Diocese’s domestic and family violence prevention programme praised

domestic and family violence

The scourge of domestic and family violence must end – so say Australia’s Catholic Social Services Victoria and the Catholic Diocese of Sale.

They’re on a mission to educate, inform and equip parish communities to address the problem.

They put together a pilot programme, ‘Shining A Light’, and ran it between March and July last year in the Sale diocese.

Critical to this programme was Sr Nicole Rotaru, a Mercy Sister, social worker and counsellor (pictured at one of the workshops).

She has many years’ experience of working with victims and survivors of family and domestic violence, including children.

Rotaru hosted workshops to examine how the church can address domestic and family violence for its Catholic members. People often shared their own experiences of abuse, she says.

“A number of women felt safe to come and say ‘I’ve experienced domestic and family violence’, or ‘my daughter has’, or ‘my friend has’ and asked ‘what can I do?'”

The results of the work has attracted support from Victorian Minister for Prevention of Family Violence, Ms Vicki Ward MP.

Last Friday she and Bishop Greg Bennet of the Sale Diocese released a report praising the ‘Shining A Light’ programme.

Report findings

The full title of the programme is “Shining A Light: A collaborative project working to build capacity for a whole-of-Church response to domestic and family violence”.

The report outlines the findings of the programme, saying 127 people (89 women and 38 men) participated in workshops which focused on recognising the signs of domestic and family violence.

Participants included Church clergy, parish staff, members of religious congregations, diocesan safeguarding staff, amd other organisation volunteers and staff including those from across local social service agencies, schools and healthcare.

The report says the sessions improved participants’ understanding, how to recognise the signs of domestic and family violence and the impacts on women and children.

They also learned to be more confident in starting a ‘careful conversation’; and to be aware of domestic and family violence resources in the local community and beyond.

MP Vicki Ward said ‘This is a conversation that has to happen across communities, and the work that you have done with your 127 participants and your conversations is really important, because those conversations will ripple out and will lead to other conversations.

‘We know that up to 50% of people … still think that it happens “somewhere else”, that it “doesn’t happen” in their community … schools or in their churches. And it does.

“So, to continue to have those conversations, to plant those seeds of openness … a safe community is a strong community.”

Bishop Greg Bennet agrees.

“It is a matter of pastoral care that we create within our parish communities pools of safety where people will find the courage to speak to clergy and pastoral leaders, and that our parishes will be well equipped … [to ensure people] are safe.”


The report’s recommendations include:

  • Emphasising the importance of providing ongoing support for workshop participants
  • Securing resources for further work
  • Suggesting follow up workshops be rolled out across every diocese in Australia
  • Proposing developing communities of practice and broader organisational training initiatives
  • Developing collaborative partnerships with social service organisations and ongoing training for personnel


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