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Preventing domestic violence: Getting the community involved

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SAHELI’s Keeping Families Safe program gets off the ground

Eminent scholar and human rights activist Amrit Versha conducted a two-day workshop at Granville TAFE in Sydney recently to empower the South Asian community and equip them with both knowledge and resources to identify, understand and address domestic and family violence.
saheli keeping families safe.Indian Link
The accredited training course, Keeping Families Safe was facilitated by SAHELI in conjunction with Community Migrant Resource Centre, Boronia Multicultural Services and the Tamil Women’s Development Group.
The workshop aimed to confront the vexing issue that has for long gone unrecognised.
Affecting numerous families, conservative statistics estimate that one in three women in Australia face DV and many women particularly those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds are ill equipped to safeguard their interests.
“Irrespective of context or setting, domestic violence is illegal and a criminal act in Australia. We can no longer use culture and religion to defend or justify such behaviour,”argues Versha, who received the prestigious NAPCAN award in 2015 for being an inspiring advocate for children’s safety and wellbeing in the migrant and refugee community.
saheli keeping families safe.Indian Link
Stemming from a misguided perception of power, it is a pattern of behaviour, where there is neither respect nor accountability, she explained. Economic dependence, visa status and the role of extended family often complicate the situation. Additionally, people from CALD backgrounds are often either not aware of external resources that are in place to help them or are not used to accessing it.
While conflict exists in every situation, when one person uses too much control in an intimate relationship, it becomes violence, she added.
Open and positive communication however, can turn a destructive conflict into a constructive one. The course thus outlined the nature and scope of conflict and examined the range of responses (fight, flow, flight) including avoidance, accommodation, compromise, competition and collaboration.
“Health, wellbeing and economic empowerment of South Asian women have been core focus areas for SAHELI,” spokesperson Shantha Viswanathan told Indian Link.
“An open formal dialogue with a cross section of the Indian sub-continent highlighted the need for formal training for community members /community leaders to be empowered with an adequate skill set to address this challenge,” added fellow committee member Rajalakshmi Bhatia. “Through these sessions, we hope to work together to better understand this social issue and eventually make a positive difference in the community.”
saheli keeping families safe.Indian Link
What is family violence, how does it affect the family network, what prevention strategies can be put in place, what is NSW family violence framework, who are service providers at the forefront of family violence and how can individuals and community groups access the facilities – these were some of the questions answered by the interactive programme.
Using scenarios and case studies, participants helped formulate strategies and develop projects and programs to keep families safe. Besides understanding the nature of perpetrator and victim, the course also examined the role of mediator to better facilitate understanding of disputes, address past grievances and create strategies to move forward.
A wide cross section of community members, representing various ethnic and linguistic sub groups took part, including those with working interest in the area as well as others committed to addressing this issue at policy and grassroots level. Younger participants spoke about the role of incorporating new media as an effective tool in the campaign against DV.
“DV is a universal human issue, and Indians anywhere are not immune to it,” stated UNSW academic Dr Sowmya Arcot, whose interest in the course, as an unaffiliated member, was driven more by curiosity. “As a community, we have to be vigilant and ready to recognise and help whenever the need arises. For that, having all the information on resources is a first step. Versha is a charismatic, inspirational and passionate lecturer and I learned a lot about resources available and met many interesting people. The focussed setting, information gleaned and the networking contacts were invaluable.”
Keeping Families Safe has already enabled SAHELI and other participating organisations to identify and table potential projects for community education and family violence prevention initiatives for the future to work on.
Following on from the workshop, SAHELI hopes to work with community language schools, use social media and software applications to communicate and collaborate with the community at several levels on this important issue of family violence, Viswanathan noted.

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