Dhauwurd-Wurrung Elderly & Community Health Service awarded STAAR Award

Posted by Dhauwurd-Wurrung Elderly & Community Health Service on 26 July 2017

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Dhauwurd-Wurrung Elderly & Community Health Services was awarded a ‘STAAR Healthier Workplace Award’ by the National No More Harm Conference in Brisbane.  The award was accepted by John Bell, CEO and Tess Howells, Psychologist.

The STAAR Award recognises outstanding achievement in prevention and management approaches to behaviour that causes harm and are a joint initiative of the No More Harm National Conference and the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association.

Titled “Tackling Lateral Violence in an Aboriginal Health Service and Community” John and Tess presented on the holistic and comprehensive approach DWECH had taken to reduce unacceptable levels of lateral violence and workplace bullying and the associated mental distress.

Lateral violence is a form of aggression or bullying that is directed sideways or laterally towards peers.  It has its roots in colonisation and the resultant oppression, loss of identity, inter-generational trauma and feelings of powerlessness and it is estimated that up to 95 per cent of Aboriginal people have experienced it.

Since John Bell took up leadership of DWECH in July 2016, and announced his Zero Tolerance to lateral violence and disrespectful relationships, the organisation implemented a range of strategies with the assistance of Tess Howells, Psychologist to DWECH for over a decade.

  • Mandatory Training in Respectful Workplace Behaviours, Positive Communication, Lateral Violence, Cultural Awareness, Nutrition and Mood, Professional Skills
  • Up-skilling of Line Managers to effectively model positive behaviour and performance manage unacceptable behaviour
  • Review of all position descriptions, Policies and Procedures
  • Development of a new five year Strategic Plan based on a Holistic Social & Emotional Wellbeing model of health
  • Information sessions delivered to community members over lunch

Measures of psychological distress and workplace engagement were taken at the commencement of the initiative and repeated 1 year later.  The results showed a significant decrease in clinical levels of depression and anxiety. There was a significant drop (almost 50%) in lateral violence events and a 22% increase in employees recording high and very high levels of engagement.  All Line Managers reported a significant drop in absenteeism.   The results surpassed expectations, particularly given the relatively short period of time, but John and his management team know that it doesn’t end there.  There is still much more work to be done.

The initiative will continue to monitor outcomes and develop new strategies for ensuring a culturally safe and respectful workplace for all.   Naturally, healthier, happier staff, take their new skills and attitudes home and make a positive contribution to improving health and wellbeing for whole of community.

Dhauwurd-Wurrung Elderly & Community Health service is an Aboriginal Community Controlled organisation in Portland, Victoria.

Download the full media release here. PDF


Media Enquires: John Bell, CEO - 0410 777 002