LEADERS in the family violence field have implored the Wimmera to adopt a whole-of-community approach to tackling the issue.
The Wimmera Leading Change Breakfast on Tuesday involved four speakers discussing how communities can rethink attitudes towards women and equality to help prevent violence.
Domestic violence survivor Simone O’Brien of Horsham, commentator and advocate Phil Cleary, Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, and VicRoads’ David Lavithis spoke to about 120 people in Horsham Town Hall.
It marked the first Communities of Equality and Respect event in the Wimmera since the Women’s Health Grampians-led alliance launched last year.
Ms O’Brien detailed how a former partner brutally attacked her five years ago while she was living in Queensland.
The incident left her fighting for her life and with extensive injuries, particularly to her head and face.
Ms O’Brien flies back to Brisbane every two to three weeks for treatment, and has constant jaw physiotherapy.
“When they took me to hospital after the attack, I wasn’t meant to survive the night,” she said.
“It’s probably only been in the past two to two and a half years that I’ve actually had my brain back. Prior to that, it was like mush – it wasn’t functioning properly.
“Now I think I’m actually stronger than what I was before.
“I never loved myself. But I love myself now, and I respect my body and everything I’ve done to get to where I am today.”
Mr Cleary – whose sister was murdered by her partner – was one of the first people to speak out in the media about complicity within the court system regarding violence against women.
He has spent the past 30 years trying to change institutionalised indifference and prejudice against women.
Ms Jenkins discussed her role in working towards gender equality and what can be done at community level.
Mr Lavithis detailed how VicRoads had changed its practices to ensure equality in its workplaces.
The event came after the state government this week announced it would commit $12.4 million to expand men’s behavioural change programs and services across the state.
- For anyone experiencing sexual assault or domestic and family violence, call 1800-RESPECT.