Find your calling – a family violence worker case study

Posted: 9th May

“The sector offers a lot of opportunities for professional development and not all roles involve working directly with the woman.” 

When Sarah* turned 48 a change in her life meant she was unable to keep working as a practice manager in the medical field, a role she had enjoyed for more than 26 years. After deciding to do volunteer work at Women’s Information Referral Exchange (WIRE), she realised she had found a new calling. 

“WIRE was my first introduction to family violence. I found the work very fulfilling and I loved the vision of helping to empower women. I could hear a change in their voice at the moment they realised they were not alone and that there are options,” she said. 

Sarah discovered that many of the skills she learned in her previous role were transferable and she decided to return to university full time for two years while continuing to build her professional experience and confidence working to support women at WIRE. 

“Being paid to work at WIRE while I was studying was an opportunity to put what I was studying into practice. After I finished studying, I knew I wanted to work in family violence so I applied for lots of jobs, just trying to get my foot in the door,” she said. 

For the past year she has worked four days a week at EMERGE Women and Children Support Network as a family violence crisis case manager and picked up casual work with another organisation doing response work after hours. This allows her to support women by building trust over time in her case manager role and to provide immediate support in her casual role.  

“My after-hours work gives me a different kind of exposure because I’m working at the coalface, responding to a woman’s needs right then and there. For example, we might hear from a woman in a motel room with her children: they might need nappies; they might need emotional support or they might need a plan to keep themselves safe. You address their needs and you don’t see them again, whereas my case management work is more long-term and focused on building relationships and empowering women,” she said. 

Although every day in case management is different, Sarah sums up her role as a relationship builder with the aim of supporting women to take the lead and move forward with their lives. 

“It’s all about listening and talking with someone, being transparent, validating their experience and offering choices. When they come to you their needs will vary. Sometimes what I think they should do right now might be different to what they expected to hear. That’s why trust is so important and why I really enjoy advocating for women as part of my job. 

“The sector offers a lot of opportunities for professional development and not all roles involve working directly with the woman. When I considered a mid-career change I didn’t realise how many of the skills I already had were relevant to being a case manager.” 

Find out more about the kinds of roles available on the family violence workforce at www.familyviolence.vic.gov.au/jobs 

*Not her real name, name changed to protect privacy