PiP Member Spotlight: Krissy Nicholson

We talked to Krissy about her background working in aid and development for over a decade. She shares what she loves about working in a local council and what it’s like doing prevention work during the pandemic. Here is Krissy’s story.

Role: Family Violence Prevention Officer
Organisation: City of Casey
LinkedIn: @krissynicholson
PiP member since: January 2019
PiP activities attended: PiP Meetup, seminars, PreventX, Unpacking Resistance training, panellist on local government webinar

Krissy Nicholson

I have a family history of social activism, it was instilled in me growing up. But it was when I was at university that I came to my own sense of social justice. While my studies of gender and philosophy were expanding my mind, my real growth was on the streets: fighting for student rights, learning how to use a megaphone, and going to women’s marches.

My professional background is as an aid and development worker. I did a Masters of Public Health and came to understand the importance of preventative approaches. For over 14 years I worked in everything from cholera outbreaks and post-conflict zones to tsunamis and earthquakes. I ended up specialising in water sanitation and hygiene.

In all my work I apply a strength-based and rights-based approach within a feminist framework.

For years we (the aid sector) have been doing gender analyses and moving towards a focus on gender transformational practice. In many countries I have worked, women and girls would walk for hours just to collect water, often missing school. To address the practical needs of women, we would install a water pump close by. But at the same time we would be working on strategic changes required to bring about equality – such as a community gender analysis that questioned stereotypes of men’s and women’s work – and working with women to achieve leadership in their communities so their voices are heard.

I didn’t realise at the time that this was primary prevention, that all gender equality work is part of family violence prevention. I’d been in that international space applying a gender lens across all kinds of programs for years, and it’s only when I started my current role that I really understood the link.

It can be a big jump for people to understand the gendered drivers of violence, the connection between that sexist joke, those gender stereotypes. That’s a challenge for prevention practitioners.

I never thought that I’d work for a local council but I’ve been here for nearly two years and I love it. The breadth of reach that local councils have in prevention work is amazing. We have touchpoints across the whole lifecycle – influencing parents through maternal and child health, challenging stereotypes in kindergartens and youth programs, engaging with businesses, all the way through to working with the elderly.

The City of Casey has a family violence prevention strategy and it’s my job to roll that out. I love the diversity of the kind of projects I work on. One exciting example is working with XYX lab at Monash Uni to develop a gender audit tool. It will allow the voices of women and girls, as experts in their experience, to be heard in the design, planning and review of public places. I’m learning so much – who knew that the size of a bush and the sightlines of a building really influence whether people feel safe? I also facilitate our active bystander training for staff and community such as SES volunteers, a culturally diverse young women’s group, a local choir.

Like many people, with the pandemic I moved into response mode. The gender equality officer and I designed a pandemic gender analysis tool. We partnered with Women’s Health in the South East and delivered family violence training to over 200 council staff, including our frontline workers who were seeing firsthand the increase of violence. Since COVID-19, there has been much needed attention given to family violence. This has raised the profile of our roles and the importance of this work, including primary prevention. Whenever we talk about family violence, we link it to the gendered drivers.

My advice for new practitioners is to find internal advocates that can work with you.  Connect with others in the sector for added support and knowledge sharing. Have patience and don’t expect to see results straight away. Social change happens slowly. And celebrate small successes!

Partners in Prevention members get access to monthly bulletins, information about new resources, training and events. 

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