The social worker at the frontline of training Monash Health’s staff in family violence and sensitive inquiry, Jessica Bermudez, has taken out the Chisholm Institute higher education student of the year award for her study in family violence.
In the last financial year alone, Jess and the Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family
Violence (SHRFV) team trained over 2500 staff. With the government – in line with Royal Commission into Family Violence recommendations – looking for every member of staff in Victorian health services to be trained in family violence, the Monash Health team continues to take the message to all parts of our health service.
18 months ago, looking for a new challenge and out of professional interest, Jess signed up to undertake the only face-to-face graduate certificate in family violence in the country, offered by Chisholm. Monash Health supported her with study leave.
“I was interested because it was such a big part of my job as a women’s and children’s social worker. And I could see through the Royal Commission, this was a growing area of practice and reform.
“A couple of months later the role as Family Violence Project Officer was advertised – the planets aligned.
“In social work you are always doing, helping, focusing on the crisis and trying to fix it. There is not always the opportunity to look at the causes and the ‘why’ of the crisis. The course provided the opportunity for that perspective.
“I studied the causes and theories of family violence, the prevalence, the complexity – all of it has been useful in the work I do now, giving me an additional layer of knowledge and understanding. It helps when I am facilitating education, to have that expert lens and widen the scope beyond gender.
“It’s helped me stay on top of the current state of reform and where the evidence lies. It’s been invaluable in drafting Monash Health’s new family violence clinical guideline and also unlocked a burning desire to learn more.”
Jess’s passion for her subject is evident and helps her deliver compelling education sessions in family violence with everyone from midwives at Clayton to after-hours security staff at Dandenong.
It was probably this passion that prompted her course coordinator at Chisholm to nominate Jess for the student of the year award, unbeknownst to the recipient.
“I never imagined I would get an award like this. My parents are so proud. The reason they moved to Australia was to give their children the best chance at a good education and this is like bringing my father his wish,” Jess said.
Jess’s parents migrated from Chile in 1976, leaving behind a military dictatorship, well before Jess was born.
Jess is enjoying the constantly evolving nature of the work in family violence.
For the SHRFV team, Jess says the priorities are continuing to educate our teams, research and building the evidence base, putting in place the full set of policies and guidelines and building the profile of the SHRFV team and its work, so that people become more aware of what family violence is and our role in responding and referring to best support our patients.
Pictured: Chair of the Chisholm Institute Board, Stephen G Marks, presents Jess with her award.