Outskirts online journal

Tracy Castelino

Further information

About the author

Tracy Castelino is a Consultant for the prevention of violence against women. She has a Masters in Social Work and her PhD was on local violence against women prevention programs.

[email protected]

Publication details

Volume 31, November 2014


Making Sense of the Discourses in the Violence Against Women Domain: A Gender Violence Prevention Typology


In this article I present and explore community approaches to preventing violence against women. I suggest that there are four discernible types of violence prevention, each with their own justifications, discourses and languages. Exploring these approaches I draw on my own and other research, including a major initiative, the Gender, Violence Prevention and Local Government Project (GLOVE). GLOVE focused on Victorian local government violence prevention policies and practices, acknowledging gender differences in the experience of violence and built on the community-government partnership model. The analysis in this paper illustrates that the language and discourse of each type of violence prevention shapes the methodology and solutions that can be negotiated. In particular, whether and how gender is made explicit or rendered visible in approach, profoundly impacts on the inclusion and empowerment of women to play a key role in prevention. Finally I present a gender violence prevention typology that describes four of the critical discourses present in the evolution of violence against women prevention policies, practices and partnerships and the how they were implemented in local Victorian communities.


The Gender, Local Governance and Violence Prevention (GLOVE) Project was funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant between the University of Melbourne and the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth, 2007). It worked with four Victorian localities from 2006-2009 to support the development of local and state government violence prevention policies within this framework. The City of Greater Bendigo, City of Casey, the Shire of Loddon and City of Maribyrnong were the government-community partnership sites that were part of the GLOVE Project. These four sites demonstrated the variation of politics, history, networks and locale in Victoria. They highlighted the range of issues local governments must deal with when considering safe communities. These issues range across cultural diversity, urbo-centric new families with high mortgages, and regional and urban Indigenous experiences.

As part of the GLOVE Project I investigated how the Victorian state and local policy contexts understand and name gendered violence prevention and what discursive practises are engaged to formulate the various discourses of gender, and the ultimate implications for policy and practices (Castelino, 2011). I posed the following question: how do discourses and practices of gender impact on violence prevention at the local level? And a secondary question: how do various interpretations contribute to the Victorian and local government community safety and violence prevention policies and programmes? It became apparent, both from the project and my everyday clinical practice, that despite a broad acceptance in working for the safety of women, there was a divergence of interpretations and subsequent development of strategies in the areas of violence against women, domestic violence and violence prevention.

Feminist post-structuralism complements the exploration of the macro and micro political context with its assumption that the production of meaning is mediated both by language and by social, historical, cultural and spatial practices (Gunew, 1990). Discourses are created through the interaction of these practices and cultural norms. Gunew (1990) assert that the positioning of women as passive, weak and emotional is imposed and constructed, rather than an innate way of being. Feminist theories offer various ways to view gender power relations, critique the assumption of a natural order, and challenge policy responses to crime and violence. Together with post- structuralism, these theories offer consideration of the relationships between language, subjectivity, social and political organisation and power in order to understand how violence prevention policies and programmes are constructed at both the state and local levels of government. How gender is conceptualised and articulated impacts on the development of violence prevention policies and programmes at the local level. For instance, feminists challenged the notion that the domestic sphere was a woman’s place and ventured out to the streets to speak about their private pains (Pateman, 1992).

A commonality amongst diverse feminist perspectives is the focus on women’s interests and rights to equality in the political, economic, social and educational domains. Initially, feminists grappled with the sex/gender distinction as it was seen as a key site of oppression. They introduced gender as a means of exposing the socially imposed arrangement by which women were relegated to inferior positions (de Beauvoir, 1972; MacKinnon, 1989). Postmodern feminists developed this argument further, articulating that gender is not universal or fixed and is socially constructed.  (Butler, 1990; Oakley, 2002). They moved beyond the binary of sex and gender distinction, stating that gender is constructed alongside race, culture, class and any other category. A more current discourse of gender includes women’s multiple and varied experiences and is located within diverse social, political and ethnic contexts. The conceptualisation of the term gender tended to universalise women’s experiences and in relation to violence, position them as victims. More recently, men have joined the gender debate, providing a lens for how gender shapes masculinity (Connell, 1995; Hearn, 1997; Pease, 2008). However, as is central to my thesis, gender, whilst broadly conceptualised, is narrow in text and practice. Gender issues have become synonymous with women’s issues and the maxim reigned that gender is about women’s issues and thus to be managed by women. Gender is still a contested concept. Nonetheless, the term gender has served the purpose of encompassing the politics of women’s issues.

