BEL shines a light on domestic violence victims

27 Jun 2016

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, an estimated one in six women in the Australian workforce has experienced domestic violence.

To help put a stop to this pervasive issue, The University of Queensland Faculty of Business, Economics and Law (BEL) partnered with the RSPCA Queensland and DVConnect to a host a Domestic Violence Awareness Luncheon on Tuesday 31 May.

The sold-out event focused on the role of organisations to support victims of domestic violence, raising over $22,000 for the RSPCA Queensland’s Pets in Crisis program.

The speaker line-up featured three inspirational BEL alumni: Julie McKay, Gender Advisor to the Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Zoe Black, Business Partnerships at RSPCA Queensland, and Di Mangan, CEO of DVConnect.

In her speech, Ms McKay highlighted how workplaces can best support domestic violence victims.

“Managers and supervisors should recognise that domestic violence is a workplace issue because of the sheer number of employees who are affected by domestic violence,” she said.

“Workplaces can assist victims by creating clear DV policies and ensuring senior staff have the knowledge and skills to support employees affected by violence.

 “Support can include providing additional paid leave, adjusting work hours or location and referring an employee who is experiencing violence to relevant support services.”

Ms McKay also addressed the importance of advancing gender equality in the workplace.   

“Often, we let sexist jokes and comments slide – but we shouldn’t,” she said.

 “If we tolerate this behaviour, we’re normalising it and allowing views about gender inequality, power and control to be perpetuated. As a community, we need to be clear about where the lines are, and call out behaviour that is derogatory or demeaning to women."

Ms McKay offered her advice on how bystanders can help potential domestic violence victims.

“If you’re in public and you see something concerning, you might be able to defuse the situation by making those involved aware that they’re being watched,” she said.

“Ask them something innocuous such as the time or if you can borrow their phone. More often than not they will stop what they’re doing to respond to you. 

“It’s not a permanent solution but it can help to diffuse an escalation in that moment.”

After Ms McKay spurred the audience into action, the room was visibly moved by Ms Black’s personal account of a violent relationship – and her warning that it can happen to anyone.

“I was raised by a loving and supportive family who gave me every opportunity to succeed,” she said.

“But domestic violence doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter what kind of background, education or childhood you have.

“This can happen to people working in a corporate environment as I was at that time.”

BEL Faculty Executive Dean Professor Iain Watson said the event was a resounding success.

“It was an excellent example of the Faculty’s connectivity with the community on important issues,” he said.

“All three speakers were BEL alumni and spoke eloquently, personally and passionately about domestic violence and how organisations play a key role in supporting victims.”

The event closed with an auction, where all bids were matched by Professor Peter Høj, UQ’s Vice-Chancellor and President. Proceeds from the auction will support the Pets in Crisis program.

The Pets in Crisis program is a joint initiative of the RSPCA and DVConnect and provides emergency shelter for beloved pets of domestic violence victims while they seek refuge. If you would like to donate to the program, please visit the website.

The lunch was filmed by the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services for their Not Now, Not Ever campaign.View the campaign video below.