BALLARAT Health Services chief Dale Fraser says as the biggest employer in the Central Highlands, his organisation has a responsibility to help change conversations on gender equality in town.
White female silhouettes cling to a central window in BHS Base Hospital's Gardiner-Pittard foyer to represent the 52 women killed by an intimate partner through violence in Australia this year.
The startling display is part of a worldwide 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence. It reinforces the importance of BHS staff in knowing how to best identify warning signs for family violence - and the approach to start conversations with patients.
Mr Fraser said the issue goes right down to getting the right hospital workplace culture and the ripple effects this could have on the wider community and region.
Bad behaviour is bad behaviour and we should have the courage to call it out.Dale Fraser, Ballarat Health Services chief executive officer
"Men are predominantly perpetrators in family violence. While some men may get quite uncomfortable about those ads on (television) where guys call their mate out for how he is talking, men have a big role to play on the issue. Bad behaviour is bad behaviour and we should have the courage to call it out," Mr Fraser said.
"About 80 per cent of BHS workforce is female, about 80 per cent of senior leadership here is female, we've got a female leading the board (Natalie Reiter) and I've got women on the executive. We've got a role to play in promoting women to be strong leaders as well. Men are not the sole keepers of all knowledge - good people make good decisions."
A Tree of Hope in the Gardiner-Pittard foyer has allowed BHS staff, patients and visitors a chance to write messages of support for women experiencing family violence. Leaves, filled with messages, were presented to WRISC chief executive Libby Jewson on Tuesday, the 16th day of activism and International Day of Human Rights.
The campaign aimed to reiterate family violence was a health issue.
"It doesn't help to not talk about these things...For those women who have died, there are many more injured and this can be physical or emotional," Mr Fraser said.
"As a health service we need to make sure we support our staff, often who are the first point of contact for women in talking. It may be an unconnected visit to hospital, it may be a mum looking after her child in the children's ward, but we need to support staff in making people aware of their choices."
BHS has been part of the Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family Violence project the past two years under a recommendation from the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Awareness and support in BHS extends to satellite health services in Ballan, Maryborough, Stawell, Ararat, Beaufort and St Arnaud.
Ms Jewson said isolation and access to support services was a particular challenge for women experiencing family violence in small regional towns. Confidentiality was another potential for compromising a women.
This was a key reason Ms Jewson said strong partnership were vital, a factor University of Melbourne public health champion Rob Moodie had long advised.
"In public health social change happens because people are working together, it doesn't happen any other way," Ms Jewson said.
In public health social change happens because people are working together, it doesn't happen any other way.Libby Jewson, WRISC executive officer
BHS has delivered training and resources for staff to confidently identify family violence warning signs, how to respond in a sensitive manner and to refer women to an appropriate support service, like WRISC.
Ms Jewson said a big part of this was learning the language and common family violence terms.
Violence against women is any act of gender-based violence that causes or could cause physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of harm or coercion, in public or in private life, according to national campaign body Our Watch. This includes economic and emotional abuse.
Ballarat Superintendent Jenny Wilson told The Courier last week she believed family violence remained under-reported in the region, particularly in rural areas and small towns. This was despite a statistical decrease in reports of family violence in Ballarat the past year. Superintendent Wilson said it was important to build public confidence in police when reporting these matters.
Meanwhile, Australian sexual discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins, speaking in Ballarat last week, told The Courier there was a desire for workplace culture improvement on gender equity - but the big question from most workplaces was in how to best achieve this.
Ms Jenkins said it was vital to recognise culture was not about one or two "bad men" creating trouble but sexual discrimination was a broader workplace issue.
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