Cobaw to advocate for clients experiencing family violence

Cobaw Community Health Services (Cobaw) welcomes the Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria.

Many of the people accessing Cobaw services are presenting with issues related to family violence. Across all of Cobaw’s programs, family violence is one of the identified issues at intake and varies from 10-50 per cent of clients in areas such as housing, children’s services, counselling and family services.

For many years, Cobaw has worked in partnership with the Centre for Non Violence (CNV) in Bendigo and CNV staff continue to be co-located in Cobaw’s Kyneton office working alongside Cobaw staff. Recently CNV has provided additional funding to employ a Cobaw counsellor to work specifically with children impacted by family violence. This funding has recently been made ongoing, which is great news for the community.

Last year Cobaw supported training to identify and manage family violence issues that was attended by a wide range of community partner organisations.

Cobaw will contribute to the Royal Commission through a number of different submissions to ensure that the impacts of family violence in the community are addressed. Cobaw is an active member of the Macedon Ranges Safety Network and a part of the Loddon Campaspe Integrated Family Violence Consortium. The consortium intends to inform the Victorian Royal Commission on Family Violence by drawing on local research that has captured women’s experiences of family violence and the system’s response.

“Internally we also recognise that family violence impact is not just in any part of the community and last year introduced a family violence policy for staff”, stated Margaret McDonald, Cobaw CEO.

“Cobaw will advocate for our clients and draw on the effects of family violence in addressing the physical and psychosocial health outcomes of the women and children in our contributions to two submissions. Cobaw will provide our own submission that reflects on the impacts on the community we have learned as a community health organisation.

“I have great hope that the recommendations will provide Cobaw with clarity around how we might better provide services to those impacted by family violence”.

Cobaw Walks the Block

Cobaw Community Health staff in Kyneton and Woodend walked around the block on Thursday 19 March – all in the name of better workplace health and productivity. Walk the Block is a workplace health initiative by Victoria Walks, aimed at combating the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle.

Walk the Block

“Sitting is the new public health enemy”, said Dr Ben Rossiter, Executive Officer of Victoria Walks.

According to health experts, sitting could be as dangerous as smoking. There is growing evidence to show that prolonged sitting is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and premature death.[1]

“We sit at our desks or in confined spaces, often for many hours every day. Breaking up sitting time with simple activities such as a walking meeting or lunchtime walk can improve people’s moods and ability to handle stress at work,” says Dr Rossiter.[2] “Incorporating walking into our daily routine is the easiest way to increase our physical activity.”

“It’s fantastic to see Cobaw Community Health support this initiative and encourage staff to become more active,” said Dr Rossiter.



Cobaw’s WayOut High Court win ends long running legal battle

The High Court today rejected an application by Christian Youth Camps Ltd (CYC) for special leave to appeal to the High Court against a finding that it discriminated against Cobaw Community Health Services.

CYC were seeking special leave to appeal against a decision of the Victorian Court of Appeal that it breached the state’s former Equal Opportunity Act by discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. In 2007, the WayOut program tried to book a camp at a CYC facility on Philip Island to facilitate a suicide prevention workshop for same sex attracted, bisexual and transgender young people. The booking was refused because of the camp manager’s objection to homosexuality.

The decision by three High Court judges ends the long running legal battle and means that the ruling of the Court of Appeal from earlier this year stands. The judges unanimously agreed that the administration of justice would not be served by the case going to an appeal before the High Court.

Today’s positive outcome reflects the history of the legal proceeding, Cobaw having been successful at every level prior to the High Court. The win supports the evidence provided by Sue Hackney, part of the WayOut foundation team, and the young people intending to attend the workshop.

Cobaw’s Acting CEO, Margaret McDonald said today: “We are relieved that the long-running case is finally over. It has taken up significant resources of what is a small community health organisation. We would like to acknowledge King & Wood Mallesons for their commitment to this case. The barristers involved over the years include Peter Hanks QC, Jim McKenna, Elizabeth Bennett, Kathleen Foley, Emrys Nekvapil and Justice Debbie Mortimer.”

About WayOut

WayOut is a state wide suicide prevention program that works with same sex attracted, bisexual and transgender young people in rural Victoria. It was established in January 2002 as one of two pilot initiatives funded by the Department of Human Services in the Macedon Ranges, Mt Alexander, Central Goldfields and Greater Bendigo.

The main aims of the project were to redress the isolation that same sex attracted young people faced in their community and raise awareness about the nature and effects of homophobia. WayOut has continued to protect and nurture vulnerable young people by providing support, education, facilitating youth groups, and working with partner organisations.

Media enquiries: Margaret McDonald, Acting CEO, 0407 806 870

Cobaw Annual General Meeting

Cobaw Community Health’s 2014 Annual General Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 26 November at 3:30pm at the Malmsbury Town Hall (91 Mollison Street).

The AGM will provide an opportunity to celebrate the organisation’s milestones and achievements of the past 12 months, while looking forward to an exciting future as part of a merged entity with Bendigo Community Health Services.

