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Featured Leader: Asha Bhat on cultivating a Culture of Respect as a Preventive Measure Against Family Violence

3 min read
Family Violence

At the forefront of championing diversity and community well-being, the Southern Aboriginal Corporation (SAC), under the visionary leadership of Asha Bhat, has been making significant strides in addressing the unique needs and aspirations of the Noongar people.  

Since its inception, SAC has been a beacon of empowerment, employing a holistic approach to provide essential services and programs in collaboration with various community and business organizations. 

Third Sector News interviewed Asha Bhat OAM, Chief Executive Officer at Southern Aboriginal Corporation on how we as a community promote a culture of respect and healthy relationships in Australia to help prevent family and domestic violence and child abuse in Australia. 

Asha works extensively in the Family Domestic Violence sector, leading a professional and culturally appropriate team that implements a housing program and the Family Violence Prevention Legal Service (FVPLS).

1. What role can education and awareness play in preventing family and domestic violence and child abuse in Australia?  

Education and awareness play a pivotal role for community members to have a better understanding of violence against women and what drives this violence. Specifically, in targeted settings, the intended outcomes are that individuals are more willing and better equipped to challenge gender stereotypes and roles, and individuals have an improved understanding of positive, equal, and respectful relationships. 

2. What are the lasting effects of abuse or violence on children, and how can society enhance their healing and well-being?  

In the work that Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLSs) do in our communities, we see how family violence is both a cause and consequence of Aboriginal women’s imprisonment. Family violence is a key contributor to Aboriginal women becoming the fastest-growing prison population in the nation. Over 90 per cent of Aboriginal women in prison have experienced family and sexual violence, approximately 80 per cent of Aboriginal women in prison are mothers and their children most likely are caught up in the children protection system. It is a clear pathway for Aboriginal children to move into youth justice and adult incarceration. We take a holistic approach to help vulnerable women and children regain their economic, social, cultural, and civil rights. 

3. How can we promote a culture of respect and healthy relationships in Australia to help prevent these issues from occurring in the first place?

Southern Aboriginal Corporation provides a safe space using art and craft to discuss thoughts and feelings surrounding ‘What does a Healthy Relationship look like?’ The Healthy Relationships program was developed to provide a safe cultural space with appropriate content to deliver material in a way that is gentle and respectful to the sensitive matter so as not to invoke anxiety surrounding the topic of FDV.  Our program includes increasing the awareness of FDV issues and providing culturally appropriate guidance and language surrounding behaviours within relationships, not only male-female relationships, also relationships within the families, friends, and the broader community. 

4. What legislative or systemic changes do you believe are necessary to address these issues more effectively and protect vulnerable individuals?  

A historical preference for non-Aboriginal organisations to receive funding to provide services to Aboriginal people, despite not being Aboriginal controlled and often without understanding the culture, history and trauma of the Aboriginal people in the regions they operate, is problematic. For many years the specialist FDV sector has been actively involved in identifying and addressing the challenges of intersectionality when working with both the victims and perpetrators of FDV. However, to transition this work into the wider service system, it is necessary to bring together a range of sectors to participate in a discussion around the intersection of FDV and other areas of specialty. I hope this National Safety Forum will provide that platform to build that relationship with service providers. 

Asha Bhat is a part of Third Sector’s National Family Safety Summit. Industry experts, policymakers, advocates, and community members, who are committed to creating a safer environment for families nationwide, will come together to explore strategies for building a safer and more compassionate community. Register now 

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Menchie Khairuddin is a writer Deputy Content Manager at Akolade and content producer for Third Sector News. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.


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