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Natters From 1988 to 2018- Celebrating 30 years

NATTERS FROM 1988 TO 2018- Celebrating 30 years

A PASSING PARADE OF PERCEPTIONS AND IDIOSYNCRATIC INTERPRETATIONS:

From Kalparrin to Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault:

Preface:

2018 denotes the 30th anniversary of the establishment of a Centre Against Sexual Assault in Gippsland.  The agency began as Kalparrin Sexual Abuse Centre Inc., incorporated in December 1986; this was revised in April 1988 to become Kalparrin Centre Against Sexual Assault Inc.  The agency commenced its operational work in 1988.  And, in 1994, another revision occurred and it became Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault (GCASA), as it is today.

The agency has always, and continues, to operate within a feminist philosophy and amongst its specific historic and current objectives are the support of the integrity, respect, autonomy and dignity of women, men and children who have experienced sexual assault, and the protection of their rights.  The agency began with 1+1 staff persons, and funding was doubled as early as 1991.  Today there are 50 staff persons (including permanent, contracted and casual), and there would be no comparison between funding then and now as additional program streams have developed and extended.

Prior to continuing, please note the link below that will take you to a comprehensive political, cultural and social history of the establishment of CASAs in Victoria, should you so wish.

https://www.casa.org.au/about-us/victims-like-us-the-development-of-the-victorian-casas/

It is important to also include the information that a 21st anniversary document relating more generally to CASAs over this period of time was prepared by a student on placement however, a collective decision was taken at the time not to proceed with furthering the document.

Please note, there were no current or former clients of Kalparrin/ GCASA interviewed for this piece.  This at no time was the purpose of this document.  Evaluations that speak to this matter are available throughout Kalparrin’s/ GCASA’s history.   In the gathering of the oral glimpses outlined below, there were comment asides that spoke to knowledge of experiences of good and sometimes outstanding client work service provision by Kalparrin/ GCASA over the 30 years.

Purpose:

To acknowledge the achievement milestone of GCASA 30 years, this piece is intended to celebrate both the establishment and tenacity of this Gippsland centre against sexual assault, while providing a brief and by no means all-inclusive charting of this Gippsland agency over the past 30 years.  This would contain some of its ‘ups and downs’ in its simultaneously rocky and unwavering evolution, some milestones (subjective), and was to consider the changes in philosophy and values over this period.   What seems to have emerged is that there in reality have been many ‘ups and downs’, milestones, but few significant changes in philosophy as presented in writing.  The changes have been more so in the directions of practice, accountability, attitudes and service delivery, focus and range of service provision.

Acknowledgment:

Parts of the piece below contain brief subjective reflections of the evolution of an agency.  There were 10 persons interviewed, with some casual queries directed at others who had had an association with Kalparrin/ GCASA over the years.  This was all that time allowed in this instance.  What is to be always admired through this trajectory is an emergence of a community agency that holds a reasonably steady and generally solid reputation as an agency of integrity and ethical practice.  This is recognition and gratitude for all those persons who have passed ‘through the corridor(s)!’ of Kalparrin/ GCASA, those who fought for and supported the introduction of this service to Gippsland, and those who have maintained the agency, its service provision, and the ‘fight’ against sexual assault.  Some comments reflect poorly on non specified (deliberately so) periods and areas of concern, however, similar trajectories are found in many organisations/ agencies and would be an expected evolutionary process from ‘infancy through to maturity’. A certain time in a certain place.

Methodology:

The initial plan for this piece was to read over the annual reports since the beginning (1988); this option was soon discarded as after reading a few early reports, they appeared to be repeating the previous annual report. As an interesting aside, upon mentioning this to a former early member of the CoM, this was said, they thought, to be actually the case, and in itself was a ‘scandal’ at the time.  Whilst it was noted that the wording was the same if not very similar in these reports, it had not been noted that the graphs presented were also the same over a number of years in the early days!  Hence the ‘scandal’ (small ‘s’).

