Domestic violence training for community and religious leaders

Community and religious leaders will be empowered to respond to domestic and family violence through a new training program to begin next month.

Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Mark Speakman said the accredited course, run by TAFE NSW, will give participants the tools and resources to help people who seek their guidance.

Mr Speakman said the training aimed to strengthen victim support while encouraging increased reporting across the state.

“Multicultural communities and those who’ve recently emigrated to NSW will often look to local community or religious leaders as a first point of contact about a range of issues, including potential domestic abuse,” Mr Speakman said.

“It’s hoped this training will make a significant difference for those who face many barriers to reporting violence in the home, or may even struggle to identify it in the first place.

“This is particularly important in the current COVID-19 climate where frontline domestic violence services have reported increases in the number of victims seeking support. Empowering leaders in the community means victim-survivors have more avenues for help.

“Educated with the right information and the skills to recognise abuse in different forms means leaders may be able to provide that vital support to survivors for the first time and, ultimately, help ensure that people get the crucial help they need in times of crisis.”

Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education and Acting Minister for Multiculturalism Geoff Lee said community and religious leaders are recognised and respected voices who will now be better equipped to support victims who seek their help.

“They can help promote healthy relationships and encourage perpetrators to change their behaviour and help victims seek the appropriate services and support,” Mr Lee said.

“The initial response when a disclosure is made can heavily affect the outcome for victims – so this training could very well save lives.”

Sikh community leader Harinder Kaur said community and religious leaders are an important part of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities’ and migrants’ lives, and community members trust them.

“If community and religious leaders educate themselves about the current complexities of domestic and family violence, they can give community members practical solutions and link them to the right services, while supporting them spiritually,” Ms Kaur said.

The sessions will cover topics including awareness training of what constitutes domestic violence, ‘accidental counselling’, managing vicarious trauma, child protection and reporting responsibilities, as well as safety assessment skills. Referral information and other resources will also be provided for ongoing practical support.

There will be four two-day courses (three in metropolitan areas and one in regional NSW) with a maximum of 25 leaders on each course.

The courses complement awareness training already delivered by the NSW Government’s Diversity Services team, which have reached 170 leaders between October 2018 and June this year. This new course is more detailed and rigorous, and participants will be presented with a certificate at completion.

The free ‘COVID-safe’ training is open to any recognised religious or community leader who works within NSW.

The first session will start on Wednesday, 7 October at the TAFE St George Campus, with the remaining sessions expected to run by July next year.

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