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Putting Prevention of Violence Against Women into Practice: Online Training

Do you want to understand what drives violence against women and learn about the actions you can take to promote gender equality and prevent violence against women?

Facilitated by Women’s Health East, this two-part introductory level training is for those who are new to the prevention of violence against women sector, or are interested in undertaking preventing violence against women activities in the future.

Date and time: 9:30am-12:00pm Tuesday 28th & Wednesday 29th September 2021*

Cost: $50 pp (Plus booking fee. Inclusive of GST)

*Training is delivered over two x 2.5 hour sessions. Training participants must attend both sessions.

 

What will you learn about?

• The prevalence and impacts of violence against women

• The link between gender inequality and violence against women

• What primary prevention of violence against women is

• The evidence on what drives violence against women

• The actions required to prevent violence against women and the role that everyone can play in prevention

• Applying an intersectional approach to primary prevention work

• Good-practice examples of primary prevention activities

Some pre-work will be required of participants prior to attending the training. Participants will also need to have access to a computer with sound, internet access, and a suitable safe space to be able to discuss the above topics.

Women’s Health East endeavours to meet training participants’ accessibility needs. Please provide any accessibility needs within your registration.

Register here via eventbrite.

If you require any further information please contact Kirsty at kkain@whe.org.au

Please note: This training is not about how you can respond to women who experience violence or men who perpetrate violence. Rather, it focuses on how to change the underlying norms, practices, and structures in society that drive violence against women.

If you or someone you know is currently experiencing or has experienced family violence or sexual assault and needs support, contact 1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800respect.org.au . If you are in immediate danger call the Police – 000.

A message from the Chair of the Board and the CEO

Women’s Health East announces that our Chief Executive Officer Kristine Olaris will be leaving us to take on a new leadership role as the CEO of Fitzroy Legal Service.

Chair of WHE Lisa Dunlop said Kristine has made a considerable contribution over the past 10 years not only to WHE but to the women’s health sector more broadly, which has led to WHE’s prominent position in promoting women’s health and advancing gender equality in Melbourne’s east.

“On behalf of the Board and everyone at WHE we express our gratitude and thanks to Kristine for her incredible leadership, passion and commitment over 10 years that has seen us expand and thrive.” Ms Dunlop said.

“As a result of her leadership WHE is in a strong position to continue its important work in advocating for and improving the health and wellbeing of women in the East. WHE has grown into a highly respected and trusted organisation with robust partnerships, and a dedicated and effective staff team. WHE is a strong and respected organisation and Kristine leaves behind this as her legacy.”

“Women’s health has been challenged like never before over recent times and Kristine has ensured our organisation is in the best position to support its staff, and to deliver COVID related programs to women in our region, including advocating for a gender-equal recovery, and continuing to support communities to improve health outcomes for women”

“Everyone at WHE wishes Kristine the very best for the new chapter in her career.”

Kristine’s accomplishments at WHE are many. She established the foundational partnerships that underpin the highly regarded Together For Equality and Respect (TFER) initiative, currently in its ninth year. She was instrumental in the elevation of the voices of women, initially through the “Speaking Out” program, and subsequently embedded through much of WHE’s work including partnering in the delivery of leadership programs with Aboriginal and migrant women. Another highlight is the ground-breaking (Re)Shaping Respect research into respectful relationships and primary prevention of violence for LGBTIQ young people.

“I feel very fortunate to have worked alongside so many amazing people with a shared commitment to gender equality, both within and external to the organisation. I am very proud of what we have been able to achieve together. I look forward to following the work of WHE and seeing it continue to thrive.” Kristine reflected upon making the announcement.

Kristine has greatly enjoyed working with the many partners, across all levels of government, and communities within the east and beyond, the sisterhood of fellow women’s health services, and especially cherishes the relationships she’s formed with all WHE staff. She thanked Chair Lisa Dunlop and the Board, both past and present, for their support.

Kristine is currently on long service leave and will be ending her role on October 8th. The current interim CEO’s will continue in their role until the end of November. The Board will undertake an executive recruitment process in the next couple of months.

Beyond the Studio: Advocating for Women’s Visibility, Inclusion and Safety through Public Art

Did you know that the use of artwork in public spaces can make for more welcoming environments, encourage usage, and promote ownership and pride for people in the community?

This has been more than evident through the work of the ‘Women’s Health East Beyond the Studio: Advocating for Women’s Inclusion, Visibility and Safety through Public Art’ project. This project aimed to contribute to work that supports women to feel more visible, included and safer in public spaces.

Through the engagement and contributions of women of the Yarra Ranges community, we are pleased to share with you six superimposed images, that showcase how public spaces, identified by residents of the Yarra Ranges and artwork produced by Yarra Ranges artist, could look and be enhanced if more artwork like this was commissioned.


The photo:

For many years, Marilyn felt this little park situated in a main street of Yarra Junction was not a safe space to sit or even walk past. Although she acknowledged that the Yarra Ranges Council has recently done a ‘make-over’ of this public space by painting its walls and planting more greenery, she felt that the addition of female-commissioned artwork would make this space an even more inviting place for all Yarra Ranges community members, and help increase the amount of people using this space, as well as making it more welcoming and safe.

