The Gippsland CommUNITY Walk Against Family Violence
Knowledge Circle Practice Profiles

Overview

Practice focus

Raising awareness and changing attitudes among the local community towards family violence in Aboriginal communities.

Delivered by

The Gippsland CommUNITY Walk (the Walk) was led by Aboriginal people and was delivered in partnership by the East Gippsland Family Violence Regional Action Group (EGFVRAG), the Aboriginal Regional Coordinator (from the Department of Human Services) and the Yoowinna Wurnalung Healing Service. Yoowinna is a community health service organisation that was responsible for organising the Walk. For more information about Yoowinna see: http://www.ourcommunity.com.au/directories/listing?id=38908

The information provided for this Practice Profile was supplied by one of the evaluators of the program, Dr Karen Crinall (Federation University Australia).

Location(s)

Regional area - Gippsland

Issue being addressed

The Gippsland CommUNITY Walk aimed to publicly demonstrate an attitude of no tolerance towards family violence through a series of community walks run over four days through towns in Gippsland. The Walk aimed to change community attitudes towards family violence in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities by bringing Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities (and service providers) together in an Aboriginal led series of events that celebrated positive aspects of Aboriginal culture.

Service type

Awareness-raising and grass roots community action through a one-off series of community walks.

Target population

The Walk was aimed at the general public, but in particular service providers in Gippsland that offer services to people who are experiencing family violence. It is estimated that more than 80% of those who organised or participated in the Walks were Aboriginal people.

Aims and objectives

The Walk aimed to bring together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal service providers so that they could work together to support people affected by family violence; to raise awareness and speak out publicly against family violence in Aboriginal communities and to challenge stereotypes of Aboriginal men as violent towards their families and instead establish them as leaders in opposing family violence. The Walk was led by Aboriginal people, including the EGFVRAG, the Yoowinna Wurnalong Healing Service, local Aboriginal leaders and other interested Aboriginal women and men. It was supported by various non-Indigenous government and community agencies (e.g. Victorian Police, Aboriginal Affairs Victoria, local community health organisations).

The Walk also sought to respond to the objectives set out in the Victorian Government's 'Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families' 10 year plan which aims for safer Indigenous families and communities.

Program basis

The Walk was inspired by a previous initiative in NSW to raise awareness about child abuse in Aboriginal communities. This was the first time a Walk of this type was conducted to raise awareness about family violence in Gippsland.

The logic behind the Walk was that it would create community awareness and challenge stereotypes about Aboriginal family violence by reflecting how Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and services can collaborate to bring the problem of violence against women and children out into the open.

Some of the features of the Walk in each town were:

  • Aboriginal men leading the Walk and speaking out against violence
  • the involvement of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal services handing out information
  • Activities that celebrated and promoted positive aspects of Aboriginal culture including Welcome to Country ceremonies and Aboriginal dancing.

Cultural relevance

Local community context

The need for the Walk was identified by Aboriginal women working at Yoowinna Wurnalung Healing Service, who recognised that the issue of family violence was not being publicly discussed and that Aboriginal women and men were not seeking help from family violence services. Accordingly, Aboriginal women and men got together and talked about what they would do and what needed to be done.
The Yoowinna Wurnalung Healing Service staff organised where the Walk would go and identified and sourced the required resources (eg. wrote applications for funding; arranged publicity; met with the police and other family violence service providers). Non-Aboriginal people and services provided administrative support, some additional resources and participated in planning meetings.

Involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

The planning and delivery of the Walk was completed almost entirely by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from the local community. Aboriginal people were central to the design of the Walk: they led the march, made speeches and performed cultural activities. Local Aboriginal people were involved and provided input at all levels (eg. about venues, spiritual significance of event, seeking permission and support from Elders).

Cultural practices and materials

The Walk incorporated several cultural practices and materials including traditional dance and music; Welcome to Country ceremonies; the Aboriginal flag, and artwork featuring the Aboriginal colours, language and dress.

Evaluation

Evaluation status

An evaluation of the Walk was completed in March 2011.

