Salon workers offer family violence support

This article includes topics that may be triggering to some readers, including family violence. If you need support, the 1800RESPECT national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line is open 24/7. Call 1800 737 732.

Local hair and beauty professionals are being empowered with the skills to support women who confide in them about family violence. 

We’re funding the Eastern Domestic Violence Service to deliver 35 training sessions through our Social Partnerships Program, which aims to build community capacity to create positive change. 

The HaiR-3Rs training helps workers at salons, spas, clinics and barbershops learn how to recognise signs of family violence, respond to disclosures and refer people on to specialist services. 

Chris Mathieson, CEO of the EDVOS, said the intimate nature of salon work creates a unique bond of trust between hair and beauty workers and their clients. 

‘Many women discuss topics with their salon professional that they do not share with anyone else, including family violence,’ Chris said. 

‘Our program seeks to harness the special relationship between salon professionals and their clients to guide women experiencing family violence to services that can provide professional help and support.  

‘Within the safe space of a salon, they can be listened to and believed, and be passed information on where to seek help.  

‘In a country where one woman is still killed every nine days due to family violence, this kind of early intervention can be lifesaving.’ 

Stories from the front line 

As salon workers learn more about family violence during the training, many realise they have seen potential warning signs of family violence before.  

After the training, many participants reach out to EDVOS again in future to consult on certain behaviours, and to share stories about clients they’ve helped.  

‘We recently received a powerful message from a hairdresser who was secretly going through family violence at the time of doing HaiR-3Rs training,’ Chris said. 

‘They had been in a violent relationship for over eight years and had tried to leave five times previously.  

‘After training they left the relationship for the last time and, along with their children, have been living safe and free from violence ever since.’ 

Looking to the future, EDVOS aspires to a community free from violence, where everyone is safe.  

They run training in all sorts of environments, from real estate agencies to places of worship, and want family violence training implemented as part of all formal workplace training. 

‘As HaiR-3Rs does not receive ongoing or government funding, this partnership with City of Melbourne is a rare opportunity for salon professionals in Melbourne to access our training free of charge,’ Chris said. 

‘With one in four women experiencing violence, it’s not a matter of if salon professionals will be disclosed to, it’s a matter of when.

‘We encourage City of Melbourne business owners to lead the way in preparing staff to respond to family violence.’ 

Meet Zowie Evans 

Zowie is the director of her own hairdressing salon in Carlton and an ambassador for the HaiR-3Rs course. She encourages her peers to seek out family violence training. 

‘The salon space offers an intimate community where we as hairdressers get to know each of our guests on a personal level,’ Zowie said. 

‘My clients have been with me for up to 15 years, so I get to know about major events, from them getting into a relationship, to trying for a family of their own, and sometimes to a separation.  

‘My clients joke that I am the longest relationship they have had! 

‘It’s highly likely that a guest will divulge information to us, so we need to know how to approach the conversation safely. 

‘Plus, the training is not just for hairdressers, it’s for all of the personal service industry including beauty therapists, tattooists massage therapists, physiotherapists and vets, to name a few.’  

Zowie Evans
Director, Zowie Evans Hairdressing, Carlton 
Ambassador, HaiR-3Rs training 

It starts with a conversation 

We can all play a role in supporting people experiencing family violence. 

Even if you don’t work in a client-facing role and haven’t completed training, a friendly conversation is all it might take to help someone make positive change in their life. 

‘Supporting someone experiencing family violence is not as hard or scary as it may appear. It’s not about becoming a counsellor or taking care of a victim survivor on your own,’ Chris said. 

‘It’s about creating space for someone to talk freely about their situation, communicating belief and knowing how to refer to services that can provide support.  

‘We always say that the most valuable thing a community member can do is ask “are you okay?” if they feel something is not right.  

‘Women aren’t hurt by being asked about family violence, but many women are hurt by never being asked.  

‘Being prepared to have a conversation about family violence is a simple but incredibly powerful way to take action against violence towards women.’ 

To find out more about the City of Melbourne’s work in this space, visit Creating communities of equality and respect.