The artist:

Lucy, a Healesville painter, shares three generations of women through her artwork: her mother, herself, and her baby daughter. Lucy describes the ease of painting her daughter as the sky and trees reflected off her face that day. She shared her struggles in painting both herself and her mother’s portrait and said that she stayed up all night trying to mirror the reflection she saw of herself. Lucy writes; “But I like it. My husband calls it ‘The Warrior’. He thinks it shows the survivor in me”. Lucy believes it’s projects like this that keep important conversations going around the importance of more visibility needed for women artists and how “this is our space too”.

We would like to acknowledge and thank those that contributed to the creation of this image:
Photograph taken by: Marilyn Hogben
Artwork by: Lucy Hawkins
Artwork photographer: Suzanne Phoenix
Superimposed image designer: Jennifer Trott


The photo:

Claudia describes the Mt Evelyn Recreation Reservation as a place for everyone – young, old, families, dog walkers, bush walkers, bike riders and explorers alike. It’s a place where people can begin an adventure or they can let the bush surround and hug them. Public art pieces provide us with a different perspective; of a place, a moment or a feeling – and if we’re lucky, we can discover something new.

The artist:

Sarah’s pieces were created in response to the year 2020. They reference the bushfires that cast a shadow over the year to follow. Her pieces are cast in bronze and then blackened. “They appear just like seed pods that may have endured a fire”, she says. Sarah shares that despite the adversity faced during the bushfires, seed pods such as these only open in that type of extreme heat. These seed pods represent resilience and allow for new beginnings. She shared the struggles of having the confidence of identifying as an artist, how it feels like it’s harder to prove yourself in the art world being female, and suspects that sometimes it is harder for women to find their place in the industry than men. Sarah believes women should feel safe in public spaces and believes art has a role to play in achieving this.

We deeply valued working with such talented community members who share common goals to Women’s Health East. We’re so thrilled to be able to centre the voices of these women through this project and showcase the achievement and talents of women in the Yarra Ranges community.

We would like to acknowledge and thank those that contributed to the creation of this image:
Photograph taken by: Claudia Jongsma
Artwork by: Sarah Stewart
Artwork photographer: Suzanne Phoenix
Superimposed image designer: Jennifer Trott


The photo:

Zoe sent in a photograph of the riverbank walking trail in her local town of Warburton. She told us how the community of Warburton is so creative and how this could be harnessed. Zoe shares how the riverbanks of Warburton would be a wonderful place to see more art produced by local artists – something both locals and visitors would enjoy seeing.

The artist:

Shlomit is a Yarra Ranges wood sculptor. She shared that no one tells you when you’re growing up that you could be a sculptor, and how she is often overlooked when going into Bunnings to collect material for her work. With her work, Shlomit would love to bring nature back to the playgrounds and public spaces, and that busy streets, cars, asphalt and concrete will benefit from added natural materials like timber that is tactile and has a warm essence, creating a calm and inviting atmosphere. Shlomit enjoys showing young school children her art and workshop and can serve as a role model for young girls and boys that may want to become artists one day. 

We would like to acknowledge and thank those that contributed to the creation of this image:
Photograph taken by: Zoe Smith
Artwork by: Shlomit Moria

Artwork photographer: Suzanne Phoenix
Superimposed image designer: Jennifer Trott


The photo:

Simone is no stranger to walking past this spot in Yarra Junction. This wall can be seen from the corner of Warburton Highway and Little Yarra Road. She explained that this space receives a lot of traffic as it’s positioned near the local supermarket, numerous schools and businesses. Simone believes covering up the graffiti that is currently on this wall and replacing it with artwork would provide a reset and relief for people after a “hectic” day.

The artist:

Suzanne is a Warburton based photographer and artist, and told us about how the photos of these Frenchies were captured in Yarra Junction, just meters of where they are now being used in this concept image. She describes the moment and the photographs created are full of joy and bring smiles to so many people’s faces. Suzanne feels strongly about public art needing to be a part of every budget for new buildings and public spaces, and equally within budgets of the different levels of government to create spaces that are dynamic, thought provoking, safe and crime preventing. Suzanne writes, “we have a lot of making up to do in Australia to get near equal representation of women artists creating and in public art.”

We would like to acknowledge and thank those that contributed to the creation of this image:
Photograph taken by: Simone Whitehead
Artwork by: Suzanne Phoenix

Artwork photographer: Suzanne Phoenix
Superimposed image designer: Jennifer Trott


The photo:

Kim shared with us an image of the Dolly Grey Park boardwalk in Warburton. She describes how this is a place for everyone to enjoy, as well as how accessible it is for women who use a wheelchair, and how you can imagine this boardwalk is a ‘runway’, how you can hear your steps, as you walk, run, jump or skip along it – and it makes her feel happy. Kim can envision walking past beautiful artwork along the boardwalk on the way to the picnic area, a guided journey to a special, tranquil place in nature for a picnic, or just to relax.

The artist:

Sioux describes herself as someone that has always been an artist. This was evident when visiting her magnificent artwork that is her home, situated in the hills of Warburton. She shares how art should be everywhere, how art brings people together and brings a significant energy to wherever it’s placed. Sioux explained her thoughts around the need for more community art and how community members have to be part of the conversations and delivery of whenever public art is commissioned. This would allow for community members to feel proud and have ownership over these pieces and places they live in. 

