Kate Cultural Change Initiative

Fighting for our lives

We cannot drive cultural change to end social violence on our own, that’s why we engage with experts from across the community to increase our understanding of the causes and consequences of social violence. Step Back Think’s new Cultural Change initiative invites guest speakers to share their perspective on the issue and provide practical insights from the field.

Last week, Ambulance Victoria paramedic Kate Cantwell spoke to us about assaults on emergency service workers and first hand accounts of social violence. In 22 years attending to people on the streets of Melbourne’s CBD, Kate has no shortage of stories about social violence.

“Social violence in Melbourne’s CBD is one of the most common scenes I attend to. It often involves 25-35 year old males, sometimes with head injuries”, she said.

“Fighting is so prevalent on Friday and Saturday nights that a coordinated Police and Ambulance Team (PAT) are on standby, ready to be called to violent scenes across the city.”

Applying the ‘Rule of Threes’ when dealing with any situation where there is a potential for violence, Kate approaches each incident keeping the following three things in mind:

1) Can I change the person’s attitude/behaviour?
2) Can I remove the victim from the location?
3) Can I change my own attitude to the situation?

Level-headed and compassionate, Kate emphasises the importance of ‘just being nice’ to diffuse violence.

“When people are being aggressive, it’s because they’ve got their guard up so just be nice, don’t make the first question accusatory and ask people if they are ok.”

De-escalation strategies are simply part of the job for emergency service workers who experience unacceptably high levels of violence themselves. The Victorian Government estimates that up to 95 per cent of healthcare workers have experienced physical or verbal attacks while going about their critical work of caring for the sick and saving lives.

It used to be expected that every now and then emergency services would experience violence, but social violence has no place in anyone’s workplace.

Be part of the solution and present as a guest speaker by contacting