By Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
Each May, Queensland marks Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month (DFVP Month) to raise community awareness of domestic and family violence.
The aim is to send a clear message that violence in families and homes is not and will not be tolerated.
This year IMPACT’s Intensive Family Support (IFS) team have shown their support for the Red Rose Foundation’s Red Bench Project.
The Red Rose Foundation is a national not for profit charity that works to end domestic violence throughout Queensland, and the red bench is a permanent reminder that domestic violence occurs within all communities, everywhere.
IMPACT is proud to be a supporter of this initiative and has recently installed a red bench in the 108 Bargara Road courtyard for people to see, use, and understand.
Handmade by the NDIS participants in Rob’s Shed, the red bench and accompanying plaque provide a visual reminder that violence not only happens everywhere, but that we as an organisation and a community are actively working to stop violence and conflict in Bundaberg.
In the State Government’s “Not Now, Not Ever” report it was recommended that individuals, community groups and the private sector work together to help prevent domestic and family violence and support those affected.
This means we need to actively implement a whole-of-community approach and be accountable for ourselves and our actions in the face of conflict and violence.
We need to question the behaviour, not ignore it.
Last week I wrote about the launch of the MATE Bystander Program at IMPACT, which is another way we are working to end domestic and family violence in our community.
As mentioned previously, the project recruits everyday locals and trains them to recognise conflict behaviour and use safe intervention methods to interrupt the cycle of violence.
This initiative has also been driven by our IFS team who are involved in conflict resolution on a daily basis.
The IFS team has been working with families in the Bundaberg region, who are experiencing multiple and/or complex needs who have children unborn to 18 years of age, for over three years.
The service delivers parenting support through tailored interventions to build the skills and capacity of parents and carers to safely nurture and protect their children, and refers to external supports in need.
It was our IFS support team that recognised rates of violence were increasing during COVID, and it’s the IFS team that continues to manage the repercussions of the local housing shortage in this space.
With this added pressure it’s more important than ever that we as a community educate ourselves on safe intervention methods, and become a voice for those that have been silenced.
We need to actively stand up and say no to violence.
It’s not welcome in our community, and it won’t be tolerated by our people.
To find out how you can “Be Someone Who Does Something”, phone IMPACT today on 4153 4233 and mention the MATE Bystander Program, or email your interest to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Karen was raised in an environment of domestic violence as a child and found herself involved in a violent relationship later in life.
She has been out of that relationship for over five years now but remembers the horrific situation all too well.
“Most women don’t ask for help because they’re too traumatised and can’t make a clear decision,” Karen said.
“Asking for help is usually the last thing they do.
“Other people taking notice and making that step for them seems to be the only way out.”
Griffith University’s MATE Program, an acronym for Motivating Action Through Empowerment, seeks to educate everyday community members to become leaders in the prevention of violence and conflict.
Partnered with IMPACT Community Services, Uniting Care & Family Relationship Centre and the Family Law Pathways Network, Griffith will host a “Train the Trainer” event where 30 Bundaberg locals will be taught how to educate others on this principle.
The project aims to teach bystanders how to safely step in and address problematic behaviour as it happens.
IMPACT is holding an information session on Tuesday 18 May from 10am to 12pm for people who are interested in getting involved.
“I’d like to see more people educated about domestic violence,” Karen said.
“It’s hard to get people to fathom that women can’t just leave.
“You’re in fear of your life, of your kids’ lives if you have children… you know they’re going to harass you and hunt you down and contact all your friends and family, if they haven’t already isolated their victim.
“I got beat up for 5 hours in a unit block and not one person called the police. He got away with everything and he almost killed me.
“I’m over people turning a blind eye to domestic violence… there needs to be community involvement on a broad scale.”
Karen has also watched her daughter struggle through a violent relationship, and she wants the cycle to stop.
“Domestic violence is a reality in Bundaberg, it’s not just a number on a piece of paper,” she said.
“There are a lot of broken families, broken kids and broken mums.
“There are a lot of vulnerable women out there and the kids that are involved in domestic violence, the impact on them is extreme trauma.”
Locals who become involved in the MATE training will enter a three-day course and learn about gender stereotypes and how they impact our community, the role of the bystander and what safe interjection looks like, and methods to prevent conflict and violence.
Karen said while the MATE bystander approach would be great in the first instance, more follow up needs to be established.
“More training, more accommodation, more emergency housing, and around the clock support is needed,” she said.
Karen suggested a form of childcare would benefit parents fleeing domestic violence.
“They don’t get a chance to feel normal, to look for a job, they need support all the way through.”