And so, the decision was taken to instead ‘interview’ a variety of persons known to have had association with and experience of the Gippsland CASA since its foundation.   The majority of the content and comment, other than that referenced, is anecdotal.

As stated, a number of people in Gippsland who have been associated with the agency over this time have been asked for their perceptions, views, experiences etc of Kalparrin 1988 to Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault 2018.  Their generosity and honesty in this sharing is appreciated.  It is important to also recognise that there are many other persons who also hold valuable knowledge and experience, however, for the purposes of this exercise, it was not possible to make contact with a vast ‘them’.  Also, please note, there has been no deliberate intention to exclude or include; this was in many ways a matter of expediency and access to those who have witnessed the installation and journey of Kalparrin/ GCASA.

Kalparrin:

At its inception, this service was named Kalparrin.  Kalparrin is a Ngarrindjeri word meaning ‘helping with a heavy load’.

Ngarrindjeri is an Aboriginal nation of 18 language groups who occupied, and still inhabit, the Lower Murray, Coorong and Lakes area of South Australia.

Their lands and waters extended 30km up the Murray from Lake Alexandrina, the length of the Coorong and the coastal area to Encounter Bay. Today this Aboriginal group is still very strong, with a large community of people based in the Lower Murray and Coorong area.

The name we are told was proposed by a member of the original founding Committee of Management.  It was reasoned by the founding members that people who would be clients of this service had often been carrying ‘a heavy load’, and it was hoped that with support through Kalparrin, ‘the burden’ could be reduced.

Another reasoning for this name was the anonymity that it offered.  For the period, 1980s, there was a stigma associated with attending a CASA, especially in a rural region.

The changing of the name to Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault some 8/9 years later perhaps arguably signified a shift in public awareness.

Locations:

Over the 30 years of GCASA’s ‘being’, there remains no external street reference to its purpose as a centre against sexual assault.  The service is still located via a street number rather than a name and depiction of services/ program areas housed within.

It could be said that the buildings that have housed Kalparrin/ GCASA over this 30 years in some ways speak to the shifts in public awareness and the stigma that has been attached to an experience of sexual assault.  The first official residence was stand alone, in a side street in Morwell, apart from the shopping centres and other services though reasonably close to public transport.

Its location could not be found other than through referral, both informal and informal (or previous knowledge).  Prior to this, Kalparrin as a ‘start up’ existed in a building in Commercial Road Morwell on the Moe side of the roundabout.

Today, GCASA sits as a partner in a Multidisciplinary Centre (MDC). This occurred on 22nd November 2015.  It is within the MDC alongside MDC partners Victoria Police Sexual Offence & Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT), a small Department of Health and Human Services – Child Protection (CP) team, and the MDC Community Health Nurse (CHN, employed by Latrobe Community Health Service).  SOCIT investigate reports of sexual assault against adults, young people and children. SOCIT and CP work together to protect the community from harm, ensure child safety, and refer people to appropriate support services.  An exciting development has been that these 3 teams (plus MDC CHN) are often called to work collaboratively for the benefit of mutual clients, as well as for the ongoing development of the service, which includes shared project and prevention work.

Who would have thought in 1988?  Perhaps someone?

As we ‘speak’, MDCs have been and continue to be established by the Victorian Government, around Victoria. There are at this time also MDCs in Mildura, Seaford, Geelong, Dandenong and Bendigo, Hoppers Crossing.

 

From the Beginning to Now; Some Reflections, Differences and Comparisons:

Kalparrin Centre Against Sexual Assault, as founded in 1988, came into being after concerted action by numbers of local women who recognised the need for such a centre in the Gippsland region.  The centre received funding from the Women’s Health Program of the Health Department of Victoria to provide services to the Gippsland region.  Their determination and courage cannot be underestimated nor overvalued.

Then:

At its first iteration, 1988, the agency commenced with 26 Statements of Purpose (as attached).

