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PHOTO: Christine Crosby






PHOTO: Christine Crosby whw news EDITION 1 • 2016 Auntie Faye Van Erekem (front) with (back

Auntie Faye Van Erekem (front) with (back l-r) Kellie Tranter, Crystal Harris, Terori Hareko- Samios and Lexine Solomon.

Nan, Aunty, Mum – you are a treasure to our family

Ngahina , Health Promotion Worker

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are much less likely to participate in breast screening than women in the general population. This is a concern because breast cancer is also the most common cancer experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and the second leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer.

W e asked Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women about barriers

they experience in accessing breast screening services. In response to their feedback, which talked about a lack of understanding or misunderstanding of cultural safety experienced at breast screening services, the ‘Nan, Aunty, Mum – you are a treasure to our family’ project was developed.


Our Royal Commission into Family Violence response

The collaborative project between BreastScreen Victoria, Women’s Health West, Aboriginal community, Aboriginal teams and community members. The project is designed to identify barriers facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in accessing breast screening services in Melbourne’s west and to find solutions to overcome those barriers.

School focus on respectful relationship education

The project endeavours to respect the principles of cultural safety and to advocate for quality services, while raising awareness of breast screening. It seeks to encourage Aboriginal women and Torres Strait Islander women to assert what is best and preferred by them when attending a breast

Continued on page 10

sexual reproductive &

health edition

Condom project promoting #SafeSexintheWest

Let’s talk sexual and reproductive health Robyn Gregory , CEO, Women’s Health West D id you

Let’s talk sexual and reproductive health

Robyn Gregory , CEO, Women’s Health West

  • D id you know that around 80,000 new chlamydia infections are reported in Australia each year

and that chlamydia notifications have increased over the past three years in Melbourne’s west?

Or that the majority of these cases are young people?

Or that only 53 per cent of sexually active young people in Melbourne’s west report that they practice safe sex by using a condom?

These statistics are a small snapshot of sexual health and reproductive realities in Melbourne’s west and in Australia. They do, however, demonstrate how sexual and reproductive health requires strengthening in the overall public health conversation and national and state policy responses. And they illustrate a need for urgent action in Melbourne’s western region.

Women’s Health West takes a regional approach to redressing the social determinants that cause sexual and reproductive ill health as part of the Action for Equity partnership. This is a four-year sexual health and reproductive health promotion plan for Melbourne’s west involving partners from local government, community and health sectors.

Action for Equity sees us working in schools, prisons, workplaces, sports centres and with health and community services across Melbourne’s west to educate a range of target populations including young women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women living with a disability, sex workers and women from refugee and migrant

backgrounds to ultimately prevent sexual and reproductive ill health.

While Action for Equity works successfully at a regional level, it would benefit by being part of a state-wide and nationally-focussed approach. The absence of a federal and state policy framework limits the impact of our work in sexual and reproductive health, with public policy largely concentrating on prevention of infections or unplanned pregnancy – an individual educational or behavioural change approach – rather than broader systemic change to the factors that cause poor sexual or reproductive health, such as violence against women, homophobic attitudes or limited access to resources in rural communities. The development of a national and state-wide policy would allow us to work within a co-designed framework integrating an overarching evidence- based approach for research, program and service development, implementation and evaluation.

If we want to achieve true health equity, we must promote more strategic policy action on redressing the social determinants of sexual and reproductive health. That is one of Women’s Health West’s goals.

Please enjoy this edition of whw news, which highlights our work in sexual and reproductive health in Melbourne’s west.

sexual reproductive &

health edition

Women’s Health West acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we work, the people of the Kulin Nation, and we pay our respects to Elders and community members past and present. We express solidarity with the ongoing struggle for land rights, self-determination, sovereignty and the recognition of past injustices. We express our hope for reconciliation and justice.

About Women’s Health West

Let’s talk sexual and reproductive health Robyn Gregory , CEO, Women’s Health West D id you

W omen’s Health West is the women’s

health service for the western

metropolitan region of Melbourne.

Our vision is to achieve equity and

justice for women in the west.

We have two main programs that complement each other — allowing us to work across the continuum from preventing problems, to responding to problems after they occur.

Health promotion, research and development

Sexual and reproductive health

Mental health and wellbeing Prevention of violence and discrimination

Family violence services

Crisis support

Case management

Court support Women and children’s counselling

Connect with Women’s Health West

  • Facebook


  • Twitter

  • LinkedIn

  • Instagram


ISSN # 1834-7096 Editors: Karin Holzknecht, Christine Crosby

Contributors to this edition: Alyce Vella, Debra Wannan, Elly Taylor, Helen, Karin Holzknecht, Maria, Melanie Sleap, Mimmie Ngum Chi Watts, Mishelle, Nadine, Ngahina, Nicola Harte, Nirvana Bhandary, Robyn Gregory, Saya, Shannon Keebaugh, Sophie, Stephanie Rich

Photographers: Christine Crosby, Nadine, Mimmie Ngum Chi Watts

Illustrations: Isis and Pluto

Design and layout: Susan Miller,

Read this edition and archives of whw news online at newsletter/

Edition 2 deadline: 3 June 2016 Edition 1 deadline: 19 August 2016


ILLUSTRATIONS: Isis and Pluto commitment to preventing violence against women, noting their existing expertise as essential

commitment to preventing violence against women, noting their existing expertise as essential for the development of effective prevention programs. The leadership provided by women’s health services in leading regional prevention plans across Victoria was also noted, with the west’s own Preventing Violence Together regional plan, led by Women’s Health West, referenced as an example of a promising coordinated prevention system.

