Connections UnitingCare has been selected to take part in a pilot program aimed at preventing violence against women.
The Workplace Equality and Respect project was launched on Wednesday by Fiona Richardson, Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and Minister for Women. It is being led by Our Watch, a not-for-organisation established to drive nationwide change in the culture, behaviours and attitudes that lead to violence against women and children.
The project will see Our Watch develop workplace guidelines to prevent violence against women. This includes promoting women’s participation and opportunities, challenging gender roles and encouraging respectful, healthy and equal relationships.
Connections UnitingCare is the only not-for-profit organisation selected to take part. The other organisations are La Trobe University, North Melbourne Football Club and Carlton Football Club.
Trish Chapman, acting CEO of Connections UnitingCare, said the organisation is excited to participate in the pilot.
“Core to the philosophy of our programs is that we believe we have an absolute commitment to prevent violence against women, and consequently, children,” she said.
“We think, as a community service organisation with a strong reputation in the community, that we can use our status and our influence to enter into public conversations about preventing violence against women and support a workplace where we have conversations about gender equality.”
Connections UnitingCare supports more than 2,000 clients and employs approximately 400 staff. Ms Chapman said it was important gender equality is carried through from their community programs into the workplace environment.
“We help staff make the link between gender equality and preventing violence to women,” she said.
“We spend a lot of time in the workplace and I think it will be true to say that people take on the culture, norms and values of their organisation both in their professional lives and private lives too. Therefore our staff are able to take back the notions of gender equality into their everyday lives and consequently into communities in which they live.”
Under the pilot, each participating organisation will assess its own performance and come up with a series of actions and benchmarks to help it improve. This includes examining how its workplace reinforces gender stereotypes, whose voices are prioritised in decision-making, whether there are flexible workplace policies for both parents and how comfortable staff feel in raising concerns.
Our Watch CEO Mary Barry said tackling structural discrimination and disadvantage at work can be a catalyst for wider cultural change in the community.
“Workplaces are a key setting for the prevention of violence against women, not only because violence can occur in the workplace but because workplaces significantly influence our attitudes, beliefs or behaviours,” she said.
“Within the workplace itself, sexual harassment affects one in five people aged 15 years or over, and four out of those five harassers are male employees.”
Ms Barry said as long as women are seen as less equal than men, disrespect and violence against women will continue.
“We know women’s experiences of violence outside the workplace, such as in the home, can also impact on the workplace,” she said.
“By implementing programs and policies to help prevent violence and provide support to those who may be experience violence, workplaces can really benefit through increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and improvement in staff health and wellbeing.”
The Workplace Equality and Respect Standards are supported by accompanying tools which will be continually improved between July 2016 and May 2017. At the completion of the project in May next year, these resources will be freely available to all workplaces.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.