Prevention key to stamping out violence against women

Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge, Patty Kinnersly and Rita Butera at last month's Leading Change Breakfast in Ararat.

Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge, Patty Kinnersly and Rita Butera at last month's Leading Change Breakfast in Ararat.

THE FOUNDATION to Prevent Violence Against Women and their Children is working to raise awareness and engage the community in action to prevent violence against women and their children.

Victorian Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge launched the not-for-profit organisation alongside her Commonwealth counterpart in July 2013.

Speaking at the Leading Change Breakfast in Ararat, Ms Wooldridge said prevention is key to combating violence against women.

"This is an initiative of the Victorian and Commonwealth governments because we realise that there is a lot of great initiatives happening, but no one who is bringing them all together," she said.

"We know that violence against women is not inevitable, it can be prevented, but for too many Australian women they are subject to violence.

"Prevention is the key to laying the foundations to challenging violence and to changing the attitudes and behaviours which excuse or condone violence before it occurs."

Ms Wooldridge said Victorian Health figures revealing widespread male ignorance about the issue mean it is clear violence against women won't stop until the community does something different.

"One in five men believe domestic violence can be excused if it results in people getting so angry that they end up temporarily losing control," she said.

"One in five men believe domestic violence can be excused if afterwards the violent person genuinely regrets what they've done.

"A foreign concept to most, but obviously a reality for many in our broader community."

Ms Wooldridge said promoting respect through bystander programs is one way to evoke change in society.

"Educating and engaging with individuals, businesses and communities to play their part in changing attitudes and behaviours which condone, excuse, or allow violence to occur is critical," she said.

"Bystander approaches which equip people with knowledge about what to do when they know someone is experiencing violence or is using violence against women focus on the ways in which individuals can intervene to prevent violence, harassment or other anti-social behaviour."

Ms Wooldridge said workplaces and employers also have a critical role to play in supporting such interventions and the Women's Health Grampians' Act@Work program is one example of where change is taking place.

"Sixty percent of women report experiencing some sort of violence at work, seventy-five percent of women reported experiencing unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour at work," she said.

"The significant numbers present a significant challenge.

"Employers that embrace bystander strategies can greatly influence not only their organisations but also the broader community to change culture and to change attitudes of violence against women."

Ms Wooldridge is hopeful continued efforts to reform society attitudes will bring about the change the community wants to see.

"I truly believe that within a generation and hopefully even sooner we can broadly engage and change hearts and minds to change those numbers about peoples' attitudes," she said.

"Reject all forms of violence and move to a society where men no longer see violence as an option, where women are no longer experiencing it and children no longer witnessing it."

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