Last Friday I went to Sydney for the second Same-Sex Domestic Violence (SSDV) Conference convened by an interagency group of government and non-government organisations from NSW.
I was invited to give a presentation on the Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria research paper Coming Forward: The Underreporting of Heterosexist Violence and Same-Sex Partner Abuse in Victoria and to be involved in a panel discussion on reporting and data collection with a police GLLO from NSW and two solicitors working in the family violence field.
More than 100 people from Victoria, NSW, Queensland, South Australia and New Zealand attended the one-day conference. The highlight of the conference was Celia Hutton. Celia is a specialist same-sex domestic violence worker at Wimlah Women and Children’s Refuge and Outreach Service.
As a survivor of SSDV, she is passionate about increasing services for lesbians who experience relationship violence. Celia spoke about her work and how she fell into a nominal support network by volunteering for a float-building exercise for Mardi Gras a couple of years ago.
This group of women, many of whom had experienced relationship violence or worked in the field, used the float-building as a way of supporting each other while highlighting the lack of formal support services for women in same-sex relationships. Celia was determined to set something up in her community, thus her new role at Wimlah.
The other highlight was the opportunity to network with other police. Queensland, NSW and New Zealand GLLOs attended the conference and discussed what is happening in our jurisdictions to find some new ideas.
The main thing I took away from the conference is the notion that safety is everyone’s responsibility. Police and other government and non-government agencies are there to assist, but it is the friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances who provide the real support and advice to people experiencing violence.
If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship violence there is assistance out there. For more information on where to get help visit www.familyviolence.vic.gov.au or the Gay and Lesbian Switchboard www.switchboard.org.au
info: Scott Davis, manager Gay and Lesbian Advisory Unit. Melbourne.firstname.lastname@example.org. www.police.vic.gov.au