Building on the work of the GLOVE Project, I explore the multiple violence prevention discourses and practices of gender that are present and developing at the Victorian local government level, and how these particular discourses impact on the development of violence prevention policies and programmes. I present a gender violence prevention typology that describes four of the critical discourses present in the evolution of violence against women prevention policies, practices and partnerships and the how they were implemented in local Victorian communities. Examining violence prevention policies opens up the possibility of reviewing the interaction between the micro and macro politics of violence. I argue that creating space for multiple, fluid and even contradictory meanings of gender will allow for negotiation and discovery of new possibilities for engaging a broader citizenship response to violence prevention. It is imperative to understand the various discourses at play in any given political and social environment as this has an impact on the policies and programmes produced. Violence prevention policies are not devised in a vacuum; they are the result of key actors’ understandings of gender and violence. These understandings have implications for problem construction, policy design and partnership performance.

Gender violence prevention typology

The gender violence prevention typology (GVP) makes available gendered understandings and identifies the implications embedded in concepts and practices of community and partnership, women-centred violence prevention, primary prevention, a human rights approach and gender mainstreaming. The gender violence prevention typology underscores the ways that particular representations of the problem of violence prevention influence policy development, partnerships and programs implemented. In this paper I cover the usefulness of the typology of discourses to further enhance current violence prevention efforts.

The gender violence prevention typology (presented in the Table below) reconciles how gender is constituted in global, state and local violence prevention policies. It provides a framework for understanding the multiple faces of gender and its make-up in mainstream crime prevention and violence against women policies. This typology is comprised of the following: nullifying gender through universalising communities; inclusion; difference; and transformative gender relations. I have refined the original three-fold typology developed by Rees (1998) to include one of the dominant gender violence prevention discourses in the literature, nullifying gender through universalising communities. Extending on the work of Rees (1998) and other feminist academics, this category, nullifying gender through universalising communities, hopes to make visible and re-workable a well circulated violence prevention discourse that uses universal and all-inclusive language and invalidates the differences based on gender, race, culture and other identity constructs. Through my research and practice experience I have noticed these gendered violence prevention discourses in policies, programmes and partnerships. I name, expose, and explore these various discourses as a way of better informing current and future violence prevention efforts. I argue that a critical analysis of dominant gendered modes of response to violence offers important resources for understanding the problem and future avenues for violence prevention endeavours.

Table showing typology of gendered violence prevention

Nullifying Gender through Universalising Communities

Mainstream community safety and violence prevention research and policies have focused on strategies to determine the causes of crime and develop suitable interventions. There is also a wealth of writings covering broad criminology and deviance, criminology and social movements, development of community crime prevention and communalism and social capital as the new solution. Feminist critiques of mainstream criminology and crime prevention literature observe the neglect of women, and thus the biased formulation of criminology models (Belknap, 2007). This limitation is visible in crime prevention policies and strategies that have clustered all forms of interpersonal violence together without discernment of the differential experiences of women, of gay men, of migrant women or of poor men. This response has concentrated on community violence and historically ignored family violence and violence in the private sphere. This conventional violence prevention body of work is best encapsulated by a term I have devised; nullifying gender through universalising communities. This term is a useful descriptor of the impact of using universal, gender neutral assumptions on violence prevention work. Concepts such as community and partnership, citizenship and governance are borne out of liberal traditions, positivism and privileging scientific paradigms, which were contrived, researched, defined and documented within a patriarchal frame by men (Lister, 2004). Further, the employment of the language of communities, local governance and partnerships throughout gendered and mainstream policies creates a positive, inclusive and hopeful sense of community as a whole but renders invisible the gender power relations and diversity between categories of identities.

For instance, the concept of ‘community’ conjures up positive aspirations and experiences of belonging, connectedness and participation in the locale. Notably Rose (1999) has observed the seduction of the term ‘community’ with its positive affirmative connotations that carries with it multiple meanings and usages. Rose argues that this helps explain why community has become an object and target for the exercise of political power as it is built on ‘micro-cultures of values and meanings’ (Rose, 1999: 172). The term ‘community’ takes for granted an inclusion of all who matter (Lister, 1997).