With the commitment made by Premier Daniel Andrews to implement all 227 recommendations, Women’s Health West look forward to working with the government and our partners in advancing the prevention of violence against women across Victoria, and supporting women’s right to live free from violence and discrimination in the west.

Royal Commission into family violence

A whole-of-government commitment to preventing violence before it occurs

Stephanie Rich , Health Promotion Worker, Prevention of Violence Against Women

On 30 March 2016 the Royal Commission into Family Violence released 227 recommendations to redress the current family violence crisis in Victoria. These included recommendations to prevent violence against women before it occurs, known as ‘primary prevention’.

T he Commission recognised that family violence is mostly perpetrated by men against

women and their children, and that the prevention of violence against women will require tackling gender inequality and the structures, norms, practices and attitudes that drive it.

Women’s Health West have long advocated the need for a whole- of-government approach to primary prevention in Victoria, and welcomed recommendations for the establishment of a bi-partisan parliamentary committee on family violence, and a family violence unit in the Department of Premier and Cabinet. This will ensure that family violence stays on the political agenda as a whole-of-community problem requiring a whole-of-community and whole-of-government solution.

An action plan for primary prevention

for the development of a state-wide action plan for primary prevention, and a dedicated prevention funding stream. Importantly, the Commission recognised that prevention of family violence has been largely overlooked, and deemed coordinated policy and sustainable funding for prevention an immediate priority.

The Commission emphasised that the proposed state-wide prevention action plan should be informed by the Gender Equality Strategy currently being developed by the Victorian Government. Women’s Health West hopes to see strong linkages between the two plans, recognising that redressing gender inequality will be fundamental to ending violence against women in Victoria, and supporting women’s right to safety, equality and respect.

While Women’s Health West had hoped greater attention would be given to preventing family violence, we were pleased to see recommendations

The role of women’s health services

Women’s health services were recognised for their long-standing

Find out more about the Royal Commission into Family Violence report recommendations:

Behind the scenes

WHW Board Africa’s gender dividend: transform not conform The Gender Pre-Summit for the 8th African Union
WHW Board
Africa’s gender dividend:
transform not conform
The Gender Pre-Summit
for the 8th African Union
delegation in Addis Ababa,
Ethiopia, January 2016

Dr Mimmie Ngum Chi Watts , Women’s Health West board director

In January 2016 Women’s Health West’s board director Dr Mimmie Ngum Chi Watts attended the Gender Pre-Summit for the 8th African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Mimmie writes how the African Union is leading the charge across the continent to recognise the rights and contribution of women to society.

Sustainable economic development cannot happen if over half the population are unable to participate fully in the economy.

T he Gender Pre-Summit was both inspiring and interesting, bringing together ministers

of gender and women’s affairs, as well as ambassadors, civil society organisations, health professionals, United Nations representatives, academics, members of the Gender Is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC), Pan African women’s organisations from across the continent, and international experts working in gender or related areas who are also of African heritage.

My overall impression from the pre- summit is that Africa is NOT what the media tells us. I am not suggesting that the continent is problem-free, but that many goals are being achieved despite the odds, particularly in the area of gender reform, with the African Union leading the charge.

In 2016 the African Union’s 54 member states declared 2016 the African Year of Human Rights, with particular focus on the rights of women, or simply the AU 2016 Project. This follows on from

the 2015 ‘African Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development’ and the African Union declaring 2010–2020 as the decade of African women.

Significant progress has been made in recognising the quality of women’s leadership in the region, and their efforts in carrying women’s rights forward in Africa are to be commended.

Africa has had three recent female heads of state: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Joyce Banda of Malawi, and Catherine Samba-Panza of the Central African Republic. Each of these women have stepped in (elected or otherwise) after conflicts, crises or simply after the ‘boys have fought’.

The current chair of the African Union Commission is a leading woman — Dr Dlamini Zuma. In her keynote address at the gender pre-summit, she spoke to key themes highlighting the status of women and challenges still facing women across Africa; some of her key points are included here.

Poverty and economic rights

An estimated 70 per cent of women across Africa are excluded from economic participation. It is estimated that African women own roughly 5 to

  • 30 per cent of the land. Feminisation

of poverty has disadvantaged women, especially widows, single mothers and teenage mothers. However, many countries have made significant gains in promoting the rights of women to own property and other assets. Sustainable economic development cannot happen if over half the population are unable to participate fully in the economy. There is increasing awareness of this ‘gender dividend’ — women are a latent asset that, if fully used, would boost economic growth.


In sub-Saharan Africa, only 23 per cent of girls in rural areas will complete primary school; at the current rate they will not achieve equality until 2086!

We cannot wait for that. On the other hand, 10 countries now have equal secondary school enrolments, and

  • 13 countries have achieved gender

parity across primary and secondary schools. Again, improving access to education for girls will release latent potential for economic growth. There are concerted efforts on the continent to invest in the participation of girls in STEM subjects — Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — which was almost unthinkable 15 years ago.

Women and conflict

Dr Zuma highlighted that women are the main victims of conflict, pointing out ‘no peace, no development’, and the need to ‘engender’ the peace process by giving women a substantial place at the negotiating table!

In conclusion, Dr Zuma repeatedly urged summit participants and leaders to ‘transform, not conform’, to bring change and be seen as agents of the change they both desire and badly need.