We would like to acknowledge and thank those that contributed to the creation of this image:
Photograph taken by: Kim Linssen
Artwork by: Sioux Dollman

Artwork photographer: Suzanne Phoenix
Superimposed image designer: Jennifer Trott


The photo:

Lindy shares a photograph of the regularly walked Story Lane in her town of Warburton, and describes this space as ‘blank’. She imagines how this laneway would make an amazing permanent outdoor gallery space.

The artist:

Chelsea is a Mt Evelyn based artist who describes her art as a way of connecting people with nature, themselves and always finds the hidden details in things that sometimes get overlooked. Chelsea shares how she gets to spread positivity through each piece she makes, and mentions how she has had so many messages about the confidence her pieces have given people. It’s little pieces of herself she gets to share with the world and pass on something unique and beautiful as a reminder that the person receiving her pieces are also beautiful and unique. Chelsea says that this is why it’s such a vital part of life to be exposed to art daily, to be a part of a community that promotes women artists and showcases pieces of our souls for the world to see. Every woman can walk by feeling empowered, safe and encouraged.

We would like to acknowledge and thank those that contributed to the creation of this image:
Photograph taken by: Lindy Schneider
Artwork by: Chelsea Gallop

Artwork photographer: Suzanne Phoenix
Superimposed image designer: Jennifer Trott

 

 

Women’s Health East would like to acknowledge and thank all women that contributed to the Beyond the Studio project. We are proud of the collaborative and community focused work this project brought. A special thank you to the project’s photographer, Suzanne Phoenix and project’s graphic designer, Jennifer Trott for going above and beyond for this project.

We would love your feedback around these images, please leave your thoughts and comments by following this survey link. If you would like to learn more about women and public spaces read our ‘Creating Safe and Inclusive Public Spaces for Women‘ report.

For any questions or queries about the ‘Beyond the Studio: Advocating for Women’s Inclusion, Visibility, and Safety through Public Art’ project, please get in contact with Georgina Nix at: gnix@whe.org.au

This project was proudly funded by Yarra Ranges Council.

 

Contribute to a research project about mother’s mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Women’s Health East are working on a research project to gather the lived experience of new mothers during the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Parenting in a Pandemic project aims to better understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown on the mental health and wellbeing of new mothers in the eastern metropolitan region of Melbourne. The project will gather local women’s stories and experiences of being a new parent against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

The findings from the project will strengthen the evidence base around the mental health impacts for parents during COVID-19, and can be used to advocate on how to better support new mothers during a pandemic in order to sustain and strengthen mental health outcomes.

About you 

Do you: 

  • – have a baby that was born in 2020 or did you care for a baby between the age of 0-12 months during 2020? 
  • – live/work/study in the Eastern Metropolitan Region of Melbourne? 
  • – have an interest in sharing your experiences and stories of being a new parent during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020? 
  • – want to meet other new mothers with similar experiences? 

If you answered yes to these questions, we would love to hear from you!

What’s involved? 

You will need to: 

  • – Be available to attend an online focus group, and possibly a follow-up face-to-face focus group in May/June 2021. 
  • – Be willing to share your experience and insights of being a new mother during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, including the impact on your mental health and wellbeing. 
  • – Have access to the internet and a computer from your home for the first focus group via Zoom 

If you are not able to participate in a focus group, we would still like to hear about your experience of parenting during the pandemic in another way. For example, sharing your story via a written piece or diary entry, a video or voice recording.

If you are interested in being involved, please contact Vanessa, vczerniawski@whe.org.au and she would be happy to chat with you about the project. Expressions of interest close on 21st April.

We are looking to speak to interested women as soon as possible – so please get in touch soon!

Women with lived experience of disability, from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, migrant and refugee backgrounds, single parents, and LGBTIQ women are encouraged to apply.

 

Women’s Health East acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

Celebrating Mothers: unsung heroes of Melbourne’s lockdowns

This International Women’s Day, we recognise the many important roles of mothers and their unique experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic. The lockdowns in Victoria had a profound impact on many of us in the community. We spoke to five mums from the Eastern Metropolitan Region about what it meant to them. We heard about the ways in which they had to adapt their lifestyles and approach to parenting while wearing a myriad of hats within the home. 

‘Celebrating Mothers: unsung heroes of Melbourne’s lockdowns’ recognises that being a mother can be a thankless job, despite women being the heart, soul and backbone of many households. Whether an individual experience of lockdown resulted in soaring achievements, significant struggles, or a rollercoaster mix of it all, we reckon that all mums deserve the recognition for doing their best during the global pandemic.

Thank you to our participants Jaklin, Jessica, Marilou, Suzy and Tamlyn for sharing their stories.

This video was produced by Women’s Health East in the Eastern Metropolitan Region of Victoria, and filmed and edited by Sierra Laird.

Women’s Health East acknowledges the Wurundjeri people, the Traditional Owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. Voice. Treaty. Truth.

BLOG: Gender Equality Act – Sailing the Seven Cs of Smooth Implementation

The Gender Equality Act 2020 came into effect on 31st March 2021. There are several actions that defined entities will need to undertake to fulfil their obligations under the Act, including Workplace Gender Audits, Gender Equality Action Plans (GEAPs), and Gender Impact Assessments (GIAs). For many organisations, this means heading into uncharted waters. Following are some tips to maximise your chances of smooth sailing.

