Prevention of violence against women (PVAW) is everybody’s business; it is a major health issue and therefore should be a key priority for health services. For Barwon Health, Colac Area Health, Bellarine Community Health and Women’s Health and Wellbeing Barwon South West prevention is high on the agenda.
With the acknowledgement that this work cannot be done in isolation, these services have formed an alliance with the support of the local Primary Care Partnership; G21 Geelong Region Alliance to work together on consolidating staff understanding and knowledge of the prevention of violence against women, to enable them to work within their communities on prevention initiatives in the future. The PCP, G21 Geelong Region Alliance has provided the backbone support for these health services to work together and learn about a collective impact approach, with the aim of addressing the key drivers of violence and creating cultural change.
The Alliance exists at two levels within the organisations, a working group, as well as a governance group meeting regularly. Leadership support was identified as essential for engagement in the alliance and the PVAW work. One of the first actions of the alliance was to gather baseline data about the understanding of violence against women and gender equity by staff, this was achieved through organisational surveys. Work could not begin externally until the alliance had addressed gaps in knowledge internally, this included policies, procedures, gender equity practices, knowledge of the drivers of violence, responding to disclosure and bystander action.
The Alliance plan was submitted to DHHS and accepted as a collective work plan, with each organisation identifying which actions they had the capacity to complete. This included actions such as presentations to leadership to increase knowledge and gain support, training for staff and engaging with whole of organisation change programs such as the Workplace Equality and Respect standards from OurWatch. The next annual plan will include more outward facing, collaborative work between the organisations, as relationships have strengthened and internal knowledge of PVAW has increased. Organisations will be ready to engage in broader initiatives locally, such as the 16 Days to eliminate gender based violence as well as initiatives to improved gender equity in their community settings.
A collective impact approach to evaluation is being taken, with reflective data being collected at each meeting about how the system we are working in is changing and what things are becoming easier. Reflections from working group members include, “We have a better understanding across the spectrum of prevention to response to violence against women”, “We have defined our scope and have an understanding of things we can and can’t do” and importantly, “We are clearer about what we don’t know”, enabling the working group to address knowledge gaps as prevention of violence has not been their core business in the past. Positive changes in the system we work in will increase the effectiveness of our work to prevent violence against women.
The G21 Health Services PVAW Alliance members are very excited to have shared objectives and have experienced the benefits of working collaboratively, sharing knowledge, expertise, barriers and enablers to the prevention of violence against women and are excited to have increased their organisations’ internal knowledge and capacity to move to the second more outwardly facing stage of the collaboration.
Primary Prevention requires collaborative effort to create culture change so go ahead and make connections, have the discussions, partner outside of the square – it works!Submit your story!