Minister says preventing violence is a 'shared responsibility'

Victorian Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge addressing the more than 130 people that attended the Leading Change Breakfast in Ararat, last month. Picture: PETER PICKERING.

Victorian Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge addressing the more than 130 people that attended the Leading Change Breakfast in Ararat, last month. Picture: PETER PICKERING.

TACKLING the issues of family violence and violence against women is a shared responsibility, one that requires heavy community involvement, according to Victorian Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge.

Addressing the more than 130 people that attended the Leading Change Breakfast in Ararat, Ms Wooldridge said the state government is doing its bit, however, changes in attitudes and beliefs must begin in the home.

"We need to lead by example, in our attitudes and in our actions by influencing friends and peers that sexist, derogatory and demeaning comments and actions are simply not acceptable, not here in the Grampians and not anywhere," she said.

"Government can show strong leadership and we are seeking to do that by creating integrated, coordinated approaches to tackle the issue, to eliminate violence and respond, however, it is importantly a shared responsibility across all levels of government, business, communities and individuals.

"Preventing violence against women and children must be a community driven process, one that involves local councils, health services, schools and workplaces right across the state."

Ms Wooldridge said in light of recent high profile deaths and extensive media coverage of the events the community has been mobilised in a way it hadn't been previously.

"When you see 30,000 women and men marching in the streets to prevent violence against women, when you hear the debates that are happening in the media... Things are changing," she said.

"We have a community movement and the focus has shifted. We are all now realising that family violence is not just the responsibility of government, women's health organisations, police, to respond to, but we all have a responsibility and ownership of this issue.

"And we all have the capacity to be an important part of driving that change."

Ms Wooldridge said, as a government, there have been some very interesting initiatives including the establishment of the Foundation to Prevent Violence Against Women and their Children.

"What we're trying to do is intervene earlier, integrate our service response to make sure that we can change attitudes and to ensure we have appropriate responses when violence occurs," she said.

"To help people to be equipped with the skills, the knowledge and the capability to respond to, be able to identify family violence and to know what to do, to make sure that women and children are safe."

Ms Wooldridge said in many cases the origin of the behaviours of those perpetrating violence have come from deeply held personal views about gender equality.

"Embedded at an early age, they are reinforced by family behaviour, by peer norms, what they see in the media, sporting environments, business and work places, social environments that they're involved in," she said.

Ms Wooldridge said it is time for individuals from every walk of life to stand up and speak out against all forms of violence.

"As a community we need to acknowledge that it is happening and that it is absolutely not okay," she said.

"I no longer want friends, work colleagues, family and community members to be able to look away, to pretend they didn't say or didn't know.

"I want victims, survivors to know there's a place where people are trying to change attitudes to stop violence before it occurs and I want to make it harder for politicians, for business and community leaders to push this issue to the bottom of an ever expanding list of critical issues to get on to."

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