In our new ‘Sector Champion’ feature, Insight will profile some of the many people doing fantastic work across the Victorian community sector. This edition, Insight Editor KELLEE NOLAN sat down with FIONA McCORMACK, DV Vic chief executive officer.
It was a community development course at Dandenong TAFE that set Fiona McCormack on the path to becoming a lead figure in the fight to stamp out violence against women and children in Victoria.
Having studied it in the early ‘90s, she says it was an amazing course that “completely transformed my life”.
“I’ve gone on to further study, including a Masters, but nothing compares to that course. It was very disciplined and focused on political and economic systems, the structural causes of poverty and discrimination and theories of social change,” Fiona says.
“One of the things I was really passionate about was the impact of gender on population and health, and I really wanted to work on the structural factors that affect different groups of women. And I guess it put a real fire in my belly.” Fast forward 25 years, as Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic) chief executive, Fiona is a strong and respected community voice, committed to collaborating with people right across the board to eradicate the causes of family violence and to support women facing it.
She says it is the responsibility she feels for women who need a voice that keeps her going, particularly at times she is daunted or facing self-doubt.
“Sometimes if I’ve got to do something I’m really scared of, I think about that responsibility and what those women need me to say on their behalf and it really takes me right out of myself and makes it a lot easier.” She is also passionate about the power of education to enable people to advocate on their own behalf, and understand why it is certain things happen to them.
Fiona says working in the family violence sector can be “soul destroying on a daily basis, because it can be really pretty clear what needs to happen, but getting there can be so challenging”.
But on the other hand she is “absolutely amazed” at how far the response has come, with the Royal Commission into Family Violence report laying out the type of sophisticated system needed, and the Victorian government’s commitment to it “setting the bar for what is needed from governments across Australia”.
“We’re not there yet, not by a long shot, but wow, it’s amazing.” She says Victoria’s community sector is a great environment to work in, with a strong legacy from those who have come before, and filled with dedicated people who show amazing innovation and leadership.
“This work can be really brutal and we’re all going in there trying to do our best, so I think we’ve got to be really kind to one another, and I think that’s another thing that can help us stay in this work.”
If you know of someone working at a VCOSS member organisation who would make a great ‘Sector Champion’, please contact Insight at firstname.lastname@example.org