Exploration of the nature and understanding of family and domestic violence within the Sudanese, Somalian, Ethiopian, Liberian and Sierra Leonean communities and its impact on individuals, family relations, the community and settlement


The African Communities Family Support and Domestic Violence Planning Group formed in 2004 following 3 deaths caused by family domestic violence in African communities in Perth.

Together the African Communities Family Support and Domestic Violence Planning Group with the Family and Domestic Violence Unit tried to implement a number of strategies with limited success. It was then that they turned to research for help in understanding family domestic violence within their community.

The African Communities Family Support and Domestic Violence Planning Group endorsed the Association for Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors (ASeTTS) as project managers due to the long standing inclusive relationships they had built together.

A steering group was established with equal representation from the African Communities Family Support and Domestic Violence Planning Group, Family Domestic Violence Unit and the Association for Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors.

The project took place between November 2007 and July 2009.

The project included:

  • Equal representation from the 5 communities
  • Maximum of 12 in-depth interviews per community

Why were community researchers chosen for this project?

It was important that the in-depth interviews were carried out by trained bi-cultural/bi-lingual interviewers. There were seven languages spoken by the community members in the five African communities; English, Amharic, Madi, Dinka, Arabic, Krio and Somalian. Community researchers were not restricted by having to select participants of the research based on the fact that they can speak English.

“community members are the experts on their own experience" 

Colleen Fisher, Researcher

Who were the community researchers and how were they identified?

The fourteen community researchers were identified and approached by members of the steering group. The steering group decided that there should be a mix of young, old, male and female and that all community researchers should be bi-cultural/bi-lingual.

What tasks did the community researchers carry out?

  • Reviewing the interview guide and providing feedback on appropriate changes
  • Identifying members of the public to be interviewed which is also known as recruiting (24 male and 28 female participants were recruited, mostly by word of mouth)
  • Conducting interviews (52 in 7 languages)
  • Some helped to translate the interviews
  • Cultural interpretation at the analysis stage
  • Input into final report
  • Organising a launch of the report which was attended by the participants

The steering group and community researchers did not feel that they should be involved in the analysis but were happy to provide advice on interpretation.

What support did the community researchers need to carry out their tasks?


Training was provided for all community researchers. The two-day course developed by the researcher with cultural input from Association for Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors covered a number of topics:

  • Overview of family domestic violence
  • Characteristics and assumptions of qualitative research
  • Ethical issues in qualitative research
  • In-depth interviews
  • Undertaking interviews
  • Boundaries
  • Interviewing sensitive issues and self-care
  • Working with the interview guide

Ongoing support

We provided support to the community researchers throughout the data collection period.

What were the benefits of using community researchers?

"We had translators to transcribe the interviews; however we could not find translators for two of the languages and had to ask the community researchers to provide a translation. If we had not used community researchers we would not have been able to interview those particular participants"

Colleen Fisher, Researcher

The community lead this project and there was equality within the partnership. Involving the community at every step by having community researchers confirmed the ownership that the community had of the research findings.

“from little things, big things grow”

Colleen Fisher, Researcher 

The steering committee along with the community researchers consulted the community to decide how to go forward. It was decided that community leaders/elders would be trained to handle the issues as community members often turn to their elders as a first point of call when dealing with family domestic violence. The partnership was able to secure further funding.

The community then successfully applied for a further round of funding to enable them to ‘train the trainer’.