Happy International Women’s Day 2014, and thank you to all the women who have inspired me, motivated me and informed me. Together we do better.

Last week I wrote an article for South West Victoria’s online magazine Bluestone. My article asked readers to consider how we view domestic violence in comparison to how we view random acts of violence against strangers. I believe that we have quite a long way to go before – as a community – we see domestic violence as a serious crime worthy of all the media attention and community outrage that other forms of violence attract.

The theme for 2014 IWD is “Equality for women is progress for all” and until we actually understand the meaning of equality, and take meaningful action towards achieving it the inequality women and girls continue to experience will mean that they continue to be at risk of, or a victim of gender based violence. Violence against women is both a cause and an effect of inequality, and this is where we must direct our ongoing efforts. We continue to respond to women in crisis and we continue our efforts to prevent all forms of violence against women and girls but we must also pay attention to gender inequality as the root cause of gender based violence.

Here in south west Victoria I will be working with other feminists to take action on gender inequality, prevention of VAW and organising for IWD in 2015. Because we still need to.

Australia just lost its first female prime minister, Julia Gillard. She didn’t lose at election, rather she was forced to call a leadership ballot and then did not win it. The man she beat 3 years and 3 days ago in the same way, Kevin Rudd, successfully concluded his bitter, undermining and downright vengeful campaign to be reinstated as this country’s prime minister for the last 77 days leading to the election on September 14. Yep, democracy. Yep, factional politics. All that, but in the end, difficult not to conclude that it was nothing but a personal vendetta simmering then boiling on flames fanned by Australia’s media.

Much has been written, much has been said about the state of Australia, and how immature we are to be unable to cope with a woman PM, a strong Labour woman and how misogyny is rife. I don’t disagree at all. But I want to say how how it feels. because I am a little shocked about the extent of my feelings about this.

I think am going through empathy overload. Closely related to outrage overload. I feel despair and grief in inverse proportion to the joy and optimism I felt when three years ago, Julia Gillard became the first woman Prime Minister we have ever had. Sure, I have been disappointed in her sometimes (she opposed gay marriage), and downright angry (Australia’s shameful treatment of asylum seekers, cutting financial support to single mothers) but I have also been proud, moved and fist-pumpingly energised (that misogyny speech). I also just liked seeing a woman being in the top job. And I liked seeing all those terrific women in cabinet (some of whom voted against Julia in the spill). Julia gave Australia our first female Attorney-General. I liked my daughter seeing women in the top jobs. I liked that politics looked somewhat gender-balanced, and it just looked…well… normal.

I feel like I have been cheated, and in some way violated by what has happened. Last Wednesday night watching the coverage of the leadership spill unfold, I felt anger, fear and real sorrow. Texts, tweets and Facebook messages between friends during the unfolding events confirmed that we all felt the same way. We were using words like “heartbroken”, “heartsick”, “grieving”, “sad” and “outraged”. We were feeling our own pain, but we were also feeling Julia’s pain, hence the empathy overload. I felt, and still feel to some degree, so weighed down by it, that I can’t bear to listen to the news or watch television coverage, while at the same time, I am desperate to know everything, every detail, so follow brilliant commentators on Twitter and put my own rants on Facebook. This is helpful, and validating, and a bit healing.

I have strong, long-held personal values of justice and fairness. Those values guide my work to end violence against women, guide the decisions I make about what work I do, what causes I support, what barricades I go to, and who I vote for. For me, I know I am deeply affected by this because its about the injustice of it all, the pure unfairness.

Welcome to my new website. The “Daring Greatly” part of the title is the name of a book I am currently reading. Dr Brené Brown researches, writes and speaks about courage, vulnerability and shame. Beautifully. I have spent the last month or so re-working my website and have been grateful for the insights I have gained from her work. Re-working the website has required me to transcend vulnerability and find courage as I re-wrote the copy in a voice that more resembled my own. I needed courage as I wrote things about myself. I needed courage as I noticed my own avoidance behaviour. I needed courage when I asked for feedback on an early draft. I needed courage when I costed out my coaching program. I needed courage to publish despite feeling that it isn’t ‘perfect’. All the vulnerability scripts are there – not good enough, who cares about me or my experiences, who will want to connect with me, who would pay for that, who do I think I am and the big ones – I am not good enough, its not perfect yet and who the hell do I think I am. This has been my process.

