Workshop aims to solve abuse problem's in Australian Pacific families | Pacific Beat

Workshop aims to solve abuse problem's in Australian Pacific families

Workshop aims to solve abuse problem's in Australian Pacific families

Updated 19 July 2013, 20:25 AEST

Problems that plague many Pacific countries such as domestic violence and child and sexual abuse are evident in the community of Pacific Islanders in Sydney's western suburbs around Cabramatta and Campbelltown.

Family relationships are a major concern for the Samoa Victim Support Group in Sydney.

It's arranged a workshop for next Monday for Pacific Islander men to try to help.

The Keeping it Real for Pacific & Maori Men workshop will cover subjects such as identity and empower the men towards combatting domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Presenter:Brian Abbott

Speaker:Reece Robertson, Samoan Victim Support Group, Sydney

ROBERTSON: Yeah it is a big problem, I must admit from experience, being brought up in our Polynesian family. There are a lot of issues in that area that I've seen just been swept under the carpet, so to speak, but definitely, the topics that we are covering at the workshop is quite common also in the community. The stance quite, is quite high and Australian culturally diverse communities anyway. But our culture, it's not common to speak on these types of things. They are not openly spoken about, but like sex, all forms of abuse and also marital problems. But our aim to try and educate our men, equip them with the tools that we can sort of raise awareness and give them the appropriate strategies to encourage healthy relationships in families.

ABBOTT: How do you breakdown that barrier at the workshops. If there's something that's not talked about, how do suddenly confront a number of men about these issues?

ROBERTSON: Well, that's the thing, that we try and definitely open up to the men, if they're confident enough to do in front of them or do one-on-one or we sort of open to keep it discreet, so that way they feel comfortable to speak. But a lot of the stuff that we sure to do one-on-one is also confidential as well, gives them a bit of help and encourages them to open up.

ABBOTT: Let's take an example of, say, sexual abuse. How would you approach that at these workshops?

ROBERTSON: That's a sensitive issue and that's something that we do take under consideration real serious. So if there is a situation like that, we'll definitely come alongside of them and try and talk to them about certain things that we've already experienced, try and get them to really open up, talk about it, because a lot of them don't even have a clue about how to relate or try and explain it or try and even talk about it. So we'll definitely coach them through it, if you like, but, yeah definitely, it's a sensitive issue. But at the end of the day, what we're trying to do is just really touch on it and obviously a lot of people don't really talk about these things.

ABBOTT: Do you have professionals helping you run these workshops or is it all peer support?

ROBERTSON: We do, we do have professional help as well. We've had individuals that have come through that whole abuse, have been gone through programs and are staff facilitators now.

ABBOTT: Another topic to be covered by the workshops is identity. Are Australian-Pacific men losing touch with their Pacific roots?

ROBERTSON: Not all Pacific Islanders are, but I'm finding a lot of identity becoming more of reality, so to speak. Identity's very important without our culture, within the Pacific Island community. But the identity crisis is definitely caused by language barriers and not understanding or speaking in the native tongue, causing limitations within our communities.

The half cast children struggle to fit in in the cultural perspective, a lack of understanding, cultural heritage also leds to a loss of identity. But the way we're counteracting that is using group discussions, focusing on the cultural heritage, communication between cultures and understanding the languages. But we're also sharing ideas about what works well within our families.

ABBOTT: You've recently run a workshop in nearby Mount Druitt.

ROBERTSON: Yes.

ABBOTT: What is some of the feedback you've received from that workshop in Mount Druitt. How successful was that?

ROBERTSON: That was a real good, a start off of our three sessions in Mount Druitt.

The amount of guys that we got that we got within those three sessions was about 33 men all from different cultures.

To be honest, it's pretty hard to get even that amount, especially from Mount Druitt, but we definitely had a good feedback from them individually when I spoke to some of the guys that were there. They learnt things that they had never heard before, which was really good. Most of them were asking when was the next one, so that was a good feedback from those guys.

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