When did the initiative commence?

The Whittlesea CALD Communities Family Violence Project was developed after Whittlesea Community Futures undertook a scoping exercise to investigate the obstacles to Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities accessing family violence services. The report was released in September 2012.The project has been ongoing since this time.

What need does the initiative respond to?

The report outlined the need for an integrated place-based family violence prevention and response model, tailored to the multicultural community of City of Whittlesea.

What organisations are involved in this initiative?

The Project Worker is based at Whittlesea Community Connections and the project is managed by a steering group consisting of representatives from:

  • Whittlesea Community Connections
  • City of Whittlesea
  • Salvation Army Crossroads Family Violence Services
  • Kildonan UnitingCare
  • Berry Street Northern Family and Domestic Violence Service
  • Whittlesea Community Futures
  • Plenty Valley Community Health Service
  • Victoria Police
  • InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence

What does the initiative do? Who does it support?

Whittlesea CALD Communities Family Violence Project cuts across the prevention, early intervention and response spectrum. The project supports CALD communities, newly arrived migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the City of Whittlesea to break the cycle of family violence and empower them to confront and respond to the challenge of preventing violence against women.

The project’s core elements include the empowerment of CALD women through increasing access to support groups; building the capacity of community and religious leaders; prevention of family violence through early intervention in the settlement process and programs for young people; and reducing recidivism by increasing men’s access to behaviour change programs.

Project successes so far include grants totalling $20,000 delivered to six new or existing women’s groups to create more opportunities for local CALD women to participate and build connections and a pilot Arabic-speaking men’s family violence group to commence in 2015.

Project Worker Claire Varley, based at Whittlesea Community Connections, coordinates the implementation of the project.

Claire highlights that the project does not mean there is a greater incidence of family violence in CALD communities than elsewhere in the community, but recognises that the barriers CALD communities often face in accessing family violence information and services are often far greater and more complex.

“Having an awareness of the legal context of family violence and what you can do about it is really important for migrants and newly-arrived people, and contributes to prevention and early intervention strategies,” Claire says.

How is the initiative resourced/funded?

Funding for the project has come from the Scanlon Foundation, Victorian Legal Aid and the Victorian Women’s Benevolent Trust. The Arabic-speaking men’s family violence group is currently funded through contributions from InTouch, the City of Whittlesea and Salvation Army Crossroads, as well as from Victorian Legal Aid and the Scanlon Foundation. All project steering group members make generous in-kind contributions to the project.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to set up a similar initiative?

Claire says that the project has been so successful because they were able to be responsive to what the beneficiary communities wanted and needed.

“Being flexible, having the time to build trust, demonstrating our commitment and being responsive to what was actually going on is what has really made it work,” Claire says.

“One of the biggest strengths has been convening a women’s advisory group made up of women from some of our local CALD communities.  It wasn’t originally part of the project design, but we quickly realised that this ongoing contact was missing.”

“For the women to be able to say to us, for example, ‘here’s the details for our local faith leader, I think he’d be interested in being involved’, rather than us cold calling people, has been really important, and it has helped us ensure our implementation will reach the people it aims to.”