Showing up.
So, in service to myself and to you, I have dared to show up as my real self, with my truest passion and purpose and offer something of value to the world. Its not that I haven’t been doing that for most of my working life – its just that showing up sometimes feels like showing off, and there’s vulnerability and shame in that somehow. Or there was. I am showing up, leaning in and putting myself out there because I am so inspired by the courage of all of the women in the world who live daily with the terror and injustice of gender based violence. I want to do justice for those that didn’t survive. And those, like me, who have survived. I want to be courageous on behalf of us all.

Mission.
My mission is to end violence against women by improving organisations, improving practice and by working with individual women. It feels like a good balance. The kind of balance that creates genuine opportunities for women’s voices to be heard throughout my work with organisations. This is changemaking. And today is a great day to start changing the world.

I would love your feedback on the website via the Contact page.

Meet some of my teachers. I am profoundly grateful for guidance on the path to playing bigger, loving support and laser sharp coaching in my unfurling and spine tingling insights into how to teach now. Merci.

At the moment I am busy working with Victoria Legal Aid evaluating their Settled and Safe Project which aims to learn the best way for women in newly arrived and emerging communities to get information about their legal rights and options in relation to domestic violence. I have worked with the project from the start so have been heavily involved in developing the work plan, the evaluation plan and providing coaching and mentoring to the project manager. I also delivered a training session on evaluation methods to the regionally based project workers.

I am also working with InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence to evaluate their project working with four communities to find out what works best in terms of family violence prevention.

And…for the next three months I am working with Women’s Health Victoria on their Take a Stand against Domestic Violence Project, which is providing training in workplaces with the aim of preventing family violence.

I love all of this work – it is truly a privilege to work with so many clever and committed women, all working to prevent or eliminate domestic violence. But I still have the energy and passion to do more so I am working on developing some training courses and coaching packages to introduce to the world.

In 2012 I was delighted to work with Women’s Health Goulburn North East to evaluate the Bsafe Program. Bsafe had been comprehensively evaluated before and was found to be a highly effective model for keeping women and children safe in their own homes via the use of a personal alarm system. The Program is much more than just an alarm system – it is a terrific example of an effective coordinated community response to domestic violence in a rural area. I interviewed a small number of women to confirm that Bsafe was continuing to provide the same level of safety and security as it always had. However the Program was (and still is) facing closure due to lack of ongoing State Government funding so part of my brief was to develop a Business Case for further funding. The Business Case was released to the State Government in February 2013, and to date the Bsafe team are still awaiting a response. Click here to go to Women’s Health Goulburn North East’s website to find out more about Bsafe and to access the full report. You can even donate to the organization to help keep Bsafe going in the north east of Victoria.

While you are on the WHGNE website check out the Trauma and Young Children Project and the huge array of fabulous resources freely available to educators and others working with young children affected by trauma (usually as a result of exposure to family violence). I evaluated this project last year and the report is available at the top of the page.

I have had websites since 2009 but I am very excited to have THIS website because I can update it and use it to communicate with my clients and the big wide world.  A big shout out to Jan Scott Nelson who built the site and inducted me into the wonders of WordPress. And watch this space.

I stepped away from Victorian Public Service in August 2011 where I had a senior role in the Magistrate’s Court administration managing the Family Violence Programs and Initiatives Unit. Fresh from an exciting and influential role in London as Partnership Manager with leading domestic violence charity Standing Together against Domestic Violence and earlier cutting edge development and managerial roles in the Scottish violence against women (VAW) sector, I expected to be able to influence the justice sector in Victoria. That is – to be part of improving the legal and court system so that women experiencing domestic violence can feel confident using the system to seek the protection and justice they deserve. But being in the bureaucracy proved to be an unnatural habitat. I truly admire people who can thrive in that environment but it was not for me. So, after losing my best friend to cancer in June 2011 I decided life was too short and too precious and at 48 and a half I quit a highly paid (and superannuated!) permanent job to work for myself. Again. I have worked as a consultant on and off for many years but in the last 20 months I have been profoundly privileged to be able to lean into my truest and deepest passion  – to end violence against women, to make the world a better place for women, and to teach others.