1: Contextualise

Staff members across your organisation need to understand why you are doing this work. Emphasise that this not ‘just another compliance requirement’. Rather, this is about making our workplaces, programs, and services fairer and more accessible, and improving the lives of women and girls across Victoria. Highlight how this work aligns with your organisational values. (If words like fairness, equality, respect, learning, diversity, experience, innovation, quality, collaboration, or leadership appear in any of your organisational statements, you’re off to a great start!) Knowing the context for why this work is important can help get staff members on board.

2: Create a plan 

Familiarise yourself with the requirements of the Gender Equality Act and create a plan for managing your organisation’s obligations.  

Construct a timeline of key dates. Some of these dates are fixed – for example, your Workplace Gender Audit takes place on 30th June and your initial Gender Equality Action Plan (GEAP) is due for submission on 31st October this year. You will then need to submit your first progress report by 31st October 2023. Keeping these dates in mind, plan out a manageable review cycle for your policies, programs, and services. It’s probably unwise to have all reviews due at the same time, as this will mean having to undertake many Gender Impact Assessments at once – a huge task! How many GIAs do you anticipate having capacity to undertake in any given year/semester/quarter? What other key dates do you need to plan around (e.g. EOFY, semester dates, public holidays, other dates specific to your sector)? 

Consider also your priority areas for this first year of implementation. While the first round of gender audits and GEAPs must be completed this year, there is some discretion with Gender Impact Assessments. GIAs need to be conducted on all policies, programs, and services that are new or up for review, and which have a ‘direct and significant’ impact on the public. What does ‘direct and significant’ impact mean for your organisation? If you have new programs or services on offer this year, how will you embed Gender Impact Assessments in the planning process? Of your existing policies, programs, and services, which would you like to review this year? Which ones might be better scheduled for review once you have a couple of GIAs under your belt? Perhaps, for example, you might consider prioritising smaller policies or programs this year – dip your toes in the water to start with, rather than diving in head first and finding yourself overwhelmed by the process. 

3: Consider your strengths and needs

What strengths, knowledge, and experience already exist in your organisation? How can you harness this expertise for your gender equality work? Who in your organisation needs upskilling? 

Who is supportive of gender equality? Who else needs to be brought on board?

What gaps are there in your current information? How will you fill these?

Whose voices are missing from the conversation?

4: Collaborate across teams/departments

This is not just a job for Gender Equity Officers or Diversity and Inclusion teams! While these folks will have expertise in the area of gender equality, they may not have specific knowledge of all the day-to-day work of other teams. They may not know about revenue and rates, or water infrastructure, or IT, or forensic services, or curriculum planning, or medical procedures. Staff members from other teams within the organisation are the ones with this type of specialist expertise – so everyone will need to work together to meet your organisation’s obligations under the Gender Equality Act. 

Some organisations have asked their HR department to take the lead on the internal obligations of the Gender Equality Act (gender audit/GEAP) and their Diversity and Inclusion teams (or equivalent) to take the lead on the external obligations (GIAs). However, all teams/departments that provide programs or services to the public will need to be involved in this work. For some organisations, this may well mean every single team! This fits well with what we know about effective cultural change – that is, a whole-of-organisation approach works best. 

So make sure you get gender on the agenda, right across your organisation!

5: Collect information 

Capture data. If you’ve not already been doing this, start as soon as possible! Consider collecting not only data on gender, but also other characteristics that may compound experiences of disadvantage or discrimination, such as race, Aboriginality, religion, disability, age, and sexual orientation. 

Consult the people affected by your policies, programs, and services – your staff members, program/service users, community members.

Collate, deidentify, and disaggregate results. These will be used to complete the key actions required by the Gender Equality Act – Workplace Gender Audits, Gender Equality Action Plans, and Gender Impact Assessments – as well as for reporting purposes. These results can (and should!) also be used to inform continuous improvement processes within your organisation.  

The more information you have, the easier you will find it to fulfil your obligations under the Gender Equality Act, and the better you will be able to understand the needs of the people you work with and for. 

6: Connect with Women’s Health East

Women’s Health East is here to support organisations with implementation of the Gender Equality Act, so please reach out and connect with us! 

We are in the process of developing a series of training sessions around the Gender Equality Act, and will publicise details once finalised. Watch this space!

We can also offer tailored packages, so please contact us if you would like to discuss your organisation’s specific training and support needs.

7: Communicate

Good communication is key to the success of any change initiative. It can assist in building trust with stakeholders, and maximising their engagement in the process. 

Explain to your staff members why you are undertaking this work, how it aligns with your organisation’s values, and what their role in the process will be. Convey to your Board members the fantastic opportunity this work provides to strengthen your organisation’s gender equality credentials and add value for your clients/service users. Let your clients/service users know that you are listening: that you will use what you learn to improve your programs and services so that they do not contribute to gender inequality, and so they better meet the needs of women and girls. Reassure all of your stakeholders that data will be deidentified and you will maintain their privacy. 

Communicate the wins too! Let people know what gains you’ve made, however small they might seem. Track and celebrate your progress with members of your workplace and your community! 