Download Mimmie’s report to the Victorian Multicultural Commission on African women’s rights:


Photos: (from top) Mimmie at the Australian Embassy in Addis Ababa. Mimmie (right) with the Western
Photos: (from top)
Mimmie at the Australian
Embassy in Addis Ababa.
Mimmie (right) with
the Western Sarahawi
Enjoying an Ethiopian
coffee at a wedding.
PHOTOS: Courtesy Dr Mimmie Ngum Chi Watts
PHOTOS: Courtesy Dr Mimmie Ngum Chi Watts

Behind the scenes

Join the Board Do you want equity and justice for women? Do you live, work or
Join the Board
Do you want equity and justice for women?
Do you live, work or study in Melbourne’s West?
Our board (l-r) Maria Di Gregorio, Dr Mimmie Ngum Chi Watts, Nicola Rabot,
Lara Rafferty, Sam Merrigan, Catherine Harding. (Catherine Bateman absent)
Women’s Health West is currently seeking nominations from
interested members to join the board of directors.
Women’s Health West works to change the conditions that
cause and maintain women’s oppression, by delivering family
violence services and health promotion activities.
As a volunteer board director you would join a diverse and
respected group of nine directors at monthly meetings in
Footscray, as well as representing the board on at least one task
group. We ask for your commitment of time and energy.
This is your opportunity to contribute:
Recognised leadership skills
Expertise and understanding of women’s health in a social
Strategic leadership, financial management and compliance,
strategic planning, performance management and evaluation
You will enjoy stimulating discussion and the support of a great
team as we work to achieve our ambitious goals.
If this sounds like you then we would love to hear from you.
Please phone Julie Veszpremi on (03) 9689 9588.
PHOTO: Scout Kozakiewicz

WHW Staff

Alyce Vella




Behind the scenes Join the Board Do you want equity and justice for women? Do you

Before joining Women’s Health West, I worked in research relating to alcohol and drug use, sex work, young people and technology. I’ve also had the opportunity to conduct evaluations of health services and campaigns, and design a website featuring real-life stories from young people about the ramifications of technology use. Career highlights include attending AIDS 2014 (I got a selfie with Bob Geldof) and running sexual health workshops with students in Ireland (‘Miss, do koalas really have chlamydia?’). While I enjoyed research, I found it lacked community engagement and the real-life experiences of people, which is what led me to explore health promotion. I have already learnt so much from the WHW team and can’t wait to work on other exciting projects in the future!



My first job was as a swimming instructor, which led to various roles working with children who have disabilities. After completing my first degree in international relations, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to become a peer educator with the You, Me and Us program at WHW. This introduced me to many inspiring young women, as well as giving me the idea of taking up social work as a profession. I then completed my Master of Social Work and things came full circle when I got my first job as a social worker with WHW! I am looking forward to working at such a wonderful organisation and learning from so many skilled women.

PHOTOS: Karin Holzknecht

PHOTOS: Karin Holzknecht Eleni Kyrpigikidis HEALTH PROMOTION COORDINATOR I’m a qualified social worker and have worked






I’m a qualified social worker and have worked in the human services field for twenty years. My very first experience in the field was doing voluntary work in order to be accepted into a social work post- graduate degree. I worked for a little organisation called St Anthony’s just down the road, which is now called MacKillop Family Services, alongside an education worker providing support to children with high risk and challenging behaviours. This was my entry into working within the family and youth services sector, where I worked for many years. I have worked in various roles including counselling, group-work facilitation, project management, mental health promotion and management roles. The skills I bring to this role are staff support and supervision, project management experience, community and stakeholder engagement and management.



I am a proud Maori woman (Ngati Whatua). Integral to me is the importance of family and culture, from growing up and raising my own family in New Zealand. I have a background in nursing, with further career roles over twenty years specialising in working with community to support improvements in women’s health, child health and Maori health. I travelled from Christchurch to Melbourne in 2014 and have held roles as a senior caseworker for the Cradle to Kinder Program at the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, and as a facilitator of Sacred Sistas workshops with the Wulumperi team in the Indigenous Sexual Health Unit of the Melbourne Sexual Health

Centre. I started at Women’s Health

West in October 2015, specialising in sexual health and reproductive health, and supporting the development of initiatives from community consultation.

  • I am working on new health promotion

programs and health promotion projects raising the profile of sexual and reproductive health for Aboriginal youth and Aboriginal women living and/or working in the west.



  • I am a clinical art therapist with extensive

experience working with children, youth and Aboriginal women and community. For the past five years, I have been facilitating counselling and art therapy groups in youth refuges, schools, and for children who have experienced homelessness and family violence. I’m passionate about advocating for children’s voices to be valued and respected and find joy in supporting the many different ways that children communicate. I have landed my ‘dream job’ as a Children’s Counsellor and Group Therapist at Women’s Health West, and am so excited to be part of a counselling team with other art therapists. It’s great that the team shares

knowledge and experience in how art and play can support a child to engage in a therapeutic process where they can explore themselves and their experiences of violence in a developmentally appropriate way. When I’m not working,

  • I love going to the beach, visiting new

places, listening to music and having fun.



  • I graduated as a social worker in 2002

and went on a ten year voyage working across many community sectors like homelessness, drug and alcohol, aged care, adult and child disability, public health, mental health and with asylum seekers in Melbourne and London

before discovering my passion – working

therapeutically with children who have experienced trauma. 2014 was a big year for me: I completed further studies in children’s counselling, had a baby, moved house and set up a private counselling

practice. I’m very excited to have joined the amazing WHW children’s counselling team and to be given the opportunity to offer play therapy services. I have an obsession with reading, good coffee, my daughter, sleeping through the night and the beach.



