How the City of Melbourne is working to reduce domestic violence

Nancy Pierorazio outlines the steps the council has taken to prevent violence against women.

In 2013, the City of Melbourne developed its first Preventing Violence Against Women (PVAW) Strategy and action plan, which guided our work in the primary prevention and early intervention space. Actions included the development of workplace policies and procedures to promote gender equity, prevent violence against women, and respond to family violence and sexual harassment. We worked with partners to develop guidelines for reporting sexist advertising, and designing women-friendly venues and events.

We’ve also developed fact sheets on promoting respect and equity among children within preschools and increased representation of women in public art and street names. We’ve empowered women to talk about places in our city where they feel safety could be improved. We’ve also supported and funded a number of not-for-profit organisations to deliver their own PVAW programs and activities.

In 2018, Melbourne City Council endorsed a Statement of Commitment to Gender Equality.

What instigated this work in your council?

In 2012, the City of Melbourne became a White Ribbon City, and our councillors committed to preventing VAW in our municipality. This enabled us to consult widely with the community about the role council should play in this space and to develop a PVAW strategy and four-year action plan. CoM continues to allocate significant funding annually to deliver on this commitment.

In 2015, our former CEO became a male champion of change and pledged to promote gender equity within the workplace by creating opportunities for women at the leadership level, ensuring equity in speakers at conferences, and introducing a parental leave policy and work flexibility policy to encourage men and women to share caring duties.   

What challenges has your council faced in undertaking this work?

We’ve had some resistance and backlash from men’s groups and individuals who contest the accuracy of data around women’s experience of violence and the need to focus our efforts on women. This has not hindered us from carrying out this important work.

Have you noticed any promising signs of impact of this work?

City of Melbourne staff and a diverse range of individuals and groups in our community are more aware of the harmful impacts of family violence. They understand the links between VAW and gender inequality. Since the introduction of our workplace policies and procedures, more CoM staff are taking up work flexibility, family violence leave and parental leave.

What do you think is the role of local councils in the prevention of violence against women?

Listen to and understand community needs and issues. Raise awareness of the impacts of VAW and the role we can play individually and collectively. Empower the community to create change within their sphere of influence through seed funding and grants.

What is your advice to other local councils looking to prevent violence against women in their community?

Identify and work in partnership with champions in your organisation, women’s health agencies and other interested groups. Focus on upskilling staff within your organisation to recognise, respond and be active bystanders to violence against women.

Nancy Pierorazio is Senior Policy Officer, City Safety, City of Melbourne Council.

ALGA’s Local Roads & Transport Congress will feature a discussion on how councils can change the story of violence against women in local communities using the Prevention toolkit for local government.