IMPACT Community Services, Uniting Care & Family Relationship Centre and Family Law Pathways Network has announced their partnership with Griffith University Queensland to bring the MATE Bystander Program to the region.
MATE, an acronym for Motivating Action Through Empowerment, is an education and intervention tool which aims to teach everyday community members to be leaders in the prevention of violence and conflict.
Queensland Court figures show the number of applications for domestic violence orders lodged in Bundaberg was up 31.8% (468 v 355) for the year to the end of March in comparison to the corresponding period in 2019-20; the largest increase anywhere in Queensland.
The MATE program teaches people to become proactive bystanders with the tools and understanding to step in and address problematic behaviour.
The bystander approach focuses not on the perpetrator or victim of violence, rather what we can all do to prevent violence in our homes, workplaces, schools and communities.
The program challenges the root attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that normalise violence against women, inequality, racism, discrimination and bullying within our society.
Previously the program has only been offered to organisations however Griffith University’s MATE team wants to pilot whether this service can be expanded by training community members to deliver it in a local context and, if successful, on a wider scale.
IMPACT’s Intensive Family Support Manager Melissa Clarke said the program offered an opportunity for the community to respond to violence as a whole.
“This is about looking at the issue not only from a domestic violence lens but also as violence in general,” Ms Clarke said.
“This program aims to make a stand and encourage people to consider the right thing to do.
“It’s around being aware of what violence actually is and if you do see some form of violence, knowing what some strategies are to respond in a safe manner so that bystanders can walk away knowing they did the right thing.”
Griffith University will deliver a three-day MATE training course to 30 participants in August.
In preparation for this, IMPACT will host an information session on May 18 from 10am to midday for those who are interested in participating in the training.
The program slogan of “be someone that does something” urges all community members to get involved.
Uniting Care & Family Relationship Centre’s Bec Spruce said everyone was encouraged to attend.
“Anybody can be a bystander, we’re talking to you,” she said.
“This initiative is a whole of community approach that welcomes people from all backgrounds.
“Even if people may not be eligible for a place in the training, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a voice – we are here to listen too.”
For more information or to register phone IMPACT on 4153 4233 or sign up below.
To learn more about the MATE Program go to https://matebystander.edu.au/about/.
Every single one of us plays a role in violence prevention—whether it’s something we’re exposed to directly or not. We want you to have the ability to recognise when a problematic situation is taking place and feel empowered to effectively interrupt the behaviour, providing it is safe for you to do so.
It is our aim to raise awareness around the ways in which abusive behaviour is embedded in our culture as well as the subtler issues that support a potentially harmful environment. Our programs challenge the root attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that normalise violence against women, inequality, racism, discrimination and bullying within our society. We recognise that in order to facilitate change, we need to open a dialogue about the dynamics and context of all forms of violence.
You may recognise that violence and discrimination don’t align with your values, but how often do you take a deep dive on the topic in an interactive environment? In our violence prevention programs, we create a safe space for people to share their opinions as well as any experiences they may have had with problematic behaviour to bring light to issues that are often left undiscussed.
Jannene Thorn knows a thing or two about lending a helping hand to those in need of support.
Jannene is IMPACT Community Services' Manager of Mental Health Services and has worked at IMPACT for 10 years across at least four different programs.
Jannene loves the work she does and the reputation IMPACT has in the community.
“I work here because the mission, vision and values align with mine,” Jannene said.
“And I work here because I enjoy empowering vulnerable people so that they become independent and no longer need support.”
Jannene said that IMPACT was great because of its diversity, scope and wrap-around services.
“Someone will come as a jobseeker and wind up in parental support, or one of our other programs which is right next door,” she said.
“People are being referred across programs all the time – it's a one-stop shop here.”
Jannene was a chef before entering the community services field, but after 19 years she felt “burned out” and needed a change of career.
She has a brother with disability so had plenty of experience in caring; it seemed natural to work in that sector. Jannene started working eight hours a week at IMPACT as a casual disability support worker, but soon became full time.
“My lived experience with my brother made me stronger as a support worker,” she said.
“You already know what standards of care are needed to look after someone properly.”
Jannene spent three years as disability support worker before moving to early intervention in parenting as a Team Leader.
