The Sutherland Shire Domestic Violence Committee (SSDVC), of which Sutherland Shire Family Services are a lead Agency,  today brought together over 50 local faith leaders in a groundbreaking local event designed to improve education, workshop responses, and to develop solutions that will help provide victims of domestic and family violence with consistent responses while driving down incident rates in the Sutherland Shire.

 The Committee, a collective of local professionals from both government and non-government service providers, aims to raise awareness of domestic and family violence, and to reinforce messages about positive behaviours and social norms rejecting violence against women and children. They are also committed to increasing awareness about local support and services available to women and children in order to increase their safety.

Funded by a local community grant from Sutherland Shire Council, the event brought together representatives from various religious organisations to share strategies and tap into community resources to address domestic violence within the community.

The day saw faith leaders addressed by Attorney General, Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Member for Cronulla Mark Speakman, Sgt Lee Buttel, Sutherland Shire Domestic Violence Coordinator, and Amber Schacht, the LoveBites (Domestic Violence Awareness) Program Co-ordinator, who shared how to recognise the signs of domestic violence and how religious and community leaders can respond effectively to a disclosure about violence.

“Reducing domestic violence is a key priority for the Premier and the NSW Government. We are investing $431 million over four years to crack down on violence in the home, better protect victims and hold perpetrators to account. But tackling this epidemic is a team effort and that’s why we need to work together as a community to make a difference and ultimately, help save lives.”

Danny Mikati, a specialist DV Trainer & Facilitator, led an engaging interactive session, sharing and eliciting stories from the audience and rallying Service Providers to better support Faith Leaders. This was an incredibly insightful and productive forum, with all participants taking away some great information, and connections from the session. 

 “Faith leaders have a responsibility to help people in need and this forum will allow us to find ways to improve support for people who are facing violence in the home,” Belinda Harrison, Chair of the Committee, and Practice Manager at Sutherland Shire Family Services said. 

Research from the Australian National University* shows that while domestic violence is common in faith communities, it was rarely spoken about as it is considered a private, family issue. The participants in the study thought that this contributed to a generally low awareness and understanding of the issue.

Harrison said. “The forum will provide the opportunity for developing relationships between faith communities and agencies working with Domestic and Family Violence to increase the capacity of faith communities to address and prevent Domestic Violence.”