A sea of orange t-shirts flooded Bairnsdale’s Main Street on Wednesday for the second instalment of Gippsland Lakes Community Health’s (GLCH) ‘Walk to Change the Story’.
‘Walk to Change the Story’ highlights the need to end violence against women and children.
The walk kicked off at 11am when more than 1000 men, women, children and even some furry friends marched from Bairnsdale Primary School, down the Main Street and then back to the school where there were marquees and representatives from various organisations who discussed family violence and what the community can do to prevent it.
GLCH chief executive officer, Sue Medson, said it was an “incredible” sight to see so many people gathering for such a cause.
“It’s fantastic to see the support that we get for this event and it’s very important in East Gippsland in particular, being the second out of 79 areas rated for family violence, which is very scary,” Sue said.
“At this exact time last year it was 13th but what happens across the state is that flux and change, so by the next day we were rated fourth, so second isn’t a big jump from fourth. It’s still too high and there are things that need to happen so people understand that violence isn’t the answer, regardless of what it’s about.
“Walk to Change the Story is about women and children in particular but essentially brings a focus on not using violence in a way to settle anything and changing the way people address conflict.
“The overall message is that violence doesn’t address any issues, it only complicates things and makes things worse.
“It brings terror and concern to children and families; these two are the most impacted by violence in any situation.”
When the Advertiser asked Sue if the community was getting better at realising these issues she said things had improved but there was still a long way to go.
“On the surface we are getting better but the numbers would say that we are not, so we need to sustain the effort and not just paste over it,” Sue said.
After last year’s success where around 1500 people took part in the event, Sue said it was an easy decision to conduct the event again.
“It was a very easy decision as last year was very successful in raising that awareness and what we need now is not to just raise it but sustain the effort to reduce the violence,” Sue said.
“We are hoping we can do it yearly.”
Many people had different reasons for partaking in Walk to Change the Story and Donna Hallam, of Quantam Support Services, said that it’s important people change to benefit the community.
“I am walking to change people’s perception of equality and by doing the walk it helps raise awareness,” Donna said.
“It’s good to see so many kids walking because we are trying to teach them at a young age that violence isn’t acceptable.”
Fourteen schools participated in the walk.
Victorians are encouraged to call out sexism, sexual harassment and disrespect towards women in a state-wide campaign that started on November 25 and finishes December 10.
Respect Victoria’s Respect Women: Call it Out campaign takes place during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, a global campaign initiated by the United Nations to eliminate gender-based violence and discrimination.
The Respect Women: Call it Out campaign demonstrates how even the smallest of acts can potentially stop sexual harassment from occurring.
Members of the public are encouraged to become active bystanders where sexual harassment, sexism and disrespect is occurring to help prevent the situation from escalating.
The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) was funded by Respect Victoria to coordinate the campaign with Victorian councils and other organisations including women’s health services, Safe Steps and Djirra Aboriginal Services.
The MAV partnered with Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria to produce a range of resources including a campaign toolkit, which provides information about what constitutes sexual harassment, actions bystanders can take, and how organisations can get involved.
It also contains confronting statistics around gender equality and violence against women.
On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.
Cr Coral Ross, president of the MAV, said the number of Australian women who have experienced sexual harassment, especially in public places, is unacceptable and it is up to all of us to call it out.
“Despite the best efforts of the community, sexual harassment and gender-based violence continues to be all-too common in our society. Research shows that one in four women have experienced sexual harassment a lot of this is happening in public places,” she said.
“We all need to work together to call out harassment, sexism, inequality and discrimination. “Local government plays a critical leadership role in shaping the culture and attitudes of their communities, and we are supporting community events run throughout the campaign.
“Victorian councils are leaders in gender equality and preventing violence against women, working alongside the community and experts in the sector to deliver projects and initiatives tailored to the needs of their respective communities.”
PICTURED: Linda White, Keryn Brooks, Mel Williams, Amy Henderson and Tori Williams were part of a sea of orange t-shirts that flooded Bairnsdale’s Main Street on Wednesday as part of Gippsland Lakes Community Health’s ‘Walk to Change the Story’. The event is designed to help raise awareness to end violence against women and children.