In summary, to ensure the process of implementing the Gender Equality Act is as smooth as possible, plan early; collect as much information as possible; keep good records of actions you have taken; and communicate with all key internal and external stakeholders so they know what is happening, when, and why. The Gender Equality Act represents a fantastic opportunity for organisations to show some genuine leadership in the workplace and the community, and for all of us to make substantial progress towards gender equality. 

You definitely do not want that ship to sail without you. 

 

-by Kirsty Kain, WHE Training Coordinator

A Strategy for Equality: Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health in Melbourne’s East 2020 – 2025

A Strategy for Equality: Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health in Melbourne’s East 2020 – 2025 is a five-year sexual and reproductive health promotion strategy for women in the Eastern Metropolitan Region (EMR). The Strategy contains three strategic priorities and seven high-level objectives to improve the sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing outcomes of women in our region.

The Strategy is the culmination of extensive consultation with local government, community health organisations and other health promotion agencies, and is the first strategy in Melbourne’s East to provide a framework for action on women’s sexual and reproductive health.

Register here for our free forum on February 23rd to launch A Strategy for Equality with special guest speakers, sexual and reproductive experts Dr Ruth Nair (Northside Clinic) and Claire Vissenga (Family Planning Victoria).

Download the strategy here:

Women’s sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is influenced by complex and interrelated societal, organisational and individual factors. The Background Paper highlights the evidence for action on women’s SRH issues, collating available data and literature and the results of extensive consultation with stakeholders to inform the regional framework A Strategy for Equality: Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health in Melbourne’s East 2020 – 2025.

Download the Background Paper here:

Margins to the Mainstream: Preventing Violence Against Women with Disabilities Project

This exciting project aims to elevate the voices of women with disabilities, promote the leadership of women with disabilities, as well as build the capacity of TFER partners in their approaches to the prevention of violence against women with disabilities (PVAWD).

The project is led by Women’s Health East in partnership with Women with Disabilities Victoria (WDV) and 6 organisations from the Together For Equality and Respect (TFER) partnership: Access HC, Boroondara City Council, EACH, EDVOS, Inspiro and Yarra Ranges Council.

The project sought  expressions of interest from women in the Eastern Metropolitan Region of Melbourne, with lived experience of disability to join the project experts group.  Ten women from the eastern region with a wonderful range of skills and experience are now participating in the skills development sessions. The sessions are being delivered on-line from November to January 2021 and will include information and consultation on topics such as;gender equality/ inequality, violence against women and women with disabilities, and representation of women with disabilities. A further 3 sessions will include guest speakers based on group members identified areas of interest. 

In 2021 the project will be:

  • Taking forward a co-design process on messages and materials to prevent violence against women with disabilities 
  • Hosting a Community of Practice as part of the TFER partnership, that has a focus on the prevention of violence against women with disabilities, and is informed by the project experts group
  • Sharing information about the perspectives and experiences of the project experts group and networking with TFER partners about gaps and areas of interest to strengthen in their work on the prevention of violence against women with disabilities. 
  • Providing resources produced through the co-design process to use in messaging about the prevention of violence against women with disabilities
  • Providing a funding opportunity for the development of two projects from TFER partner organisations that focus on the prevention of violence against women with disabilities
  • Providing training opportunities to build capacity for TFER partners to undertake work that contributes to the prevention of violence against women with disabilities

For further information about this project contact Avega abishop@whe.org.au

Watch it Back – COVID AND WOMEN: Shining a light on Gender, Inequality and the Pandemic

Thanks to everyone who attended WHE’s Women and COVID forum back in September! The presentations and panel discussion unpacked the gendered impacts of the global pandemic for women and the way forward for a gender equal recovery. We were joined by experts Tanja Kovac, CEO of Gender Equity Victoria (GENVIC),  Jane Fisher, Finkel Professor of Global & Women’s Health at Monash University and Richard Denniss, Chief Economist at The Australia Institute, all of whom presented some staggering data on the impacts of COVID on women and women’s mental health, and the economic implications of the pandemic for women.

Whether you have a role in defining funding guidelines, developing local government plans, or delivering programs or services, or if you are a member of the public, the call to action is the same.

We all need to speak up about the gendered impacts of COVID, and to use our influence to help build a fairer, safer and more equal society as we continue to deal with this pandemic, and as we begin to move towards recovery. You can be sure that Women’s Health East will take every opportunity to continue advocating for women, and support gender equitable action within the Eastern Metropolitan Region and beyond.

You can watch the forum back below.

 

 

BLOG: Creating safe and inclusive public spaces for women

My gym temporarily closed in March this year. The playgrounds that I regularly visited with my toddler also closed. Like many other Victorians, I had to re-think ways to use public spaces to maintain my fitness and entertain my very energetic 3-year old. I soon realised that, despite restricted access to areas I used to frequent, I was actually interacting with public spaces more often overall and in so many different ways than I could have ever expected. And I wasn’t the only one.

Public spaces foster social connections, encourage physical activity and recreational pursuits, and play a significant role in community life. Being able to occupy public space can positively impact on social, mental and physical health. Experiencing public spaces in new ways also really highlighted the importance of ensuring all public spaces are designed to be enjoyed by everyone within the community. Good design is crucial to creating spaces that are safe and inclusive for everyone – particularly for women and girls.

My area of work is health promotion, at a women’s health organisation, where we work with our partner organisations to ensure they consider the unique needs of women and girls when making program planning decisions. Putting a ‘gender lens’ on everything is what we do, which means we support state-wide and local bodies to consider how gender inequality impacts on women’s experiences. This approach can be applied across all disciplines – including urban planning and design.

