‘It needs to be in all courses’ – family violence awareness growing in the beauty industry

MAKING A CHANGE: Zoe Wilde will present at a seminar about how hairdressers can support clients experiencing domestic violence at the Hair Expo Awards on Monday, where she is nominated for an award. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE
MAKING A CHANGE: Zoe Wilde will present at a seminar about how hairdressers can support clients experiencing domestic violence at the Hair Expo Awards on Monday, where she is nominated for an award. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

Interacting with customers who are experiencing family violence has always been part of a hairdresser’s job.

But now the industry is increasingly better equipped in how to help clients at risk.

Lavington’s Zoe Wilde brought a local anecdote of the issue to light when she was nominated for NSW/ACT Hairdresser of the Year last year with her entry, dedicated to survivors.

She also went on to raise nearly $10,000 for White Ribbon with a community ball.

Zoe Wilde Artistry has again been nominated for the accolade at the Hair Expo Awards in Melbourne this weekend, up against five other businesses across the two states, as the only regional finalist.

But what’s really exciting Mrs Wilde is a workshop that will take place on Monday, for the first time at the expo.

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She will be among the presenters at a ‘Safe Hands’ seminar on prevention of violence.

“In beauty and hairdressing, especially in my kind of environment where we are one-on-one, we’re often mistaken as counsellors but we’re not trained in that field,” she said.

“It’s something I know first-hand – everything I did last year was around a client that had left the situation.

“She nearly died twice at the hands of her partner, and I’ve heard countless stories of my clients that are going through some form of domestic violence, and I didn’t know how to deal with it.

“I researched where the refuges were in our area and who they can call.

“At the seminar, hairdressers will go away with bags with information and hotlines.”

Mrs Wilde hopes to bring a personal experience to the talk.

“There will be hairdressers in the audience going through it too,” she said.

“When I was going through it, I was 17 – when you’re an apprentice you don’t want to rock the boat, so no one knew what I was going through.

“For hairdressers it’s about reaching out, making sure your salon is a safe space and to help them (client or staff member) to start that process of leaving.”

Joining the seminar panel on Monday is Jenny Jackson, chief executive of EDVOS, a specialist government-funded family violence service in Melbourne.

An EDVOS program called HaiR, early intervention training for hairdressers to help women who may be facing violence, attracted national attention last year.

“We’ve trained over 120 hairdressers so far just during the pilot program, in supporting them to recognise the signs of family violence, then respond in a way that is supportive and safe for the person making the disclosure, and the third ‘R’ is how to refer,” she said. 

“We’re not trying to turn hairdressers into counsellors of family violence – we’re trying to help them ask the question of what’s happening at home if they feel something it’s not quite right.

“The HaiR program is not just about responding to violence it’s preventing violence before it occurs as well.”

Ms Jackson said funding for the pilot ends in June but EDVOS, which also trains TAFE beauty students and would like to do more in other industries, was looking to extend the funding.

“It’s the only program of its kind in Australia, but we were really fortunate to learn from our colleagues in the U.S. and Canada,” she said.

“In the U.S. they’ve now legislated that all beauticians and hairdressing students need to do family violence training.

“It would absolutely be our goal that as part of their training (in Australia) they undertake family violence training.” 

Mrs Wilde has the same end goal in mind.

“Hopefully it will get to a point where we won’t need to do this (the Safe Hands seminar) because it will be part of the curriculum at TAFE,” she said.

“I’m doing some work at Wodonga TAFE now teaching hair, and once I’m more secured in that I hope to go to them and talk about a course on domestic violence and counselling.”

Ms Jackson said the industry was on the right track with huge interest in the HaiR program and feedback the training is returning results.

“Our view is with the right training, it might save someone’s life,” she said.

  • If someone is in immediate danger due to family violence call triple-0, and for support call 1800 737 732. 

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