New research finds primary prevention workers faced a shift to response during the COVID-19 pandemic

A report commissioned by Respect Victoria found primary prevention of violence against women practitioners were directed away from primary prevention work to assist in response efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A report commissioned by Respect Victoria has found that primary prevention of violence against women practitioners are being directed away from primary prevention work to assist in response efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Conducted by the Gender and Disaster Pod (GAD Pod), the research was commissioned to gain an understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the primary prevention workforce. 

The research was carried out between June and August 2020 and encompasses interviews and a focus group with primary prevention practitioners in Melbourne, all of whom were women. 

“This research is vital for understanding how family violence and related agencies are addressing the dramatic increases in violence against women in heterosexual relationships during COVID-19,” said GAD Pod researcher William Leonard. 

“The transfer of resources from prevention to response during COVID-19 is problematic because it takes away resources and focus from combating the drivers of family violence against women at a time when those drivers and their effects are being magnified.” 

In Victoria and across the world, there has been a significant increase in reports of family violence and violence against women since the pandemic began. 
“It is vital that primary prevention work and messages are amplified and supported during a disaster like the pandemic,” said Respect Victoria CEO Tracey Gaudry. 

All participants in this report were women, and the 2017 Victorian workforce census found that 93.8% of primary prevention practitioners identified as female. 

Helen Riseborough, CEO of Women’s Health in the North, said that the pandemic is putting “enormous pressure” on these workers, as “Those women who have children were also responsible for the bulk of increased domestic and childcare responsibilities, including home-based schooling during lockdown.”

Each participant spoke about the amplification of the gendered division of labour during the pandemic, and difficulties balancing work and home life.
One participant said: “I’ve just been working around the clock. Work is home… and that’s a bit of a challenge too. I go from the kitchen to the office.” 
Despite the challenges that the pandemic brought to their roles, most participants in this research found that they were able to bring a greater awareness of primary prevention and gender equality in their workplaces due to their shift to response.

One participant said: “We’re starting to see – or potentially, hopefully – an understanding from those outside the sector that violence isn’t just physical and there are other controlling factors, and that people can maybe see it in their own lives now a little bit more.”

The report includes recommendation to provide support and resources for the primary prevention sector workforce during and after disasters, including recommendations for Respect Victoria, government, family violence agencies, and organisations with primary prevention programs and practitioners.

To access the 'Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Victoria's family violence primary prevention workforce' full research report, visit Respect Victoria's Research webpage.