Melissa Williams is the General Manager of People, Culture and Safety at SEQWater. She is a strategic HR leader with a successful track record of introducing effective approaches to domestic and family violence to a range of large organisations. Melissa has a genuine passion for the stand against DFV, and we were very happy to gain her insights and advice in relation to DFV and the workplace.

What role does the workplace have in the stand against domestic and family violence (DFV)?

The role of the workplace in DFV is multi-faceted. I believe it spans across 3 key areas:

1. Awareness and education – the workplace is part of the broader community, so we play a critical role in the broader awareness campaign. If every workplace gets behind this important topic, we will see a significant increase in community awareness.

2. Supporting people impacted by DFV – retaining employment is such a critical element for a person impacted by DFV. If they don’t have work their ability to leave a situation is even harder. It is essential that employers support employees in tough situations. We must seek to understand things from their perspective to provide effective and meaningful support.

3. Reinforcing respectful behaviour – by supporting, guiding and influencing respectful behaviour, we will influence society to behave appropriately both inside and outside the workplace.

What do you think the key issues are in relation to organisations taking a meaningful stand against DFV?

Support from the top is crucial. Like any change initiative, you need to have strong support from leadership and buy-in.

Most organisations want to do something, but many struggle with knowing what to do. DFV is a scary issue for many organisations. They have good intent but may be worried about what to do and whether they will make mistakes. This is why awareness and education are so important.

Do you have any thoughts on potential solutions to these issues?

Before beginning any approach to DFV, an organisation needs to work out where your maturity is and then develop options to move forward. I don’t see it as a one size fits all. The approach needs to be tailored to the organisation’s landscape.

Once you have leadership buy-in and commitment, any activities to take a stand against DFV need to start with education and awareness.

It is also important to have a policy that clearly articulates the organisation’s support and provides multiple support options that are both effective and confidential.

To ensure the organisation is heading in the right direction, it is also important to have a way of monitoring success. That way the policy can be adapted as required.

Partnering with experts is key. We aren’t all experts in this area, nor do we need to be. We do need to work with people who are.

As a leader, what can you and other leaders do to address DFV?

Good leadership is supporting your people through all challenges. This is a reflection of an organisation living their values.

As a leader, it is important to take responsibility for building your own knowledge, either through resources inside or outside the organisation. DFV is a hot issue at the moment. Statistics show we all know someone who is impacted. Leaders need to seek out information and commit to being a part of the solution.

If your organisation has a policy or guideline, ensure you reinforce it with your own behaviour. Leaders need to role model respectful behaviour.