Link to evaluation

The Gippsland CommUNITY Walk Against Family Violence Evaluation Report is available at:
http://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/Publications/Freedom-from-violence/Gippsland-Community-Walk-Against-Family-Violence.aspx

Evaluation details

An external evaluator undertook a realistic participatory evaluation of the Walk and associated activities. This evaluation approach reviews available evidence about social interventions to explain how and why they did/did not work in a particular setting and aims to understand the nuanced impacts of an intervention beyond whether it succeeded or not in meeting objectives.

The primary aim of the evaluation was to determine successful and less successful actions of the Walk. The following methods were used:

  • evaluation feedback forms from people who participated in the Walk (65 evaluation sheets completed from Walk participants)
  • six face-to-face interviews
  • seven focus groups with 21 participants in total. The focus groups included participants, organisers, reference group members and agency representatives.
  • audit of visual products
  • debriefing sessions (at the end of each Walk)
  • analysis of media coverage, photographs, video documentation; and
  • literature review

Aboriginal people were participants in the evaluation design, were members of the evaluation steering committee, participated in interviews and focus groups and co-authored the evaluation report.

Effectiveness

Most effective aspect

One of the key evaluation findings was that the Walk was very effective at fostering Aboriginal leadership, particularly among Aboriginal men. Aboriginal men, and in particular young Aboriginal men, played central roles in organising and leading the Walk, and in creating positive role models in the community. In one community Walk, the evaluation found that approximately 60 percent of marchers were young Aboriginal men.
The Walk also highlighted that to address family violence, Aboriginal leaders are needed not just in Aboriginal communities but in non-Aboriginal communities as well.

Demonstrated outcomes

The evaluation described the following outcomes:

  • Improved public awareness through the clear message that family violence would not be tolerated in the Aboriginal community. More than 1000 people participated in the Walk and it attracted wide media attention (state, local and international media). The cultural activities were seen to enhance the promotion of positive aspects of Aboriginal culture ( eg. dancing, photographs and music celebrating culture) and sent the message that Aboriginal people are part of the solution rather than ‘the problem’.
  • Improved relations and the breakdown of barriers between non-Aboriginal family violence service providers and the local Aboriginal community. Overall, the Walk involved the collaboration of 26 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal services. Examples of where non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal services collaborated included joint funding applications and resourcing, creating promotional merchandise, non-Aboriginal services providing administrative support, logistics and organising the Walk’s route in towns.
  • Demonstrated Aboriginal leadership, particularly by Aboriginal men. Non-Aboriginal services offered support without exerting control over the Aboriginal leadership of the Walk.

The evaluation identified some areas that may have been improved including:

  • More time to plan and deliver the Walk
  • Having an evaluation from the beginning. A formative, participatory action evaluation model may have assisted in a more timely evaluation report and dissemination of findings
  • The Walk could have been longer in each town to allow for more time for people to reflect and connect
  • More publicity to engage participation of services prior to the Walk
  • Follow up events to maintain enthusiasm and momentum that was inspired by the Walk
Other evidence

As a result of the Walk there was some anecdotal evidence that more Aboriginal women and men were seeking assistance with addressing family violence.

Replicability

Community walks and marches are a common method of creating awareness of social issues. There have since been other community walks conducted by the Aboriginal community but these have varied in their design, scope and purpose.

Resourcing

The CommUNITY Walk was funded by various small grants, including from the Yoowinna Wurnalung Healing Service, the Gippsland Women's Health Service, the East Gippland Family Violence Regional Action Group, the Victorian Department of Human Services and the Department of Planning and Community Development. The evaluation of the project was funded by VicHealth.

Evidence base and opportunities

For more information about programs aimed at promoting Indigenous community safety and reducing family violence see:
http://www.aihw.gov.au/uploadedFiles/ClosingTheGap/Content/Publications/2013/ctg-ip04.pdf
http://www.indigenousjustice.gov.au/briefs/brief012.pdf
http://www.adfvc.unsw.edu.au/PDF%20files/Issuespaper_11.pdf

 

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