Special guest at the White Ribbon business lunch networking session at Leongatha on Tuesday Phil Cleary chats with Michelle Evans, Indigenous Family Violence Regional Coordinator with DHS. D014714.
IN THIS year alone, Leongatha police have responded to 104 incidences of family violence – they have ranged from a man bashing in his ex’s head in front of their son, to two brothers in a fist fight.
The statistics and truly abhorrent stories recounted by Sergeant Dale McCahon confirmed that violence against women is a national disgrace.
Business leaders who attended a special luncheon hosted by the Bass Coast and South Gippsland Business Alliance were left asking more questions well after guest speaker Phil Cleary had left.
Mr Cleary, whose sister was killed by her ex, has been campaigning and speaking about ending the scourge of violence against women.
He spoke to business leaders in the lead up to international White Ribbon Day today, Tuesday, November 25.
It was clear from the talk that the fierce competitor on the football field (a VFA premiership player and coach) and in parliament (he succeeded Bob Hawke as an Independent) was just as fierce in his campaign to stop violence against women.
Mr Cleary said the first step was to admit that violence against women was a national disgrace.
He said changing the culture of impunity and demonization of victims, and laws that were complicit in allowing violence against women to continue was the first step to “making a massive difference”.
Mr Cleary said it was 25 years ago that he sat, a broken man and listened to people talk about the murder of women at the hands of the men in their lives.
It was just over 25 years ago that the man who killed Mr Cleary’s sister – stabbing her to death as she tried to escape – was found not guilty of murder, but manslaughter under the old provocation law and “served effectively three years and 11 months in jail”.
“He was a Neanderthal who thought that women were his possession,” he said.
“But under the provocation law, the judge decided that even though he [the perpetrator] had waited for her at her work, violated her space and stabbed to death my saint of a sister, who was just 5 foot 4, because she was leaving him, that it was what any other regular man would have done in the same situation.
“The law has been complicit in allowing women to be demonised through the courts,” Mr Cleary said, recounting how the fact his sister had a prescription for the contraceptive pill in her handbag was raised in court, implying she was “promiscuous” and it had ‘provoked’ her ex.
Mr Cleary successfully campaigned to have the provocation laws changed, but he said there was more to be done.
“Violence against women is a national disgrace,” he said.
“Don’t be afraid to admit that.
“Just because we’re here wearing white ribbons and are talking about it, doesn’t mean it’s over – far from it.
“It shows that we have never been in a better position to change the situation, where 60 women a year are killed by the men in their lives.
“We are talking about it, now we need to drive home our advantage, and the solutions are in our communities.”
Mr Cleary urged the business leaders at the luncheon to stand up against violence against women, isolate violent men, make it clear violence won’t be tolerated, support women and ‘not allow conversations that put women in vulnerable positions and situations’.
Not just women
For every family affected by family violence, there are secondary victims – the majority of these are children.
Local Learning and Employment Network (LLEN) coordinator Mick Murphy said that put an enormous strain on the support networks.
“For every 104 cases locally, as reported by Sgt Dale McCahon, there would be around 400 secondary victims,” Mr Murphy said during the panel discussion.
“In many cases, they are children who have been removed from the home, which raises more issues around providing a stable home and education opportunities.”
Mr Murphy said the disruption family violence has on secondary victims has long-lasting and profound effects on that child’s learning outcomes, health, mental health and employment opportunities.
But he echoed Mr Cleary’s optimism – that there were now opportunities to make a positive difference.
Swear the oath
ON NOVEMBER 25, thousands of people will swear an oath to make a positive difference and show they and their community does not tolerate violence against women.
The White Ribbon Oath is more than just a statement of support for the White Ribbon cause.
When you swear the Oath, you make a commitment to lead by example, to be a role model and to intervene safely when needed.
• being aware of how your behaviour influences others;
• raising awareness in your friends and colleagues; and,
• challenging sexist and violent behaviour by speaking up about it, urging the perpetrator to seek professional help or contacting the police on 131 444 or, in an emergency, 000.
Make the oath:
“I swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.
“This is my oath.”
Take action to stop violence
TAKING bystander action is an effective way of creating change and stopping violence against women.
One of the most effective instances of this is Lieutenant General David Morrison’s quote: “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept”.
For information on how to lead by example, be a role model and to intervene safely when needed when you see violence against women or attitudes that put women into vulnerable positions, the community can attend special sessions for White Ribbon Day this week.
There will be a dinner at the Wonthaggi Town Hall on November 26 from 6pm to 7.30pm; and at the Meeniyan Town Hall on Thursday, November 27 from 6pm to 7.30pm.
To register, visit http://whatyoucando.eventbrite.com.au.