In November 2023, Rachel, Stephanie, Sally and Theebana went to the 2023 STOP Domestic Violence Conference in Hobart. The theme of the 2023 conference was ‘the generation that ends Domestic Violence: it’s everyone’s responsibility’.
The conference brought together a diverse range of speakers – from practitioners, to policymakers, as well as people with lived experience of domestic violence. There was a strong focus on using an intersectional lens to understand the impacts of domestic violence, and specific experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with disability or people from the LGBTIQA+ community. The keynote speakers were engaging, informative and thought-provoking.
Hannah Taylor-Civitarese (PhD Candidate, University of Queensland) spoke passionately about her PhD – examining coercive control at the intimate partner level and in the wider context of colonialism, structural oppression and marginalisation. We all left this presentation with a new perspective on the way that these issues shape how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women can experience coercive control.
It was great to see recognition of how essential lived experience is to designing strong and responsive programs and services and the need to have this embedded at all levels. Jayke Burgess’ story was incredibly powerful. It indicates how impactful the Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commission’s lived experience network will be. This group of more than 400 lived experience representatives is key to achieving the Commission’s strategic objectives.
At the beginning of the conference, Michelle Rodgers (ACHIA) challenged all conference attendees to find their one key takeaway – something that will guide them over the next 12 months in their work in this sector. Rachel, Stephanie, Sally, and Theebana reflect on their takeaways from the conference below:
Rachel: We are currently evaluating an early intervention program for young people at risk of using violence. I was particularly interested in the presentation from Grace Jennings, Relationships Australia on men’s behaviour change interventions and the value of bringing a more differentiated approach to traditional group therapy- using case management, longer term support and care teams. She also highlighted the need for a wider range of supports that target early intervention and those for whom risk is highest.
Stephanie: Understanding the extent to which policies and programs have been able to achieve their intended outcomes is a core part of our work as evaluators. For that reason, I found Jess Hill and Prof. Michael Salter’s keynote presentation ‘Rethinking Primary Prevention’ very interesting. They note that Australia has led the world in developing and funding primary prevention models for violence against women, but the anticipated changes in attitudes towards family violence does not appear to have emerged. Their discussion about the importance of accountability in understanding whether these programs and investments that are made are actually contributing to observable changes in violence, was an important reminder about how evaluation and the work we do can contribute to that accountability and evidence base of effective interventions.
Sally: The focus of the conference on ‘abuse within under-represented communities’ brought fresh perspective to the evaluation projects we work on in the family violence sector and the community engagement that we can integrate into this work. What struck me most was the mix of perspectives from the range of speakers, acknowledging both the unique and shared challenges in responding to family violence in heterosexual relationships and LGBTIQA+ relationships. Jayke’s impactful talk illustrated the personal impact of a system that is still working out how to operate outside the gender binary of male perpetrators and female victim survivors. Julia Earley and Belinda O provided an overview of Rainbow Health Australia’s work within LGBTIQA+ family violence and learnings from working in partnership across sectors. The conference highlighted the importance of fostering inclusivity and understanding, while also recognising the need for nuanced approaches that acknowledge and respect the diverse ways in which individuals experience and are impacted by family violence. These are important to consider within our work.
Theebana: One of my favourite things about evaluation is that we can develop a nuanced understanding of how programs can impact people across different demographic groups, including culture and identity. I found Anurada Krishnan’s masterclass presentation, ‘cultural intersectionality in practice: Considerations in Responding to Elder Abuse’ incredibly interesting. She spoke about how to apply cultural intersectionality in practice when responding or identifying cultural abuse. Her discussion on the importance of using culturally informed language to better engage with diverse communities when working with them made me reflect on how we can ensure we’re meeting the needs of culturally diverse people in evaluation design. This presentation reiterated the value of integrating cultural competence into our data collection methodology, including survey design, interview protocols and team formation, to ensure that we can provide recommendations that do not exclude data based on ignorance or bias, and ensure the voices and experiences of marginalised communities are heard.
The ARTD team left the three days of conference slightly exhausted, but feeling inspired by the work that is happening in the sector and excited to take what we have learned into our work.