These universal notions render invisible those not included in the intentions, the traditions and the political construction of concepts (Lister, 1997). Further, gender neutral approaches fail to acknowledge structural inequalities between the differing needs of women and men. From my research in the Victorian context (Castelino, 2011), policies that could be considered to perpetuate the discourse, nullifying gender through universalising communities are standard crime and violence prevention council documents. They speak in generic terms about the public and the problem of safety for everyone. It is useful to understand how gender is constructed when linked to partnership and communities’ discourses. The term nullifying gender through universalising communities describes broad safety responses, with the assumption that there is a level playing field of accessibility and confidence in using public space, participating in civic consultation and political processes. This gendered assumption is documented in policies and then re-iterated and implemented by workers. Council participants noted their constraints due to their organisational context and mandate, which is ‘to serve all their community, all their constituents and grow and change with their community’.

Councils are traditionally mandated and funded to serve the whole community without bias to particular parts of its citizenship or membership. Core functions or local issues are devised from a generic and universal service provision framework. The following comments highlight the particularities of place, gender and safety:

The drought affects everyone badly…we need to serve our entire community…there is trauma for everyone…the whole community suffers…

When asked whether the drought might affect women and men in diverse ways and whether because of their gender they might have diverse roles on farms, the participant reflected with interest and surprise that there may be differences.

Yes…women are much more isolated than men….they are stuck on properties…far away from family and friends sometimes…and it is difficult from them to leave…escape…

This female council participant continued to describe the details of women’s experiences of isolation and lack of safety. She explained that it would be difficult for women to escape violence because the roads are bad, not well lit and, therefore, it would not be safe to drive at night. She added that there tended to be guns on the farm and distance separated from neighbours. With further reflection she offered this insight about men and masculinity:

….And men don’t talk to anyone….there is a still a very narrow idea of what is expected of men…their identities are tied to being the provider…the breadwinner…and it devastates them when they can no longer do this…

As can be seen with this tiered quote, the council participant expanded her understanding of gender and its influence on the experiences of drought in her community.

There are opportunities proffered by this discourse including the promotion of broad based participation, involvement in creating safer communities, many local activities that are funded and supported by government and community leadership and a wide range of cooperation and partnerships across government units. In Victoria under the Bracks/Brumby governments this universalising discourse contributed to the building of local activities and leadership within municipal boundaries and forging partnerships and networks with local services on a local priority. These are positive and locally owned responses to community safety and violence prevention: for example, Caseyville, the community safety game and the Casey Road Safety Education Centre. Participants in this research validated this discourse and it was noticeably influential in their planning of community safety policies and council plans.

However, the embedding of this discourse, universalising communities, raises concerns as it nullifies gender, culture and anything that is not ‘the norm’. As proven from the examination of the Victorian family violence policies from 2005-2009 (OWP, 2002, 2009; DVC, 2005; SSCRFV, 2005), there is a persistent and purposeful usage of concepts of ‘community collaborations’, ‘partnerships’, ‘building community capacity’ and ‘engaging local communities’. Through the analysis of these state policies, the dominant discourses of community and partnership are produced and circulated as positive violence prevention strategies. The universal discourses of community and partnership pervade all of the Victorian policy texts and provide a unitary framework of what is a good community and what is a supportive and just government. The nullifying gender through universalising communities’ discourse neutralises the complexities of gender and diversity.

Whilst a gender analysis is advocated as central to all work with family violence, there is no gender analysis applied to the concepts of partnerships and community collaborations, which is a key strategy in the Women’s Safety Strategy (OWP, 2002). The category, nullifying gender through universalising communities, exposes these tensions and contradictions in the State family violence policy documents. This tension of gender neutral partnerships where gender is nullified is manifested at the coalface where family violence prevention networks and family violence regional partnerships are required to collaborate with men’s family violence prevention sector groups and government agencies, such as housing and child protection. In meetings and partnership documents, agreements and Memorandums of Understandings, language and definitions have to suit all partners, therefore there has been compromising of resources and program focus. As one woman community organisation leader said:

We have to be aware that we are entering partnerships with people who have different agendas and versions of gender to us….women’s voices can get lost…changed… this is our role as a women’s domestic violence service.

