Family violence and mental health issues are difficult subject matters, but important discussion topics that a group of Victoria University Community Development students are helping to shine a spotlight on.
For two months the students have been planning an awareness-raising event, which took place on Monday 7 September, comprising solidarity march from VU Footscray Nicholson to MetroWest where presentations addressed the topic.
The first speaker, Darlene, project co-ordinator of Women’s Health West’s Strengthening Risk Management Program, outlined the different forms of family violence and the services offered by the organisation.
Darlene noted that family violence is the leading cause of death, disability and illness among Victorian women aged 15-44. Those who experience it rarely look to family violence services or police in the first instance, but rather are more likely to speak to friends, family, their GP or maternal child health nurses, meaning they may not get the specific support they need. She then outlined ways to respectfully ask about violence where a woman has not disclosed any.
Student Brian Spaull then offered a male perspective on the issue, spoke with passion about his feelings on the issue, the systematic and cultural changes required, and the pride in other students in attendance who are studying to work in child protection, victim counselling or other community services to bring about change.
PS My Family Matters co-founder, Tamara Wilson, relayed her personal, emotional experience with family violence and mental health issues. Her interactions with health professionals in the field led her to believe there was a lack of support and resources, particularly in regional areas, which her organisation now seeks to address.
Also in attendance were police from the Footscray Police Family Violence team, ambulance officers, and representatives from Wesley mission, Yarra Housing, AMES and New Hope Foundation.
“We’re not going to leave here today with a solution to this environment,” Brian summed up in his speech, “that was never the intention.” What mattered, he said, was to get together, hear from great presenters, and take the messages back out into the community.