Advocate and Worker Wellbeing

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Advocates and staff may experience increased personal, community and professional responsibilities and pressures from the impacts of the COVID pandemic. This page provides information and resources to support advocate and worker wellbeing during the pandemic. Topics include:

Research on supporting family violence and sexual violence workers during COVID

Information on systemic impacts to advocate and worker wellbeing

Aotearoa New Zealand resources to support staff in the social service sector

International resources for workers addressing violence during COVID

General Aotearoa New Zealand resources on wellbeing


Research on supporting family violence and sexual violence workers during COVID

Service providers and researchers from Australia researched the impact of the pandemic on family violence advocate and worker wellbeing in the context of COVID-19 and identified key strategies to support staff. Based on this research, they developed best practice guidelines to support workplaces and supervisors to safeguard the wellbeing of practitioners working in remote settings, including working from home.

The Best Practice Guidelines: Supporting the Wellbeing of Family Violence Workers During Times of Emergency and Crisis (2021) are based on 4 key responses:

  • Key Response 1: Set up remote workspaces in practitioners’ homes
  • Key Response 2: Monitor and manage worker wellbeing
  • Key Response 3: Communicate
  • Key Response 4: Build a resilient family violence workforce.

For each area, the guide outlines specific actions for workplaces to take before, during and after crisis response to support workers and staff. Under key response area 2, focused on monitoring and managing worker wellbeing, the guidelines note:

"During times of crisis, it is crucial that organisations actively ‘check in’ with their workers. There are a number of strategies that organisations can utilise to support the mental health and wellbeing of their staff during periods of emergency including:

  • Providing regular supervision dedicated to addressing the worker and their mental health and wellbeing
  • Facilitating peer support and maintaining social connections among staff
  • Encouraging breaks from work through access to leave."

The webinar, Responding to the Shadow Pandemic: Family Violence workforce wellbeing during COVID-19 (May 2021), explores the best practice guidelines. The guidelines are based on the research report When home becomes the workplace: family violence, practitioner wellbeing and remote service delivery during COVID-19 restrictions (November 2020). This research is from the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre in Australia as part of their wider research project on Gender-based violence and help-seeking behaviours during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Information on systemic impacts to advocate and worker wellbeing

International research indicates that workers in family violence and sexual violence are continuing to experience sustained significant increased service demands and increased stresses. For more information see our COVID FAQ part 2: Addressing the impacts of COVID-19 under the heading What needs to be done in Aotearoa New Zealand? Also see international research listed under Further Reading on our Information for specialist family violence and sexual violence services webpage.

Tainui Stephens wrote about Kaupapa Fatigue in the online magazine E-Tangata as "...the toll extracted from people who were so dedicated to making the Māori world better." He writes:

"It’s in the nature of oppressed peoples to fight back. There are necessary roles for the strategist, the warrior, the diplomat, and many other types of advocates and workers. But being forever active in the frontline of Māori revival and growth comes with a price.

I’ve known many individuals who grew old before their time because of the energy they expended, and the risks they took with their health or their domestic happiness, all to be able to serve a vital kaupapa that uplifted the wellbeing of the people.

The fatigue from their efforts is chronic when it becomes continuous. To serve the entity we call “the people” requires more hours than exist in a day. No wonder Māui tried to slow down the sun."

In the research article, Mahi aroha: Māori work in times of trouble and disaster as an expression of a love for the people (February 2021), Fiona Cram explores mahi aroha in times of crisis and the capacity of Māori to continue to offer mahi aroha noting:

"In times of crisis and adversity, Māori have stepped up to undertake paid and unpaid work within their communities. For many, this work is done out of a love for the people and a desire to see those who are most vulnerable in their community supported through times of difficulty and loss. Mahi aroha is underpinned by Māori values that also inform responsive adaptations to kawa and tikanga alongside the repurposing of workforces, resources and networks. Social media is widely used to support collective resiliency and inspire hope. Part of securing Māori capacity for mahi aroha into the future is the provision of homes for whānau that enable them to give effect to their love for people and their willingness to reach out and support others."

For more information see Sacha McMeeking, Helen Leahy and Catherine Savage's article An Indigenous self-determination social movement response to COVID-19 (October 2020) and Krushil Watene's article on Caring for community to beat coronavirus echoes Indigenous ideas of a good life (April 2020).

The webinar, Is It Burn Out or Moral Injury (February 2020), from the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center (US-based), explores how colonisation, historical trauma and racism contribute to systems and infrastructure which create moral injury for advocates and workers. For more information see moral injury resources for social work and community advocates from the The Shay Moral Injury Center at the US-based Volunteers of America.

The article Self-care for gender-based violence researchers – Beyond bubble baths and chocolate pralines (April 2022) explores self-care for GBV researchers, structural limitations and impacts on GBV researcher wellbeing, and recommendations focused on relational and collaborative ways of taking care of ourselves and each other.