The evidence shows that women are more likely than men to feel unsafe in public spaces, and are also more likely to feel as though a space is not designed with them in mind. This is particularly true for women who experience other intersecting forms of marginalisation, such as those who identify as LGBTIQ, women from migrant backgrounds, older women, Aboriginal women and women with a disability. Only 61% of Australian women reported feeling safe when walking alone at night, compared to 77% of men (Safety – Australia, OECD Better Life Index 2020). These perceptions of a lack of safety in public spaces can make women feel anxious and make them less likely to occupy these spaces, which means they are also missing out on the many benefits that public spaces bring. What is it about public spaces that can make women feel as though they are not made for them, and how can this be addressed through design?

Use and perception unique to lived experience

Women use and perceive public spaces in ways that are unique and specific to their lived experience, and much of this is influenced by the roles that they have historically taken on within our society. For example, women are more likely to take on care taker roles, and specific design considerations to make spaces useable and safe for young children and the elderly can make them more engaging for women. This could include designing walking paths with wide footpaths for prams, wheelchairs and walkers and accessible toilets with baby change facilities. Playgrounds are another key public space used by women, and thoughtful design can hugely impact on whether these are utilised. Ensuring that playgrounds have clear lines of sight to, that toilets and change facilities are within the vicinity and the provision of adequate seating are basic, yet key design aspects to ensure playgrounds are regarded as safe and accessible.

Other physical infrastructure, such as easy to read signs and directions, adequate lighting and well-maintained paths can influence women’s decision to engage with spaces. Additionally, mixed use areas where people can walk, play, eat and exercise at different times of the day ensure that the area is used at all times, encouraging community members to linger, which has the flow on effect of increasing women’s perceptions of safety and time spent there (Safe Public Places: Rethinking Design for Women Safety, Soraganvi, AS, 2017).

Subjective elements of the environment can also impact on women’s willingness to engage with spaces. A predominance of male named businesses, statues and artwork by men, and sexist and provocative ads can make women and girls feel excluded (Research project highlights the varied ways a woman can feel unsafe in a city, Kalms, N, Matthewson, G and Salen, The Sydney Morning Herald, 2017). It’s therefore key that, along with addressing physical safety, planners consider how women are represented and recognised in public spaces. An example from Spain is the conscious effort of naming streets after women (in Barcelona, the number of streets named after women went from 7% in 1996 to 27% in 2010) and encouraging public art to remember the contribution that women have made to Spain (Designing cities for women: lessons from Barcelona’s ‘Feminist City’, Abbey Seitz, streets.mn, May 22 2020).

In order to create safe and inclusive public spaces for all women, their voices and expertise must be front and centre in every stage of planning through a co-design approach. Firstly, it is about ensuring that women are working in urban design leadership positions so that they are able to bring their perspectives and experiences to the table. It is also about listening to the voices of women within a community in order to gather rich, real world data that can be used to guide the design and development of useable, inclusive and accessible public spaces.

By placing that ‘gender lens’ over public spaces, and by considering the unique needs of the whole community, planners have the opportunity to create spaces that are attractive, active, healthy, safe and inclusive – for everyone.

Read WHE’s updated Creating Safe and Inclusive Public Spaces for Women Report V2 September 2021.

By Vanessa Czerniawski, Health Promotion Officer

This article was first published in the July 2020 edition of the Planning Institute of Australia’s Planning News.

BLOG: Women’s mental health and COVID-19

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of mental health and wellbeing, as well as its vulnerability to external or societal threats and its gendered nature. While there has been no shortage of clickbait on how to maintain mental health during the pandemic and lockdown (“Exercise regularly! Get adequate exposure to natural light! Stay hydrated!”), mental health and mental health challenges are complex, dynamic issues that require holistic, whole-of-population health interventions.

The social and economic repercussions of COVID-19 has significant implications for mental health because it has increased. The stress and anxiety associated with insecurity, social isolation, a loss of routine and a sense of losing control are all exacerbated by ubiquitous exposure to the news and disaster stories through television, press conferences, radio, print media and social media. While these issues are affecting most people, COVID-19, the lockdown and temporary closure of workplaces, schools and other services have highlighted existing social disparities, including those related to gender.

Women have been more likely to be made redundant as a result of COVID-19. Women are more likely to be frontline workers in healthcare, food service and other essential industries and thus are more likely to be exposed to the virus. Women are also more likely than men to shoulder additional childcare or schooling supervision as a result of school closures. Experts have raised concerns that COVID-19 may increase the rate or severity of violence experienced by some women in the home, and limit opportunities to seek help, as perpetrators are more likely to be at home now than before the outbreak of COVID-19. Job losses, financial stress, parenting stress and experiences of violence or abuse are all risk factors for poor mental health outcomes that disproportionately impact women. Some women are particularly vulnerable due to intersectional and multidimensional experiences of disadvantage such as women with disabilities, refugee and migrant women, women in the LGBTIQ community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who already have reduced access to employment, education and housing for example, thus intensifying the impact of gendered risk factors.