She then worked in supported employment at our Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), looking after our workers with a disability.
“I really loved it and almost didn't want to leave,” she said.
But then Jannene found her calling as Manager of Mental Health Services, looking after a vast area of the Wide Bay. She now manages nine programs and organises the collaboration with other various support services.
“We collaborate well with the community,” Jannene said.
“We partner with other services, all with the end view of a better outcome for the client.”
Jannene manages a staff of 10, all mental health experts with vast experience.
“We use a strengths-based recovery approach,” she said.
“It’s whatever works well with the client.”
Jannene's plans for the future involve co-designing mental health programs and trying to establish a wider footprint across Queensland.
And of course, helping more people to improve their lives.
To celebrate the event, which runs over 11 days from March 3 to 14, we will be sharing a series of Q&A stories with some of our exceptional female staff from across the organisation.
Today you get to meet Maxine, one of our Intensive Family Support workers.
My role at IMPACT Community Services is an Intensive Family Support (IFS) Case Manager within a Domestic and Family Violence Framework of Best Practice - DFV Specialist. I enjoy the work that I do because a personal goal of mine is to “create a better world”; conscientisation is key. In this role I am able to, hopefully, positively influence those I work with to achieve respectful, thriving and healthy relationships.
I am driven by all the people I meet and also by the children I come into contact with who might need their mother and father to respectfully co-exist with one another while putting in 100% effort to creating an uplifting, empowering and healthy home-front for them to springboard from.
Interesting but off-topic: In the DFV world and where 85%+ of violence and abuse comes from men towards their women and most often in front of their children, many questions arise. Like, can someone stop their oppression of someone (physically, psychologically, sexually, socially, financially)? And if so, how long will that take? What will happen if/when she decides she cannot ever trust him again and wants to leave? How are the children impacted by the shouting, screaming or the toxicity in their home grounds?
There are many women who have inspired my understandings and how I have worked over the years. As a 9-year-old my learning about Joan of Arc really influenced me because I continue to be inspired by strong ‘warrior women’. Currently I am following Vandana Shiva who began her works by installing a Seed Bank in response to the privatisation/patenting of natural resources; and I am following Indra Nooyi who has been voted the most influential women on Earth.
I think those women inspire me because of their exceptional quality of Being – facta non verba – they walk their talk. The women who have been my role models are those who know the struggles of calling out oppression fearlessly (and relevantly) and most concisely. You must be able to name the problem in order to resolve the problem to action for change.
Do not be afraid to make mistakes, do not be freaked out by feeling uncomfortable in challenging situations – make your truths transparent. If you are wrong, it's okay. Learn by it, learn from it. Laugh a lot, and sing loudly. Read, Susan Jeffers' book, “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” or listen to the audio book. Mind the thoughts you keep, strive for respectful, interdependent healthy relationships, know what you stand for and what you won’t stand for. And just as importantly, learn how to defend/resource yourself in times of trouble.
To celebrate the event, which runs over 11 days from today, March 3 to 14, we will be sharing a series of Q&A stories with some of our exceptional female staff from across the organisation.
And what better way to begin the week than with a woman who needs no introduction; IMPACT's Managing Director Tanya O’Shea.
I am the Managing Director of IMPACT Community Services. I am inspired by people. People who turn up each day leaving their own issues at the door to support others. People who choose to improve their life or the lives of their family. People who stop engaging in behaviours that are harmful to themselves or others. People who recognise that they need support to make a change. This job has been a gift, inspiring me to push boundaries, challenge myself and contribute – give back to something way bigger than me.
Professor Helen Huntly, OAM. Helen was my teacher in high school, my boss when I started working as a part-time aerobics instructor and is one of my current bosses (as a Director on the IMPACT Board). Her commitment to the education sector and dedication to community capacity-building is an inspiration.
It feels like Helen has been my informal mentor, cheering me on from the sidelines my entire working life! She never sweats the small stuff, is genuine, responsive and not afraid to tell me what I need to hear. Most important of all, she believes in me, reminding me that I have got everything that I need already within myself to do what needs to be done. She empowers in a way that leaves me feeling like 'I have got this.'