I have a passion for social justice and working with women, as I believe that it’s paramount that women and children live in a violence-free environment, where they can be their own writers of their own stories. I have worked at the Eastern Domestic Violence Service as an intensive case manager working closely with culturally and linguistically diverse women, which provided me with a better understanding of the many obstacles and struggles migrant women experience. My last role was at Australian Red Cross working with asylum seekers, which was such a great learning experience. Both groups were rewarding to work with, witnessing their resilience and empowerment to seek change and independence. Outside of work, I love crocheting, am a big fan of Netflix and am an avid reader of fiction.

A creative approach to supporting children

Nadine, Maria, Helen, Saya

At Women’s Health West our children’s counsellors have used therapeutic creative arts in their SPLASh program to support children who are having trouble managing their emotions after experiencing family violence. Here we look at how a SPLASh group can achieve positive internal or external changes in a child.

Why children may be referred

As a result of experiencing family violence many children experience difficulty in regulating their emotions. This might result in them hurting other children or not tolerating limits. They might be having trouble at school with learning or find it difficult to negotiate in the playground. A child may be overlooked as the ‘good child’ who is overly compliant, helpful, always neat and organised, yet underneath they might be feeling anxious.

The benefits of a therapeutic group can be different for each child, as every child is unique. Internal or external changes in a child’s world can be noticed at different times both during and following the completion of group.

‘Process goals’ and ‘outcome goals’ are used to guide the planning and running of the group, and support the group’s overall aims and objectives.

Process goals are goals that facilitators hold in mind when planning group activities, and during immediate group member interactions. Examples of process goals include maintaining group rules, education around feelings and defining violence.

Process goals that are upheld during group sessions can assist with outcome goals for children, such as feeling safe, knowing it’s okay to feel and express feelings, learning that abuse is not okay, and we have the right to be safe.

A combination of process and outcome goals support the overall aims and objectives of the SPLASh group:

To provide a safe and supportive environment for children who have experienced family violence

To build children’s understanding of their emotions and how to express them in healthy ways

To build children’s social skills, confidence, self-esteem and sense of personal wellbeing

To support mothers to enhance their connectedness to their children

To build positive relationships outside the family unit

To help children understand that they are not alone

PHOTOS: Nadine

PHOTOS: Nadine Common themes When running SPLASh groups for children who have experienced family violence, these

Common themes

When running SPLASh groups for children who have experienced family violence, these common themes generally emerge.

Expressing emotions:

Children explore ‘all feelings are okay, but not all behaviours are okay’

What is it like when others are unsafe in expressing strong emotions, particularly anger, which has generally been expressed dangerously by the person using violence?


Perceptions of gender, what messages are given about acceptable behaviour, how to be strong without using violence?


Disappointment/broken trust

Conflicting feelings (loving the person using violence, but fearing them)

Resources/strengths and safety:

Who or what helps you to manage strong emotions?

Making a personal safety plan

Strengths: what do you like, what are you good at?

For some children this might be the first time they have directly expressed anything about their experiences of family violence. When these themes arise in group, children have a sense of shared experience: they’re not alone in having experienced trauma, disappointment and loss — other kids have been through tough stuff too!

Creating a contained/ safe environment for participants

The facilitators consider a number of aspects in making sure that children feel comfortable, encouraged and ‘safe’ while being at, and participating in, the group. Consistency in responses and environment are key. Routine and predictability are especially important to increase a child’s feelings of safety.

The room is set up the same way each week, and the group is held at the same time and place. The sessions have a predictable pattern to them, with a similar activity at the beginning and end of each group. A ‘chill out’ space is available if children need time away from the group.

Facilitators’ responses to children are also predictable. They remain curious, and ‘notice’ things out loud. They support children to do things for themselves to encourage a sense of the child being capable. The facilitation team also model positive and respectful communication and everyone in the room takes responsibility for their mistakes.

When working using art, facilitators also:

Avoid interpreting or offering judgements

around children’s art work Communicate acceptance of

children’s experiences ‘Notice’ their process and

comment where appropriate Remain respectful when handling art work

Provide the option of taking work home, or inform children how it will be stored if it is left behind

Are child-led – it might be important for a child to destroy or throw their work away

PHOTOS: Christine Crosby

sexual reproductive &

health edition

PHOTOS: Christine Crosby sexual reproductive & health edition Nan, Aunty, Mum – you are a treasure

Nan, Aunty, Mum – you are a treasure to our family

Continued from page 1

screening appointment. Community consultation is central to this project.

PHOTOS: Christine Crosby sexual reproductive & health edition Nan, Aunty, Mum – you are a treasure

Courtesy: BreastScreen Victoria

Delivery of the project and what happens during a women’s group

A number of informative women’s groups will be held across the west to help remove barriers to access. Advocacy from this project has seen the development of group bookings for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women being offered in four locations: Footscray, Sunshine, Werribee and Melton.

The project will host the women’s groups between February and November 2016. It is anticipated that between 200-250 Aboriginal women and Torres Strait Islander women living, and/ or working in the west will attend one of these women’s groups.

