09 February 2016

A survivor’s perspective on resilience and domestic violence in Australia

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Australia has a rate of almost two domestic violence deaths a week. Police across the country respond to an average of 657 domestic violence calls every day.

Such national statistics are disturbing and unacceptable.

Following the federal government’s recent $100 million funding announcement to tackle domestic violence, Prime Minister Turnbull stated “We must elevate this issue to our national consciousness, and make it clear that domestic, family or sexual violence is unacceptable in any circumstances”.

So what should government, community and service providers be doing about this national crisis?

I was fortunate enough to catch up with Awarded anti-violence Advocate and former domestic violence victim, Jonty Bush who shared her personal perspectives and insights with me.

Jonty Bush, Awarded Anti-Violence Advocate

Young Australian of the Year, 2009, YMCA 125 Most Inspiring Women

Luana: Jonty, firstly thank you for joining us today. You’ve dealt with unthinkable tragedy and sadness but somehow you’ve still gone onto achieve amazing things including being appointed to CEO of the QHVSG, a Masters in Criminology and Criminal Justice, Young Australian of the Year (2009) and YMCA 125 Most Inspiring Women to name  a few.

What are your top tips for building resilience?

Jonty: The ability to respond with agility and strength to life’s setbacks is one of the greatest predictors of success.  Not talent, nor beauty, sporting abilities or the fact that you won a pie-eating competition in year nine… your ability to adapt and respond to the changing seasons of life predicts your overall success and happiness throughout your lifespan, so it's an area I find simply fascinating.  Everything I’ve experienced, everyone I've spoken to and everything I have learnt has bought me to this position on what it takes to build resilience:
Perspective: Gaining perspective around a problem is a quick shortcut to snapping out our initial negative reactions, in fact you cant help but feel more empowered once you’ve started considering ‘what if this issue isn't about me?’ ‘what can be salvaged from this situation’, and ‘how do I want this chapter to end?’
Re-route worry: Imagine the brain as an incredible and dense forest loaded with pathways.  If you start walking through those pathways they will widen, deepen, start to become more pronounced and worn.  They become obvious and it becomes easier to take that same, worn path through the forest.  The same can be said for our minds.  The more we reinforce thought patterns the greater those mindsets become, the more worn that pathway becomes in our mind and the easier we will fall into the habit of taking that same path, wearing down that same mindset. The only way to change a worrying mindset is to create a new pathway in our mind.
Make bold choices: Western society is pretty ‘safe’, many of us live in a way that’s somewhat protected so we actually need to go out of our way to develop courage.  Making bold choices and extending our courage ‘muscle’ helps build emotional strength, just like any other muscle that requires development.  I make sure that I avoid the easy choices, I try to challenge myself, continually set goals and embrace failure.
Luana: What has been one of your greatest life lessons?

Jonty: That life itself is fragile.  Losing my sister when she was so young was an incredible wake up call for me, that life is short and being young, having dreams or a loving family aren't necessarily protective factors.  In many ways my grief has been a blessing (an awful and unwanted blessing), I try to fit as much into my days as I can, try to forgive quickly, smile as much as possible and try new things.

Luana: What do you believe is key to reforming Australia’s domestic and family violence crisis?

Jonty: Never in my fifteen years of working in the anti-violence / victims of crime movement have I seen such a national crescendo as what we have right now.  It's terribly exciting (although also frustrating because for many of us it feels a long time coming). The greatest thing we can do is address the stigma around violence against women, creating safer environments for women to speak out and look for support.  We still practice a one-size fits all approach to supporting women seeking help, many women I've worked with simply aren't ready to ‘flee’ and find non-crises support difficult to find, so appreciating that women experiencing violence at home are not a heterogenic group. 

Luana: What advice can you give front line community service providers dealing with victims of domestic and family violence?

Jonty: Women who are surviving violence at home are an incredibly brave and resourceful group, they’ve had to be.  They’re particularly sharp and able to make decisions that are right for them and their families, so helping women to identify and work with their strengths is key.  And helping women to name violence, we’re now finally recognising that domestic violence isn't always physical acts of violence but coercive controlling behaviours, gently demonstrating to women that these elements of domestic violence are red-flags will go a long way towards preventing domestic homicides.

Luana: What in your opinion should government by prioritising in 2016?


  1. Exploring ways to help women stay in their own homes and to become safe in their homes (many women find the risk of homelessness a barrier to leaving, and the financial implications of starting again are incredible).
  2. Workplace policies that support women who are grappling with violence in the home, to enable them to continue working, to feel supported and safe and less isolate.
  3. Training and additional powers for frontline police around the nuances of domestic violence, how to respond and how to protect.
  4. Greater consequences for men who break their orders!

Luana: Jonty, thank you for sharing your wisdom and insights with us.

To hear more of Jonty’s personal story and insights register to attend Akolade’s upcoming Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence conference.

From a young age Luana wanted to become a teacher. She would line up her teddies in a row and teach them for hours on end. However, she eventually grew tired of their nonchalance and has ended up leading a team of producers instead- which she finds far more fulfilling and stimulating!  
Luana comes from an experienced production and management background. She has produced and topic generated events across Asia and Australia.

Luana enjoys learning about emerging trends and drivers for change and loves the notion of the 'butterfly effect'- that change can start small but grow immeasurably through a ripple effect.

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