Coffee With… Samantha McGuffie, Manager – Prevention of Violence Against Women (PVAW), Women’s Health East

Describe your work/role at WHE

My role is to lead the PVAW work at WHE. This includes the Together for Equality and Respect partnership (a regional collective impact approach to prevent violence against women in Melbourne’s East) and other work addressing the drivers of gender-based violence. Right now we are supporting lots of our partner organisations to incorporate the #TotesGE Totally for Gender Equality tote bag campaign within 16 Days of Activism events and activities. Our partners are organising a range of events to promote gender equality across the 16 days. These include breakfast and lunch events with guest speakers, gender equality poster competitions in schools, social media campaigns, community and workplace active bystander training, community events across various settings and more.

What excites and motivates you in your role?

I’m excited to be working at Women’s Health East and I’m really pleased to be working with so many skilled and experienced people, to prevent violence against women. Violence against women is serious and prevalent, and is the leading contributor of preventable death, disability and ill-health for women aged 18 – 44 years in Victoria. These statistics, the lived experience of women and the impact on families and communities, motivates me to be involved in prevention work. Whilst the statistics are shocking and certainly very ‘motivating’, it is also encouraging that there is such broad support to end violence against women.

What is most challenging about your work?

There is a huge depth of content and practice knowledge to this work and we are also in a time of rapid sector development regarding PVAW. This is hugely positive – but there’s also a lot to learn! Also given the high prevalence of gender-based violence and family violence, talking about violence and PVAW can be difficult for many people.

Does WHE work with volunteers? Can you describe how volunteers add value to your work? Yes, through our Speaking Out Program Women’s Health East works with about 30 women from diverse backgrounds, who have a lived experience of family violence or sexual assault to become advocates for change. Speaking Out Advocates provide valuable insights into the experience of family violence, shift attitudes and contribute to the way businesses and services support employees and clients.  Speaking Out Advocates play a huge role in helping people better understand violence against women, and what needs to be done.

What strengths do you see in the TFER partnership?

There’s so much great PVAW work taking place across the region, and lots of support and positivity about this work. As a newbie to the EMR and the TFER partnership, I think that 35 partner organisations committing to a shared vision is a significant strength; “a society where women live free from men’s violence – where every girl and boy grows up to be equally valued, heard and respected, and with equal access to opportunities” (Together for Equality and Respect 2017 – 2021).

Where do you recommend in Doncaster for Coffee/ Lunch/ People Watching/Lunchtime Exercise?

Women’s Health East has an excellent physical activity policy and part of the workplace culture is to regularly walk together in the Reserves around the WHE office. It’s a great opportunity to move, catch up with colleagues and look after our mental health too.

If you could change one thing about the world right now, what would it be?

So many things to change. Structural inequality and the impacts of that huge gap between some people having nothing and others having too much.

If you weren’t working at WHE right now, what would you be doing?

Camping with my family somewhere near the ocean.

We acknowledge the Wurundjeri people and other peoples of the Kulin nation as the traditional owners of the land on which our work in the community takes place. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.

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