All workplaces have a role in supporting victims of domestic violence


What role can workplaces play in addressing the problem of domestic violence? This was one of the questions posed by Walkley Award-winning investigative journalist Jess Hill, who delivered the Anna McPhee Memorial Oration on Diversity & Inclusion this week.


Winner of the 2020 Stella Prize for her book See What You Made Me Do - a landmark text about Australia’s domestic and family violence and abuse epidemic that was adapted into an SBS TV series, Jess was speaking in Melbourne to members of Diversity Council Australia which included Women on Boards’ COO Nicole Donegan. 

“I came away with a far deeper understanding of the role that workplaces have in identifying and helping victims of domestic violence. Jess’s excellent oration explained the different forms of domestic violence, including the often invisible, yet highly prevalent ‘coercive control’," said Nicole.

Coercive controllers isolate their victims, deprive them of basic needs and micro-manage their behaviour, with clear consequences for breaking those rules. They may threaten the kids or threaten/harm the family pet.

“Jess shared the story of a survivor whose only contact with the outside world had been when she was at work. Her manager had a feeling that something wasn’t right and would check in with her daily.

Clockwise from top left: Jess Hill gives the oration; WOB's NIcole Donegan; (l-r) DCA CEO Lisa Annese, David Nugent, Jess Hill, Professor Marcia Langton AO, Commonwealth Bank's Sian Lewis, DCA Chair Ming Long AM.

“She spoke about the importance this type of bystander intervention and how it is a process that can be long and requires you to be inquisitive and ask questions like “how are things at home” or “we’re checking in every day at 9am and if you’re not here I am calling 000”. By building a relationship, this manager was able to build trust over time and provide support when the victim really needed it.”

The key messages Nicole took away from the oration were:

  1. Most of us are likely to know someone who is a victim of domestic violence/coercive control. It’s a matter of looking out for the signs.

  2. Often the workplace is the only place that victims have contact with the outside world. So the role of the workplace is vital.

  3. We ALL have a role to play in our workplaces and it’s up to each of us to be alert for the signs.

  4. If you see the signs you need to be proactive– be sensitive, but don’t sit back. Ask questions, build trust.

In her speech, Jess highlighted the complexities of domestic and family violence and abuse.

“We don’t have to wait for victims to speak up to say something. We don’t have to wait for Government to devise policies to end gendered violence,” she said. “It is up to each and every one of us. The question I want to leave you with today is, ‘What are you going to do with the power you have?’”

MC and DCA Chair, Ming Long AM, was joined by Jess on stage with guest speakers Sian Lewis (Group Executive Human Resources, Commonwealth Bank), Psychotherapist and men’s behaviour family violence specialist, David Nugent, and the University of Melbourne’s Professor Marcia Langton AO.

The Anna McPhee Memorial Oration honours the contribution of the late Anna McPhee, DCA’s former Chair and a passionate advocate for diversity and equal opportunity.

Latest newsRSS