Helen comes from a health and fitness background, having been a secondary school PE teacher and part-time aerobics instructor before commencing at CQUniversity over 20 years ago. Even though her job is incredibly demanding, she still runs 5km daily, nowadays referring to her exercise routine as more of slow shuffle than an energetic dash!
In the words of Judy Garland, ‘Always aim to be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else’. Having role models and mentors is important, however to build trust and strong relationships, you need to be comfortable enough in yourself to be yourself. You cannot do that if you are always trying to be like someone else. Remember, you have got this.
Leanne Baker is a name you might be familiar with – especially if you’re a busy mother or planning guru.
Leanne is a local business owner whose experience and products are widely sought after.
Her range of yearly planners and time management techniques are a hit within Bundaberg families, which makes her kind end-of-year gift all the more special.
In November Leanne put a call out to her social media community to find a cause or charity to support.
“…a number of our community who are survivors of domestic violence shared about how the planners have helped them turn their world around,” Leanne said.
“Knowing this, we couldn’t help but reach out and donate these planners to (IMPACT) and aim to help as many people as possible – particularly because 2020 has been such a difficult year for so many.”
Leanne made the donation of 45 Leanne Baker Daily diaries, that retail at almost $56 each, as a reminder of the importance of weekly self-care.
“The budgeting pages in our LBD planners will be a positive and helpful aid in their lives,” she said.
“I believe that giving is one of the most rewarding actions in life, and in particular in business. Being in a position to be able to give back to others and also being able to see the difference it makes to someone adds meaning to what we do.
“It is important that (my sons) grow up with the understanding of the significance of giving to others, particularly if someone is less fortunate than us, as well as being actively involved in our local community.”
Staci Rae is a Case Manager with IMPACT’s Intensive Family Support (IFS) program and was the one to respond to Leanne’s social media query.
The IFS program assists families with multiple and complex needs, with 85% of their intake either experiencing, or having experienced, domestic violence.
“Leanne’s donation will help build or rebuild women’s lives and I know how thankful they will be for this gift,” Staci said.
By Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
The holiday period is typically a time of more.
More relaxing, more family time, more spending, more food, and more alcohol.
But for families who experience domestic and family violence, more is a frightening reality.
While many of our community members experience more love and joy, others are preparing for a time of uncertainty.
Existing family tensions, fueled by substance abuse and prolonged exposure to stressful environments, create the busiest time of year for family support providers.
In an environment where referrals for Intensive Family Support are already overflowing, and Government Departments are struggling to manage the number of intakes, we are urging people to make a change these holidays.
A 2018 study on family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia found seasonal changes, such as Christmas and New Year, have been linked to increased rates of family violence.
It identified increased contact, financial stress, and consumption of alcohol as possible explanations for the rise in violence.
We want our Bundaberg community to enjoy this time of year without the worry of family aggression.
Other than the obvious step of consuming fewer harmful substances, reducing the amount of stress can also help.
Simple ways to reduce stress include acknowledging your feelings, reaching out to others, being realistic, learning to say no, continuing healthy habits, and taking “me” time.
Expectations around presents and how much money is spent can also be stress-inducing.
Overspending is often avoidable, so try to set an affordable budget and work to it; remember, children can only play with one toy at a time, and most adults already have everything they need.
This time of year is about giving thanks for the blessings in life, and maintaining or developing everyday good choices is important: eat healthy meals, drink plenty of water, get enough sleep and exercise your body.
Being able to identify triggers in others is also an important step to diffusing a situation before something more occurs.
The most common displays of this include hypersensitivity, verbal abuse, controlling behaviour, unrealistic expectations, isolation, blaming, threats, and the use of force.
2020 has already been an incredibly trying time for many and added stresses need to be left behind this holiday season.
Take each day as it comes and breathe through the difficulties.
The minor inconveniences will only affect us as much as we let them.
Have a wonderful end of year and we look forward to continuing this column in the New Year of 2021.
If you or someone you know is in a violent relationship you can phone DV Connect’s 24/7 women’s line on 1800 811 811 or their men’s line from 9am to midnight on 1800 600 636.
Today, October 2 is the International day of Non-Violence. Our region has historically experienced shockingly high statistics of domestic violence, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the number of violent acts being committed in homes in the Bundaberg region.
