TMM129 Work Buddy Check with Mel Thomas
Bridging the gap between companies, community and the real time support for domestic violence.
In this episode I speak with Mel Thomas, founder of KYUP! and Work Buddy Check – on the role we all play in taking action to speak up, support.
How to have clear communication for those who need support due to domestic violence and how companies can be acutely aware of processes to ensure compliance as well as compassion.
I’ve known Mel for years after mentoring with the Layne Beachley Aim For The Stars program and since first meeting Mel she has stayed steadfast and true to her mission on reducing domestic violence and providing real time support for victims. Cosmo Woman of the Year, 2 x AU Champ Black Belt, Ambassador, Speaker, Founder and CEO – Mel is a true Game Changer
My army of soldiers don’t have guns. They wear school uniforms and the battlefield is mostly in their relationships, and minds.
As the world adapts to surviving a pandemic and increasing numbers are called upon to work from home/stay home, those living in family and domestic violence homes are a trapped.
Work Buddy Check is a simple, smart compliance system for businesses to check in on the safety and wellbeing of your most valuable asset, your people.
Work Buddy Check – Created From Necessity
When the pandemic hit and all of the front facing work with charities stopped, at the same time the not-for-profits and the domestic violence shelters that Mel worked with reached and said they couldn’t actually contact anybody.
The issue is of domestic violence is not going away. We know for example, that if you are pregnant, that that’s one of the most high risk times in domestic violence. And I had a, not for profit up in Queensland calling me saying, I’ve got 40 women that I know are in crisis right now. What can we do?
Mel decided to think about one of the strategies used in kiosks to help young people stay connected – called a trust text and convert this into a buddy system and a compliance system that businesses can use.
It’s it’s so that if you’re working remotely, it provides a more real time and robust actual support for the immediate needs to create safety and action over and above a policy on paper.
Work Buddy Check ensures real time support along with the dignity and privacy that is so crucial in highly charged situations.
- Follow Through
Mel grew up with family violence.
My, my dad had mental health problems and issues around alcohol and, um, and I probably would never have done anything about it until I met this young woman who had, she’d gone through a lot. She’d been growing up, she’d, she’d grown up in domestic violence and she’d met a group of guys. And, um, she just found herself in a very disempowered situation.L
I remember her telling me that she was just there one moment then there sort of everybody came around her and she said, I froze. I didn’t know what to do. She experienced this assault in a way that had completely shut her down. That made a cognitive shift for me.
At the end of this really harrowing story, she turned around, she looked at me, he said, Mel, will I do wrong?
And I thought, God, I think I’ve been asking myself that same question for half my life. It kick started something in me – I had this idea, what if instead of feeling embarrassed and ashamed of my personal story, I could own it.
What if I could take my 20 years of special self defence training and create something that would help girls, especially at that time, find their voice and stand up for themselves and to stand up for each other.
With my martial arts training I can take this information and learning and share the message and empower those who really need it to have a voice. To stand up and to be heard.
Kyup! means to shout.
It helps people understand that they’re stronger than they think. I love working with indigenous communities, especially because look, if you’re an indigenous girl, you have to 80 times more to be hospitalised for assault in some parts of this country. We’re not doing enough. I know I can do something that can help them protect themselves. That’s what I do. That’s what camp does.
Learning to Have A Voice
At what point do we find our voice, our anchoring. The place where we can learn to stand up for our sovereign self?
I asked Mel id. she felt she embarked on her martial arts journey because she came from a household where she needed to defend herself and her own story, to get the discipline strength and fortitude to, to fight your way out of that situation like metaphorically and physically.
Why did I start doing martial arts?
I wish I could say that I had some great origin story. The truth is I was seeing this guy he took me along to this gym to show off and I was sitting on the ground, all dressed up, watching him do all his martial arts stuff. And I thought, wow, that looks pretty cool. And I saw these women and they were defending themselves and they will kill bill that was standing in a circle. There was bodies flying everywhere and they’re using their voices.
And I thought, I wonder if I could do that. I had to know, could I learn to protect myself? Because honestly up until I’d say that it had never occurred to me that I could.
So then I started going to these classes. I started to learn that I was much stronger than I ever thought.
I learned how to be accountable and how to stand my ground. That’s what the martial arts journey has been for me for more than 20 years.
Now, Mel has taken all this experience and developed vital technology and a program that applies simple and real time relevant support to ensure that both the individuals concerned and the business they are connected to know there are plans in place for immediate support and to acknowledge the situation without feeling lost in translation.