The women’s groups generally follow this format:

Transport can be provided if required to attend the women’s group

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women meet at an accessible community space for a two-hour session

An information session is held on women’s health and breast screening

Previous experiences of breast screening and what prevents women from returning for their next breast screen are openly discussed and shared. This discussion also focuses on women’s positive experiences

A guided tour of the breast screen clinic is given, where women are walked through what will happen at an actual appointment

The tour includes viewing a room where women will go for a mammogram

Lunch and a gift pack of health information is provided

The guided tour for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is designed to build rapport between community members and breast screen services staff, such as receptionists and radiographers. The opportunity for women to participate in this group prior to attending an appointment allows

Nan, Aunty, Mum – you are a treasure to our family workshop at Footscray Library and BreastScreen Victoria Footscray clinic visit.

women to become familiar with the service and so reduce anxiety about attending a breast screen appointment.

During the group session BreastScreen Victoria staff will assist women to access their information from their database and update their contact details on BreastScreen Victoria’s online register. Women will also be informed of the date of their next mammogram and given this information in a sealed envelope to ensure privacy.

A further initiative of this project is creating opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to participate in group breast screening clinics. The group clinics will be trialled in Footscray, Sunshine, Werribee and Melton throughout 2016.

‘Nan, Aunty, Mum – you are a treasure to our family’ will include an evaluation form to gather feedback and recommendations for service quality improvements and best practice in working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. This evaluation will be available in either written format or online for participants to complete.

More information:

Want to know more? Contact Ngahina on 9689 9588, email, or contact your local Aboriginal Health Worker/team.


sexual reproductive &

health edition

The social determinants of sexual and reproductive health inequities

Elly Taylor, Acting Manager Health Promotion, Research and Development

In 2015, Women’s Health West contracted Deakin University to undertake a rigorous literature review to investigate and determine what influences the inequities associated with sexual and reproductive health in Australia and internationally.

S exual and reproductive health,

like other areas of health, is

influenced by a complex interplay

of biological, physical and social determinants. The burden of disease is not equally distributed among Victorians. Some population groups are more likely to experience health inequities because differences in their education, income, employment status, and other socioeconomic, political, interpersonal and cultural factors intersect to intensify inequity. Similarly, positive changes to political and economic structures, public policies, living and working conditions, and individual lifestyle choices can work together to bring about health improvements. Gathering information about the main causes of sexual and reproductive health inequity

assists us to focus on those areas most likely to bring about those changes.

The Helen Macpherson Smith Trust awarded a three-year grant to Women’s Health West in 2014 to further the work of the Action for Equity partnership. The grant includes support for a literature review of the social determinants of sexual and reproductive health inequity. This research is an international first and will support evidence-based practice in the west and throughout Victoria.

Deakin University recently concluded this work and the evidence is clear. The research report makes a case for six social determinants of sexual and reproductive health:

  • 1 Gender norms

  • 2 Cultural and societal norms

  • 3 Violence, discrimination and stigma

  • 4 Public policy and the law

  • 5 Socio-economic status

  • 6 Access to culturally appropriate, accessible healthcare and services.

It is these social determinants that governments, organisations and practitioners must consider when developing public policy, programs and practice to work towards sustainable and equitable health outcomes for communities throughout Victoria.

For further information about this research or to attend its launch contact

sexual reproductive &

health edition

Teaching respectful relationships

Melanie Sleap , Health Promotion Worker

in Wyndham schools

Women’s Health West’s You, Me and Us program is a multi-faceted respectful relationships education program that works to redress the drivers of men’s violence against women by promoting equal and respectful relationships between young people.

T eaching young people the

importance of equal and respectful

relationships, and providing them

with the skills to enact those equitable

intimate relationships, is an evidence- based key action in the primary prevention of violence against women (for more information, see the Victorian Government Department of Education and Early Childhood Development publication from 2009, Respectful relationships education: violence prevention and respectful relationships education in Victorian secondary schools).

Women’s Health West developed You, Me and Us in 2011 and successfully delivered it to over 3,500 young people in a two year period. The program targets young people aged 10 to 13 and 18 to 24 in schools, sporting clubs, youth organisations and higher educational institutions. The program uses a peer education model where young women aged between 18 and 24 years co- deliver the respectful relationships education sessions. Professional

development is also delivered to adults in those settings to ensure sustainability of program messages.

School Focused Youth Services Hobsons Bay/Wyndham funded a partnership between themselves, Women’s Health West and the Smith Family in 2015 to deliver You, Me and Us: The Wyndham Community Hub Schools Project to three schools in Wyndham.

This iteration of the program replaced the peer education component with training, capacity building and support for primary school teachers. Teachers co-delivered the program with the Women’s Health West health promotion worker. The modification to the program was designed to increase its long-term sustainability in the three participating schools.

Teachers from the participating schools commented that they had received appropriate support and training and consequently felt confident to deliver the respectful relationships education

sexual reproductive & health edition Teaching respectful relationships Melanie Sleap , Health Promotion Worker in Wyndham
sexual reproductive & health edition Teaching respectful relationships Melanie Sleap , Health Promotion Worker in Wyndham
sexual reproductive & health edition Teaching respectful relationships Melanie Sleap , Health Promotion Worker in Wyndham


content into the future. Teachers also recognised the importance of partnering with an organisation with expertise in respectful relationships, gender equity and knowledge in understanding how to apply a whole-of-school approach.

“The You, Me and Us program was a really important program for us at WPPS. The focus on helping our grade 5/6 students build respectful relationships with one another was both engaging and meaningful. Having [the Women’s Health West health promotion worker] skilfully guide staff and students through this program at all levels, from planning to direct delivery of the workshops, was the key to success. We would be the first in line to receive this program again, should it be offered!”