This quote outlines the tensions of gender power relations in the engagement, negotiation and relationship processes of local and regional partnerships. There was a noticeable lack of awareness about the gender construction inherent in communities and partnerships rhetoric. Considering partnerships and communities as gendered constructs requires critical questions about the implications for women’s domestic violence services of joining with council staff, with the government sector and with men’s services in order to change community attitudes on violence against women. In summary, this category of response has three main shortcomings. It ignores or neutralizes gender; uses the term ‘community’ to assume a homogenous client/citizenship group with shared needs; and it neglects power relations.

Gender Inclusion – Gender as Women Only

As noted from the various examples in the gender violence prevention typology, through the gender inclusion and gender as difference discourses, gender can be defined as women only and therefore a focus on enhancing the safety of women in isolation from other violence prevention policies. When gender is translated to mean about women and for women, men and masculinities are rendered invisible. There is a focus on women’s safety and creating safer environments and empowerment models without a full consideration that men experience and perpetrate more violence than women (ABS, 2006). It obscures the data that notes that men are predominantly the victims and the perpetrators of violence in public spaces. Equating gender to women does allow policies to be constructed for women where women are named and centralised as critical subjects for intervention.

Feminists accord importance to local community knowledge and experiences about violence and safety (Shaw, 2001). The feminist argument has strengthened the advocacy for local violence prevention by using a gender framework that challenges the uncritically accepted notions of universality and gender-neutrality that are embedded in the term community. I have re-named the category of equal treatment to the gender inclusion discourse as it strives for the inclusion or insertion of women’s issues on the political agenda within the existing political structure (Verloo, 2004). This category, gender inclusion, aims for an equality that is associated with sameness to the male norm, thus linked to creating opportunities for women which are granted to men (such strategies as equal opportunity legislation). The inclusion vision has politicised and validated what were once private issues (such as family life, reproduction, child care and violence against women). As noted in the visual representation (Table), the World Heath Report on Violence and Health (Krug et al., 2002) is a useful example of the insertion of violence against women as one of several categories of concern. The World Report on Violence and Health has been pivotal in its global influence for several reasons; it links violence to negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of women and communities, it inserts a gender lens into violence prevention and health discourses, it recommends multi-sectoral and cross- government approaches and it articulates the hopes and strategies for preventing violence. In the document there are individual chapters for each category of violence: there is a chapter for abuse by intimate partners, followed by another on elder abuse, youth violence, collective violence etc. There is a noted limitation when gender is applied to violence against women but not to other forms of violence. While men and masculinities are ignored the fact that men are the predominant victims and perpetrators of public violence is neglected in community safety and violence prevention policies.

Over the last seven years there has been a marked change in local governments’ responses on family violence and violence against women. Some councils moved rapidly away from the inclusion discourse of inserting gender or family violence into local government policies. Councils moved towards embracing preventing violence against women projects, which fits within a gender transformative discourse. Local governments are well placed to ensure co-ordination of violence prevention, in partnership with community members and community services (Castelino & Whitzman, 2008). The incorporation of gender considerations into the agenda of Victorian local councils has not been a consistent and coherent approach; rather it has been on an individual municipality basis dependent on local politics, leadership and community priorities.

From my research there was a strong commitment to the inclusion discourse by all participants. The inclusion category serves the feminist cause well and lays claim to many achievements of government policy and legislation, and urges for further policy direction with regard to family violence and violence prevention work. There were varied and contrasting comments from participants as they identified the insertion of family violence as a key issue in council plans and policies. For instance, one participant from the City of Greater Bendigo site said that ‘…there was a growing acknowledgement in council policy documents of the importance of family violence or violence against women…’, whilst another commented that ‘it is a token insertion by council of family violence…there is no weight of strategy or action behind it’. Participants expressed a hope for a sustained change of attitude and policy and programme development as awareness and education occurred through, and because of, the local family violence partnerships. This attitudinal change, a strengthening of commitment, is clearly evident in Bendigo where in 2012 the Council organised a forum ‘Achieving Respect and Gender Equality in Greater Bendigo’ and produced a City of Greater Bendigo Violence Prevention Plan 2012-2015.

