Fellowship Report online

A final blog to let everyone know that my Churchill Fellowship report is now available on the Churchill Trust’s website here.

My key learnings and recommendations relate to intersectionality, youth leadership and engagement, respectful relationships skills practice, holistic approaches and integrating respectful relationships into education systems.

This isn’t the end, but it’s not the beginning either. I’m somewhere in the middle of my life commitment to this work. I’m enjoying the process of sharing my Churchill learnings through my work and personal life, and look forward to continuing to learn and grow.

It is a very exciting time to be part of the violence prevention movement in Australia. Thanks to the collective work of many, there is hope for a more respectful and equal society. I’m really proud to be part of it.

PS The Churchill Fellowship has been an amazing learning experience and time of professional growth. Applications are now open for the year and I would highly recommend that those who are passionate and committed to their field consider applying. Details here.

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“So, how was your trip?”

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Final stop in LA this week and final meetings with Break the Cycle, a National non-profit focused on the prevention of ‘teen dating violence’, and Peace Over Violence, the leading LA based organisation ‘building healthy relationships, families and communities free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence’.

In this week of endings and beginnings I’m really grateful for the conversation with Patti Giggans (photo above), Executive Director at Peace Over Violence, who without knowing, helped me in my reflection, as I start to make the bridge to work and life back home.

“What are you taking back with you? Do you have 1, or 2 or 3 things that have sparked you?” she asked, and then listened with a smile as I listed about 10. A great question, and one that I have since been thinking more about.

How am I going to respond when people ask – “So, how was your trip?” In part it’ll be easier to intellectualise and provide recommendations for those who have a professional role in violence prevention back home. The harder, and perhaps more important work is how to gently challenge friends, family and everybody else that your action is as important as mine. How do you see yourself in this movement?

Environmental strategies for gender-based violence prevention

At a very different conference in Denver this week –  the International Bullying Prevention Conference.

As a caveat, I know that it’s important for family violence and sexual assault prevention programs to include analysis of gender and power. I’ve had the opportunity to consider what this gender-based work in schools might be able to learn from existing bullying prevention work.

In particular, conference sessions have made me think about how working at the school climate or environmental level could be included in a wholistic approach to family violence and/or sexual assault prevention. Perhaps this is school policy work, or professional development with teachers about challenging gender stereotypes, or work to ensure the contribution of students of all genders is equally valued?

This thinking also connects with one of Idaho Coalition‘s projects which is in early stages of working with a school around gender equity. In a week when Queensland Government has become the only Australian Government to have 50% of ministry positions held by women, I am starting to think more about the power of structural and environmental approaches to preventing the root causes of gender-based violence.

It feels like a lot

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Wow – this week has been inspiring in an incredibly personal and political way. I’ve had the opportunity to spend a week with the passionate, generous and committed social change agents at the Idaho Coalition against Sexual and Domestic Violence and attend their annual conference Compassionate Communities – Towards Collective Liberation.

To be honest, before I arrived in Boise, I was thinking – “What is collective liberation?” And in turn, to try to capture (for a blogpost) the learning that has been felt more than thought, is a challenge. In essence, the conference gave voice to those who are marginalised in the move to end gender-based violence – Native Americans, immigrant women, refugees, transgender and gender-diverse people, young people, deaf people and people with disabilities, prisoners and girls and women at risk of sex-trafficking (just to name a few). And it called on all of us to give voice, build relationships, build understanding and to work towards the liberation of all communities.

And so – what does this mean for violence prevention programming?

What it means is that we must become and remain committed to ensure young people from diverse and marginalised communities see themselves, and their whole lived experience in our programs and approaches. We must build meaningful relationships with these young people and we must give them meaningful opportunities to lead. Hearing from some of the Coalition’s Youth Activists and learning about their work was a particular highlight of my week. For if we work to ”liberate’ the people on the fringes, we will all benefit.

And in order to do this, we must work on ourselves. I must work to understand and unlearn the privilege I have have been granted through my white, middle-class, heterosexual, educated, able-bodied life. And I must embrace this as life-long work.

As Kelly, the Executive Director at the Coalition noted in her plenary – “it feels like a lot”. But if we don’t, we maintain the status quo, we maintain the dominant structures which are the root causes of violence in our communities.

“we should look both small and large”

IMG_0506This week has been a week for thinking more about evaluation – one of the key learning intentions of my fellowship. As I’m not a researcher, the conversations have caused my brain to expand some more (and definitely left me with more questions to ask – is that the nature of research?!).

Following on from this week’s earlier meeting about Dating Matters and its large scale quantitative evaluation, I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation with Terri Powell at John Hopkins Centre for Adolescent Health, who passionately communicated about the need to also ask research and evaluation questions which are qualitative and are smaller in scope. She encouraged thinking about how evaluation can build understanding around the complexity of why programs work where, under what circumstances, for whom, and for how long. Statistics are great, but words have a place in understanding too.

I know I’m a words person, so this piece in the evaluation puzzle makes sense to me. Thanks Terri for making me think, and laugh too!

And finally for this week, thanks to Bruce Taylor at National Opinion Research Centre (NORC), for sharing his insights and wisdom from the Teen Dating Violence research sector, especially in relation to Shifting Boundaries, another evidence-based program here in the US. I left thinking about the need to understand more about the problem (especially in relation to violence in adolescent relationships) in order to inform the design of interventions.

Applying a Public Health Model to violence prevention

IMG_0492Yesterday I started the US leg of my travel and learnings, meeting with Aisha Burgess from Dating Matters, here in Baltimore. Dating Matters is a five year project which has applied a Public Health Model to adolescence violence prevention. The comprehensive approach includes working with young people in Years 6, 7 and 8, their parents, teachers and the wider school community, youth ambassadors and working at a policy level with the school district.

In terms of programming, the Year 8s receive the evidence-based program Safe Dates, whilst the Year 6s and 7s participate in “evidence-informed” programming, which has been developed for this project.

Dating Matters is currently in the final year of implementation. I’m really keen to watch out for the research and evaluation which accompanies the project. The research is looking into the effectiveness of the Year 6 and 7 programs, as well as comparing the schools who’ve received this comprehensive intervention, with those who only implemented the Safe Dates program.

I certainly believe that prevention education programs are likely to be more effective if they are part of holistic initiatives. This research will test this theory.

Tools to support adaptation – One size doesn’t fit all

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It is quite humbling when you ask someone about their experience writing programming with Indigenous communities, and they hand you one of their books and several of their articles on the topic!

Of course the numerous academic articles (which present findings on the effectiveness of The Fourth R) are worth a read, but what has stood out is the readability and practicality of a number of their resource tools. I love the red light-yellow light-green light tool in the implementation manual which easily communicates what is, isn’t and may be (with caution) adaptable within the program. Of course it’s evidence based! And I also can’t wait to thoroughly read their book about working with Aboriginal communities, which includes suggested processes for adapting programs. As we know one size doesn’t fit all, these tools seem a wonderful way to support communities to remain committed to the fidelity of the program, whilst also meeting diverse needs of young people.

Thanks to all at the Fourth R for a brain-expanding week!

Whilst I enjoy a week off in New York City, I’d like to take this opportunity for a personal shout-out of thanks to my Mum who looked after our little one in order for me to have this amazing opportunity so far. Not only has she swapped tourist attractions for libraries and playgrounds, she has cooked and cleaned up after us and has taught our high-energy babe to clap hands – I can’t thank you enough! xx. Check out Mum pushing the pram in Vancouver’s fall colours below!

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