Concurrent Session - Day 1 - Orion Room

State of knowledge: The impact of family, domestic and sexual violence on children and young people

Anna Farrant & Caitlin Green

Anna Farrant practiced in family law, protection and care, and crime in Victoria in roles at Legal Aid Victoria, Women’s Legal Service Victoria and in private practice. After a decade over east, Anna returned to Western Australia in early 2020 and is currently the senior lawyer at WLSWA.

Caitlin Green is currently the senior advocate at the Family Inclusion Network of Western Australia. She is a social worker with a background in adult education and communications. She predominantly works with mothers whose children are either in care, or at risk of entering care, where she advocates for the elevation of the mother’s voice within the child protection system.

Exploring the use of responding affidavits

Exploring the use of responding affidavits for mothers whose children are subject to the protection and care legal process: towards a more trauma-informed response.
This presentation directs attention to the use of responding affidavits by mothers who have experienced family and domestic violence, and whose children have been removed as a result, through the statutory child protection system. We argue that when mothers are able ‘to have their voices heard, to tell their own side of the story’ – in the form of a responding affidavit – that a path is made toward a more trauma-informed response by both the court and child protection workers, and hopefully towards better support and a more sustainable reunification, where possible.
We use case studies to describe the experience and benefits of assisting mothers to prepare their responses to the filed affidavits of child protection workers. Once a responding affidavit was completed, in a process usually lasting 3-4 hours the mothers universally expressed relief, the prospect of being heard by a Magistrate in a Court providing them with some relief regarding the already heavy burden of their story. In regards to their children, the subjects now of statutory action, very often these mothers simply wanted to demonstrate how and in what ways they believed they DID act to protect them, often times asking for help and not receiving it.
We find that the use of responding affidavits both underutilized and also potentially powerful mechanisms whereby mothers can directly speak to the evidence presented against them, in those cases where their voice and experience is perceived by them as otherwise silenced.

Leanne Barron & Donna Chung

Leanne is CEO of Starick, a specialist FDV service operating in the south east corridor of Perth.

Donna Chung is Professor of Social Work at Curtin University and has published extensively on FDV.

Both speakers are passionate about improving service responses for children

Tilting responses to intervene early for children

The patterns of coercive control used by perpetrators of FDV often mean that women accessing FDV services do not have a regular General Practitioner or access maternal child health or related services. This can mean that their children are not receiving regular checks and that any developmental issues are not being identified.
At the same time we know that children growing up in homes where their fathers use coercive control and violence are highly vulnerable, experiencing negative impacts across social, emotional, developmental and health domains.
This presentation will outline a project by Curtin University School of Allied Health and Starick to bring children more clearly into view by developing a multi disciplinary early intervention model for children in refuge accommodation and post refuge to address the impacts of FDV and support their short and long term health and well-being.
The project is funded by the Department of Local Government Sport and Cultural Industries and will run for 2.5 years. The presentation will reflect on learnings from the first 6 months.
Key elements of the model are:
• A formal partnership between Curtin and Starick focused on early intervention for children currently residing in or recently exited Starick’s refuges
• A community of practice ‘hub’ where women and children are able to access allied health and social work services in a supportive and familiar environment
• Early identification of social, emotional, developmental and health issues for children and develops service and program responses
• Placement, practice and research opportunities for students in Social Work, Occupational Therapy and Speech Pathology.
• Builds the knowledge base of FDV staff working in refuges and outreach
• Builds the knowledge base of Social Work, Occupational Health and Speech Pathology disciplines and practitioners about FDV and its impacts
• Builds the evidence base about effective service and program responses

Robyn Antenucci – Director Children, Families and Communities Communicare – has a passion for social justice and creating lasting social change that improves the lives of the most vulnerable children, young people and families.

Her commitment to addressing the needs of people and communities has seen Robyn develop extensive experience in the areas of child protection, family and domestic violence, housing and homelessness, family law and child safeguarding, both in Western Australia and the United Kingdom.

Prior to joining Communicare, Robyn spent 10 years working in high profile strategic management and policy reform roles across various Government agencies.

Robyn is also a member of the WA branch of the Australian Association of Social Workers and co-convener of their Social Policy Practice Committee. She has completed a Graduate Certificate in Public Sector Management and a Bachelor of Social Work.

Heidi Holmen – Coodinator Social Inclusion Communicare  Heidi Holmen currently works for Communicare as the Coordinator- Social Inclusion. Heidi currently oversees a number of services including Communities for Children – Armadale which includes the Community Dimensions Project. Heidi holds a Bachelor of Social Science and has worked in a range of diverse portfolios including Family, Youth, Prison based, Aboriginal, Early Years, and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Services for over 25 years.   

Steve Soames is an educator with over 30 years teaching and leadership experience in public schools both in the UK and Australia. He has devoted his career to working in school communities serving disadvantaged children and families. Early in his career, Steve developed his skill set in working with children with trauma. He spent eight years teaching in a Nurture Group, a specialist, early-intervention class for children with developmental trauma and attachment difficulties. Steve spent two years seconded to a government regeneration program facilitating community formulation of a strategic plan for lifelong learning. Before migrating to Western Australia, Steve was Deputy Principal at a specialist school for children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.Steve spent six years in remote community schools in WA as teacher, deputy and principal. In 2011, he became principal at Westfield Park Primary School where he has worked with staff to develop strategies and interventions that are inclusive and community focused. Over the last decade, Steve and his staff have refined a school culture that is trauma responsive, provides a robust and engaging curriculum for children as well as establishing co-location of community services and strong interagency partnerships for families.

Maryteresa Higgins is a Qualified Social Worker with a master’s degree in Social Work (MSW), and Hons Bachelor’s degree in social science ( BSocSc) both attained from University College Cork Ireland.