At IMPACT Community Services we have seen a spike in domestic violence cases following the outbreak of Coronavirus and the following restrictions and lockdown period. We are engaged with families involved with domestic violence every day. Our incredible Intensive Family Support (IFS) staff work tirelessly with families in violent circumstances, and help at-risk partners and children flee their homes when things become unbearable. Our IFS staff are on the frontlines and bear witness to the distressing situations many people are involved in.
Of course, it’s never okay to become violent to anyone or anything, but we understand there are several complex factors involved when this type of act is prevalent in families.
When underlying issues involving financial burdens, drug use and alcohol abuse are present, the additional advice during COVID-19 to limit social outings and on-site work have compounded pre-existing pressures in homes that may have already been ill-equipped to manage stress adequately. Many workers lost their jobs or were given reduced hours when the pandemic hit, adding fuel to an already stoked fire.
The important message to get across here is that there are services available to people in these situations. Our IFS staff don’t judge families who need assistance. We approach any given situation with open minds and a willingness to help. Ultimately, our staff want to make a difference in people’s lives. We work to prevent Government departments becoming involved, to give people the opportunity to build strong and healthy futures for themselves. We work to broaden available support networks to help both the parent’s and children’s wellbeing.
Parenting is the world’s hardest job, and everyone is a on a learning journey – it’s okay to reach out for help. When families are ready for support, we let them lead the conversation in how we can best assist them to make beneficial changes within the family dynamic. We can also help with tenancy support, connecting people with specialist appointments, parenting tips, behavior management tools, household management and routine structure, safety planning, advocating for services such as mental health or for housing, and provide access to DV Connect.
Sometimes people don’t understand the severity of their situation until they speak with someone removed from the immediate family structure. There are varying forms of violence and abuse, be that physical, mental or emotional, and acknowledging someone’s trauma can help them understand the realities of their lived experiences. Having someone to talk to is the first step to recovery, and once the conversation has begun, IFS can then approach their needs in a holistic way, wrapping support around people and families as needed.
When applying for certain assistance, families can become overwhelmed with tight criteria and departmental jargon that can be difficult to decipher. Our staff help clients articulate exactly what they need so they can be aligned with the services they are entitled to.
It’s important to remember that domestic violence is never okay and there are services available to help. If you are experiencing violence in your home, you can phone 1800 737 732 (1800 RESPECT) or DV Connect on 1800 811 811.
If you’d like to make a referral for support, you can contact Family and Child Connect on 13 32 34.
If you’re in need of assistance but unsure about how to proceed, please feel free to phone our IFS team for advice on 4153 4233.
Today, R U OK? Day and World Suicide Prevention Day both fall within Child Protection Week.
Here at IMPACT Community Services we thought it fitting to speak with our Intensive Family Support unit to identify when someone might need assistance and how they can go about seeking that help.
Rose is a 31-year-old stay at home mother of three who relies heavily on Centrelink assistance to provide for her young family while breeding her purebred dogs for additional income. Her eldest child, 9, has violent behavioural management issues and, along with her 5-year-old, has not been formally diagnosed with a disability. Rose’s 3-month-old is at risk of suffering developmental delays due to the violent nature of the siblings.
She feels isolated, judged by others and is afraid her current situation will never improve. Her biggest fears involve having Child Safety remove her children, the baby’s father taking full custody, and having her children develop criminal behaviour that requires legal intervention.
Rose suffers from her own childhood trauma which has led to her own children being subjected to unhealthy role models and violent tendencies. Without intervention, Rose’s children could spiral into a world of crime, violence, instability and contribute to further intergenerational trauma.
Does this situation sound familiar? Do you know someone in a similar situation who could use a hand up? With the support of IMPACT’s IFS program, Rose would gain a sense of feeling supported and connected in a trusting environment. She would also receive education on parenting to help her support her children and their needs appropriately without the fear of Child Services taking her kids.
Violence and trauma become triggers for larger events. Stop the cycle before it’s too late. R U OK? Start the conversation and be the support someone desperately needs. Ask, listen, encourage action and check in with your friend to follow up with their situation. For more information visit ruok.org.au.
If you are a struggling parent looking for support, phone Family and Child Connect on 13 32 64.
