“WHY are we only now talking about family violence?” That’s the question put by Australian of the Year Rosie Batty to the VIEW Club’s International Women’s Day Lunch last month.
Hastings and Mornington women were among the 170 VIEW club members at the event at Amstel Golf Course, Cranbourne.
Ms Batty, whose son Luke was killed by his father Greg last year, said family violence “has gone on forever, but has always been hidden behind closed doors”.
“Now is the time to bring that hidden truth into the open,” she said.
“We are constantly being bombarded with statistics on traffic accidents, king hits in the streets, etc., but there are now two women killed each week due to family violence and we certainly don’t hear about those sad statistics very often.
“It is no longer acceptable for these issues to be kept from us, it is our business and we have every right to know what support is being offered through community legal services and emergency relief for the many victims caught up in a web of fear and isolation.”
Ms Batty wants to “stop the myths surrounding family violence and face the irrefutable fact that one in every three women are, or have been, affected by family violence”.
When asked her goals for the year, Ms Batty replied: “By the end of this year I would love it if people could have compassion and understanding for victims, rather than criticism and judgement.
“Because, if it hasn’t happened to you, it can happen to your granddaughter, daughter, you son or your friend – it may also have happened to your parents.
“We cannot afford to be judgemental and critical; we must understand and support and, if we don’t know what to do, we need to go to a family violence organisation and ask: How can I help this person? What can I do to be supportive?”
Ms Batty also said people “have to remember that violence is a choice, a bad choice, but nevertheless a choice”. Things like drugs, alcohol and mental illness could exacerbate a given situation, but “they are not an excuse and they are not a reason”.
She emphasised the importance of education, saying it only took one of us to make a difference and an organisation such as VIEW, providing collective energy from dedicated women, had stood the test of time and was needed more than ever.
“Children get it tough,” Ms Batty said. “They don’t have a voice and that’s across all socio-economic backgrounds, across all suburbs and it is not just disadvantaged kids: one-in-four children are affected by family violence.
“I would like to see educational programs introduced into all schools where both boys and girls are taught to be respectful from a very early age.”
Ms Batty will face a busy year. She intends to make the most of the high profile platform she has as Australian of the Year. She hopes to continue the momentum of change, raising awareness of family violence and not allowing the issue to slip back into ambiguity and ambivalence.
“The 12th of February last year was the worst day of my life, but I guess I am testament to the fact that you can rise again, you can find the strength, you can go forward and you can survive,” she said. She believes that grief handled correctly can be character building, while grief handled incorrectly can lead to a great deal of trauma.
Ms Batty still battles every day with her tears and heartache, but she also holds some wonderful memories which give her strength and joy.
Despite unimaginable odds, she has become a powerful and passionate advocate for the rights of all women and children who suffer a sense of fear. Unfortunately, many people simply don’t understand it or even comprehend it.
After her address Ms Batty was given a standing ovation by VIEW Club members.
For help call 1800 7377 328: the National Counselling helpline, for information and response for victims of sexual assault, domestic and family violence.
With zone counsellor VIEW Clubs of Australia Joan Dillon