WARRNAMBOOL will be a shade of orange for the next 16 days in an effort to curb violence against women.
If it doesn’t impact on you it can be hard to see. Many men can’t understand it because they haven’t experienced it. It’s kind of like racism. If you’re not the target of it, it can be invisible to you.Justine Devonport
The 16 Days of Activism campaign launches on Sunday, and aims to reduce and raise awareness of gender-based violence.
Sunday is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
The campaign runs until December 10 – which is Human Rights Day.
IGA supermarkets across the south-west will offer shoppers free, re-usable orange bags with messages about gender equality and reducing violence.
‘Why doesn’t she leave? Why doesn’t he stop. No excuses.’ is one of the messages printed on the bags that are available for pick up at Warrnambool, Koroit, Port Fairy, Portland, Heywood, Hamilton, Camperdown, Cobden, Timboon, Terang and Mortlake IGA supermarkets.
When asked 'how safe do you feel walking alone in your local area after dark?' in the VicHealth Indicators 2015 survey less than 35 per cent of Warrnambool women surveyed said safe or very safe, compared to nearly 80 per cent of the city’s men.
Data from the Crime Statistics Agency shows in 2017 there was 472 family violence incidents reported by women in Warrnambool, which was down from 543 in 2016.
In 2017 Warrnambool women reported 51 sexual offence incidents, while males recorded 19.
Women in the city also reported 23 incidents of stalking, harrassment and threatening behavious in 2017, and 35 in 2016.
Comparatively, there was 135 family violence incidents reported by males in 2017, and 182 in 2016.
Data from the Women’s Health Atlas shows Victorian women aged between 15 and 44 years, intimate partner violence is the leading cause of preventable death, disability and illness.
Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018 shows on average eight women are hospitalised each day after being assaulted by their spouse or partner.
Orange is the United Nations-designated colour for the elimination of violence aganst women and girls and the global colour for the 16 Days of Activism campaign.
Women's Health and Well Being Barwon South West acting chief Justine Devonport said the organisation was proud to have a commitment to the region to work towards preventing violence against women in the south-west.
“It is important to educate our community about preventing violence before it occurs by addressing the behaviours that create a violence-supportive culture,” she said.
“Everyone has a role to play in being an active bystander against these behaviours – the equity in the bag campaign will start this conversation. Behaviours to speak out against include gender stereotyping, victim blaming, degrading images, sexist language and jokes. In building respect for women we hope to contribute to a healthier community.”
She said changing attitudes towards women was crucial.
“There has been a lot of research done by an organisation called Our Watch and VicHealth to determine the drivers of violence, as in what are the causes,” she said.
“The strongest link is that they found where there is gender inequity there is family violence. So its where there’s that perceived imbalance of power in society or in relationships.
“People say ‘isn’t it alcohol or drugs?’, but not every incident of family violence has those involved. There are a lot of people that use alcohol or drugs and aren’t violent.”
Ms Devenport said some increasing gender equity could help to prevent violence.
“Increasing the status of women, increasing respect of women and placing equal value on women’s contributions in the community (will help),” she said
“Also educating from a young age. That’s what the Respectful Relationships program is all about.”
She said it could be hard for people to understand gender imbalances within the community.
“If it doesn’t impact on you it can be hard to see,” she said.
“Many men can’t understand it because they haven’t experienced it. It’s kind of like racism. If you’re not the target of it, it can be invisible to you.”
Splashes of orange will appear on key council buildings as part of the campaign against gender violence.
Warrnambool City Council is a partner in the annual campaign which starts on Sunday and the windows at Lighthouse Theatre, AquaZone and Archie Graham Community Centre will have messages against gender violence.
Archie's new LED lighting system will also light up its prominent Timor Street façade.
Mayor Tony Herbert said it was an important campaign on council's well-being calendar.
"Reducing family violence needs to be a priority for everyone in Warrnambool – male or female, young or old,” he said.
“The Warrnambool municipality has the 11th highest rate of family violence incidents reported to police across Victoria. Being near the top of the ladder on this issue is total unacceptable.
“We’ve all seen the ad on TV about calling this behaviour out among friends. I call on every member of this great community to do the same. The behaviour you walk past is the behaviour you accept.
“The Warrnambool City Council is committed to partnering in campaigns which promote gender equity messages and help reduce the incidence of family violence in our community."
Cr Herbert hopes everyone will carry the bags and share the anti-violence messages.
"We want to see thousands of orange shopping bags being used and their messages seen across the city,” he said.
“Like the orange coffee cup campaign from a couple of years ago, the messages have an impact on people’s thinking and are great conversation starters."
The campaign is supported by a working group, made up of south-west organisations, councils, health services and businesses.
- People experiencing domestic violence should call the National Domestic Violence Counselling Service on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) and 000 in an emergency.