Aotearoa New Zealand resources to support staff in the social service sector

Social Service Providers Aotearoa (SSPA) and ComVoices partnered with Umbrella Wellbeing to host a webinar in September 2021 on Strengthening Wellbeing in Times of Uncertainty with Zeenah Adam from Umbrella Wellbeing. SSPA has put together a summary of the webinar for kaimahi (workers and staff) across the non-government, Iwi social services and community sector in Aotearoa.

Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga recorded a number of COVID-19 Tautoko videos in 2020 to provide tautoko (support) to advisors, decision-makers, iwi, communities and whānau. The videos feature perspectives from Kaumātua and insights on noho ki te kainga (staying home).

Tuihana Ohia from the Centre for Social Impact developed Unu Ora - a series of brief meditations on health and wellbeing (September 2021) with a Te Ao Māori perspective. There are 5 Unu Ora in the series. Each Unu Ora offers a whakatauki to encourage reflection, and some questions and ideas to think about your wellbeing.

Kāhui Oranga, a collaborative health sector group, has a 6-part webinar series Leading for Wellbeing (2020). The webinars include wellbeing through the eyes of Dame R. Naida Glavish, compassionate leadership and Ma pango, ma whero, ka oti te mahi! Our diversity is a strength, we require to succeed! featuring Rachel Prebble, Tofa Suafole-Gush and Chris King exploring their role as leaders in supporting diverse workforces.

Re: News featured a series of articles and videos on practical mindfulness tools with Te Ao Māori view using honest kōrero, humour and shared stories.

The Pasifika Medical Association, Pasifika Futures and Pacific Media Network collaborated to offer a brief weekly radio segment looking at conversations about mental health and wellbeing, called Ngalu Fānifo.

Whāraurau offers the free online course Self-care in Trauma-informed care organisations. While not specific to COVID-19 impacts, the course explains how trauma can affect people who support, protect and serve vulnerable children/tamariki and families and whānau. It offers practical steps to manage the impact of trauma and improve wellbeing.

This article, Creating a culture of care to support rainbow activists’ well-being: an exemplar from Aotearoa | New Zealand (May 2022), explores development of a culture of care to support the wellbeing of activists involved with InsideOUT Kōaro, a rainbow activist group.

Safe and Equal, based in Australia, has created resources to support wellbeing for people who work in primary prevention of family violence. The 'How We Thrive' Video Series (2023) includes 4 brief videos and tip sheets. These resources are designed to help managers and organisational leaders understand what prevention practitioners need to feel supported and valued in their organisations, as well as helping prevention practitioners to advocate for their own projects and wellbeing.


International resources for workers addressing violence during COVID

The US-based National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) has produced three resources pulling together resources to support advocate and worker wellbeing, and community care and resilience:

TA Bundle: Community Care & Resilience (July 2021)

#Care4Advocates: COVID-19 Resources to Support Advocates’ Well-being (March 2020)

TA Bundle: Smiles for the Soul: The Advocate’s Scrapbook of Strength, Wisdom & Wellness (December 2019)

The Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) has published We Care Evidence Review: Exploring research into how wellness and care can be institutionalised in the violence against women field in low- and middle-income countries (November 2021). It includes recommendations for institutional-level care and wellbeing strategies and advice specific to supporting workers during the covid-19 pandemic.

The Growing Together: A Guide to Collective Care…and why self-care isn’t enough (October 2021) published by the New Naratif, is comic that highlights the difference between self care and community care, and shares an example for creating community care in an organisation.

The US-based Mary Hoch Center for Reconciliation has published a brief Self-Care Guide for Change-makers and Peacebuilders during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It outlines basic recommendations on how to take care of yourself and your household during the pandemic. 

USAID published How to Embed Self- and Collective Care in Organizations Addressing Gender-Based Violence (April 2022) which providers an overview and outlines principles to guide organisational actions to embed self-care and collective care.


General Aotearoa New Zealand resources on wellbeing

All Right? has information for individuals, families and whānau in their campaign on Getting Through Together. They also have information on workplace wellbeing and Wellbeing on the frontline - tips for managers and staff working through the pandemic from the ALL RIGHT? campaign.

The Mental Health Foundation has information about wellbeing, parenting during COVID-19, grief and loss, suicide prevention, what to do if you’re having a hard time getting through and more helpful resources. For organisations see their resources for Workplace wellbeing during Covid-19.

Te Rau Ora and The Centre for Māori Suicide Prevention developed the Manaaki Ora app - a self-help wellbeing app to support individuals and whānau to know what to do if they’re concerned with someone’s mental or emotional wellbeing.

The Ministry of Health has an extensive list of tools and where to get help to support your own wellbeing and others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

See the government's offical website on COVID-19 for more information on wellbeing.


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