Early action key in prevention of family violence

During crisis times, people frequently look to what they can do to help—often this includes donations of goods or money, sharing messages of support, or calling for change. Part of the response has to be what we can do to prevent these now-weekly events. How can we create the kinds of communities that are safe for everyone? It’s a difficult conversation, and there are no easy or simple answers.

But we do know, through current research, that early intervention can provide the pathways needed for families to get help sooner, often stopping the pathway towards domestic and family violence.

In your early learning setting, it’s likely you work with families who have experienced, or are currently experiencing domestic or family violence—reflect on how you support them. What policies do you have in place? Do you need to discuss this with your management team? Do you have a concern that you have not yet raised with your manager—if so, what are the barriers preventing you from doing so?

Understanding staff wellbeing is also important. For some people, the information and media coverage of recent family violence events may be triggering, and it may be difficult to process or talk about. Be You provides information fact sheets about educator wellbeing, and Beyond Blue provides 24/7 support via phone, email and online chat.

There are resources you can share with families to support them. We’ve detailed some below:

  • Richard Fletcher, from the University of Newcastle, has been focussing on supporting fathers within his work at the Family Action Centre, for several years. One of his projects, SMS for Dads, sends text messages to new fathers about child development, how to support their partner and a regular check-in on their own mental health. It’s an early intervention service for fathers who may feel confused, unsupported or disconnected during the first few years of their child’s life.
  • Domestic Violence NSW provides information and resources for organisations looking to better understand domestic violence and provide appropriate and sensitive approaches to their staff.
  • NSW Department of Communities and Justice provide information and support services for educators and families. Their ‘My situation …’ gives advice on what to do in a range of scenarios and they provide referral pathways and counselling.
  • ECA’s Early Signals. First Repsonses program provides free professional development for educators working with families and children who have experienced domestic and family violence.

Prevention is better than a cure—if, as a community, we can identify and respond to the indications that make families vulnerable to experiencing domestic and family violence, we can stop the cycle of abuse from starting.