The federal and state governments have responded with additional funding to maintain optimal mental health and to address mental health challenges, including funds for women’s health organisations. However, it is important to acknowledge that COVID-19 has merely exacerbated an existing trend: in pre-COVID contexts, women already experienced higher rates of mental illness and distress, and most mental health prevention efforts or services for people with mental challenges inadequately addressed women’s unique risk factors or barriers to accessing care. It is true that boys and men are often socialised to repress sadness, to avoid expressing emotion or discussing their feelings, to avoid seeking professional help, and that as a result, men have higher rates of suicide. While this is alarming and urgently needs to be addressed we must also acknowledge that mental illness is more prevalent among women. Girls and women are significantly more likely to meet the criteria for a probable serious mental illness or be diagnosed with anxiety or depression. Women are also more likely to develop an eating disorder or poor body image, and to be diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorders, particularly those related to cleaning or cleanliness.

While suicide is more prevalent among men, self-harm is substantially higher among girls and women, and increasing. Women who experience racial discrimination, ableism, homophobia or transphobia and other forms of bigotry are at greater risk – post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, self-harm and suicide ideation are higher among women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, people from the LGBTIQ community, women who are incarcerated or in contact with the criminal justice system, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Women who have reduced access to primary prevention services or mental health support also experience poorer mental health outcomes, including women from low socioeconomic backgrounds or those living in regional or remote areas. An intersectional feminist analysis of the social determinants of mental health and illness is critical to understanding the disproportionate prevalence of mental illness among girls and women.

We may be some generations away from a time when Australian women were considered the property of their fathers or husbands, when they couldn’t vote or file for divorce, when they weren’t entitled to equal pay for the same work. But sexism is still built into structures and institutions at every level of society, and reflected in widespread social attitudes that attribute certain behaviours, roles, and expectations to women and men based on their gender. These social or environmental factors can play a role in mental health outcomes. For example women are still expected to assume primary carer responsibilities for children, sick or elderly family members while maintaining paid employment, often at a lower pay grade than their male counterparts. Unequal carer responsibilities and unequal access to economic resources cause stress, and are risk factors for mental illness. Women’s bodies continue to be objectified and sexualised in the media and public spheres, and women’s value is still linked to the extent to which they adhere to narrow ideals of “beauty.” Women are more likely to be exposed to male violence, to be subjected to sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination, all of which are risk factors for mental illness. It goes further.

Just as gender is a social determinant of mental illness, it also influences the kind of care women are able to access to treat mental illness, and the way in which people respond to their diagnosis. Limited access to financial resources and time away from work or unpaid caring responsibilities restricts the ability of women to seek professional support. Additionally, research suggests that girls and women who engage in self-harm or attempt suicide are more likely to be dismissed as attention-seeking, insincere or manipulative than boys and men, and less likely to be taken seriously. What is the solution? There is an undeniable need for greater resourcing of primary prevention and early intervention to improve mental health across the board. But we also need a feminist analysis of mental health and illness that seeks to address the social determinants of women’s mental health outcomes, and reduce the disparity between women and men in mental health. In order to really impact women’s mental health though, we need gender equity.

Funding news

We are very pleased to be able to share some good news with you about new or renewed funds we have received. These will help us to keep focused on our work towards equality, empowerment, health and wellbeing for all women.

We are yet to have news of funds for our Speaking Out program. The sustainability of this program therefore is uncertain for next year.

Margins to the Mainstream; preventing violence against women with disabilities

Women’s Health East is thrilled to have received a grant from the Commonwealth Department of Social Services (DSS), and to be undertaking a project to contribute to the prevention of violence against women with disabilities.

The idea for this project grew from a regional consultation WHE held in October 2019. With a reach across the region, the project will be led by Women’s Health East. The project consortium includes Women with Disabilities Victoria (WDV), Yarra Ranges Council. Boroondara City Council, Access HC, Inspiro, EACH, EDVOS, and evaluation expert and consultant, Wei Leng Kwok.

Initially focusing on the delivery of training provided by WDV, the project will then move to recruit women with disabilities as project experts who will be involved in skills development, and a co-design process to produce resources that promote the prevention of violence against women with disabilities. This 2 ½ year project will amplify the voices of women with disabilities, and will make addressing the prevention of violence against women with disabilities a key part of the mainstream work of the Together for Equality & Respect Partnership.

The project has 5 objectives:

  1. Strengthen partnerships for sustained work in the prevention of violence against women with disabilities (PVAWD)
  2. Elevate the voices of women with disabilities and promote their leadership and status in society
  3. Build the capacity of partners to embed into prevention work a focus on sexism/ableism as intersecting structural drivers of violence against women with disabilities
  4. Challenge intersecting sexist and ableist stereotypes across the community and other settings (e.g. organisations)
  5. Contribute to the evidence base of ‘what works’ in community-led PVAWD

For further information about this project, contact Samantha McGuffie, smcguffie@whe.org.au.

Two Year Funding Package to Women’s Health Services

The Victorian government has recognised the important and ongoing role of women’s health services across the state in leading and building the capacity of regional partnerships to prevent violence against women.

We all know that preventing violence against women requires long term, coordinated action, and in Melbourne’s East we continue to have a strong approach to this important work through the Together For Equality & Respect Partnership. We are thrilled to be able to continue our lead role for two more years, supporting improved outcomes for women and children in our region. Thanks to our TFER partners and peak body Gender Equity Victoria for your advocacy in secured this funding.