To raise awareness and show your support of suicide prevention, light a candle at a window at 8pm tonight. If you have been affected by suicide and would like someone to talk to, phone the 24-hour Lifeline support service on 13 11 14.
To enquire about support with IMPACT, phone 4153 4233 today.
Artwork: Goreng Goreng artist Rachael Sarra
A recent Australian National University (ANU) survey found almost 20% of people drank more under lockdown than they usually did.
Almost one third of those people said they started drinking three to four more drinks per week and 26.4 per cent said they had upped their intake by more than five drinks per week.
IMPACT Community Services has programs that can help if you think that you might fall into this category.
In her work, Intensive Family Support (IFS) Manager Melissa Clarke encounters people who sometimes have a consistent abuse of substances, and it has only become worse during the COVID-19 restrictions.
IFS provides support to families who are experiencing multiple and complex issues to prevent the Department of Child Safety becoming involved.
“It's become very clear that there is an increased use of alcohol to cope with the extra pressure of living under lock-down,” Ms Clarke said.
Ms Clarke said there was a long checklist of reasons why people might reach for a bottle to alleviate the extra pressure of living under coronavirus restrictions.
“I've talked to a lot of fearful clients, who are not venturing out or leaving home for fear of kids contracting illness and kids with behavioural issues,” Ms Clarke said.
“And the kids being home often just stacks problems on top of problems.”
Ms Clarke said for those with a history of trauma or pre-existing mental health issues the problem was only exacerbated.
“Many reach for the bottle to cope because it's largely socially acceptable.”
“But for some, the problem becomes so great that it starts to affect the people around them,” Ms Clarke said.
“Children get neglected, food isn't making it onto tables – neglecting your responsibilities will be one of the signs you may be drinking too much.”
Other signs your drinking may be a problem could be an increase in aggression and violence. Another big flag is that you seem to be building a tolerance to the amount you drink and it requires more to achieve the same result.
Ms Clarke said at IFS they looked at things holistically. “Not eating well, or exercising are signs of a life out of balance, and some treat alcohol as a way of filling some of these gaps,” she said.
“We encourage a more balanced approach, so we encourage people to walk, exercise, or get a free meditation app to help to ground themselves and help them to gain inner strength.”
And one of the most important measures one can take is to pick up phone and talk to people – friends and family.
A person needs honesty and the support of friends and family, but if the problem is advanced they need to see a professional. Be sure to reach out to your local drug and alcohol centre.
For those suffering from the effects of alcohol abuse, Ms Clarke's most important advice is to be honest with yourself, and reach out to those who can help.
For more about IMPACT's Intensive Family Support program go to https://www.impact.org.au/intensive-family-support-ifs
May is Domestic Violence Prevention Month, a time to actively highlight the symptoms, effects and collateral damage of this ongoing societal problem, and to assure victims that there is always help available.
Maxine Revell is an Intensive Family Support (IFS) Case Manager at IMPACT Community Services and sees the effects of domestic violence up close almost every day. She feels strongly about finding approaches and interventions that work – to stop the abuse, violence, neglect – and to help us heal and thrive as stronger, more compassionate human beings.
Maxine doesn’t particularly like the term “domestic violence”, explaining that the language makes invisible the person who bullies and uses coercive control to terrorise their partner, siblings or parents, and children.
“Domestic Violence” or “Family Violence” is against the law and if people are not certain what the problem looks like or sounds like, Maxine encourages you to look up the Domestic Violence Act on the internet.
“This is the month to take time out and understand what domestic violence is, break it down, call it what it is, and take a stand to stop it,” Maxine said.
“Domestic violence is a pattern of behaving and having power over someone that acts to disempower, confuse and erode the victim’s sense of self and self-worth.
“People (victims) do not hand their power away – it's ignored or stomped on. When one person is dominating the relationship, the other person's sense of power within is diminished or squashed, making them feel insignificant, unsure and usually depressed.
“Children in this mix can become unhappy, oppositional, confused and mimic the behaviours.”
The good news, Maxine said, was that violence, abuse and coercion were learnt behaviours and could be unlearned.
She said she believed in the global Restorative Justice Movement, born out of the Marae system of Mana Motuhake in Aotearoa, New Zealand where restorative justice principles call for making right the wrong committed by the perpetrator.
