By Casey Neill
“I have cowered under a raised fist. I have been beaten and made to suffer.”
Performer Colleen Hewett shared her personal experience with family violence with soggy but staunch Walk Against Family Violence participants in Dandenong on Tuesday 22 November.
She strode alongside them from Dandenong Market to Harmony Square through unrelenting rain.
“Home is supposed to be a safe place,” she said.
“No-one should feel threatened in their own home. But they do.
“I’ve been there.
“I stayed because I had no way out.
“But today is not about complaining, it’s about taking action.
“It took me a long time but I reached out and I’m no longer in that situation.”
Ms Hewett is an ambassador for Rotary initiative Violence Free Families, which aims to prevent violence through research, advocacy and men’s behavioural change programs.
She said the White Ribbon message was about not perpetrating violence, but also not being a silent bystander to violence.
“White Ribbon promotes equality of the sexes,” she said.
“If there is a perpetrator in this audience today, come on, get it together.
“The whole morning is about awareness.
“I think we should have some fun among the doom and gloom.”
With that she called her band onto the stage and performed several songs, successfully encouraging the crowd to get to their feet and dance along.
Singer Colleen Hewitt in fine voice:
Walker Tracey told the Journal she was participating because a co-worker had shared her story about being in a violent relationship.
“It’s all about the community coming together and it’s gaining every year,” she said.
Wurundjeri woman Georgina Nicholson performed a welcome to country, and Greater Dandenong Council’s engineering services director Julie Reid hosted the event.
“Family violence does not discriminate,” she said.
“It affects everyone.”
The council held the first walk in 2013.
“The event aims to unite the community and change attitudes towards family violence,” Ms Reid said.
“I commend each of you here today for speaking up and taking a stand.”
Dandenong MP Gabrielle Williams was required in Parliament but pre-recorded a message of support.
“Today we stand united. Today we send a clear message,” she said.
“Today we are all part of the solution. Together we will break the cycle and stop family violence.”
Greater Dandenong Mayor Jim Memeti said White Ribbon Day, on Friday 25 November, was a powerful show of national solidarity.
“It is heartening to see so many people joining the chorus,” he said.
“We are pushing for national cultural change.”
He said the aim was to show that violence was never acceptable and that as an accredited White Ribbon Workplace, Greater Dandenong Council was leading the way.
“We want our community to be violence-free,” he said.
“We are all role models for the next generation and must lead by example.”