In the 1992/ 1993 Annual report, the philosophy is stated as:

“It is seen that sexual assault is the expression of an imbalance of power in our society, largely being perpetrated by men against women, and adults (mainly men) against children.

The Practice Philosophy from this same report reads:

“Because of the agency understanding of sexual assault as an issue of power, the work of the agency must be always carried out in an empowerment model”.

 

Today:

The current Mission Statement and Vision (as at 2017/ 2018 Annual report) are as below:

“VISION

To see our communities free of sexual assault and violence

MISSION STATEMENT

To enhance safety and quality of life throughout Gippsland by reducing the incidents and impact of sexual assault”

The espoused values of the agency are Empowerment, Respect and Dignity.

As you may note, strong similarities remain.  Without the capacity for this ongoing broader vision to be ‘carried and held’ by all the iterations of Kalparrin/ GCASA since 1988 and its supporters, both politically and in the community, despite its external and internal obstacles, a clearly essential service might have been lost.

Perhaps start there!  As it happens, the service has had an experience of facing defunding, ostensibly through not meeting targets and service dissatisfaction re access, reported through the funding body and external relationships with other providers.  Fortunately, this potential eventuality was thwarted through the absolute diligence of a small GCASA team.

Below, to denote a minutiae of Kalparrin’s/ GCASA’s story so far, a summary/ ‘collection’ of terms and expressions from interviewees marking moments in time includes the following:

There were- (not so complimentary and complimentary)

Re the External Face:

Earlier days-

-the immediate adoption of ‘against’ rather than general use of ‘for’ in naming entity centre against sexual assault-from early on, the distinction and foresight of this emphasis (not always understood- there are current examples of misleading ‘for’ and ‘of’ within ambit of DHHS itself)

-Kalparrin/ GCASA has, throughout its 30 years, related well to Monash University Churchill (a founding COM member of Kalparrin was employed at Monash University Churchill), it has and does continue to address students at Monash Churchill, social sciences, medical, hold strong and ongoing relationship- has always resulted in referrals, developed chapter in Monash study guide on sexual assault

-always supported student placements

-early changes in direction for COM on the issue of ‘perpetrators’, COM able to hold ‘fruitful discussions’ re Kalparrin/GCASA potential work in this area

-early group work with adult survivors of incest

-Kalparrin/ GCASA participation in an Offenders’ Treatment Group

-free out of hours number predominantly used by children

-complaints re quality of service generally

-external providers held perceptions of (Kalparrin’s/ GCASA’s) isolation, parochialism, cottage like entity

-at times agency and staff persons demonstrated attitudes externally of arrogance of excellence, in essence, just arrogance

-known as a place where men could not go, believed internal resistance to men

-Kalparrin was established to be there for children as well as women- in those earlier times it was stated that debates were held with the refuge, where the view was said to have been that a woman had to have been raped for service, refuge said to be less aware of and attuned to needs of children, less aware of child sexual assault

-as ‘true’ feminists Kalparrin/ GCASA captured by welfare through theories of feminism and reform to social policy through feminism, highly aware of and attuned to needs of children as well as women (generally speaking)

Comparisons made to nowadays-

– today shift into much more public space, more able people

-notion of accepting referrals to “when safe’’ for person; “key principles of trauma-informed practice – safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment – should be embedded for all activities at all levels of service-delivery. They enable positive relational experiences, established by research as necessary both for resolution of trauma and for general well-being. Trauma-informed practice is `win-win’!” (refer Blue Knot Foundation 2012)

 

-GCASA nowadays being seen, honouring commitments, looking outside for ‘best’ practice

-working with children from 5-17 years old in areas of problematic sexualised behaviours of concern and sexually abusive behaviours of concern

Re the Internal Face:

Earlier days-

-movement from management by a Committee of Management to present day Board of Management; female  and male members on COM/ Board over lifetime of Kalparrin/ GCASA