— Julia McCahon, Assistant Principal, Wyndham Park Primary School

Program evaluation for You, Me and Us showed positive increases for students in knowledge and attitudes across three key areas: respectful relationships, gender equity and bystander action. Participants unequivocally stated that they enjoyed the interactive sessions and learnt:

and men’ after training, as opposed to 91.7 per cent prior to training.
and men’ after training, as opposed
to 91.7 per cent prior to training.

Boys and girls can be equal (Young male, 2015)

Respectful relationships are about accepting people for who they are (Young female, 2015)

About stereotypes and how people can judge other people for the gender they are (Young female, 2015)

About stepping in and being an active bystander (Young male, 2015)

You, Me and Us: The Wyndham Community Hub Schools Project again demonstrates the impact and importance of respectful relationships education and the success a program can have if it aligns with good practice principles, takes a whole-of- school approach, and is underpinned by a gender equity framework.

The program’s professional development for school staff, including teachers, wellbeing staff and leadership teams, also successfully raised awareness of the prevalence of men’s violence against women, prevention approaches, gender equity and bystander intervention. For example, when asked what factors lead to gender-based violence, 100 per cent of participants correctly answered ‘rigid stereotypes and gender roles for women

More information about You, Me

and Us can be found at www.

ILLUSTRATIONS: Isis and Pluto content into the future. Teachers also recognised the importance of partnering with
ILLUSTRATIONS: Isis and Pluto content into the future. Teachers also recognised the importance of partnering with

PHOTO: Christine Crosby

IMAGES: Alyce Vella

sexual reproductive &

health edition

Caption: (l-r) Health Promotion Worker Alyce Vella with Maribyrnong City Council Health and Wellbeing Planner, Imke Wittebrood and Agent of YEAH, Natalie Coburn at Victoria University’s O-Fest.


Using social media to educate young people about sexual and reproductive health

Alyce Vella , Health Promotion Worker

Y oung people in the west experience higher than average rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and

unplanned pregnancies. This is likely to follow unsafe sexual practices, inadequate sexual health knowledge and lack of access to affordable contraception, such as condoms. STIs such as chlamydia are most commonly diagnosed among young people. Because chlamydia does not have any symptoms it can remain undiagnosed, leading to lasting infections and poor health outcomes including pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.

be a taboo topic to discuss, the use of informative and humorous videos and other novel methods can reduce stigma about a topic.

Redress via a retweet?

The use of social media in Australia continues to grow, with 70 per cent of internet users currently holding a social media account. Facebook remains the most commonly used network, claiming 90 per cent of social media users. Young Australians have indicated that, while sexual health can

IMAGES: Alyce Vella sexual reproductive & health edition Caption: (l-r) Health Promotion Worker Alyce Vella
IMAGES: Alyce Vella sexual reproductive & health edition Caption: (l-r) Health Promotion Worker Alyce Vella

the success of this pilot project (which is still in progress), as well as ensuring condoms are inexpensive. In a pre- installation consultation conducted by Brimbank Youth Services, young people indicated that they were embarrassed to buy condoms from stores, chemists and supermarkets, but would use the machines as long as condoms were affordable. Condom prices range from 20 cents each in Sunshine to $1 for two in Footscray, Melton and Caroline Springs.

The use of social media to promote #SafeSexInTheWest has proven beneficial, with a total of 127 new followers of WHW’s Facebook page and Instagram account. Over 20,000 people were reached via Facebook and Twitter, in addition to media coverage in the local area. Women’s Health West and YEAH (Youth Empowerment Against HIV) also promoted the CVMs at Victoria University on 23 February with positive response from students. CVM sales data for the campaign period is still to be collected. We hope to continue to engage with young people and reach other community groups through broader strategies in the near future.

For more, please visit

The aim of the #SafeSexInTheWest social media campaign was to normalise the discussion of safe sexual practices and sexual and reproductive health, while tackling the often forgotten topics of pleasure and consent. The #SafeSexInTheWest campaign ran across two weeks in the lead-up to and during Sexual Health Awareness Week (14-21 February) and focused on the key themes of Respect, Consent, Choice and Pleasure. Colourful infographics, videos and links to websites were posted across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Condom vending machines

Another aim of the campaign was to increase the currently inadequate use of condoms in the west by sharing information on where to access low

cost condoms. The Condom Vending Machine (CVM) project is a collaborative venture of the Action for Equity partnership, led by Women’s Health West, designed to increase access to affordable condoms in the west. There are five machines currently installed in the west through the CVM project:

Hannah Watts Park, Melton

Melton Library and Learning Hub

Caroline Springs Leisure Centre Footscray Library

Visy Cares Hub, Sunshine

One of the images shared during the campaign, providing information on where to access low cost and free condoms in the west

Placing machines in central, discreet and easily accessible locations is key to

The CVM project is proudly supported by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust.

Good leadership knows no gender, race or age

Nirvana Bhandary , Health Promotion Worker

In January, eight women from Nepal, Vietnam, Romania, Myanmar and Australia, along with a peer educator from Ethiopia, participated in Lead On Again, a transformative leadership program for culturally diverse young women aged 16-24 from Melbourne’s west.