There are implications when gender issues become translated to mean women’s issues, particularly within the context of violence prevention and family violence work. Family violence and violence against women are recognised as being serious, preventable and requiring a better response by council. As noted in the previous evidence from the Bendigo site, the initial insertions of women, family violence, and gender have developed into new learnings and a substantial commitment by the local council in partnership with family violence services. However, when gender is interpreted as women-only, a complexity of meaning is lost in translation with the lack of a complex and broad analysis of gender, which in turn could provide more sophisticated, and comprehensive community safety policies.

Charlotte Bunch (1987: 134) coined the term ‘add women and stir’ to indicate a weakness of this discourse of gender inclusion. ‘Add women and stir’ referred to adding or inserting women into the systems that were built by men for men and, in fact, continue to restrict women to the standards of men. The inclusion of women into analysis and information systems without questioning the existing gender power relations and structures continues to restrict women to the standards of men. This critique spawned further activism that challenged the patriarchal status quo and allowed for a new construct; gender difference.

Gender Difference – Affirming and Claiming Separateness

The vision of gender as difference or reversal (Walby, 1990) builds on the discourse of inclusion, and again affirms difference from the dominant and taken for granted male norm. The thematic category of difference demands that women be situated as having specialised needs and experiences within the institutions. The gender difference discourse seeks strategies such as positive treatment through affirmative action and special units and programmes for women to manage the specific and different requirements from men. The category of gender difference is a term well used in the international literature (Rees, 2002). Walby (2005) outlines the establishment of specific policy units as a technical gender tool to formulate and manage women’s issues. Feminists built the idea that there was a need for specialist policy machinery to advance women’s equality across all government initiatives (Yeatman, 1990).

This discourse has currency at the global, national and state levels, with women‘s units supporting femocrats to devise women-centred policies and programmes. The GVP Typology provides several examples of women-specific policy initiatives (Garcia-Moreno et al., 2005). This is a critical political strategy for gendering violence against women in public and private domains. A good example that demonstrates the powerful resource of locating women as different and separate to men is the work undertaken by Women In Cities International (WICI). One of their projects used a multi-pronged approach to respond to the gendered nature of public space. WICI created local interventions led by women and engaging women in the community in order to spotlight the safety of women in public spaces by conducting women’s safety audits of their environs. At the local municipal level, women formed strategic partnerships, built outreach programmes to increase community awareness, and undertook research and evaluation (WICI, 2007).

Within the Victorian context the discourse of gender difference is powerfully present in policy and practice. The benefits and tensions manifested by government women’s units became apparent throughout this research. Many participants mentioned that it could be overwhelming for one unit to hold the banner on women’s issues given limited resources and funding distribution. However, the difference discourse has created access to the political process for those who have been excluded, in this case, women. Using the difference discourse lens, it becomes clear that women in these units are required to take leadership on gender issues and become designated as gender experts to advise about gender awareness of women’s experiences of violence, of safety, and of health and wellbeing.

The gendering community safety research presents the tension between the concept and practice of the ‘gender expert’ as a skill to offer initial training to mainstream services (Moser, 2005), and the management of ‘ghettoisation’ of women’s issues to a unit where all the problems relegated to women are deposited (Shaw & Capobianco, 2004). Whilst there is the potential for ‘ghettoisation’ of women’s issues, this silo-ing of women’s issues has been indispensable to the achievements of the current status of violence against women and gendered violence prevention efforts in Victoria (and worldwide). The Women’s Safety Strategy (OWP, 2002) and accompanying documents are evidence of the usefulness of the difference discourse. The case for women‘s specialist units underscores three points: firstly and repeatedly, the term gender very clearly means women and women-only, secondly, the argument is that women can take leadership on gender issues and compel reflection and evaluation about the core business of women‘s safety and experiences of violence, and thirdly, others (those in the mainstream, the wider community) require a specialist gender expert to educate them about gender awareness of women‘s experiences of violence and safety.

