Offering a helping hand to crime victims

first_imgEvery time a Greek name appears on the annual list of the Queen’s Birthday Honours, the event somehow seems to rub off on the greater Greek community, which is honoured as a whole. In the case of Tina Kallifidas, the sense of pride is even more emphatic, as she was awarded the Public Service Medal for years of work for the people of Victoria, providing a service to victims of serious crime through support roles, and through the provision of expert guidance to Victoria police. “As a Greek community we should stick together and support people who don’t have family support or close connections”For 16 years Tina Kallifidas has provided compassionate and timely support to victims of some of the most serious and violent crimes, guiding them through hardship, often in extremely difficult situations such as homicide cases. Moreover, she played a crucial role in developing an internal referral system which delivers support services to victims, offenders, witnesses and members of the community. Humble and thoughtful, she was kind enough to explain some aspects of her work that affect so many Victorians.What was your first reaction when you learned that you were one of the recipients of the medals?I thought that my mum will be happy and my dad would be so proud if he was still with us. Receiving the medal has made me think how blessed I have been to meet such extraordinary and strong people in unexpected and traumatic circumstances. I’m very grateful to have been able to support victims through difficult times in their lives. I feel privileged to have such a meaningful career and to be recognised nationally for the work is humbling. What does the term ‘Public Service’ mean to you? How do you perceive your role in the community? As a public servant, and a member of the community, I feel it is important to make a difference in empowering and assisting people in their daily lives. Working in the government sector has afforded me a great opportunity to assist people; because I understand how the system works and what is available to help people in need. We live in a very complex society and sometimes it is hard to navigate it even when you are feeling OK. When tragedy and hardship occurs, a person’s ability to manage their life can be challenged and this can result in emotional exhaustion. I was very fortunate to be in a position to assist victims by listening to their stories and helping them navigate the criminal justice system to access ongoing support. Today, my position affords me the ability to contribute to the development of new police practices and referral pathways that streamlines access to government support agencies for victims.Working with thousands of victims I’ve been humbled by the capacity of the human spirit to endure pain. It amazes me how some victims retain their humanity whilst continuing to fulfil the responsibilities of their daily lives in such dark times. What is your message to the broader community? We should have a stronger voice in support of people in need of assistance. We need to be more aware that bad things do happen to good people, and not be judgemental. As a society we should be supportive of all victims because like all of us, they have rights and should be treated with dignity and respect. Our society – and especially the media – focuses on the perpetrators of crime, perhaps more than it should, often neglecting the victims, apart from pitying them. Do you agree? The media should not portray victims as ones to be ‘pitied’ but rather ‘admired’ for their fortitude and courage. The role victims play in the prosecution of offenders is not properly acknowledged. Victims often present as witnesses at criminal trials, this can re-traumatise them and they need to draw upon a lot of internal strength to endure this when they are suffering. We need to recognise the important role they play in keeping the community safe for everyone; we owe them a great debt.Your work has offered you a unique insight on the consequences of criminal behaviour. What are your observations about the state of our community and the social fabric? A lot of people are experiencing hardship; physical and emotional. As a community, especially the Greek community, we should stick together and support people who don’t have family support or close connections. In the Greek community, many of our family members have endured hardship and gone on to create meaningful lives. We should be empathetic to those in need, especially newly-arrived immigrants, and address the imbalance of opportunity in society.What is your greatest ambition? Recently I have been working on a project to help, not only victims of crime, but also people in need of assistance. I have designed and assisted in the development of a referral system for police to assist anyone they come across who may be potentially at risk. There are 17 referral categories including, mental health, addiction, homelessness and gambling. This is an early intervention tool for police members to refer people to the appropriate support agency. It’s my hope that people will access services and find help before harm happens and their situation worsens. We implemented this system a year ago and over 20,500 referrals have been made.How can support for victims lead to crime prevention? The message should be clear that everybody has the right to a safe and peaceful environment. As a community we should look out for each other and be aware of people’s situations. If someone looks like they may be at risk of physical harm, the development of a mental health disorder, suffering from addiction or not coping in some way then we should support and intervene where appropriate. We should not shy away from asking someone if they are OK.You are dealing with people in a most vulnerable state. How does that affect you, emotionally? How do you protect yourself? I am very well supported by my family, friends and colleagues and being Greek I’m very philosophical.How connected are you to your Greek heritage? My father shaped who I am. He encouraged me to achieve my goals, believe in myself and be not be stifled by fear. The most important thing for him was that I obtained a good education and the skills that enabled me to become an independent person. He was generous and always good to others and had a willingness to help those around him. He believed if you work hard you will always be rewarded. He is my inspiration. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more