Jane on the spot to boost family violence effort

Fresh from her experience in establishing and rolling out the Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family Violence (SHRFV) program across Victoria, Jane Hooker has arrived at Monash Health to boost our approach to education and look at the sustainability of our family violence work.

As the person who led much of the SHRFV implementation resulting from the Royal Commission into Family Violence – a task allocated to The Women’s hospital – Jane has the ideal background to make a significant impact. It’s the perfect role at the perfect time.

Jane started as a project officer with our family violence unit in the lead up to the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence and will be in the role on a short term contract for 10 months. “I really love the work and this is a large, diverse organisation where my experience will help for short period – I think I can help with some of the tricky bits of SHRFV and in particular with formalising manager training.”

Jane brings a wealth of experience in women’s and sexual health from across three countries.

“What’s really struck me is how friendly and welcoming this environment is. I’ve really been impressed by the positive culture, which reminds me a bit of my nursing days in New Zealand.

“Observing how Cheyne Chalmers was acknowledged in her farewell last week, I can see there is a lot of professional respect and care for one another.”

Jane was one of the first lot of Kiwi nurses who came through the system with a degree, starting out her training at 17 and working in coronary care and general medicine, before taking off to the UK for nearly 10 years.

It was a formative time for a young nurse. “The NHS was chronically understaffed and it was a very scary time to be working in hospital services”

She finally found her calling at St Mary’s Hospital Sexual Health and HIV clinic.

The UK government had released a white paper on improving sexual health services and Jane developed, led and piloted a model to improve care for young people and people with positive infections. She helped develop a new group of clinical staff called Health Practitioners to support this activity; a model which was later replicated across much of the UK.

Jane also worked on setting up a service called The Haven at St Mary’s, which was a 24/7 forensic sexual assault service, bringing the police, NHS and forensic services together, allowing women who had experienced sexual assault to have their ongoing health services provided at the one site. This included 8 weeks of counselling, STI screening, and the taking of and often the preservation of forensic samples until a woman decided whether she was comfortable to take further action or as a DNA data bank related to the perpetrator. Needless to say, conviction rates of sexual assaults shot up.

Back in New Zealand, Jane went back to her original stomping ground – North Shore Hospital in Auckland – this time as an Operations Manager, before taking on the role as Regional Manager for Family Planning New Zealand, which included work on abortion advocacy.

Jane arrived in Melbourne in 2016 with the intention of having a year at home as a full-time mum, but found she was climbing the walls. She approached Marie Stopes Australia, who created a role for her before the SHRFV Program Leader job came up at The Women’s.

“Despite my experience in nursing, women’s health, sexual health, family planning and advocacy, when I started the role at The Women’s, family violence was completely new to me. Just how little I knew about family violence – given my background – shows how lacking clinical education was.”

But all that is changing thanks to the SHRFV rollout and other initiatives that put Victoria at the forefront of family violence work around the world.

Jane says one of the most important things her team achieved after the creation of SHRFV, which at that time was originally a patient facing support program, was to create the workplace support training program. This program helps ensure health staff can be supported if they have their own experiences of family violence. This is what drives some of her interest in working at Monash and formalising more comprehensive manager training.

“Evidence shows it has made a huge change to the culture of health services where the manager training has been implemented. It really helps embed the long term support for family violence work. We need to make sure our people at the frontline are supported and as a manager of health services for over 20 years, I myself know the huge difference it can make, not only in looking after staff but also ensuring our health managers feel more confident” Jane says.

“I’m really proud that the SHRFV model has been implemented across 88 publicly funded health services. It’s also been used in the Northern Territory and the ACT, which shows the toolkit we developed is very user friendly and can be easily adapted.”

The Women’s SHRFV toolkit online still receives 6000 hits per month and 50 per cent of them come from overseas.

One of many sources of pride for Jane is the $500,000 grant The Women’s and University of Melbourne secured from The Collier Foundation – the largest single grant they have awarded – to evaluate the SHRFV program over the next 18 months. She hopes the formal evaluation will greatly support ongoing SHRFV work and show the impact made by the program already across health services.

“It’s just so encouraging that we are now talking about family violence more – the fact that we are having events that focus on it – it’s not a hidden, taboo subject anymore.”

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