Transformative Gender Relations

I have used the term ‘transformative gender relations’ for the final category rather than gender mainstreaming. The Beijing Platform for Action (1995) brought a new term into the political and policy areas that were considered transformative, gender mainstreaming. Gender mainstreaming promotes the integration of gender equality, through complex consideration of women and men, in the process of developing and implementing policy and programs. In Australia gender mainstreaming, thus far, has been resisted and even rejected and clearly misunderstood. Transformative gender relations broadly encompasses contemporary policy and practice intentions that seek to achieve social and gender transformation, such as the human rights approach, primary prevention and gendered community mobilisation efforts. Transformative gender relations refer to endeavours that seek to go beyond the current structures and forms of gendered understandings. These various transformative policies and practices are presented within this typology to provide a suite of possibilities that can work together to perform complex gender violence prevention.

Examples given in the GVP Typology table highlight the gender violence prevention discourses within the international development arena, such as Sida (2003) and DFID (2007), where comprehensive gender equality plans have been developed to work with local communities to enhance community safety through the empowerment of women, community education and mobilisation. There are many examples within the international development context of violence prevention initiatives that engaged with local communities, through local experts and built government-community partnerships to challenge and change violence.

To eliminate and prevent violence against women innovative gender violence prevention efforts are required. In the international literature there is an expanse of work undertaken with local communities on public violence where feminists have engaged with gender (Hume, 2006). We could learn from the international development arena. Many international development organisations have devised innovative ways of engaging local communities to honour their ‘insider knowledges’. These organisations have documented their research, manuals and tools (Oxfam GB, 2004; Sida, 2007). These works are transformative for some of the following reasons:

  • they provide multi-level responses;
  • women and men engage in dialogue from government and community;
  • gender-responsive accountability and evaluation strategies are presented and implemented;
  • gender is integrated into the culture and processes of the institution.

The Influence of Primary Prevention Discourse on Preventing Violence Against Women Efforts within the Victorian Context

Since 2005 the public health/primary prevention approach has had a definite impact on violence prevention work. As it is currently the dominant framework in Victoria this section explores the combination of the difference discourse plus primary prevention approach at the state and local levels. The contemporary Victorian gendered violence prevention policy and programmatic responses straddle on the precipice of the difference category with visions for gender transformative strategies. As noted in the GVP Typology the primary prevention approach is located within the transformative discourse as it includes community education and awareness of violence against women by promoting respectful and gender equitable relationships between women and men, girls and boys.

The public health approach to violence against women aims to lessen the likelihood of violence through education, attitude and behaviour change strategies that address these kind of issues. Primary prevention interventions can be delivered to the whole population or to particular groups at higher risk of using or experiencing violence in the future (VicHealth, 2007). It is a suitable framework for a council, which is striving to provide universal service delivery. The public health paradigm emphasises the benefits of local government taking a principal role in providing leadership, resources and coordinating violence prevention strategies (Butchart et al., 2004). Primary prevention initiatives can be delivered to the whole population (universal) or to particular groups at higher risk of using or experiencing violence in the future (targeted or selective). Some primary prevention strategies focus on changing behaviour and/or building the knowledge and skills of individuals. However the structural, cultural and societal contexts in which violence occurs are also very important targets for primary prevention. The primary prevention framework uses several principles that make it amenable to government and community violence prevention efforts. These principles include:

  • cross-sectoral commitment;
  • strong linkages between government and community;
  • interventions targeted at the whole population and particular groups who are at risk;
  • community awareness and education programmes;
  • educating men and boys on gender equality
  • challenging structural unequal gender power relations
  • working at the local level

Local government has thus been identified as a key site for change and many have stepped into this new space with enthusiasm and commitment to respond to violence against women. Communities, family networks and neighbours are also the ‘first site of response’ for women facing violence. Building the understanding and capacities of community structures to not only support women but also become allies in seeking gender equality is critical to developing a holistic and sustained response to the issue. This means working to inspire communities to believe in and promote equality and mutual respect in relations between women and men, including within families and in intimate relationships. Individuals are much more able to take a stand against violence where they feel that some of their peers will support them and they are part of a collective and community response to a serious human rights and social justice issue.

Inspiring Victorian Gender Violence Prevention Exemplars

This section outlines two local Victorian examples that start at different points of the gender violence prevention typology and move across the discourses, as each site engage with new and localised learnings. The GVP Typology is not linear therefore there is often overlap or concomitant discourses.

