When we know better, we can do better – training with Orana House

On Wednesday 28 August, our Operations Manager Mark O’Hare joined the staff from Orana House refuge as they embarked on a Family and Domestic Violence one-day special training event based around the Safe and Together framework in the tranquil Whiteman Park.

Stepping outside of the office, the women came together as a united front and learnt from an organisational perspective, how best to support victims of domestic violence and shift accountability back to the perpetrator.

Some of the staff had already attended Stopping Family Violence’s Safe and Together 4-day intensive CORE training and Orana House General Manager Mel said it was a great opportunity for all their staff to attend together and share the knowledge universally in the refuge.

“It was great to get everyone in the team together as this kind of training works well as a team-building exercise. We very rarely have this opportunity as everyone works different shifts.”

Mel – General Manager Orana House

“It is helpful for everyone to hear the information together as it enables greater understanding and creates motivation to implement changes within our everyday practice. As a team, it keeps us mindful of the experiences our clients have had and how this has influenced their choices, behaviour and actions today.”

Mel said the training could definitely improve the operations at Orana House.

“We will be making some changes to our paperwork and how we record information and we will be looking at ways to spend more time with women looking at their history of DV, and how the perpetrator’s actions have influenced their own,” she said.

“Women at Orana talk about the fear they experience caused by their abuser, the way they have to ‘walk on eggshells’ all the time to try not to upset him.”

Mel – General Manager Orana House

“They gradually learn that they are not to blame for what has happened to them and their children and understand that the responsibility for all the abuse lies firmly in the hands of their abuser.”

Refuge Support Worker Amy said that she found the shift to Domestic Violence (DV)-informed language to be useful after completing the day of training.

“The DV-informed language gives us as organisations the ability to ‘pivot’ back to the perpetrator, and hold them accountable for their actions,” she said.

“The safe and together training will help me work more positively with families through being able to present a clear ‘whole picture’ history of a family’s experience when advocating for my client with other agencies.”

Amy – Refuge Support Worker

“The training also expanded my ability to work from a place of strength, in identifying and acknowledging the actions and protective factors a survivor has taken in keeping themselves and their children safe in the face of violence, perpetrated by the offending parent.” 

Another Support Worker said the training will help the staff to be less judgemental and more understanding of the clients and their situation.

“It opens up more empathetic conversations and a more holistic way of working and supporting them to identify and reach their goals. It reminds us that we need to focus more on their emotional needs and issues of trauma, grief and loss, as well as practical issues like housing and money.”

One of the name cards decorated by an Orana House participant.
Caption: One of the name cards decorated by an Orana House participant.

Mark said the training went well and it was a good opportunity to go deeper into the DV-informed framework as they built on the Safe and Together model.

“That’s what Safe and Together do differently – we gather information around the perpetrator’s behaviours and have identified the importance of a perpetrator-pattern based approach within women’s refuges to hold them accountable through documentation, and through recognising the survivor’s strengths in the context of the abusive behaviours,” he said.

“Often in women’s refuges there’s documentation about the survivor and about the children, but limited information about the perpetrator’s behaviours and the adverse impacts on the children and how those sets of behaviours impact on the child and family functioning over long periods of time.”

Find out more information about the Safe & Together Institute here.

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