Last week, Commonwealth Bank’s Group Executive Human Resources, Sian Lewis, took part in Diversity Council Australia’s Anna McPhee Memorial Oration to discuss the vital role workplaces play in addressing domestic and family violence (DFV).

After a two year hiatus due to COVID, attendees of this year’s Melbourne-based in-person event were able to hear from Walkley-award winning investigative journalist and author, Jess Hill, who delivered the key oration on the day.

In her speech, Ms Hill highlighted the complexities of domestic abuse and coercive control, challenging businesses to create workplaces where people are alert to the signs of DFV and encouraged employees to be allies for colleagues experiencing abuse. 

Following her address and to further the discussion about the role workplaces can play in addressing abuse, Ms Hill was joined by CommBank’s Sian Lewis; Psychotherapist David Nugent; and Professor Marcia Langton AO for a panel discussion.

During the panel discussion, Ms Lewis spoke about the role workplaces can have in helping to address domestic violence and finance abuse, and about the different types of support the bank provides to employees who are impacted.

“We started the journey in thinking about how we could best support victims of domestic and family violence in 2015. We wanted to make sure we could keep people employed so they had stability and continuity. We wanted to help them with their financial independence and help them to either manage their situation or rebuild, and that led us to introduce unlimited domestic and family violence leave.

“Importantly, they don’t have to declare this to anyone except their leader. It goes into the system as special leave and they can take as much time as they need at whatever stage of the crisis they’re in,” said Ms Lewis.

Lastly, Ms Lewis said it was critical for workplaces to model respect, and spoke about the introduction of the ‘Respect Lives Here’ initiative at CommBank, which helps people to identify examples of disrespect and micro-aggressions, and how to be effective bystanders when something doesn’t feel right.

“Workplaces are a really important place to establish and repeat messages of respect, which is why we recently rolled out a program called Respect Lives Here. The training helps people to identify examples of disrespect and micro-aggressions. So far, 3,000 of our leaders have gone through it, and we intend to put the whole organisation through it,” said Ms Lewis.

This initiative builds on the bank’s long-standing commitment to creating an inclusive workplace for all our people, which sits at the heart of addressing issues like domestic and family violence, and ensuring our people feel safe, respected and included at work.  

CommBank continues to work with community organisations and experts to address the issue of financial abuse perpetrated through domestic and family violence. In 2020, the bank extended and expanded its support for people impacted by financial abuse with the launch of CommBank Next Chapter – a program that delivers a range of services, support, resources and research to the market.

Earlier this year, the bank launched a new awareness campaign – CommBank Next Chapter Commitment – which sees CBA, customers and the community come together to end financial abuse by providing tools, advice and access to support services to help individuals recover from financial abuse and establish financial independence.