MEMBERS of Victoria Police are called to respond to an incident of family violence somewhere in Victoria, every 10 minutes.
The municipality of Ararat Rural City Council is now ranked the sixth highest for incidences of family violence in Victoria, ahead of City of Ballarat (11) and City of Melbourne (40).
If the figures alone presented to the more than 130 people that attended last Thursday morning's Leading Change Breakfast in Ararat weren't enough to get those gathered to sit up and take notice then Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, Ken Lay's address to them certainly was.
Mr Lay spoke passionately about the issue alongside Victorian Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge and North Melbourne Football Club's Darren Crocker.
He said the number of reports of family violence have almost doubled in recent years.
"Make no mistake about this, we do have a significant problem with family violence in Victoria," Mr Lay said.
"We've all heard the figure that one woman a week in Australia is killed as a result of family violence. I would go so far as to say the data is actually worse than that.
"Last year, in Victoria alone, we had 44 deaths directly attributed to family violence, including 29 women and eight children."
Mr Lay said the statistics include not only cases of murder, but manslaughter and culpable driving where the cause has been directly linked to family violence.
“Just statistics, and often even the numbers don’t often reflect the terror that women and children experience living and dealing with unpredictable violent men,” he said.
“They also don’t explain why it occurs.
“We have to reshape our culture to change the way men deal with women in our society.”
Mr Lay said measures to encourage cultural change are what he sees as the most important way of addressing violence against women, and children.
“It will not be an easy task, but men in particular need to start a conversation about what we can do because change will not happen by itself,” he said.
“How men relate to women is fundamental, it goes to the heart of why some men think it is okay to treat women in an abusive way.
“How some men think that they have a god given right to exercise power over women, a sense of entitlement to demean, to belittle or control women.”
Mr Lay said systematic reform to improve levels of communication with state run organisations is also key.
“We have to make agencies like Victoria Police more accountable and from time-to-time, in some of the very saddest of cases you’ll see where Victoria Police’s response hasn’t been as good as it should have been,” he said.
“We have to ensure that the system puts the victim at the very centre of things, and again, we’ll hear of cases where victims have been left on their own and haven’t been supported as well as they should have been.
“We need to integrate our systems to improve our response and again in a very recent high profile case, there was examples where Victoria Police systems didn’t speak to other systems and as a result we had an awful tragedy.”
In quoting Lieutenant General David Morrison, who recently took it upon himself to address the issue of attitudes towards women in the Australian Defence Force, Mr Lay had a simple question for the gathering.
“The standard you walk past, is the standard that you accept... I put it to you, what is the standard that you are prepared to walk past?” he said.
“Will you be prepared to stand up and challenge inappropriate language, sexist or demeaning comments or jokes, inappropriate touching or groping or worse, in your workplace, at your sporting club, in the broader community or in your home?
“Until you are, the cultural attitudes that lead to violence against women will remain a pervasive and damaging force within this community.”