Additionally as a part of this announcement we were also thrilled to have received a one off injection of funds to support women’s mental health and wellbeing – so very important at this time of coronavirus. You will hear more from us about this in future.

A sincere thank you to Minister Gabrielle Williams for your support of the women’s health sector.

Speaking Out Program

In some not so good news, we are yet to have funds confirmed for this program for next year. This means that its sustainability beyond the end of the financial year is in doubt.

Speaking Out aims to shift the public discourse, and public policy on violence against women and its prevention. Led by Women’s Health East in partnership with ECASA (Eastern Health) and EDVOS, the program trains and supports women who have experienced family violence and / or sexual assault, to become advocates for change. There are currently about 30 women participating in this program.

Advocacy engagements include media interviews, speaking at public events, meeting with politicians, contributing to family violence or sexual assault enquires and submissions, participation in steering committees, planning forums for response or violence prevention activities, co-design workshops, or any other forms of activism against gender based violence. Speaking Out advocates also participate in organisational change activities bringing an authentic gender equality and family violence conversation to workplaces, building empathy and catalysing action.

You may well have called on advocates from our program before, and please still continue to do this at the moment. While women continue to experience violence at completely unacceptable rates, and with the risk of violence against women increasing in the current lockdown, the Speaking Out program is as important today as it has ever been. For further information or to book a Speaking Out Advocate contact Rachel Soh rsoh@whe.org.au

We’re Working Remotely

With the health and safety of our staff, volunteers and stakeholders front of mind, Women’s Health East is working remotely. Having our office closed doesn’t, of course, alter our commitment to equality, empowerment, health and wellbeing for all women.

We will continue to progress our work to advance gender equality, prevent violence against women, and improve women’s sexual and reproductive, however we are doing things a bit differently at the moment.

For example, although we have postponed recent face-to-face activities, we are using digital platforms and other communications mechanisms to connect with you.

Our Speaking Out Program is a priority for WHE, especially at a time when family violence is likely to increase. If you would like to consult with, or interview a woman who has experienced family or sexual violence, or even have one of our advocates speak at a virtual event, we can assist. To book a Speaking Out Advocate, please contact Rachel on 0405606545 or health@whe.org.au.

WHE staff remain contactable during this time. If you don’t know the contact details of the person you are seeking to interact with please use health@whe.org.au and you message will be passed on to the appropriate person.  

Please also keep connected with us through our social media channels where we will continue to share timely information to support women’s health and wellbeing. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

We know that these times are difficult for all. Women are disproportionately affected during a crisis such as COVID19 due to financial pressures, escalation of family and intimate partner violence, caring responsibilities and working in client-facing services. Although WHE do not offer services directly to women, you can rely on us to be strongly advocating for women throughout this time. 

 

If you are seeking immediate help, please contact the numbers below:

1800RESPECT  – 1800 737 732

24-hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Call toll-free 1800 737 732.

Safe Steps Family Violence Response Service – 1800 015 188

Victoria’s 24/7 family violence response service for women and children. Call safe steps 24/7 on 1800 015 188 to speak to a family violence support worker.

EDVOS – 03 9259 4200

EDVOS is the specialist family violence service in Melbourne’s Eastern Metropolitan Region.

Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636

Mental health support including depression and anxiety.

Switchboard Victoria – 1800 184 527

LGBTIQ+ mental health support available 3pm – midnight. 

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Lifeline has a national number who can help put you in contact with a crisis service in your State. Anyone across Australia experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide can call 13 11 14.

 

Thank you to all our partners and supporters who help us continue our work. 

The Unheard Story: the impact of gender on social inclusion for older women

Women are overrepresented in populations at high risk for social exclusion. ‘The Unheard Story’ highlights how current narratives continue to disadvantage women by failing to recognise the lifelong impacts of inequality that are further compounded in later years. The report includes recommendations for organisations, groups and practitioners to address the unique needs of older women.

 

Download the report.

#Together4GE

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence 2018

Follow this link to read more about Women’s Health East’s campaign #Together4GE and to access our social media campaign and resources. 

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence is a global campaign dedicated to ending gender-based violence. Beginning on the 25th of November, International Day for the Elimination of Gender-Based Violence, and finishing on the 10th of December, Human Rights Day.  Read more

Women’s Health East Annual General Meeting and #Together4GE Event

REGISTER for Women’s Health East’s Annual General Meeting and of Activism Against Gender Based Violence event!

Please join us to celebrate our achievements of the last year and to get involved in our 16 Days of Activism campaign #Together4GE.

November 29th from 3:15-5:30pm

Women’s Health East – 125 George Street Doncaster East

Read more

Ground-breaking LGBTI family violence prevention program funded

Women’s Health East welcomes funding from the Victorian government to deliver a ground-breaking participatory project to help prevent family violence in LGBTI relationships.

LGBTI FUnding Media Release

No Limitations Guide Launch!

No Limitations – Breaking down gender stereotypes in the early years. A guide for early years educators (WHE 2017). 

The No Limitations Guide has been developed for early childhood educators to promote gender equality in early childhood settings. It provides practical tools, tips and resources for early educators for both an organisational focus and working with families. It is also useful for parents and families, and anyone working with young children. You can download the guide and other useful resources here

No limitations guide snip