Supporting Women’s Health and Wellbeing Through Gender-Based Violence Prevention

Prevention In Practice Spotlight

Engender Equality CEO Alina Thomas


Supporting the health and wellbeing of women through gender-based violence prevention. 


Alina Thomas has been fighting for systemic improvements in women’s rights since her university days. In an immersive degree that enabled her to explore the intersection between social issues, political issues, reproductive issues and gender, Alina says she found her early motivation to start, advocating for change, a motivation which still burns brightly today.    


For the last 10 years Alina has been with Engender Equality, a Tasmanian based organisation that provides a range of services to people impacted by family and domestic violence.  


Alina started with Engender Equality as Executive Officer and for the last 5 years has been leading the service as Chief Executive Officer. 


Engender Equality is on the frontline in the fight to prevent violence against Tasmanian women and Alina says feminism is deeply embedded into every layer of the organisation. 


‘We’re a feminist organisation, we have a feminist framework and we provide a feminist service. It’s important for us to do that because gender is an inequality across the multiple tiers of society, our communities and in our relationships.’  


Alina says this approach is especially important in the face of ‘de-gendering’ policy and social issues that are gendered.  


‘For example, Australia’s National Plan for the Elimination of Violence against Women talks about gender-based violence, which we can easily interpret as violence against women. By contrast, the Tasmanian State Plan talks about family violence and has removed gender as an element. 


‘I feel very strongly that all of our analysis of our social problems has to have a gender analysis, because there’s always a gendered impact.’  


Mentors in Violence Program 

Understanding the gendered nature of violence and its impacts on health and wellbeing is key to violence prevention. 


Alina spoke about the Mentors in Violence Program (MVP), which provides skills to help end violence in communities by empowering bystanders to take an effective role in confronting, interrupting or preventing violence when they witness it. 


MVP is being delivered in collaboration with Hobart Women’s Shelter, Women’s Legal Service and Women’s Health Tasmania 


This very hands-on program comprises a series of in-person workshops offered in communities within every local government area across Tasmania.   


‘MVP is a very gentle introduction to the role of bystanders within a gender-based violence framework. We talk about gender constructions, we talk about types of violence and how different types of violence lead to the differences in power and control that underpin violence.’ 


Alina says that one of the most powerful aspects of the MVP is how it is being delivered. 


‘This is not somebody talking to a PowerPoint presentation. It is a series of interactive exercises. We take the conversation to where the participants are at, so if they want to talk about a particular topic, or their experiences, that’s where we go. It’s very nimble and responsive.’ 


Delivering MVP to members of the public, community groups, and workplaces, Alina said the main challenge they have faced is Tasmania’s dispersed population.  


‘Many people live in really remote and isolated communities across the island so we had to work out how to bridge that geographical isolation to bring people into the program.’ 


That’s where forming community partnerships via the LGAs has been very beneficial. Over the last 3 years 735 people have participated in MVP workshops, which are still being rolled out. 


Staying well to stay the course 

Alina acknowledges that staying well is an important part of continuing her work with Engender Equality and she feels being physical, outside and time away from the computer is key. The other is discovering cheeky and surprising art that reflects the social reality back at you. 


‘I love subversive art that just expresses humanity so rawly. If I can connect to the vulnerability and fallibility of humanity, I find that really, really nourishing.’     


Learn more about Engender Equality 


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