Former Chair of the Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria, Australia, The Honourable Marcia Neave AO, spoke to delegates at LEPH2016 about great initiatives happening in Maryborough, regional Victoria. In addition to commending the local school, the Maryborough Education Centre, for its Respectful Relationships program, she made special mention of Maryborough Rotary’s Garry Higgins who gave evidence to the Royal Commission.

Garry Higgins is a former player for the Carlton Football Club (Australian Rules Football) and is a local business owner in Maryborough. Along with other dedicated members of Maryborough Rotary, Garry’s efforts in promoting the #sayNO2familyviolence campaign highlight the essential role of community groups in leading social change initiatives.

CLEPH’s Melissa Jardine, a former Maryborough resident, spoke to Garry about some of the local #sayNo2familyviolence initiatives. One initiative included placing a large white elephant in the entrance to Garry’s local business, Parkview Bakery, as a talking point for customers. The elephant was adorned with notes which Garry said often triggered emotional conversations with people who had not previously felt comfortable talking about their experiences with family violence. As described on the #sayNo2familyviolence website:

The organisation [Rotary] strongly believed that the
lack of open conversation was a key causal factor for the
problem remaining prevalent and largely untreated

Despite the emotional triggers prompted by the white elephant, Garry believes that changing attitudes around family violence is progressed within the community one by one, whether that be victims breaking their silence by talking to someone, or giving people more confidence to assert their disapproval about derogatory and sexist statements, or other inappropriate behaviour.

Although gender-based violence is a key local issue, the broader nature of the #sayNo2familyviolence campaign ensured it is inclusive and has even instigated conversations with local LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) members of the community who would likely otherwise have felt excluded.

The popular local harness racing club supported the campaign by labeling each race on a specific race day with an anti-family violence theme. Race announcers were provided with a script to read out prior to each race to highlight specific campaign messages. Garry Higgins described this approach as a win for community activism in that it was a cost-free innovative idea.

Garry hopes the Maryborough #sayNO2familyviolence can be an example for other communities, noting that whilst partnerships with police, government and non-government organisations are important, it was essential that individuals within the community get involved and step up to make a difference.

Local police support had also been important with Inspector Paul Gardiner writing the following testimonial:

Victoria Police

Re: Maryborough Rotary Club #SayNO2familyviolence initiative.

To whom it may concern,

I am the Local Area Commander for the Central Goldfields/Loddon Police Service Area and have been in this position since September 2014. Upon commencing in my position, I became aware of the Maryborough Rotary Club #SayNO2familyviolence initiative and the profile this campaign has within the community. Family violence needs to be eradicated in our communities and at previous work locations, I have partnered with external agencies to address family violence issues but this is the first time I have encountered a non-government or service agency that has been so active in raising the awareness of family violence. Some of the proactive initiatives I have observed include the following;

  •  Family violence Program wallet cards
  •  S.A.F.E. program banner working for a SAFE community.
  •  Speak up initiatives.
  •  Sponsorship of local football matches highlighting the need to address family violence.
  •  Campaigning against family violence in conjunction with Maryborough

Harness Club highlighting the issue across Australia by sponsoring the televised event. The passion of Maryborough Rotary Club to highlight and work towards eradicating family violence within the community is one of the most important and original initiatives I have encountered during my policing career. To continue their ground breaking work, I encourage any support that can be provided is given as I am confident actions groups like Maryborough Rotary in addressing family violence provides for a safer and more vibrant community.

Yours sincerely, Paul GARDINER Inspector

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Garry said having The Honourable Marcia Neave mention the Maryborough campaign at LEPH2016 in Amsterdam was a great highlight and would give further motivation and impetus for locals to continue this important work.


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