SA council cuts through with arts-based domestic violence project


Working collaboratively in the domestic and family violence prevention space was not new to the City of Charles Sturt. We had been working solidly with our local community, neighbouring councils and peak bodies to better the lives of women and children in our western region of Adelaide for the previous five years.

When we were approached by the Department of Social Services to be the South Australian representative in a toolkit trial specifically for local government in 2018-19, we accepted the invitation and were eager to assist.

We set up a staff working group and began planning our approach. It was important for us that we undertook a two-pronged approach. Firstly, gaining support from Leadership and our Elected Members to work internally with staff across all portfolios, and secondly to work dynamically with our local communities and providers.

Internally, we undertook gender audits and surveys around unpacking staff’s perceptions of gender equality. We introduced a series of guest speakers to provide further understanding to our staff and Elected Members on what is domestic and family violence and how we can prevent it. We taught staff what to do if we or someone around us was experiencing domestic and family violence.

Externally, we focused on the 16 Days of Activism working with our community partners, including our Western Adelaide Violence Against Women Collaboration, to create a series of projects to highlight primary prevention in our region.

A key arts-based project; the Act of Love involved 12 artists painting portraits of local community members affected by domestic and family violence. The portraits were part of a larger story that was documented in a short film.

The film gave real-life accounts of the impacts of domestic and family violence and was very powerful. The portraits were gifted to the sitter at the exhibition’s end, becoming the ultimate “Act of Love”.

Charles Sturt council’s use of the arts as entry points to raise awareness about the impacts of domestic and family violence has been very successful as a form of community capacity building.

The project resulted in the formation of friendships between participants, and the production of a collection that could be exhibited more widely, thus multiplying the impact of the project.

Vesna Rozman is the social inclusion coordinator at the City of Charles Sturt. She will join Our Watch, a national leader of primary prevention of violence against women and their children, to discuss the Prevention toolkit for local government at ALGA’s Local Roads & Transport Congress.