Regional communities have outlined how they hope to tackle domestic and family violence as they commit to a safer future for women and children.

Key prevention priorities are highlighted in whole-of-community action plans being drawn up for the Whyalla, Murraylands, Limestone Coast and Riverland as part of a regional response project run by Centacare.

This project is funded by the Department of Human Services and is being evaluated with ongoing input by the Centre for Social Impact, Flinders University.

Launched late last year, the project has been extended to December 31 and aims to support each community to put in place practical, evidence-based measures to tackle the root causes of violence against women and girls.

Collaborative actions include inviting men to step up as role models and challenge gender norms and values that enable abusive behaviours; engaging young people through respectful relationships education; and identifying employment pathways towards financial independence for rural women.

The action plans are being co-designed through community forums, consultation with key stakeholders, and a range of other assertive engagement strategies led by Centacare..

A survey deployed across the four regions confirmed that tackling domestic and family violence is a regional priority, and that communities favour an integrated approach to address gender inequality and attitudes and norms which can drive abusive behaviours.

“Violence and abuse is preventable, but there are no quick fixes and changing the narrative will take time,’’ Project Manager Megan Hughes said.

“Communities are saying they want to act now so they can stop the flow of women and children moving into crisis responses.”

Megan said a key part of the project had been assessing the effectiveness of current community initiatives that challenge the root causes of violence against women.

“There is a lot of good work underway in regional South Australia. We want to harness that through the action plans to give each community a clear prevention pathway for the future built around a shared vision and agenda,’’ she said.

 “We want community leaders and key organisations to invest in these actions long into the future.

“This is about creating the conditions where violence and abuse is not tolerated or normalised in community.

“We need to work together to change attitudes and stop the abuse before it begins. That means challenging the entrenched beliefs that can lead to disrespectful behaviours.’’

Research shows rates of domestic and family violence are higher in regional, rural, and remote areas where unique factors exacerbate risk and the ability and willingness to seek help.

Fear of stigma, shame, community gossip, and the lack of privacy and perpetrator accountability can all deter individuals from accessing specialist support.

“Collective impact is about inviting the community to join this campaign in their own region and participate in the change we want to see,’’ Megan said.

“Everyone has a role to play, whether that is learning how to be a good neighbour, work mate or citizen, or just changing the narrative in daily conversations.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, or identify as gender-diverse – we want people who need support to know that they will be understood, listened to, and will get the help they need to live a life free of fear in a safe and equal community.’’

Jonathon Louth, Executive Manager – Strategy, Research and Evaluation, said the action plans were the first steps of a wider vision to mobilise communities from the grassroots up to enact change through meaningful prevention-focussed initiatives relevant to their region.

“Our aim is to create a road map for each region to commit to real and measurable change through whole-of-community organising,’’ Dr Louth said.

“That’s the point of difference: stakeholders, big and small, working together to activate practical measures identified in the action plans to tackle the root causes of violence against women and girls.’’