-in earlier period of Kalparrin/ GCASA staff persons perceived as not able to ‘hold’ their work which resulted in echoes of what they (their clients and they as clients’ practitioners)  were dealing with- a paralleling of violence amongst staff group; staff tensions at different times, negative attitudes to change

-notion of accepting referrals to “when safe’’ for person; “key principles of trauma-informed practice – safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment – should be embedded for all activities at all levels of service-delivery. They enable positive relational experiences, established by research as necessary both for resolution of trauma and for general well-being. Trauma-informed practice is `win-win’!” (refer Blue Knot Foundation 2012)

 

-ongoing contestation between staff and management, in one iteration- attempted ‘coup’ by staff group -some ‘mass’ resignations

-elitism within staff groupings, entitlement and ‘victim’ mentality

-tension for COM in finding balance between making sure that staff are cared for and staff accountability;  Kalparrin/ GCASA resolved from a collective model with expectations of an hierarchical model so not immediately a structure to address internal difficulties

 

Comparisons made to nowadays-

-the MDC

-investment in moving from ‘victim/ survivor’ language space and conceptualisation to concept and possibilities of post traumatic growth

-female and male members on COM/ Board over lifetime of Kalparrin/ GCASA

-GCASA being seen, large in the prevention space, honouring commitments, looking outside for ‘best’ practice, challenging itself and looking inwards to ensure that quality work relates to every transaction space

-unlocked doors and ‘serene’ welcoming space

-recent SOCIT member placement at GCASA

-growth and structure differences

-male staff members and male clients, boys and men, extensive family work

 

Some recounted examples of developments in practice, service provision, accountability etc:

In reference to the comparison of ‘visions’ as above, a point of difference is the specific gendered reference in the earlier days.  While data that relates to the equity, status and safety of women and children of today undeniably qualifies the earlier Philosophy Statement, today’s Philosophy Statement deliberately remains gender neutral.  There is no doubt that recognition was held in the earlier days that men also experienced sexual assault, that CASAs were established for all persons who had experienced sexual assault (women, children, men), however the perceptions of access for men were, it appears, confusion and exclusion in many instances. It would appear that in early experience of Kalparrin, there existed a strong resistance to the provision of service for men.  You will note that comments from some interviewees incorporate sentiments that at times in its evolution, there existed a horror that we (Kalparrin/ GCASA) would work with men, that men were a ‘dirty’ word.   Other persons held the view that it was not that men were not welcome, but more that the agency felt it necessary to make this centre against sexual assault a safe place for women.  It was thought that the presence of men would compromise the perception of safety for women.

Until some few years ago (there is uncertainty if this was always the case as some earlier persons associated with GCASA do not remember this, though it appears to have been the practice for some time), the front and back doors remained locked at all times.  Initially, this could be understood in relation to the small number of staff persons employed and availability, however, as the service grew, this perhaps raises some practice considerations.  To gain entry, members of the public, clients and external professionals knocked on the front door.  They were admitted (checked in for purpose), then the door was locked behind them.  To leave, the door was unlocked and then locked behind them.  Initially, this procedure, it was presaged, quite possibly emanated from women’s refuge safety practices and perhaps a perception that it was controversial to run programs such as this?  The ‘locked door’ thinking likely emanated from a rationale that it created a barrier between the inner and the outer, with the outer environment being perceived as ‘threatening’.

An interesting ‘discovery’ has been that one interviewee remembered the original notepaper of Kalparrin as green and beige, to reflect ‘earth’ colours.  In more recent years this has been white, featuring the lotus symbol, often as an embossment, as an integral part of the logo.  There has also been the use of the infinity symbol.  As it is understood, the colours of preference have been purple, green and white, assumed to emulate the colours of the British suffragette movement.  2018 will herald the introduction of another GCASA logo symbol and colour palette.