The City of Casey engaged at the community level with a range of local services to increase education and awareness and response to family violence. Two exciting initiatives were ‘Promoting Peace In Families Project’ and the ‘Hairdressers: Talking Health Project’. The Promoting Peace In Families Project was developed through a partnership between the local council and the Cardinia Casey Community Health Service. This council-community partnership sought funds for a project to educate multi-faith leaders, providing training on the detrimental effects of domestic violence on their communities and how to lead with ethics of peaceful relationships. This partnership had many successes through training and support for church leaders, developing a curriculum for sermons, protocol for responding to disclosures of family violence and a website for information sharing. Briefly, Talking Health Program was an innovative project implemented in the Shire of Cardinia/Casey. Domestic violence workers supported hairdressers to act as a resource and referral source for clients experiencing mental health related issues, including family violence. The hairdressers are a local and regular safe place for women and create another opportunity to raise awareness and provide domestic violence information in a non-threatening environment.

Another exemplar is Maribyrnong City Council and their commitment to proactively enhance the safety and well being of women and girls in their municipality. Initially Maribyrnong City Council was one of the four municipality participants in the GLOVE Project and this inspired a refinement of the council’s position on preventing violence against women. Maribyrnong City Council has consistently worked to drive and embed cultural change in local government to mainstream gender equity, and promote non-violent norms across policy, planning, services, leadership and practice. The Council has committed to building capacity and skills in local government and communities to promote respectful relationships, gender equity and non-violent norms. In its most recent project, Maribyrnong City Council’s Respect and Equity Project: Preventing Violence Against Women, the Council worked to integrate the prevention of violence against women into the core business of council through policies, programs and practices.

These local exemplars demonstrate the growing interest by local councils to explore partnerships for violence prevention, covering interpersonal violence in private or public spaces (Castelino, 2011). Further, they reveal that people are not merely consumers of policies; local councils and communities are sites of struggle and activism. Councils are arenas for key stakeholders’ consultation and debate, competition for resources and divisive and dominant interest groups – through democratic engagement at the local level, people influence the design and implementation of gender violence prevention policies. This research corroborates Pringle and Watson’s work (1992) demonstrating that policy is not merely an outcome but is inextricably constructed through engaged and agentic process.


The GVP Typology presented in this article makes available gendered understandings and identifies the implications embedded in concepts and practices of community and partnership, women-centred violence prevention, primary prevention, human rights approach and gender mainstreaming. The GVP Typology underscores the ways that particular representations of the problem of violence prevention influence policy development, programs implemented and community safety and family violence partnerships.

The four discourses outlined were: nullifying gender through universalising communities, inclusion, difference and transformative gender relations. Each discourse provides a purposeful representation of gender, how women and men are constructed as victims and perpetrators, the problem and the solution and exposes the particular policy and practice implications.

This article highlighted the multiple and often contradictory gendered discourses in violence prevention and how they worked in the operationalisation of policies. The state policies clearly articulated the gendered nature of violence against women however; they manage these priorities through a de-politicised partnership framework. This discourse of partnership depicts a consensual, whole-of-community and locality-based approach to crime prevention and community safety. This notion of partnerships, the state’s intent to build and enhance reciprocal relationships between its local counterparts and the community sector, obscures a myriad of gender power relations and practices. Using the GVP Typology it is spotlighted that such state policies served a purpose of placing women as central to understanding family violence and violence against women, however neglected to carry this gender analysis through to other sites of power, such as community and partnerships.

This article finally underlined the flourishing public health violence prevention framework as foundational to effective responses to violence against women. This violence prevention framework invokes a gender analysis, cross-sector partnerships and local governance to work on local priorities and solutions. However, this reformulation of violence prevention efforts should not be taken for granted but contested and deconstructed. Using the GVP Typology, these primary prevention policy reforms can be viewed as sites of political struggle and negotiation and critically reviewed, as a means to explore and expose the gender power relations between key political actors, domestic violence organisations and the wider community sector.

Building on the work of many feminists the GVP Typology demonstrates that gender matters to all contexts and to all forms of violence including men‘s experiences of violence, which are interwoven into their lives and identities and affect their agency in public and private spaces and relationships. Using a gender analysis to explore all types of violence in all types of places will provide insights into a formulation of a more comprehensive and integrated violence prevention response.


I greatly appreciate the care, attention to detail and support of Professor Amanda Sinclair, Dr Iris Levin, Maryclare Machen and Kristen Sheridan. These incredible women supported me in the development of this paper with generosity of time and spirit.



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