Meet Christine Power, the new Project Manager for the Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family Violence Project (SHRFV).
Christine comes into the role at a key time for Monash Health, with over 3000 staff now trained in identifying the signs of family violence and initiating sensitive enquiry with their patients.
But this is just the start and Christine knows there are many challenges ahead in helping staff at the frontline respond effectively to those affected by family violence.
Christine is returning to Melbourne after eight years in the Northern Territory, where she has been working to implement a client-centred response to domestic and family violence. She brings extensive project management and teaching experience with her.
She returns to Victoria the week after Victoria Police and the Crime Statistics Agency released its latest family violence figures to the media showing there had been over 340,000 family violence incidents in the decade to September 2018 and a 5.7% increase in the past year.*
Already we know there are pockets of our catchment that have some of the highest rates of reported incidents in the State.
How did you get involved in family violence work in the first instance?
I’ve always been interested in social issues and social policy because we know it can help deliver good health outcomes in the community and so that’s quite a motivating factor.
Originally I was working at the Department of Housing and Community Development in the Northern Territory and I was developing a strategy for the safety officers, who were seeing a lot of family violence and its impacts during the course of their work.
As part of the national push to address family violence, the Northern Territory government developed a whole of government response. I was appointed to Project Manage the Department of Housing and Community Development’s response to family violence. We had no policy, guidelines or procedures or training in place for front line staff.
There were varied attitudes within the organisation about family violence and the Department required a culture change to strengthen its ability to respond to family violence.
We were the first agency to publish a family violence policy, guidelines and roll out three different levels of training based on staff roles. We also changed HR policies to make it easier for staff who were personally impacted by family violence. Disclosing is a big deal; we need to ensure people feel safe and supported to do so. Particularly in terms protecting their privacy.
On the basis of this work I was then asked to apply for a role within NT Health.
With a small team of three we had to develop policies, guidelines and training and implement the model across NT Health. It was a challenge in terms of navigating the health service’s governance and layers, so we set up governance models which helped us achieve good outcomes.
What motivates you to continue working in family violence?
I have friends and family who have been impacted by family violence. I’ve personally been impacted. It’s really common. It’s preventable and it can be changed so my motivation.
What are your top priorities now that you’ve started at Monash?
I think my question is ‘how do we know we are making a change or making difference?’, so I’m keen to look at how we are evaluating and measuring our effectiveness.
I want to make sure we’re clarifying roles and responsibilities and thinking about how we can help build people’s capability to identify and respond appropriately.
We’re trying to achieve a significant change and it won’t happen overnight when you are trying to change culture.
From your knowledge and experience, what is the most important thing we can do when we are working with victim/survivors?
Acknowledging and validating their experience and being non-judgmental.
Work with people and asking them what they want to do – they are best placed to make decisions about their life, whether that is becoming safer in their home or leaving their partner. It’s important to meet people where they are.
Anyone can find themselves in this situation.
What are you looking forward to with the move back to Melbourne?
I’m really looking forward to spending more time with family and friends and if you can believe it, my great aunt, Agnes Kluckhenn, who was my first flat mate when I was 19, turns 110 on Monday! She is the oldest living Australian and she’s sharp as a tack so we are having a big family celebration.
If you weren’t doing this work what would you be doing?
I think I’d still be working in social policy of some kind.
I think I just like fairness and justice and the process and governance that allows you to achieve it.
Visit the SHRFV pages for more information the project.
*reported in the Herald Sun on 21 March 2019.