Take Off!

At a time when we are all desperately trying to manage risk and find better or new solutions to the wicked problem of family violence, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to embark on an indulgent period of learning, thanks to a Churchill Fellowship. As I write, I’m on the first leg of a trip that will take me around the world.

Although I love my job, mostly for the people that come with the job, the coming few weeks will be quite a change from running Victoria’s state-wide, 24/7 365-days-a-year family violence crisis response service. But I’m keen to find ways to make things better for the hundreds of people each day who flee from violence, and for our team who support them.

While my journey began in academia, earning a PhD in Strategy, I’ve always been driven to bridge theory with evidence to amplify its real-world impact. As we at Safe Steps continually seek ways to deepen our positive influence, I find myself yearning to learn from contemporary ideas and successful offshore innovations aimed at reducing violence and supporting individuals through recovery and rebuilding. With humility, I plan to dedicate the next three months to this exploratory focus, recognising the immense value in learning from others’ experiences and approaches.

Some of the question that I plan to explore include:

  • How can we better support young people – accompanied or alone – who are fleeing violence? As a sector, we have focussed on the adult victim and children as appendages, or ‘accompanying minors’, and I think we need to do more.
  • How can we better support unaccompanied minors? We currently engage with an over-run Child Protection Service or refer them to Youth Homelessness, with a housing focus. But we know outcomes are better if we can treat and intensively wrap around the young person with effective responses. What should these responses look like?
  • How do young people want to engage?
  • How do we proactively provide supports in a tight fiscal, post-COVID environment?
  • What models are in operation overseas? What countries are doing interesting things in this space?

I hope to gain insight into these questions over the course of the next three months, as I travel through Canada, the US, UK, Ireland and Scandinavia. I have more than 60 meetings and visits scheduled with Chief Commissioners; Mayors; leading researchers; special providers in the LGBTQIA+ and Indigenous spaces, as well as a range of small and large service providers similar to Safe Steps to see how they run a 24/7 call centre, including how they triage, assess risk and provide safety, if not recovery services.

This includes visiting small but mighty online chat volunteer services, like Ungarelationer in Sweden, alongside whole-of-country services like the National DV Line and Kids Help Lines in the US.

Canada is first up, starting with meeting the Minister for Children in Vancouver and Canada’s Department of Justice and the Attorney General. And no look at family and domestic violence would be complete without a visit to the Family Justice Centres and Homefront in Calgary.

Then I’m seeing the Mayor of New York and a variety of local services on the East Coast, before going to the UK to spend some time with the Children’s Commissioner of the UK, plus visit many services and universities in the UK and Ireland.

My trip finishes up in Finland and Sweden at the ISPCAN Conference, which I’m very much looking forward to. So, stay tuned – I look forward to sharing what I learn.