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The essential ingredient to creating a future free from violence against women

The essential ingredient to creating a future free from violence against women

Today marks the second anniversary of the Royal Commission into Family Violence and the establishment of Respect Victoria, the state’s new prevention agency, which will continue the work of preventing violence from happening in the first place, by addressing the drivers of family violence and all forms of violence against women.

The need for a statewide approach

Primary prevention has been occurring across Victorian communities for many years, but it’s often on a small scale and not resourced in the long term. There has been an exceptional amount of incredible work that’s been led by local communities and by prevention specialists; together we have built the evidence around what works to prevent violence against women in a Victorian context and we now have an unprecedented opportunity to see that work scaled up across the state.

If we are going to create a world in which violence against women and family violence doesn’t exist, we need to make sure we reach every single member of the Victorian community.

A student at school needs to get the same messages about gender equality and respect that a parent does at work. These same messages need to also be heard when this family is at the soccer, tennis or footy, when they’re watching TV, when they’re on the train or bus and when they’re at the pub or their local café. In every place where Victorians live, learn, work, socialise and play we need to make sure we’re working to prevent violence from occurring in the first place.

Any kind of primary prevention activity needs to occur across the whole population; small disparate programs cannot have the same impact as work that is strategically designed and coordinated at a statewide level, in line with the best evidence. This is why Respect Victoria is so important, because it will support and grow the exceptional work of the prevention sector and of local communities.

An independent prevention agency

The creation of this Respect Victoria is one of the most important prevention recommendations from the Royal Commission. We are pleased to see the Andrews government making a commitment to creating an agency that will be sustainable and, over time become a core part of Victoria’s prevention system.

Respect Victoria will be a go-to point for the hundreds of businesses and organisations across Victoria who are trying to do their bit to prevent violence against women and need guidance and tools to support them on their journey.

But the independence of Respect Victoria as a statutory authority is crucial – it must have the funding and the freedom to build the evidence about what works to prevent violence against women and to support workforces around the state to design and implement prevention activity that’s relevant to their local community.

Coordination and building new knowledge important, but Respect Victoria will also be crucial in driving policy change and building the capacity of what is currently a very small workforce across the state. Research, evaluation and community engagement are a fantastic foundation for Respect Victoria, and we look forward to seeing the agency grow over time and become a truly indispensable prevention resource in Victoria.

 

Respect Women: Call it out campaign

Today, the state government also launched the Respect Women: Call it out campaign, which aims to encourage men to call out sexism and gender inequality.

Social norms and attitudes that condone violence against women are one of the major drivers against violence, as are male peer relationships that leave disrespect or aggression towards women unchallenged. Statewide campaigns like Call it Out that help Victorians understand what they can do in their everyday life to create a culture where violence against women doesn’t exist are incredibly important, but it’s crucial that campaigns are complemented by on-the-ground activity that helps Victorian men, women and children develop the skills they need to have healthy, respectful and equal relationships.

Encouraging men to speak up when they hear or see behaviour that’s controlling or inappropriate is an important step in creating a new normal – where people see and hear things that make them uncomfortable, and feel empowered to do something about them.

Bystanders who take action have the power to change social norms – by challenging demeaning or controlling comments, they give the message that respect for your partner is the only way to go.

Emily Maguire, CEO