More than 48,000 children were present at family violence incidents reported in Victoria during the past financial year.
Jenny’s Early Learning Centre managing director Darren Reid said staff identified a gap in their knowledge.
“Family violence training is not something the early years sector has traditionally engaged with,” he said.
Jenny’s staff were the first in the Bendigo area to undergo training for early years practitioners, developed by the Centre for Non-Violence and Communities for Children Bendigo.
“We recognise the need to place children front and centre in any efforts to address family violence and the key role early childhood professionals working with families and young children play of identifying and responding to family violence,” Communities for Children Bendigo coordinator Naarah Dawes said.
The training is part of an Early Years Family Violence Action Plan – a response to the number of children in the region who were experiencing and witnessing family violence.
“People often ignore the children or think they are too young for it to have an effect on them,” said Jude Di Manno, the violence prevention projects coordinator at the Centre for Non-Violence.
“We know that’s not true at all. It has a really significant impact on young children.
“There is always an impact.
“It’s partly about the relationship the child has with their parents and the level of attachment.
“Often, it has a direct relationship to educational outcomes later on.”
Early intervention, ensuring children are heard, providing a range of intervention and therapeutic responses, and promoting gender equity and violence prevention are at the heart of the plan.
“We know that respectful relationships education is a very important strategy in the prevention of family violence, and the earlier in a child’s life that begins, the better,” Ms Di Manno said.
“Early childhood educators benefit from training and support in the important role that they can play in helping young children develop respectful relationships.”
The plan also ties into the respectful relationships education programs the state government has introduced in schools and early childhood settings.
Mr Reid said Jenny’s staff was more aware and more confident of talking to families about family violence as a result of the training.
“It’s really important for us to support the team as well,” he said.
Jenny’s employs about 120 full-time staff, the majority of whom are female.
One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15, and one in four women have experienced emotional abuse by a partner.
“People are often really scared to talk directly about family violence, even when they suspect people might be experiencing it,” Ms Di Manno said.
“There’s a really big fear about getting it wrong, in a variety of ways.
“What if I am wrong, or what if they tell me family violence is happening – what do I do?
“I think people sometimes feel that pressure – that they would have to fix it.
“We’er increasing that confidence about what to do when that happens.”
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.