Employer breaks new ground with family violence policy

Natalie Talevska and her colleagues at VMIA didn’t want their family violence policy to be a lot of words articulating the organisation’s support for people affected. Instead, they wanted it to be a strong statement of support backed up by action. As a result they have developed a ground-breaking policy that includes the appointment of a family violence officer.

“We are now seeing the role of a family violence officer in the same light as the OHS and first aid officers. The role is an important part of the organisation and the person will have the necessary training,” Natalie, VMIA Human Resources Adviser, said.

VMIA managers took their first steps several months ago when Natalie and two colleagues were asked to attend an Engage to Change session run by McAuley Community Services for Women. The sessions are run in many and varied large and small organisations across Victoria, including banks, hospitals, sporting clubs and local government.

“Going to Engage to Change signalled our organisation’s desire to make sure we are at the forefront of this issue and doing what is best for our staff. I was really inspired and motivated after the session and could see lots of opportunities for action,” Natalie said.

Natalie said the organisation’s leaders supported the development of a family violence policy and insisted it reflect the views and needs of the staff. As a result all staff were invited to submit suggestions and ideas and to attend an in-house workshop where Karen Dynon, from Engage to Change, provided training, support and examples of other polices that had been developed. From there the framework of the policy was developed, reviewed and accepted.

VMIA is still working closely with McAuley Community Services for Women to develop the role of the family violence officer, determining how the role will ‘look’ and what training is needed.

“It was a great process because we started with a blank page and let staff know that their contributions were not just welcomed but valued. I think staff really feels ownership of this policy. Responses from staff were influenced by personal experience or because they are passionate about ensuring their workmates are safe and supported,” Natalie said.

“Staff can see by the inclusion of the family violence officer and the financial support package that VMIA wants to do everything possible to support people living through family violence. It is important that people can maintain their employment during this time.”

At the policy launch about 100 of VMIA’s 140 staff attended. Natalie said there has been very positive feedback on the policy and VMIA is happy for other organisations to see it is a model and consider including the family violence officer and the support package elements into family violence policies.