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    Primary prevention: the role local governments play

    Violence against women is an issue that affects all communities across Australia.

    The impacts of violence against women are felt by families, workplaces, communities and the economy, and include a range of consequences on mortality rates, employment, housing, and physical and mental health of women and their children and men.

    Violence against women in the community also contributes to an environment of fear, perceived lack of safety and self-limiting behaviours of women.

    As the closest level of government to the community, local governments are uniquely placed to influence and drive social change to reduce violence against women through existing partnerships, networks and structures.

    Local governments shape attitudes, culture and norms through employment, service provision, procurement, planning and local initiatives. They are also in touch with people across their life span, from their early years to their senior years. They interact with a range of community groups, including people with different religious and cultural backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and other minority and majority communities.

    Where to start

    Here are some tips to help your council get started:  

    Engage leaders across local government: to promote and encourage others to act to increase gender equality in the workplace. 

    Build support in addressing the issue: develop a cross organisational, gender-balanced working group inside local government to act to increase gender equality in the workplace. A steering committee that includes diverse community members may be a good option to help guide activities targeting the community. 

    Assess the policy context: learn more about relevant state and national plans and strategies that address gender equality and prevention of violence against women, and try to align with them.  

    Work in partnership with domestic and family violence services, prevention agencies, specialist community organisations and other community services: develop partnerships with relevant agencies and services to discuss what prevention activities could work in the community. 

    Get your own house in order: before commencing primary prevention activities within the community, it is important to ensure that council’s workplace cultures, policies and practice demonstrate equality and respect. Be  prepared to look into the prevalence of gender inequality, sexism and sexual harassment within your workplace. Note that incidents of sexual harassment are often unreported, and therefore official complaints of sexual harassment are not a good indicator of the status of sexual harassment within the organisation.   

    Communicate consistently about violence against women: become involved in national, state, regional and local awareness-raising events and use well known campaign material to keep the messages consistent. 

    Investigate what activities and materials other local governments are using: when looking at pre-existing material and programs consider how these resources might need to be adapted to the needs of your communities. Also look for activities that have been evaluated to assess the level of success. 

    Facilitate activities that are led by violence against women prevention services: organise domestic and family violence organisations to facilitate workshops and forums for your workforce and the community using local government facilities. 

    Develop an understanding of risks and benefits of preventing violence against women work: start by considering what your local government’s end goals will be. This could be done when establishing a monitoring and evaluation process. Understand what your risks could be and manage them accordingly.

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    Next step

    The business case for local government

    Supported by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.