Improving respect and conditions for the “invisible” workforce tackling domestic and family violence will be the subject of intensive examination by Flinders University researchers, thanks to the latest round of Australian Research Council grants.
Professor Sarah Wendt and Dr Kate Seymour from Flinders University’s College of Education, Psychology and Social Work, with Associate Professor Kristin Natalier from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, will study ways to strengthen Australia’s Domestic and Family Violence Workforce.
This $275,000 Discovery Project Grant (DP210101214) aims to generate evidence-based research on the nature of work within the domestic and family violence (DFV) sector, and outline implications for the DFV workforce across victim, perpetrator and Aboriginal specialist services.
Professor Wendt is delighted that this research project will shine a light on the specialist knowledge and specific workplace challenges facing these forgotten frontline workers.
“While Australia has shown good national leadership on forming strong policies about domestic and family violence, we still know very little detailed, researched and specific information about the workforce responsible for working at the front line of this sector,” says Professor Wendt, leader of SWIRLS (the Social Work Innovation Research Living Space) at Flinders University.
“This workforce has been invisible for a long time. It has grown out of a volunteer grassroots movement, so it is now long overdue to validate the specialised work that this sector does.”
Professor Wendt says the way this new project will be conducted is also a significant development, as the researchers will obtain and process a vast amount of detailed information from an array of women’s shelters, Aboriginal shelters, and perpetrator services.
“We will be spending an intense amount of time with workers in their workplace, to drawn together extensive qualitative research. We want to obtain a very rich picture about this workforce very quickly.”
Professor Wendt says expected outcomes from the study will include workforce development strategies that best respond to the needs of DFV work.
The evidence-based research will also provide a better path for professional development within the existing workforce, and ultimately help to ensure a sustainable and highly skilled workforce.
“Having formal research recognising the specialist knowledge of the people who work in the DVF workforce will boost this sector by underlining its professional expertise in a highly sensitive and difficult area,” says Professor Wendt.
“Due recognition and respect will lift efficiency within the workforce, and this will help to stabalise the sector. By recognising the professionalism of the DVF workforce, it will attract the very best applicants to become the next generation of front-line workers to address domestic and family violence.”
This new ARC-funded study continues evidence-based research into domestic and family violence issues that Professor Wendt and the SWIRLS team at Flinders University have focused on in recent years, including a pivotal report identifying how to effectively engage and work with men who use violence in their relationships, constructed with the support of ANROWS (Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety) and Uniting Communities.