Fiona Richardson-Clarke is at the front line of domestic and family violence support in the Ipswich region.

Fiona Richardson-Clarke is at the front line of efforts to support people in Ipswich impacted by domestic and family violence.

She is the lead clinician for sexual assault and domestic violence presentations at Ipswich Hospital and part of a multi-agency team that looks after the region’s high risk cases.

So when it comes to understanding the issues surrounding domestic and family violence Ms Richardson-Clarke is well placed.

On 16 October, she will use her knowledge and passion to shine a light on how Ipswich small businesses can help fight back against domestic and family violence in the community.

Ms Richardson-Clarke is one of several speakers at the annual Domestic & Family Violence ‘It Is Your Business’ forum, which is being held at Ipswich Turf Club.

It is an initiative of Queensland Police Service, True, West Moreton Health and the Ipswich Chamber of Commerce.

Understanding is key

Ms Richardson-Clarke said everyone had a role to play in preventing and addressing domestic violence, but small businesses were uniquely placed.

“Often in small business environments there can be closer working relationships between employers and their employees when compared with larger organisations,” she said.

“Large companies and government organisations might have policies in place and some are now allowing things like domestic violence leave, but for small businesses they can’t always offer those sorts of things as easily and they can be a bit unsure about how they can help.”

Ms Richardson-Clarke said small actions could make a big difference.

“Because they’ve got a closer working relationship with their employees they might have a greater understanding about what is going on for them or be more able to notice changes in employee behaviour,” she said.

“It’s about being open and available, perhaps asking ‘is everything okay at home, you seem a bit unsettled of late’, and letting them know that you are available if they need help.

“Flexibility is important. If a woman is working she might find it hard to see a domestic violence support group because say, for example, her partner knows she works from 9am to 3pm and is very controlling, so if she was late home he would know.

“In that instance, for example, one way an employer could help is be flexible and offer to have a local DV service visit the workplace or tell their employee if they make an appointment in work hours they can attend, so that way the partner won’t know.

“That could be the difference between that person being able to get help and get out of a situation versus being stuck in it.

“I think as a woman if I had an employer who did that for me I would always give back two-fold. I would know they do care, they are willing to listen and help me.”

What to look for

Ms Richardson-Clarke said being alert to the potential signs of domestic and family violence was also important.

She said while obvious signs included absenteeism, regular bruises or an employee trying to hide injuries, there were others.

It Is Your Business symposium organisers Acting Senior Sergeant Toni Phelan, Yvonne Black, Leanne Wyvill, Fiona Richardson and Nadine Webster.

“Some of the things people might notice in the workplace is excessive texting, or if a person is being constantly harassed by their partner through phone calls, texts or emails,” she said.

“Another one can be if they are distracted, don’t have their game face on, or perhaps they can’t stay back late and say things like “my husband expects me to get home and cook dinner”.

“There is not necessarily anything wrong with that expectation if it is what the person wants, but depending on how well you know that person and the language they use it could be an indicator.”

Barriers remain

Ms Richardson-Clarke said the aim of the It Is Your Business forum was to continue to break down barriers to addressing domestic violence.

“One of the reasons it is so hard to address is it’s between two people in a relationship,” she said.

“I think that’s the biggest hurdle because people think it’s none of their business and we have had that stereotype for such a long time, that it’s a private issue of an intimate relationship.

“But actually it is everyone’s business because if we do nothing it will continue to happen and therefore we’re actually saying it’s okay when it’s not.

“It’s such a personal attack, there is such shame and stigma attached to it and women seem to take on responsibility for it as well.

“We need to challenge those thoughts and social norms, to say that it’s not okay, that it’s not your fault and society has a role to play in saying that it is not okay.

“The biggest thing is women die from it and if we can intervene early enough we can save lives.”

About the It Is Your Business forum
  • The half-day symposium advocates greater awareness of the role businesses can play in reducing the impacts of domestic and family violence.
  • Experts from various agencies including Queensland Police, West Moreton Health and others will be presenting on the day.
  • Topics will include what domestic and family violence is, business obligations under the law, how to help.
  • The symposium is on 16 October 9am at Ipswich Turf Club, 219 Brisbane Road, Bundamba.
  • Tickets: $50 per single ticket, $80 for two tickets, $110 for three tickets. Ticket sales close 12 October.
  • Book tickets at www.trybooking.com/book/even?eid=394137&

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