By Kyra Gillespie
While there was an impressive local turnout for this year’s White Ribbon Day walk, it is important that both community leaders and individuals don’t fall into the tokenism of turning up to an event one day of the year only to forget about it the minute it is over.
Cardinia’s annual Walk Against Violence does help to spotlight the issue of family violence, but event co-ordinator Fiona Cost pointed out that it is “by no means the only day where people can come together to change the culture of violence in our shire”.
The stark reality is that family violence happens every day of the year.
Last year, about four incidents of family violence were recorded per calendar day in the Cardinia Shire.
The shire also had the second highest rate (per 100,000 population) of recorded family incidents in the Southern Metropolitan Region according to the Cardinia Shire Council’s Family Violence Factsheet.
“This stuff does happen and people need to speak out against it”, newly elected mayor and White Ribbon Ambassador Collin Ross said.
“The Cardinia Shire experiences high rates of family violence and we know that many people experience it in many ways that are not just physical.
“Everyone in the community can play a part in the prevention of family violence to create a safe and peaceful community.”
Hundreds of locals marched the streets of Pakenham to unite against family violence on Saturday 25 November.
Among those was guest speaker David Nugent, a former perpetrator of family violence.
Now a behaviour change specialist at Heavy M.E.T.A.L. (Mens Education Towards Anger and Life), Mr Nugent underscored the importance of men’s attitudes in the prevention of violence against women.
“I never saw myself as a violent guy; I just thought I was a man who could get angry from time to time,” he said.
“My family would walk on eggshells around me, not knowing what mood I would be in from one moment to the next.
“What I didn’t realise then is that my anger was a form of family violence.
“We men are the champions of minimising what we do. There’s no excuse for abuse.”
Also in attendance was Boonwurrung elder Aunty Carolyn Briggs, who was quick to point out that although the guest speakers on the day were powerful, they were “preaching to the converted”.
“They’re talking to a crowd of people who are already taking action to prevent and eliminate family violence,” she said.
“It’s those who aren’t here who need to be hearing this message.”
While these events were a step in the right direction, it was important to take this issue out into everyday life.
“Speak out for all genders, in the workplace, the football clubs, the sporting fields, the local hotel, wherever you are,” MC and Bass MP Brian Paynter said.
“The message is simple: respect everybody regardless of gender, look out for each other and build healthy and respectful relationships to make our community a safe and enjoyable place to live.”