cohealth shines light on community responses to family violence

Released on 10th August 2015

Culturally diverse communities in Melbourne’s north and western suburbs are highlighting new ways to reduce family violence.

cohealth has been invited by the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence to present details from its submission on how its community engagement with culturally and linguistically diverse communities are changing attitudes and behavior.

cohealth Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said community-driven projects like Living in Harmony demonstrate the value of going local, and helping communities to help themselves. The project supports residents living in Collingwood’s high-rise housing estates run programs reduce family violence.

“We’ve found that strategies focusing on improving the relationship between women and men, set in the community, and developed by the community, help prevent violence before it occurs.

“The attitudes and beliefs related to violence against women vary from culture to culture – so prevention responses need to take culture into account, and respond to what each community needs.

Ewinia Huang and Lan Ly both came from countries with a very different understanding of family violence and gender relationships.

Ms Ly, community facilitator trained by the project, says at first residents didn’t want to talk about family violence – but three years down the track, that is changing.

“As a community facilitator I’ve learnt to run community projects like BBQs, information sessions and movie nights.

She says running a film about mother in-law, daughter in-law relationships, a key source of tension in families, and then stopping the movie for discussion, leads to a better understanding of what family violence looks like.

“It’s about raising people’s awareness about, respectful behavior and how best to make it happen.

The Living in Harmony project began in 2011 and has trained 16 male and female Chinese, Vietnamese and Horn of African community facilitators to promote non-violent norms, gender equity and respectful relationship skills to over 800 people in their community.

They’ve run gym classes and car maintenance workshops for women, and cooking classes for men.

Ms Morgain said the impressive results from culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Collingwood, Flemington and Brimbank served as a model for broader community engagement on addressing family violence.

“As a health issue, a lot of the people we work with, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, face multiple disadvantage because of language, not understanding the service system, or not knowing the impact of family violence on their health and well-being.

“The focus of working with communities is to draw from community strengths to change behavior and help them help themselves in a way that makes sense to them.

Working with communities to prevent family violence was just one of the 21 recommendations cohealth made to the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

“The factors leading to family violence are incredibly complex, and what we are saying is that our response needs to be equally complex, coordinated, long-term and culturally appropriate.

“We’re delighted that the Commission has provided the opportunity for further input into their deliberations on how to address family violence.

“Our submission, based on community-driven principles of co-design, gives voice to people who use our services – no matter where they live, or how violence affects their health.

“We’ve suggested that the Government provide long term investment for community-based projects that are owned by and relevant to those communities – a national awareness campaign alone won’t change behaviour.

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