IT’S time to end domestic violence.
That was the unmistakable message from an estimated 1000 people who flooded the streets of Cowes on Saturday to join in a White Ribbon Walk.
The act of unity between the Phillip Island and Inverloch communities, prior to a footy match between the towns’ teams, was in memory of mother-of-three Samantha Fraser.
The 1.5km walk was led by a white ribbon, starting at the bottom of Thompson Avenue and finishing at the Cowes’ Recreation Reserve.
It was followed by a presentation by former AFL player Luke Ablett, and a one minute’s silence before the seniors’ game.
“It’s a community getting together behind Samantha Fraser, and White Ribbon,” Bass MP Brian Paynter said on Saturday.
“But there’s the broader issue of men’s violence against women.
“We need to make change. We can no longer stand by and accept these actions in our community.”
Inverloch Football and Netball Club co-president Bruce Clark said it was a magnificent response.
“When we were walking down the hill, you’d look back up and there were people still up the top about half a kilometre away.
“It was very encouraging. We’ve always had a good rapport with Phillip Island.
“I think if people keep putting the word out there, and doing what they’re doing, hopefully it doesn’t fall on deaf ears.”
His words were echoed by ex-AFL footballer Luke Ablett, a White Ribbon ambassador.
Luke spoke in front of a packed room at the Cowes Recreation Reserve.
He highlighted issues around gender inequality and how men are raised to be in control and dominate in relationships.
“And when things go wrong in those relationships, men often revert to violence to solve conflict because we are not taught from a young age how to manage our feelings… and how to respond when things don’t really go our way,” he said.
“If you do see a relationship and you think it might be violent, it is your responsibility and obligation to just ask, ‘Is everything okay?’, ‘Are you safe?’, ‘Do you want help?’
“You don’t have to go and play the hero, but be involved in that. It’s really important.”
Luke said adults and leaders, including in football clubs, need to set positive examples for junior players.
“Young people are looking up to you… even though you might just be having a beer in the corner.
“It’s a really important thing to keep at the front of your mind when you’re just engaging around the club.”
When asked by Mr Paynter how girls should respond to sexist comments, Luke said it wasn’t for him to tell women how to act.
“It’s for me to tell the boys to stop being scumbags.
“When something happens, we very quickly fall into victim blaming and ‘What did she do, what did she say, what was she wearing, did she drink too much, was she wearing a short skirt?’
“And the question should rather be, ‘Why did he do it?’”
Asked what his message is to men, Luke said they have a significant amount of power.
“For the men in the room, you do have an opportunity to contribute and be very aware of your own attitudes.
“You as an individual can control how you speak, how you act, and you can also contribute to a broader club environment and the culture of the club.
“You might get a pat on the back, but don’t do it because you want one, don’t do it because you think you deserve a pat on the back.
“Do it because it will make a change and a really important one.”
Mayor Cr Pamela Rothfield paid tribute to Samantha Fraser at a council meeting last Wednesday.
She said the tight-knit community was left devastated by the tragic passing of the beautiful, young mother.
Council will advocate for appropriate services too, she said, with extra investment and commitment to become more apparent in the “coming months”.
“One can only feel cheated when something like this occurs and unfortunately, it’s another reminder for us – a sad and inexcusable reminder – of violence against women in our society.
“It reaffirms to me that urgent action is needed. Our society needs to change, and change starts with each of us.
“Domestic violence is just not acceptable. We all have to speak up and call it out.”