Working in partnership with the organisers of the Gippsland CommUNITY Walk Against Family Violence, Monash researchers Dr Karen Crinall and Dr Chris Laming undertook a thorough evaluation of the initiative, which brought together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities in Gippsland – and the social service providers for them – to address the shared problem of family violence.
“The International Violence Against Women Survey found that 34 per cent of Australian women have experienced some form of violence by a partner, and for Australian Aboriginal women the figures are far more concerning, with their rate of family violence estimated to be as much as 40 times higher than that of non-Aboriginal women. It is also worth noting that 60 per cent of Aboriginal women have non-Aboriginal partners,” said Dr Crinall.
Held in 2008, the Gippsland CommUNITY Walk Against Family Violence took place in eight major towns across the region, seeing over 2000 people of all ages and cultural backgrounds come together to help raise awareness of the impact of family violence and the need for community action to help stop it.
Through their evaluation, which was formally launched last week in Rosedale, Victoria, Dr Laming and Dr Crinall demonstrated that participants on the walk – especially young Aboriginal men – were given the opportunity to be leaders in their community, and speak out against family violence in a way that was recognised and reflected by their peers, families and broader social networks.
“Much of the Walk’s success has come from the active participation of men, who are often broad-brushed as the perpetrators of family violence. In particular, the Walk allowed Aboriginal men to take central roles in not only organising and leading in the Walk, but making their contribution – and position against family violence – visible in their own communities and the wider public,” said Dr Laming.
In addition to providing a context in which family violence could be addressed by the community, Dr Crinall said the Walk gave Aboriginal people the opportunity to work with (non-Aboriginal) support organisations to develop mutual understanding and build trust through a shared vision.
“Through giving communities the means in which to take ownership of a common problem such as family violence – and tackling it through respectful partnerships and genuine collaboration – the Walk has highlighted the importance of community education, community participation and changing attitudes of all community members on an issue that is so often shrouded in shame.”
With the success of the Walk clearly established at a local level, Dr Laming and Dr Crinall are now looking at how the initiative could be transferred to other parts of regional Victoria and across Australia, and working towards other communities putting an end to family violence.
“What the Gippsland CommUNITY Walk Against Family Violence shows is that by bringing together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike – and the service and support agencies that work with them – we can change community perceptions by demonstrating an attitude of no tolerance towards family violence,” said Dr Laming.
A copy of the Evaluation Report is available for download at www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/en/Publications/Freedom-from-violence/Gippsland-Community-Walk-Against-Family-Violence.aspx
To arrange an interview with Dr Chris Laming Report Author and Senior Lecturer, Monash University Gippsland, please contact Tim Grainer, Marketing & Communications, Monash University Gippsland campus on +61 3 9902 6273