Fostering respectful relationships and changing the culture of family violence were significant themes at the Southern Aboriginal Corporation’s White Ribbon Day event last week.
The white ribbon has been an ubiquitous emblem for standing against men’s violence towards women, and every November, SAC holds an event to raise awareness around the issue among local indigenous communities.
According to SAC chief executive Asha Bhat, Aboriginal women are 34 times more likely to be put in hospital and 10 times more likely to be killed than other Australians as a result of violent assault.
“Tragically, violence against Aboriginal women appears to be escalating,” she said. “And family violence is a complex issue — our clients live with intergenerational trauma, discrimination, family violence-driven housing instability and a range of other cultural, legal and non-legal issues.”
Social change campaigner Carol Petterson made a poignant speech at the event, delving into her personal experience, the attitudes that shape family violence, and breaking the cycle.
“What is the child hearing, seeing, tasting and smelling? Blood does have a smell,” she said.
“That boy learns by observing actions that will shape his whole life — his paradigm of violence is seen through his ever-absorbing childhood eyes.
“If he sees his mother ‘accepting’ the flogging, or his father flogging his mother, then he thinks that is OK.
“I have worked in the courts and I have heard it many times — a broken man saying ‘that’s all I know’.” Ms Petterson emphasised the duty parents had to teach their children good behaviour.
“We, as influential figures in our children’s lives, need to reshape our own attitudes, our responsive behaviours and our commitment on how we raise our children, and especially our boys,” she said.
Ms Petterson said family violence in indigenous communities needed to be understood as an effect of social disadvantage and intergenerational trauma.
“Our Noongar men are biologically and culturally born to be our protectors, our warriors, and this was done with love to protect us,” she said. “Sadly, civilisation through colonisation has robbed our Noongar men of their obligating cultural rights.”
Senior Constable Brett Jeffrey and Sergeant Shannon McGeown, who are part of the family violence police team, also spoke at the event and said the impact on children was a major concern.
“There are kids growing up with violence at home and they’re watching it,” Sgt Jeffrey said.
“And we’re now seeing 17-year-old kids in relationships exhibiting domestic violence, which shouldn’t be happening.” Ms Bhat said it was integral to educate school students about respect-ful relationships from an early age.
“We’ve already undertaken one workshop at NASHS — which was What is a Healthy Relationship? program,” she said.
“We want to roll it out to different schools as well, but we are currently constrained by funding and resources.”
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