Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Walk the Talk (Part One)

Deb Yates, Global Chief People Officer, Lendlease, shares her thoughts on how we can make the workplace feel safer for those experiencing domestic and family violence.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 Personal Safety Survey, 2.2 million Australians have experienced physical or sexual violence, or both, from a partner, and 3.6 million Australians have experienced emotional abuse from a partner. That statistic breaks down to 1 in 6 women, and 1 in 16 men. For those suffering at the hands of an abusive partner or family member, the workplace is often a refuge from home.

Throughout May, we’ve been promoting The XO Project, bringing content, events, and activities to our community in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Already we have been overwhelmed by the response, not just from allies supporting the cause, but also from those in our community who have been affected directly or indirectly by domestic and family violence. Domestic violence is a real problem within Australia, affecting people from all walks of life.

We sat down with Lendlease’s Chief People Officer, Deb Yates, to talk about what businesses can do to make workplaces feel like safe spaces for those struggling silently.

In addition to Deb’s Global Chief People Officer role at Lendlease, she sits on the board of The Sanctuary, The Hills Women’s Shelter. The shelter provides short term crisis accommodation for women and children who are experiencing homelessness or leaving domestic violence. The Sanctuary works hand-in-hand with clients to help rebuild the lives of these women and children - it's one of nine such shelters around New South Wales which are members of the Women’s Community Shelters (WCS) Network.

While working at The Sanctuary, Deb met an incredible woman, Dannielle Miller, who developed and runs education programs with schools for WCS called ‘Walk the Talk’. Walk the Talk is a pioneering program, building awareness of domestic violence and improving education around healthy relationships and gender stereotypes.

When speaking with Danni, the idea of a corporate Walk the Talk program emerged. Deb loves the program for many reasons, but most importantly because it is run by people from front-line services and profits from these corporate sessions go directly to the shelters to help more victims and survivors.

“Many people that are experiencing domestic and family violence are at work. And it doesn’t stop when they’re at work. There’s really an opportunity to make sure we know the types of violence, the signs to look for, and that we have peers and leaders who are confident and competent to lean into those conversations,” says Deb.

“You’ve got to build confidence to be able to lean into what, let's be honest, are difficult conversations. You don't want to say the wrong thing. You don't want to make it worse, you don't want to overstep your mark. And so, this program focuses firstly on education around the types of domestic and family violence and some of the signs to look for. But then also importantly, how to lean into the conversation at the pace of the victim or survivor of domestic and family violence.”

Deb believes that what makes the program work so well is its inclusive nature. She describes the sessions as problem-solving together. It’s about garnering allies across all levels of a business (but especially in senior leadership) to tackle a very complex matter.

Deb believes programs like Walk the Talk are an important tool for creating safer workplaces for victims and survivors. In addition to this, employers should ensure that their employees are aware of their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and leave entitlements. A Domestic and Family Violence Policy is also an invaluable asset to companies wanting to show support.

“There are free, easily-accessible templates so that you don’t need to create the policy from scratch. You can see what a best-practice policy is by accessing resources provided by The Champions of Change Coalition.”

Next week, we’ll bring you insights from Walk the Talk program founder and facilitator, Dannielle Miller. If you want to know more about specific actions you can take when supporting a colleague, keep an eye out for Part Two. If you would like to enquire about booking a Walk the Talk session, please email Danni Miller at



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May is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Want to help? Get acquainted with The XO Project, our joint initiative with Two Good Co. Throughout the month, across our portfolio of commercial buildings, we’ll be donating over 5,000 meals to those experiencing homelessness, food insecurity and domestic violence. Each time you interact with a Partner Portal event or giveaway, we’ll be donating meals to women in need. And, when someone new signs up, we’ll double it. So, make your voice heard. Participate. Grab a freebie. Every time you do, you’ll be helping someone in need. To find out more, click here.

If you or someone you know is in need of support or in crisis, support is available - 1800RESPECT 1800 737 732. In the event of an emergency, call 000.

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