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Apr 5th 2021
The Blend
Australia

The Consent Blueprints wants to help the hospitality world thrive.

For a country that prides itself on its hospitality – why not do all we can to make it thrive?” asks Ishma Alvi. She’s talking about The Consent Blueprints initiative, which Alvi — a psychologist — has established with Nicola Keating, the marketing and events manager at Welcome to Brunswick.

It’s a program designed to educate on the issues around sexual harassment in the workplace, and they just got a boost thanks to a $20,000 grant from the IDEA LAB.

The IDEA LAB aims to help support the Australian bartending community rebuild and innovate after a tough 2020, with $80,000 in grants up for grabs to bartenders around the country. Nearly 50 entries from individuals, teams and venues were received, with those narrowed them down to the 20 best across the country. Each entry underwent a Shark Tank-style pitching process, with six winners announced late last year.

“I struggle to express fully how truly thrilled I am, we both are, with having this idea be given the space and time to actually affect change,” says Alvi.

That change, the duo says, can and needs to happen at the workplace level.

“Our aim is to deprogram unhealthy and damaging behaviours, and reprogram people to be considerate and communicate against sexualised violence in the workplace,” says Keating. “We are here to help you build the policy you need to keep your employees and customers safe.”

Alvi points out that as well as those behaviours being just plain wrong, there are a range of costs associated with them that pile up for both staff and the businesses they work in.

“Sexual harassment in the hospitality workplace is an issue that has had a detrimental impact on the hospitality worker (mental, financial), on venues (the cost of high staff turnovers, financial impact of staff attrition) and on anyone in that space,” she says.

Both Alvi and Keating sound energised by the opportunity the  IDEA LAB $20,000 grant gives to The Consent Blueprints.

“By partnering with The Blend, we have a real chance of planting our feet firmly down and inviting the rest of our community to re-write the blueprints that serve as the foundations of how we live and work together,” says Keating.

Alvi hasn’t worked in hospitality before, but has been struck by the excitement in the sector. “The more I talk to and interact with people in hospitality, the more I am struck with how alive and dynamic it is, and that it deserves to be safe.”

Below and in their own words, Alvi and Keating share with us what motivates them to carry out this work, and their vision for a safer, more inclusive hospitality world.

 

Why do you do what you do?

Ishma Alvi: I do what I do - educate around consent, deprogram toxic gender-normative and socially constructed dictates that serve to damage and confine women (and I am not splitting hairs on this word- a woman is any person who believes they are one) because I feel I do not have a choice.
 
I cannot watch the biggest and most undermined travesty to human rights and safety, the disenfranchisement of women, happen explicitly and implicitly every single day and do nothing about it.
 
I do it because I have to.
 
Because I am human.

Nicola Keating: I do what I do because of my personal experiences. I wish that wasn’t the case, but after 10 years in hospitality I have seen and been the subject of too much trauma. Our industry has enormous infrastructure gaps and as a result many people fall through the cracks. It’s time for that to end.
 

 

What’s your current role and where do you work?
 
IA: I am a psychologist, and I am the Senior Psychologist at a private practice in North Melbourne.

NK: I’m the Local Area Marketing and Events Manager at 4 Pines Welcome to Brunswick, a brewery and food truck beer garden.
 

 

Can you explain your IDEA LAB initiative in a way that say, one’s grandma would understand? 
 
IA: It’s pretty basic, I think anyone’s grandma (and grandma in particular!) would understand: sexual harassment in the hospitality workplace is an issue that has had a detrimental impact on the hospitality worker (mental, financial), on venues (the cost of high staff turnovers, financial impact of staff attrition) and on anyone in that space.
 
[We are] writing procedures and educating people on processes that help mitigate, minimise, control and manage that risk keeps the industry and everyone in it thriving.
 
And for a country that prides itself on its hospitality – why not do all we can to make it thrive?
 

 

How long have you been working in hospitality?

NK: I’ve been in hospitality for 10 years now. Starting off in Queensland slinging beers, I have worked in nightclubs, dive bars, restaurants and cafes. Now based in Melbourne, working in management has allowed me to make real change to our industry. Hospitality is one of the greatest cross-sections of humanity. Our industry is unique and fundamental to so many people. Every day is different and I want to work to make it better.
 
IA: This is the interesting bit — I don’t work in hospitality and never have. But friends, colleagues and clients have and the toll the harassment in that industry takes makes me want to engage and address it.
 
I love that this is an industry that seems to move on pure willpower, humour and grit — and the Australian spirit of generosity. The more I talk to and interact with people in hospitality, the more I am struck with how alive and dynamic it is, and that it deserves to be safe.
 
Tell us how you feel about winning the grant and the opportunity it provides?
 
NK: Winning the grant gives us the chance to make real and considerate change in an industry that is incredibly progressive for the most part. Through this opportunity, The Consent Blueprints have a platform that we can use to help others, shine a light on difficult issues, and stand in solidarity with our community.

IA: I struggle to express fully how truly thrilled I am, we both are, with having this idea be given the space and time to actually affect change.
 

 

What’s it like to collaborate on this with The Blend team?
 
IA: It has been a great experience - these are people who are on the ball, aware of current issues and ahead of the curve in terms of identifying relevant needs and how to address them. In fact, they have been ahead of the pack in being able to read the writing on the wall - the need to protect from sexual harassment and create safety in the workplace cannot be denied any longer.
 
NK: Collaborating with The Blend team has given us the ability to access multiple levels of experiences and knowledge. By partnering with The Blend, we have a real chance of planting our feet firmly down and inviting the rest of our community to re-write the blueprints that serve as the foundations of how we live and work together.