This week we’re profiling the amazing women doing great work to improve sexual and reproductive health in our region!

Superheroes of SRH: Kylie Stephens

Senior Health Promotion Manager Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health, University of Melbourne

  1. How are you working to improve sexual and reproductive health?
    I lead a small sexual health promotion team of five based in Wangaratta and Bendigo. We facilitate opportunities to bring a diverse workforce together for common purposes – improve sexual and reproductive health service provision; share innovative health promotion practice; and to enhance the knowledge, skills and confidence of rural workers to educate and support our rural citizens. I value collaboration and participatory processes to enable communities and local workforces and networks to determine priorities and to lead or co-lead initiatives. I am particularly focused on addressing disadvantage and reducing structural inequities.
  2. What do you love most about your work?
    I love the opportunity to identify a need/priority (out of the many!) and to leverage our collective effort to respond, reflect and evaluate, and respond some more. An example is the incremental work towards the decentralisation of Victoria’s abortion service system, through establishing partnerships, training the workforce, creating a clinical network and developing a resource hub for unplanned pregnancy and abortion. The success of this work has been instrumental in accelerating the effort to improve the rural service system. I also love the passionate people in this arena of work, and the generosity and spirit of collaboration.
  3. Why is your work important?
    There are very few of us who have ‘sexual health’ in the title of our work roles in rural and regional locations. ‘Sex’ may be in the title of our roles, but this field of work is not seen as sexy. CERSH can play a role in lifting the profile, broadening the scope of responsibility for fostering positive sexual health and prevention efforts, and reducing stigma. Resources and power are firmly planted in metropolitan Melbourne. We need to harness the capacity of our collective action and advocacy, and to raise our voices to have any chance of improving resources provision and power for rural Victoria.
  4. What do you think are the biggest sexual and reproductive health issues facing Victorian women living in rural and regional areas?
    How do we meet the needs of those with fewest resources and greatest disadvantage when accessible and affordable services are widely dispersed? How do we support young people to gain
    self-efficacy to manage relationships and sexual and reproductive health when there is inconsistent relationship and sexuality education in and out of the school systems? How do we support our workforce when pressures are significant, and when workplace attitudes and cultures contribute? And another big one, beyond rural and regional Victoria – how do we address the misinformation and manipulation of the facts by ideologues and the powerful influence they have on policy?

More information: CERSH

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