I have been in employed as a Therapeutic Social Worker at Westfield Park Primary School for a period of 9 years. During my time at Westfield Park Primary School, I have developed and facilitated many therapeutic interventions for children and families attending the School. 

In 2020, I developed and facilitated a therapeutic intervention for parents and children that have a lived experience of FDV as part of the partnership with Communities for Children  ‘ Through their eyes- Partnering with schools in a therapeutic approach to understanding the impact of family domestic violence on children.  I am currently employed part time as a Social Worker in the Department of Health, Child Development Services in Armadale.

Through Their Eyes – Understanding the Impact of Family Violence Co-design Project

Communities for Children (CfC) Armadale supports early intervention and prevention programs aimed at assisting families with children aged 0 to 12 years, with the key objective of keeping children safe from abuse and neglect.

The Through Their Eyes project was a collective impact aimed at keeping children in Armadale safe from abuse and neglect and underpinned by the Collective Impact framework. Extensive consultations with the community since 2015 developed a shared agenda for change which prioritised keeping children safe. Armadale has one of the highest number of children in care in Western Australia and it is vital to turn this around. Communities for Children brought together the community, government and other stakeholders to work collectively towards system change to achieve better outcomes for children and families. 

In April 2019, a family violence primary prevention community campaign was identified as one of the key ‘circuit breaker initiatives’ to demonstrate the hypothesis that collective action on issues in the community would yield better results than organisations working in isolation. Keeping children safe from abuse and neglect is a big issue, but the ‘circuit breakers’ were smaller ideas that could be implemented right now to change a small part of the issue.  

Key achievements: Through Their Eyes – Understanding the Impact of Family Violence Co-design Project – The development of a partnership with a local primary school to better understand and communicate the impact of family violence on children. The therapeutic group sessions led to the development of art and creative pieces which communicated the impact family violence had on the participating children. The most significant achievement of this approach was the benefits to the children who participated.  This process also reiterated the power of the voices, words and art of children in addressing subjects that can be seen as too difficult for them. The art and words of these children were used as the basis of a community campaign with a number of posters disseminated to local shop owners and community agencies as part of CfC’s March Against Family Violence (Armadale) in which over 200 people attended

Danielle Harris 

Danielle Arlanda Harris, PhD is the Deputy Director-Research of the Griffith Youth Forensic Service (GYFS) and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University. She has published more than 25 articles and book chapters and has given over 50 presentations at international conferences. Her research examines sexual aggression through a developmental and life course perspective, examining onset, specialization and versatility, desistance, and related public policy. Her study of civilly committed sex offenders in Massachusetts was funded by the Guggenheim Foundation and she received a grant from the California Sex Offender Management Board for a statewide survey of community supervision practices. She recently received the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology (ANZSOC) Christine M Alder Book Award for her first book, Desistance from Sexual Offending.

Adverse Childhood Experiences in Adjudicated Youth

This study replicates recent work by Levenson et al., (2017) and Hall et al., (2018) to provide a cultural comparison of self-reported Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in a sample of 470 Australian adolescents adjudicated for sexual offences. Our results indicate a high prevalence of physical and emotional abuse and neglect, chaotic family life, and parental mental health challenges when compared to similar samples internationally. The Griffith Youth Forensic Service explicitly prioritizes those cases who are identified to be high risk and high need. Although these results are somewhat unsurprising, the sheer magnitude and frequency of these ACE scores is cause for concern. Unlike previous examinations of ACEs, we also explore the differential impact of experiencing trauma in multiple categories and situations and describe the implications of cumulative trauma for our sample, and for the community more broadly. Finally, we explore the nature and extent of ACEs over time by examining the temporal ordering of these experiences at an individual level. This longitudinal perspective allows for a particularly rich understanding of a person’s childhood development than traditional cross-sectional level data can.

Nicole Lambert

Nicci is the CEO of Allambee the specialist Sexual Violence and Family and Domestic Violence therapeutic service in the Peel region. As a Counselling Psychologist over the past 20 years Nicci has worked across various specialist areas including sexual and family violence, child protection, alcohol and other drugs, and tertiary education. She is a committed advocate for sexual and family violence prevention and is the current Vice Chair of the National Association for Services Against Sexual Violence, Co-Chair of the WA Sexual Violence Expert Advisory Group; and Chair of the Peel Says Not to Violence Alliance. 

Navigating consent in the context of young relationships

Why do we need to talk specifically about young people and sexual violence? Recent data indicates that violence against women is more prevalent among young women.  Young women in the 18-24 age group are the most likely to have experienced violence in the past 12 months and experience sexual violence at twice the national average (ABS, 2017b). 

Adolescence and young adulthood are critical stages in development where gender identities, roles and relationship patterns are consolidated.  Equipping young people with knowledge about gender equality, gender roles and healthy relationship practices is essential if we are to create a future that is free from violence against women.  But is education enough? Knowledge while essential, does not always translate into action and on its own is not sufficient to create real change. This is particularly important when considering the concept of sexual consent. 

Consent is widely understood as an essential element of respectful relationship education however the concept of consent in practice is far more complex than it seems. There has also been increasing recognition of the need to better define the concept of sexual consent to reflect the requirement to actively seek consent. This is an important development and is something that should be addressed when educating young people to ensure they clearly understand what seeking and providing consent actually looks like. 

It is also necessary to recognise the complexities of negotiating sexual consent in the context of young people’s relationships.  The current context for young people presents many barriers to creating change in attitudes and behaviour. Contemporary narratives around gender, the unmitigated rise of social media, use of dating apps and the increasing prevalence of pornography all present unique challenges for young people as they navigate sexual relationships.  So, in addition to developing knowledge, it is imperative that we also explore ways to better equip our young people with the skills they need to negotiate consent in their sexual relationships.