Cobaw’s Acting CEO Margaret McDonald said, “Cobaw has achieved significant success this year while continuing to deliver services to clients, many who experience inequality and disadvantage. As we look towards a future full of new opportunities, the AGM will enable us to recognise what has been accomplished. This is a great opportunity for members and stakeholders and we look forward to as many people attending as possible.”

Guest speaker Margaret Augerinos, Centre for Non-Violence CEO, will talk about the role of community health organisations and the role they have in supporting the community.

Afternoon tea will be provided following proceedings. RSVPs are required by 19 November to or (03) 5421 1666.

Cobaw Supports White Ribbon Day

Cobaw Community Health Services is supporting White Ribbon Day – Australia’s campaign to stop violence against women.

On Tuesday 25 November Cobaw is hosting a free BBQ (12-2pm) at the Kyneton Lions Club Pavilion (on Mollison Street near the library). White Ribbon resources will be provided to help raise awareness of the campaign including facts about violence and the many things men can do to help end violence against women.

The vision of the White Ribbon campaign is for “all women to live in safety free from all forms of men’s violence”, and mission is “making women’s safety a man’s issue too”. The campaign works through primary prevention initiatives involving awareness raising and education, and programs with youth, schools, workplaces, and across the broader community.

As part of the campaign, all this month Cobaw and Macedon Ranges Shire Council cars are displaying White Ribbon slogans including “Violence against women is everybody’s business”.

Globally, White Ribbon is the world’s largest male-led movement to end men’s violence against women. Originating in Canada in 1991, White Ribbon is now active in more than 60 countries ( Intimate partner violence is the most common type of violence against women, affecting 30 per cent of women worldwide, according to the 2013 World Health Organisation report.

If you are affected by or witness violence in your home, workplace, school or community and are seeking support, please contact Cobaw on (03) 5421 1666 for information on support services.

Cobaw members vote to merge with Bendigo Community Health Services

Cobaw Community Health members voted last night to merge with Bendigo Community Health Services.

Cobaw Community Health held a special members meeting last night at the Kyneton Mechanics Institute to address the Cobaw members and vote on the proposed merger with Bendigo Community Health Services.

The merger, initiated by Cobaw Community Health is to strengthen and consolidate Cobaw’s long- term future and services in the Macedon Ranges and has been in development since April this year.

Both the Cobaw and Bendigo Community Health Service boards voted unanimously to support the merge on completing a due diligence process and merger negotiations, however it was up to the members of Cobaw to make the final decision last night.

The vote to support the merger proposal last night means that the next step in the process to merge the two organisations can now proceed including engaging with staff in planning the future and initiating the necessary legal process.

“We are excited about the prospect of the opportunities presented for our Macedon Ranges clients and staff with this merger, and confident that we have now secured a viable future for the services and supports established by Cobaw in our region,” said Acting CEO Margaret McDonald.

“The Board made a difficult decision in pursuing a merger, but we had to put the community interests first – and that interest is best served by partnering with our regional neighbouring service. We are buoyed by the support of the members at the meeting last night,” she said.

“This will give the new larger organisation greater capacity to scale up services and grow,” added Ms McDonald.

“We are committed to developing a truly integrated organisation that builds on our combined strengths and are able to engage more broadly to achieve that,” Kim Sykes, CEO Bendigo Community Health Services commented.

“Both organisations have a long history of serving their community and a reputation for delivering quality services to those in need. We will progress this merger respectfully ensuring business continuity and a vibrant shared future.”

“We have worked together on several initiatives over the years and we share similar values, ways of working and a commitment to local, place-based responses. Our central priority with the merger is to ensure that the best interests and needs of our communities continue to be served and any future decisions made will be motivated by that priority,” she concluded.

Cobaw Members to Vote Next Week on Merger

Cobaw Community Health’s members will vote on the organisation’s proposed merger with Bendigo Community Health Services (BCHS) at a special members meeting next week (6 November).

Cobaw’s Board voted unanimously to support the move to merge with BCHS on 4 September following a thorough due diligence process and ongoing merger negotiations.

For the merger to proceed, members of Cobaw must vote to support the proposal, which will be put by Special Resolutions at the meeting on 6 November. If passed, the legal process to merge the two organisations will then be completed.

“We have communicated with all members about the reasons for the merger and the practical aspects of the process if the proposal is accepted,” said Acting CEO Margaret McDonald.

“The Board is confident that we have the best solution to our ongoing viability in this community, and that we have found an organisation like ours we can partner with to strengthen and develop services in the Macedon Ranges.

“This includes, for example, the announcement recently of our expansion into permanent premises in Romsey.”

“Our staff and Board are focused on ensuring Cobaw secure our future and flourish, and we are confident this merger will fulfil our goal,” she concluded.

Walking towards confidence, independence and health

October is VicHealth’s Walk to School month and is designed to encourage school children to walk to and from school more often, and raise awareness of the physical, environmental and social benefits of active transport.

VicHealth commissioned research to understand parents’ fears as a barrier to physical activity and to find solutions to help parents give their children greater freedom to walk and ride to and from kinder and school within their neighbourhood. Almost half (48%) of Victorian parents of children aged nine to 15 are worried about their child’s safety when they are not with an adult because a stranger might approach them.