L ead On Again is a six-day leadership program that is delivered in partnership between Women’s
L ead On Again is a six-day leadership
program that is delivered in
partnership between Women’s
Health West and Western Young People’s
Independent Network (WYPIN) with
funding from Brimbank City Council.
management and how to run a
community event. This assisted the
participants to successfully organise a
public screening of the film I am a Girl
for International Women’s Day at the
VisyHub in Sunshine. Over 30 people
attended the free event, which included
speeches by participants, community
artwork displays and food catered for
by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
The program builds on participants’
interests and includes sessions on
networking, spoken word poetry,
human rights, media and influence,
sexuality and yoga, as well as a
discussion on culture and faith.
A new opportunity
The young women identified that the
networking and human rights workshop
had strengthened their capacity as
leaders, and the spoken word poetry,
and culture and faith sessions enabled
them to draw on their current strengths,
and share their stories in a personal
and creative way. Lead On Again
participant Reanna Clark said, “Lead On
Again has taught me that leadership
knows no gender, race or age”.
Lead On Again was an exceptionally wonderful
experience for me. In this program I met
other young women with completely different
opinions and faith and yet with similar
determination towards leadership. I enjoyed
all the intellectual workshops, motivational
speakers and most importantly engaging with
all the participants in a friendly environment.
To anyone who wants to enhance their
leadership skills, learn a wide range of
new ideas, meet new people, make friends
and want to have fun, I highly recommend
Lead On Again, as I would like others to
have the same opportunity to experience
a program that I myself truly enjoyed.
The final day of Lead On Again was
dedicated to learning about event
Stepping out of my
comfort zone
I always feel a bit anxious about trying
new things; taking that step out of my
comfort zone. The prospect of leadership,
in particular, makes me nervous due to
associations with public speaking and big
ideas. Such feelings arose in the days prior
to participating in Lead on Again, but
when I arrived at the program I realised
such fears were futile. The program
fostered a wonderfully supportive sense
of community among a group of like-
minded, inspiring young women. Any
feelings of anxiety I had were gone by the
end of the week, replaced by thoughts
of empowerment and motivation.
PHOTOS: Sally Camilleri

ILLUSTRATION: Isis and Pluto

Strengthening the child-mother bond

Mishelle , Children’s Worker

When a mother experiences family violence, so do her children. They may have witnessed their mother being assaulted and/or been directly assaulted themselves, or they might live in a fearful environment with a frightened or frightening caregiver. It is vital that women living in this situation know that they can access support and provide support to their children from pregnancy and as a new mother.

‘The greatest gift we can give children in the aftermath of family violence is to strengthen the relationship with their mothers’ — Cathy Humphreys, Professor of Social Work, University of Melbourne

F amily violence has a powerful impact

on the developing infant. Even before

a baby is born they are at risk of harm

from physical violence inflicted upon their mothers, and from prolonged exposure to high cortisol levels (a hormone associated with heightened levels of stress and fear) produced by their mother when she experiences stress or violence.

Following birth, the impact of family violence on an infant’s development can include constant crying, an inability to be soothed, feeding problems, sleep disturbances, hyper- arousal and hyper-vigilance, intense distress during transitions, and difficulty managing frustration.

Toddlers may experience problems with emotional regulation resulting in severe tantrums, rebellious behaviour, intense separation anxiety, wariness of strangers, social avoidance and withdrawal and constrained play. Toddlers might also regress to baby-like behaviour and suffer physical complaints or illness.

An infant who seems to be constantly sleeping might in fact be trying to escape their external world, by disappearing inside themselves in an attempt to find safety. The ‘good’ or ‘placid’ baby who does not make appropriate demands on their caregivers, never crying, and avoiding initiating play or interaction, might be emotionally withdrawing and ‘shutting down’ as a response to a fearful and unpredictable environment of family violence.

Family violence can disrupt or sever the child-mother relationship because of the direct undermining behaviour of the abusive partner, or indirectly as a woman’s capacity to parent is disabled as a result of the severity and frequency of the violence. Research also shows that a woman’s parenting can significantly improve in the first six months of leaving when the abuse and violence ceases.

Women’s Health West, in partnership with Berry Street, has developed a parenting kit to assist women who experience family violence. The kit was first developed in 2003, with the latest edition providing new and updated fact sheets on pregnancy and violence, and parenting a baby who has experienced violence from birth to 18 months. These fact sheets advise women where they can access support, and information about how to support their child/ren and strengthen or mend the child-mother bond.

The kit also provides tips on developing sleeping and eating routines for babies, emphasises the importance of play and other activities with babies including talking and singing to the child, eye contact, smiling and making faces, cuddles, peek- a-boo and soothing activities like massaging baby after a bath.

For more information on Choosing Positive Paths see next page.


Choosing Positive Paths

Nicola Harte , Communications Manager Nadine , Children’s Counsellor Shannon Keebaugh , Berry Street

FEATURED PUBLICATION Choosing Positive Paths Nicola Harte , Communications Manager Nadine , Children’s Counsellor Shannon Keebaugh

The Choosing Positive Paths resource kit is a joint initiative of Women’s Health West and Berry Street. Initially developed in 2003, the resource kit has had an update and we are proud to present the brand new version!

T he parenting kit is intended to help all primary carers – mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, family

friends, foster parents – with information on what to expect from and how to respond to children at all ages and stages who have experienced family violence.

The kits are also a useful resources for professionals who work with families, such as social workers, counsellors, doctors, teachers, lawyers or child protection workers.

The fact sheets are divided into age groups ranging from pregnancy to teenagers. They include practical tips on how to talk to children about feelings, worries, family changes, safety, separation and moving house. They also suggest trauma-informed activities to help women and children re-build their relationships.

The new edition incorporates changes in legislation, policy and practice since the kit was originally released in 2003. And it’s all presented using the warm and diverse imagery of illustrators Isis and Pluto.

You can download free pdfs of each factsheet or order hardcopies

of the kit from www. choosing-positive-paths or www.childhoodinstitute.

Please note that we charge a fee to cover postage costs, or you can elect to pick up hardcopies for free from our office – see below.


