For Lebanese migrant Hala Abdelnour, a vision to facilitate an intersectional and inclusive response to domestic violence is becoming a reality through her start-up business, Institute of non-violence (IoNV).
IoNV’s three arms -- education and training, a therapeutic and clinical program, and a social lens that focuses on advocacy and research – bring a particular focus on domestic and family violence with a focus on being more inclusive of Australia’s multicultural communities.
“I want to address how we can entrench our work in this (intersectionality) framework, rather than thinking of it as an attachment. That’s a massive task,” she said.
“Australian systems are Anglo and Eurocentric. What comes with this is an Anglo view of what family is and what family violence looks like.”
Ms Abdelnour, who has a background in psychology and social work, said that her business offered a framework and set of tools for people working in the family and domestic violence field, supporting them to deliver an inclusive approach to the issue.
“We want to work with everybody to create a model that is culturally safe and inclusive,” she said.
Ms Abdelnour established IoNV this year with support from Settlement Service International’s (SSI) Ignite Small Business Start-ups program.
The business will be officially launched online on November 25 in collaboration with poet Luka Lesson whose new song commissioned by IoNV will premiere at the event.
The launch coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls and day one of ‘16 Days of Activism’.
“IoNV wouldn’t be where it’s at if it wasn’t for Ignite. They gave me access to a world I wouldn’t have known how to access. I mean that in terms of the things you need when you’re setting up a business structure so that it can have longevity,” Ms Abdelnour said.
Ms Abdelnour emigrated from Lebanon with her family at the age of 9, as the country was in a civil war. While she has lived in Australia for most of her life, her migrant experience has posed unforeseen challenges for her in starting a business.
“Regardless of how long you’ve been here, it’s not having a historical connection to Australia, or to people who understand Australia and how the system and government work.
“I grew up listening to my parents discuss a political landscape that’s on the other side of the world.”
Her experiences as a first-generation migrant, coupled with an extensive employment history with culturally diverse communities and individuals, resulted in Ms Abdelnour’s business being built on the foundations of intersectionality.
“I worked in men’s behavioural change programs and, at the same time, I was consulting with the family violence sector on workforce development, training design and delivery, and inclusion. There was an alignment of events that led me to grow exponentially in a short period.
“I was able to bring my experiences working with people from diverse backgrounds and traumatic life experiences to aid my understanding of how this interacts with family violence. It became the perfect marriage of knowledge and skill from the past into the present.”
Some of IoNV’s research and advocacy work is reflected in Ms Abdelnour’s research paper, a report commissioned in 2020 by the Victorian Multicultural Commission, into enhancing the services available to culturally diverse men who use violence.
“There were significant gaps where communities reflected that they (perpetrators of family violence) didn’t feel culturally safe in the existing model,” she said.
“Service providers also felt they didn’t have the resources they needed to work inclusively with diverse communities. The multicultural sector expressed a strong interest in wanting to be more trained and skilled in the family violence sector.”
Ms Abdelnour will present at a webinar on the findings of the report on December 10 to complete the final day of ‘16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence’.