Victorian children are living a more inactive lifestyle, and as a consequence, increasing risk of serious health problems such as obesity, type-2 diabetes and heart disease. One in four children are currently overweight or obese, and this is expected to increase to one in three by 2025. Only one in five Australian children get the recommended one hour of physical activity every day.

“Encouraging kids to get active puts them on a path to good health for the rest of their lives,” explained Wendy Taverna, Cobaw Community Health’s Paediatric Physiotherapist. “Participating in daily physical activity is important for healthy growth and development. Kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.”

Getting active

Beck Neylon, Cobaw Children’s Physiotherapist said, “With obesity on the rise, we’re encouraging as many children to walk, skip, ride, or skateboard every day. Being active on the way to childcare, kinder and school helps build physical activity into the daily routine.”

“We encourage parents to teach their children road safety and navigation skills by riding or walking around their neighbourhood.”

Several factors influence parents’ decisions to let their children play and travel independently. Factors range from ‘stranger danger’ to traffic and pedestrian hazards. “Letting children become independent in their play and travel is an emotional process, however that letting go can be managed in stages,” explained Wendy.

“Parents are encouraged to get involved, be active with their children, and also encourage them to be active with their siblings and friends. They will learn new skills, experience challenges and build their confidence.”

Cobaw offers a range of children’s health services and has some practical ‘Get out and get active’ resources for families. Please contact Cobaw on 03 5421 1666 for a free information pack.

Getting active


Men’s Shed Takes Step Towards Incorporation

A group of men using Cobaw Community Health’s Men’s Shed have registered the name “Kyneton Men’s Shed Incorporated” as the first step towards gaining their independence and operating the shed as a standalone organisation.

The move has been fully supported by Cobaw, which is working with Stephen Hiley, the Macedon Ranges Shire Council Community Partnerships Officer, to map out the pathways towards independence. This will provide the shed participants with increased autonomy, decision making capacity, and improved fundraising possibilities in the future.

Cobaw’s Acting CEO, Margaret McDonald said that the board endorsed a transitional support plan to financially support the shed while the newly incorporated body built the skills and capacity to become self supporting.

”The association between Cobaw and the Men’s Shed has been a valuable one. I look forward to this exciting development as the participants move towards greater self-determination of the shed.”

“A transition plan will be developed and will be progressed over the coming months, while as part of this process current Men’s Shed Project Worker, John Quinlan, will finish up his role in December,” said Ms McDonald.

Chairman of the Kyneton Men’s Shed Inc, John Mitchell, said part of the reason for seeking independence was because of Cobaw’s decision to explore a merger with Bendigo Community Health Services.

Mr Mitchell thanked Cobaw for its support and also urged the people of Kyneton to support the new Kyneton Men’s Shed Inc. He stressed that the road ahead would be difficult.

“We currently use the Cobaw shed, which is subject to the three year lease, and we are hopeful of staying there as long as we are able while we seek funds to obtain our own land on which we can build our own shed.”

Mitchell said that as a standalone organisation the Shed would have the ability to apply for the State and Federal grants that are currently available. This was not possible while the Shed was under Cobaw’s control.

“The Cobaw Kyneton Men’s Shed was one of the first to be established in Victoria, so we have a proud heritage. We are determined to succeed.”

LGBTI and Mental Health in Rural Victoria

WayOut, a Cobaw Community Health program, is funded by the Victorian Department of Health as part of the HEY (Health Equal Youth) project. It is an early intervention suicide prevention program that supports young people aged 12-25 in rural Victoria, focusing on lesbian, gay, bi, trans* and intersex (LGBTI) young people, their friends, advocates and family in the Macedon Ranges and across rural Victoria.

LGBTI people regularly deal with marginalisation and stigma, experiencing more negative mental health outcomes than the population as a whole. Sex and gender diversity and intersex conditions are not themselves risk factors for mental health problems, but they may make people more vulnerable to negative experiences and discrimination.

Even though there is an increasing acceptance and visibility of LGBTI people in society, many LGBTI people still experience discrimination, harassment and violence at work, school and in social situations. This can be exacerbated for LGBTI people living in rural and regional Victoria due to lack of services and supports.

WayOut provides safe spaces for young people to explore their sex and gender identity, to connect with other young people and services, and to take part in LGBTI specific events and celebrations.

What does a safe space mean for young people? According to one member of the WayOut facilitated diversity group House of Awesome, it means “…freedom from judgement by self and other people. A safe space is where everyone accepts you for who you are. When you have people to support you, you don’t give in to your own self loathing. You are able to explore gender and sexuality without having to do it on your own. By being part of a group I have met new friends and been to events such as Equal Love rallies, conferences and Minus18 events”.

Another member said, “I enjoy meeting other people who don’t judge. People on the street judge you by your appearance before even meeting you”.

House of Awesome meets every second Tuesday afternoon at Cobaw Community Health in High Street, Kyneton. If you would like to find out more about the group please contact Mez or Erin on 5421 1666.

Cobaw Community Health welcomes LGBTI people of all ages and is working towards achieving Rainbow Tick accreditation as an inclusive service.

(references: LGBTI Health Alliance, Beyond Blue)