cultures of the participants, and the efforts of the NGOs that deliver such programs. Continued governmental support in terms of resources and funding will ensure new and emerging communities are reached and that the program can be adapted for other TAFE colleges around Queensland and different communities.

 

Where to from here?

SCH will continue working with Community Leaders Gathering members, Multicultural Development Association (MDA), Refugee & Immigration Legal Service (RAILS) and other service providers to deepen their prevention work by using the project’s Men Managing Change digital story, to support men to build family peace and manage conflict.

The DSS project extension helped SCH and its partner organisations (MDA and RAILS) to follow up on the key actions identified from community conversations and the community forum and to apply for further prevention work under the Fourth Action Plan under the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

 

People and organisations to thank:

SCH would like to thank the Community Leaders Gathering (CLG) members and the steering committee, Multicultural Australia (MDA), RAILS (Refugee & Immigrant Legal Service), Inala Community House, Community QLD and our wonderful bi-cultural workers.

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