17 September 2021 16:36

67,000 Australian hairdressers and barbers can save lives from domestic and family abuse

Hairdressers in Australia will receive domestic violence awareness training.

This is to ensure that they’re better prepared if a client discloses abuse when attending their salon.

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The Australia-first program will be rolled out to the nation’s 67,000 hairdressers and barbers by Hairdressers with Hearts (HWH).

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In August 2020 when a similar program was proposed in NSW, Australian Hairdressing Council CEO Sandy Chong said hairdressers often offer a sympathetic ear to a customer’s problems.

“It comes with the job, so the workshops can help them know what to do if a client does disclose to them that they are experiencing domestic violence. We encourage hairdressers to take up the opportunity to attend these workshops.”

These hairdressers and barbers will use the sanctity of their client-hairdresser relationship to potentially save lives from domestic abuse.

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HWH founder Sonia Colvin has already helped more than 200 victims by seeing the signs of abuse and reaching out.

She has developed an online training course aimed at teaching hairdressers to help clients in the right direction for support.

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Sonia Colvin, a hairdresser for more than 35 years on Bribie Island north of Brisbane, told ABC:

“Our industry can make a huge difference to some of the nation’s most vulnerable, whether we are hairdressers and barbers based in a salon, working remotely or in rural areas, in multicultural or aged-care communities, or providing mobile services in people’s homes.”

Her non-profit organisation has now joined forces with the Red Rose Foundation, Caxton Legal Centre and the Centre Against Domestic Abuse.

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These organisations will help train hairdressers and barbers in metro and regional hair salons to contribute to the prevention of domestic and family violence in the Australian community.

HWH ambassador and domestic violence survivor Simone O’Brien has devoted her life to helping other victims.

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Simone was savagely bashed with a baseball bat by her fiancee in September 2012.

[WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of violence and abuse that viewers may find distressing.]

In August 2020, NSW Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Mark Speakman has said that training in this area would help ensure victims were referred to support services if needed.

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Mark Speakman observed:

“Salon professionals are also a female dominated workforce, so we’re confident this training can help with broader community awareness too, given the tragically disproportionate impact of domestic and family violence on women and children.”

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Legal Aid NSW CEO Brendan Thomas said co-ordinating a program such as this was an innovative way of engaging with people who need immediate help.

“The easier it becomes for women and children to gain the full protection of the law, the greater progress we will make in eradicating violence in families.” 

NSW workshops will be delivered by local legal and domestic violence services participating in Legal Aid NSW’s Co-operative Legal Service Delivery Program.

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Remember that “any behaviour that is violent, threatening, controlling or intended to make you or your family feel scared and unsafe” is termed as family and domestic violence.

It can happen to anyone, at any time, no matter their age, gender, sexual orientation, religion or ethnic background.

Tarang Chawla, writer and survivor advocate, is Our Watch Ambassador.

In May 2020, while relaunching No Excuse for Abuse campaign to raise awareness of non-physical forms of abuse, Tarang recounted how his sister’s death could have been prevented “if we all had a better understanding of how to ascertain non-physical forms of abuse before it escalates.”

“Looking back, for my sister Nikita, who was violently murdered by her partner in 2015, her killer was one of those men. It didn’t start with him hitting her. It rarely does. It started with him trying to control how she spent money, snooping through her phone and even telling her who she was “allowed” to be friends with or how often she could see us – her family.”

Family and domestic violence is unacceptable behaviour and help is at hand for those affected by it in Australia.

For confidential advice, support and referrals related to domestic and family violence, contact: Police (000), 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), Kids Helpline (1800 551 800), No to Violence (1300 766 491) or Men’s Referral Service (1300 766 491).

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