It is an accountability model known to teach empathy for the victim/s and this is when behaviour change happens.
Maxine said that the local Bystander Campaign was also great because it was a call for family members and friends to get involved if they thought there was domestic or family violence around people they cared about, and not simply be a bystander to violence and abuse.
“Relationships with each other that are equal and equally satisfying where each person is getting their needs met will ensure a functioning, happy family,” she said.
"Every family’s experiences of domestic and family violence is different. However, children who have lived with ongoing aggression and abuse in their homes often say they fear for their lives and their parent’s lives.
"This can spark neurological difficulties leading to psychological difficulties which is why it is important to take a stand and say #notnownotever."
Prevention of more abuse is key, and safety plans can be a perfect guide for family meetings and conversations for everyone concerned.
According to Maxine what is also key in stopping the abuse is not to dehumanise the abuser. There are good programs for men, for example, that can help guide the process from someone you know being controlling, aggressive and entitled, to becoming respectful, contributing, happy and trusting (call MensLine on 1300 789 978 for more information).
“If drugs and alcohol are involved, take some video and show them the aggressive and/or abusive behaviour the next day,” Maxine said.
“Call a family meeting, discuss what happened and how everyone was affected, especially the younger members of the family.
“Make everyone accountable. Take responsibility. If someone says they are only violent when they are drinking or drugging then no drinking or drugging.
“I have never met an abusive person who is happy more than 25% of their time.
“And I often wonder, is this how they want their partners or their children to be, feeling sad and mad most of the time?”
Maxine believes there needs to be a cultural shift of believing that both men and women are equal – different but equal with equal rights.
This will take time, considering all the stereotypes of male roles and female roles that get reinforced through media, schools and "traditional" family values.
“Silence continues the violence and there is evidence that aggressive and abusive behaviour will get worse if there is no intervention,” Maxine said.
“Brothers are good to do this, or uncles and cousins and fathers, sisters, aunties, grandmothers and grandfathers. And, if your family intervention doesn’t work, call the Police or DV Connect.”
May is Domestic Violence Prevention month. What are you doing?
Lleyton came very close to being homeless during the COVID-19 lock-down, but thankfully he turned to IMPACT Community Services for support.
IMPACT Community Navigator Steven Hull was able to help Lleyton and his heavily-pregnant girlfriend find a new house to live in.
Despite the difficulties added by COVID-19, Steven was with Lleyton every step of the way until he had a roof over his head last Friday.
Lleyton loves his new home and says there's plenty of room for him and his partner, and for their baby who's due in a month or two.
Lleyton, 18, had experienced a lot of difficulty trying to secure a new home, mainly because of his young age.
“I found it difficult to get a home because I had no rental history,” he said.
“But IMPACT helped us out a lot, printed out all the papers we had to sign, and they even took them in for us.”
Lleyton's next goal is to find a job.
“I was doing mechanic training, but the boss sold the business. I'd like to learn farming,” he said.
Lleyton knew about the great support available at IMPACT from previous experiences.
Steven said he was delighted to have helped achieve such a positive outcome for Lleyton.
“We helped Lleyton fill out applications for every real estate in town, and got lucky when one contacted us only a day later to say they had a house available,” Steven said.
Steven and his team even helped Lleyton secure a bond loan through regional housing.
“The process can be daunting and he had no experience with it, so we were happy to help.”
Community Navigators were with him every step of the way, letting him know what his rights were and what support and services were available.
“Community Navigators is a great program,” Steven said.
“It fills in a lot of gaps in services and offers support for people like Lleyton who need a hand to make positive steps ahead.
“It's always good to have a win.”
This move was possible under the exceptions of Direction from Chief Health Officer 'Home Confinement, Movement and Gathering Direction(No 2)'.
More information is also available from Residential Tenancies Authority guide for navigating requirements and protections for residential tenancies impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you need support during these challenging times, call IMPACT on 4153 4233 or Free call 1800 179 233.
Our specialist community support team can assist with:
• Your mental wellbeing;
• Domestic violence support;
• Child protection concerns;
• Support for the elderly;
• Assisting families in need;
• Understanding community notices effecting your personal circumstance; and