As above, in 2015 GCASA moved to the MDC complex; the community development process that determined the theme and colours of walls, furnishings etc for this complex settled on a theme of ‘nature and natural colours’ with the predominant colours of soft green, orange, soft yellow etc and the natural features/ colours of wood and stone.  Interesting?  Some ‘back to the future’?

Summary:

As noted in the introduction, this piece is only a brief and potted history of the development of Kalparrin/ GCASA over the past 30 years.  Without a doubt, too much is missing, and there has been a focus on earlier development and ‘the growing up’ part of the story.   However, these are real people’s memories and reflections, and as such, absolutely valid.  They also hold immense value, lessons, and, if we choose, can assist GCASA in its further development of its ‘story’.

It is a held belief at GCASA (and in evidence based literature) that those who work in the area of trauma do not escape the impacts of vicarious trauma.  The Blue Knot Foundation 2018 writes that “Vicarious trauma is not a sign of weakness. It is the cost of working with people who have experienced trauma and abuse – of bearing witness and of empathic engagement with those affected. It is important to differentiate vicarious trauma from compassion fatigue and burnout, with which it is often confused, and yet commonly co-exists. While the phenomenon of vicarious trauma is widely acknowledged, it can be challenging to recognise and deal with it. Its dynamics and `ripple effects’ are complex, pervasive and damaging”.

 

The message is to maintain an awareness of and to this, and the employment of a wealth of strategies and actions to mitigate and offset the potential harm of vicarious trauma, for both staff persons and the agency itself in its growth and development.

It may be that in stages of its evolution, Kalparrin/ GCASA as an agency has ‘emulated’ some of the symptoms of vicarious trauma.  However, it can perhaps also be said that it, through its experience and iterations, it has been able to demonstrate aspects of the 5 domains of post-traumatic growth (Tedeschi and Calhoun, 2004, in Dorotik-Nana, C. 2015)

These are said to be

-“the opening of new possibilities not present before; a change (deepening) in relationships with others; an increased sense of one’s own (read GCASA) personal strength; a greater appreciation for life in general, and a deepening or significant change in one’s (read GCASA) spirituality”.

Perhaps, a potential eventuality will be a full transcendence from Stephen Karpman’s The Drama Triangle to David Emerald’s The Empowerment Dynamic.  While the values of Kalparrin through to GCASA have always espoused The Empowerment Dynamic, organisationally this has not always been at play.  It will take collective, constructive and inspirational, aspirational leadership from all associated with GCASA into the future to maintain and ensure this eventuality.

The future will tell.  The future continues to hold hope, through applications of a realistic optimism and energy, with an attention to and an awareness of the nuances of the power and control dynamics illustrated above, both for the individuals and the collectives that are GCASA.  The ongoing journey to the full realisation of GCASA’s vision will continue.

 

Prepared with pride by

Marie Feeley (GCASA 2013-2018)

Clinical Mentor

GCASA 2018

 

 

References:

Blue Knot Foundation, 2018. Blue Knot Foundation: Talking about trauma: Guide to conversations and screening for heath and other service providers

Bradford, M. 2009. Transcending the Victim-Rescuer-Persecutor Drama Triangle, “The Holman House Healing Centre Journal & a Greek Magazine” – London, England

 

Dorotik-Nana, C. 2015. How To Leverage Adversity and

Turn Setbacks Into Springboards,  www.leverageadversity.net

 

Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault Annual Report 2016/2017

 

Kalparrin Centre Against Sexual Assault Inc Annual Reports 1988-1994

Stevenson, H. 2015. Transcending The Drama Triangle, The Victim-Rescuer-Persecutor Within Organizations, http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiU65aH_6zeAhXMsI8KHXZsBCIQFjABegQICBAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.clevelandconsultinggroup.com%2Fherb-stevenson.php&usg=AOvVaw0y1bKFNPuw6ItRHsWPK-xt

www.KarpmanDramaTriangle.com

 

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