You cannot delay response when someone’s wellbeing is at hand. At the same time it can’t just be on the organisation – it is a two way street.
Work Buddy Check – The Green/Amber and Red Zones
Work Buddy Check is a technical innovation in supporting organisations and their employees in the work from home and virtual workplace landscape using the traffic light system.
This is not just for cases of domestic violence, although this is Mels core area of focus given her own foundation and personal experience.
Work Buddy Check is set up to support mental health, anxiety and any issue where individuals are at risk personally in highly delicate circumstances, providing a core framework:
Listen, reassure, respect, refer.
Being able to easily identify where you sit on the safety and mental wellbeing elements is a vital tool for anyone in crisis and assist those organisations and support roles to create an immediate connection with the elements of what actions are the best to put into motion.
The idea is the traffic light system is green, yellow, red.
- Green is to say that they understand and that everything’s okay.
- Yellow is an escalation stage.
- Red is straight to emergency services.
Creating a Safe Place For Support And Change
To create a space of trust and people have to know that they’re not discriminated against. You can’t just say “we’ve got a domestic violence policy and it looks like this, and this is the definition of it.” It means you’ve got to do the work.
As an organisation ask:
- What’s your policy look like?
- What’s best practice.
- How can we get to support our staff easily and effectively and create the best possible support and follow through?
- How do we protect our liability at the same time and ensure we create best practice and through the line continuity?
- What is the protocol for the person of concern and the protocol for the person who is the first point of contact inside the organisation
As an individual ask:
- Is the action plan easy to access
- How can I show compassion for others but also for myself
- What is the best next right thing to identify I/they need help even when I/they are too afraid to put a hand up – to acknowledge what is really going on?
Understand that when someone is in crisis mode their ability to make clear and informed decisions is deeply affected.
There is often a paralysis that comes from the duality of feeling love for the person they are close to then complete fear for their safety in that very same environment.
This is the most complex situation to navigate and requires compassion for self for those experiencing it and understanding and perspective from those in the support roles.
There are two, there are two things that should never be in conflict. The instinct to love and to stay and the instinct to protect yourself. First person, you trust the most deadens that instinct for you to protect yourself, like right down to the point where you physically can’t even protect yourself anymore. Much less emotional, financial it’s everything. You forget what makes you. You lose your essence.
The last thing you need is everybody, well-meaningly saying “you’re not you anymore” .
Work Buddy Check Be Aware
So if you notice a change in anyone you work with or dear to you who is retreating into their shell and you know something is up – and if they do have the courage to share this with you. Start by saying :
I’m glad I’m having this conversation here with you.
So if you’re reading this, listened to the podcast or watched the interview and we urge you to ask:
– how can I be part of the change to ensure safety, open communication
– do I know what to do if I was ever in a situation where my own mental and physical wellbeing was at risk, or someone in my organisation or close inner circle is at risk?
Go have a look at the links below. Putting action in creates a solid foundation to prevent rather than trying to repair.
We hope this episode has given you a candid insight into rising up, finding power from within and how leadership means showing up for others when they may be too afraid to do so for themselves.
Thanks again to Mel for being on the show and all the work she does to authentically get behind a movement that requires deep change from within our communities, homes and the conversations we are having.
Please leave a comment or reach out below:
If you or anyone you know is in a situation that requires immediate support please note the help line and details on the website link for Work Buddy Check and never delay to contact authorities or a friend or family member you can trust.
If you or someone you know needs help, 1800RESPECT is the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service in Australia. Dial 1800 RESPECT (1800 7277 328)
Mother of two beautiful girls, 2 x Australian Hapkido Woman of the Year and second degree black-belt martial artist and I’m a 2 x Australia Day Ambassador.
Mel speaks passionately about domestic violence, intuition, self worth and self protection in schools, universities, businesses and community groups.
Described as ‘enigmatic’ by Business Chicks and the ‘leader of a revolution to end the cycle of violence against women and children’ by Cosmopolitan Magazine.
In 2013 Mel won a scholarship with the Layne Beachley Foundation (which is where we met)
With that resolve, she founded the KYUP! Project in 2013 with a series of self-worth and self-defence workshops. Empowering more than 10,000 Aussies at school and in the workplace to raise their standards and champion their safety and wellbeing.
KYUP! And the Board Break Challenge – proudly sponsored by SMAI, the leading brand for Martial Arts, boxing and fitness supplies Australia wide.