Family violence is different for rural and regional Victorians. Its character and the options available to affected people are unique. But at its heart, regardless of where it occurs, is gender inequality. This blunt fact was front and centre at a July forum presented by Loddon Campaspe CLC and Maryborough Rotary.
The forum brought together almost 100 community representatives from across the region. Our keynote speaker, Mary Barry (former CEO of Our Watch), highlighted the gendered character of family violence and its basis in gender inequity, and pointed opened by describing the nature of family violence in a rural setting: ‘For people living in smaller rural and regional communities, it becomes even more challenging and difficult to admit that family violence happens to people that we know, love and care about. Particularly when the the perpetrators and the victims can be known by everyone, including the police, the court staff and the relevant family violence services.’
The forum included a group activity, guided by the Centre for Non-Violence, which provided a space for participants to focus on the gendered drivers of family violence and options for primary prevention.
After lunch, a panel of local experts worked through a family violence case study, each highlighting their role in such a matter, the complexities faced by victims and the challenges for the legal system. The panel comprised our own family violence lawyer, Dr Rob Southgate; His Hon. Magistrate Dr Michael King; Tim Mulvany OAM (Family Lawyer and Independent Children’s Lawyer); Pamela Brown (Psychologist); Liz Wright (Anglicare); Sgt Margaret Singe (Victoria Police); and Cate Moloney (Centre for Non-Violence). The panel was moderated by local criminal law specialist Kylie Moloney.
We surveyed participants before and after the event to ensure we captured baseline data on the event and on participants’ knowledge and attitudes towards family violence. We measured the forum’s impact on participants’ confidence to access family violence supports and take preventative actions.
Mary Barry and the panellists emphasised the causal relationship between gender inequality and family violence, highlighting disrespectful attitudes towards women, men’s control of decision-making, and traditional gender roles. And they sought to make a distinction between the root cause of family violence (gender inequality) and common triggers, e.g. drug or alcohol use and financial stress. However, many surveyed participants still failed to distinguish between the gendered drivers of family violence and its common triggers.
Only 44% of female participants correctly identified the three gendered causes of family violence from among the options presented to them in the survey. And 0% of male participants (28% of the total number of participants) correctly identified the three gendered causes of family violence. This highlights the need to continue the conversation around family violence and its causes and options for prevention.
Nonetheless, most participants indicated that, following the forum, they would feel more confident when it came to accessing family violence support services and taking actions to prevent family violence. An overwhelming majority of participants indicated a high level of satisfaction with the event and its relevance to their work.
We would like to thank Maryborough Rotary, Go Goldfields and the Centre for Non-Violence for their invaluable support of this event.