Last week, two women from the NSW South West Slopes joined a distinguished circle of scholars who have, for 55 years, been intent on bettering the world.
Danielle Allen, of Greenethorpe, and Bernadette Zanet, of Tumut, were named among 112 Australians who are now proud recipients of the prestigious 2020 Churchill Fellowship.
The memorial Fellowships were developed as an expressed wish of former UK Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill who wanted to see a scholarship available to all people who possessed passion and a commitment to make a difference in Australian society.
Since his death in 1965, 4470 Australians have benefited from Churchill’s dream that became a reality and enjoyed the opportunity to travel overseas to conduct research in their chosen fields.
Danielle works as part of Western NSW Local Health District’s Violence, Abuse and Neglect team providing training, education and support to clinicians and teams assisting people experiencing violence in their relationships.
For her, it was the subject of non-fatal strangulation – or what most people would term being ‘throttled’ or ‘choked’ – that piqued her interest.
“Any pressure to one’s neck is a very serious red flag in these relationships,” explains Danielle. “Injuries are often unseen and, medically, there’s a risk of stroke and other neurological complications in the hours, days, weeks and even months after the assault that most people are unaware of.”
Serious and frightening to any victim, Danielle maintains non-fatal strangulation is also an indicator of lethality in a relationship.
“NSW Domestic Violence Death Review data tells us that in almost 40 per cent of intimate partner homicides, victims experienced attempted strangulation prior to their deaths,” she says.
American studies have found women who survive strangulation are up to seven times more likely to die at the hands of their partner.
“It’s really scary to talk about topics such as this, but it’s really important to raise awareness about these risks and to make sure people are offered help,” says Danielle.
She will be using her opportunity to explore integrated responses to non-fatal strangulation domestic violence victims in the US and Canada.
“America has had strangulation legislation since 2013 and Canada has been improving service responses since 2006,” explains Danielle. “These countries have had time to evaluate the effectiveness of their practices.”
She says by comparison, Australia is in its infancy in this work, with specific strangulation charges only being introduced in NSW in December 2018.
“Domestic and family violence has far-reaching health impacts,” says Danielle. “I hope what I learn during my Churchill Fellowship will be knowledge and skills to help to build the capacity of the [NSW] health and sector partners to work collaboratively.
“Together we can raise awareness of the risks of things such as non-fatal strangulation and ensure that people know where to safely get help.”
As one of six 2020 Churchill Fellows investigating different aspects of domestic and family violence, Danielle is thrilled to help raise the profile of domestic violence issues in Australia.
Bernadette manages the popular Yarrangobilly Caves precinct, east of Tumut, Batlow and Tumbarumba in Kosciusko National Park, for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, which has faced two foes in the form of bushfires and COVID-19 in the past year.
Inspired by 1999 Churchill Fellow Lorraine Edmunds, she hopes to strengthen tourism opportunities across her entire community using Canada, Netherlands and Denmark as examples.
“She [Lorraine] explored rural economy revitalisation projects through tourism,” explains Bernadette. “Meeting her opened my eyes to the power of community-led tourism as a driver of economic recovery, and the concept that tourism is simply an expression of nature, heritage and culture.”
She strongly believes communities can and should amplify cultural stories and landscapes through tourism.
“It’s what makes a place or a region unique and it is why many people travel,” says Bernadette. “This underpins my interest in co-creating tourism businesses with the people who live it every day.”
Bernadette says it is a privilege to be named a Churchill Fellow.
“Now the hard work begins as I take this opportunity to explore how businesses are responding in a changing environment,” she says. “I’m very operational and hands on, and have mostly lived in regional areas so I’d like to embed design thinking as an innovation tool for regional strategy.”
This year, the application process was like no other with COVID-19 restrictions meaning interviews happened via Zoom, and any planned travel being contingent on international borders reopening.
For now, Danielle and Bernadette have virtual get-togethers and workshops to get them through the planning process.
For those in need of assistance, the NSW Domestic Violence Line can be reached on 1800 656 463.
It is a free service that operates 24 hours. The service provides counselling, can make referrals for emergency accommodation and to refuges, and gives information about AVOs.