Engage to Change Having an Impact

Engage to Change, the ground-breaking education program developed by McAuley Community Services for Women to help employers and their employees address family violence in the workplace, is having a powerful impact on Victorian workplaces.

Findings from our sessions attended by over 200 employers and employees have revealed that awareness of family violence is increasing thanks to Rosie Batty, more media coverage and the Royal Commission. However, knowing how to respond appropriately is still a challenge. This is core work of Engage to Change; supporting workplaces to better respond to family violence issues.

More than 200 employers and employees across 22 organisations from the banking sector, insurance sector, hospitals, local government authorities and legal firms have participated in the Engage To Change facilitated sessions.

Karen Dynon, Business Development Manager at McAuley Community Services for Women, said a large gap remains in the capability and confidence of individuals to respond, and then act.Engage to Change has identified this need and enables managers and staff to feel more comfortable about broaching this difficult subject, then understanding what to do next.

“We found that most people don’t understand the cost to Australian business of family violence, which is estimated to be about $484 million each year due to lost productivity, increased use of sick leave, poor performance, absenteeism and recruitment costs,” Ms Dynon said.

By 2021 this figure is expected to rise to $609 million if nothing is done (according to The Cost of Violence Against Women and their Children, KPMG 2009).

“We also found that participants were surprised to learn that recent surveys in Australia and overseas have estimated that between 10–30% of employees may be affected by family violence in any 12 month period. This is a staggering figure and it can have a big impact on a workplace.”

“Knowing how to respond when someone in a workplace is affected by family violence can help the individual as well as the workplace community.”

The Engage to Change program has two elements: an interactive 90 minute session for senior managers/people leaders/HR, facilitated by staff appropriately qualified in the family violence area, and a 20 minute online e-learning module for broader dissemination to employees

What it does:

  • Increases the understanding of what family violence is, and the extent of the problem.
  • Provides guidance on how family violence might present itself at work.
  • Includes practical assistance and activities on how to respond appropriately to reports of family violence, and what to do next.
  • Ensures participants know where to refer staff experiencing family violence for support, using internal and external pathways.

Who Benefits from Engage to Change training:

  • Leadership and Human Resources staff and colleagues are better able to recognise and respond to family violence, know where to refer and how to develop and implement appropriate policies.
  • Women at risk of unemployment and homelessness due to family violence. Fewer employees will be forced to leave the workforce due to poor performance resulting from the pressure of family violence.


Ms Dynon said the organisations’ feedback had been important and encouraging. Some comments from participants include:

‘We have a strong commitment to addressing social issues impacting on the health and wellbeing of the community we serve... Little did we know how much we didn’t know, nor how powerful and practical a training program like this could be.’
Elizabeth Murdoch
Program Director, Ambulatory, Community and Allied Health Services
Mercy Health

‘A great approach to a very difficult, multifaceted social issue’
Victorian Managed Insurance Authority Participant

‘Thanks for helping the leadership team understand the importance of recognising the signs and to have the courage to ask the right questions.’Maribyrnong City Council Participant

‘Greatly improved my understanding of what family violence is and that we all have a role to play to help change things’National Australia Bank Participant

For more information on Engage to Change.