Women’s Health West Publications

This form may be used as a Tax Invoice for GST purposes

Order Form – Tax Invoice

ABN 24 036 234 159

Choosing Positive Paths parenting kits


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Communications Worker Women’s Health West 317 – 319 Barkly Street FOOTSCRAY VIC 3011

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A range of brochures and fact sheets are available from our web site


EVENTS Notices Conferences 23rd National Conference: Australian Health Promotion Association – Connecting the Dots 19–22 June



EVENTS Notices Conferences 23rd National Conference: Australian Health Promotion Association – Connecting the Dots 19–22 June

23rd National Conference: Australian Health Promotion Association – Connecting the Dots

19–22 June 2016 Rendezvous Hotel Scarborough, Western Australia

This conference is expected to attract over 500 professionals working within and outside the health promotion sector. The conference aims to consolidate the diverse range of topics that are dealt with in health promotion by encouraging presenters to ‘connect’ those topics back to the core principles of the Ottawa Charter. This will be achieved through the integration of the five principles in the conference sub-themes. More information at

3rd Indigenous Stop Domestic and Family Violence World Conference

14–16 September 2016 Stamford Grand, Adelaide Beach Hotel, Glenelg

This conference is held every two years and this year it will be organised by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance (NATSIWA) and Indigenous Conference Services (Australia). This conference aims to reduce the incidence of family violence at all levels and bring together men, women and organisations as a united voice against domestic and family violence. More information at www.indigenousconferences.


EVENTS Notices Conferences 23rd National Conference: Australian Health Promotion Association – Connecting the Dots 19–22 June

21st Nursing Network on Violence Against Women International Conference 2016

26–28 October 2016 Intercontinental Rialto, Melbourne

This conference, presented by the Judith Lumley Centre, School of Midwifery and Nursing at La Trobe University, brings together global researchers, health and social service providers and advocates to exchange knowledge and ideas and generate best practices to prevent and/or reduce the impacts of violence on women, children and families. Sessions will focus on research, practice, innovations and policy directions. More information can be found at

whw news EDITION 1 • 2016


Upcoming dates 15 May International Day of Families 17 May International Day Against Homophobia, Bi-phobia and
Upcoming dates
15 May
Day of Families
17 May
Day Against
Bi-phobia and
21 May
World Day for
Cultural Diversity
26 May
National Sorry Day
– 3 June
Reconciliation Week
28 May
International Day
of Action for
Women’s Health
Global Day
of Parents
Ramadan begins
19-25 June
Refugee Week
20 June
World Refugee Day
3-10 July
Eid Al Fitr
International Day
of the World’s
Indigenous Peoples

PHOTOS: Courtesy Clare Keyes-Liley


Debra Wannan , Finance Officer Sophie , Crisis Accommodation Coordinator

W omen’s Health West extend our warmest thanks for the following contributions from beginning October 2015 to end of February 2016. These much-appreciated donations

and grants help us to enhance our programs and services. Every

donation goes straight to assisting women and children.

PHOTOS: Courtesy Clare Keyes-Liley donations Debra Wannan , Finance Officer Sophie , Crisis Accommodation Coordinator W

A big thank you out to the 70 people who joined Clare Keyes-Liley and Anna Morrison at their fundraising event at Two Birds Brewing in Spotswood in March 2016. Clare said they were motivated to organise a fundraiser for Women’s Health West because, ‘We were keen to organise an event that celebrated International Women’s Day, whilst highlighting the fight we still have ahead of us for women’s economic and social equality.’

Clare Keyes-Liley and her daughter Harriet with Anna Morrison: ready to celebrate International Women’s Day with
Clare Keyes-Liley
and her daughter
Harriet with
Anna Morrison:
ready to celebrate
Women’s Day
with a fundraiser
for Women’s
Health West



  • Individual Voting Member
    (woman who lives, works or studies in the western metro region)

  • Organisational Member
    (organisation in, or whose client-base includes, the region)





(This person is also eligible to attend and vote at our Annual General Meeting)

  • Associate Non-voting Member (individual or organisation outside the region)


Type of Donation

Private donor


Salvation Army

Christmas presents for clients in refuge

Melton Owl

Pamper packs and

Branch CWA


safe steps

100 New Day boxes and Christmas puddings

Impact for Women

Personal packs and ‘house bags’ with children’s toys and activities

Private donors

Kitchenware, PJs and underwear purchased new, furniture and TV, wooden horse rocker

Sea Breeze Quilters and Footscray Hospital Theatre Staff

Quilts, toiletries, Christmas hampers, books, toys, etc. and $905




Magistrates' Court of Victoria, Criminal Justice Diversion program

5 x court ordered funds


Girl Guides Association

Donation from


of Victoria (Hoppers Crossing)


Australian Labor Party



– Victoria Branch

from raffle

Women of the West

Donation from


fundraiser event

Private donors






Donations are tax deductible. To donate online

All women living, working or studying in the western metropolitan region of Melbourne are eligible for membership of WHW, as are organisations whose client base includes the western region.










(Individual members only)





whw in the news

whw in the news women’s health Women’s Health West 317-319 Barkly Street Footscray 3011 phone 9689

women’s health

whw in the news women’s health Women’s Health West 317-319 Barkly Street Footscray 3011 phone 9689
whw in the news women’s health Women’s Health West 317-319 Barkly Street Footscray 3011 phone 9689

Women’s Health West 317-319 Barkly Street Footscray 3011 phone 9689 9588 fax 9689 3861 email website