By CASEY NEILL
MORE than 700 people took a united stand against family violence in central Dandenong last Friday.
They came to Dandenong Market from across the south east to make the Walk Against Family Violence to Dandenong Civic Square.
Women, men and children donned black T-shirts emblazoned with “I say NO to family violence” to support the White Ribbon cause.
Some wiped away tears as they heard from guest speakers Christine Nixon, the former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner, Antiochian Orthodox Church’s Reverend Jean Mawal and City of Greater Dandenong Mayor Sean O’Reilly.
Cr O’Reilly told the crowd to refuse to stay silent.
“No woman should live in fear of a husband or partner and no child should live in fear of a parent,” he said.
“Our challenge is to change the way people think and how they behave.
“We can set an example in our own words and actions, especially around children.
“We can challenge attitudes that show disrespect towards women and we can respond to signs of violence.”
Fr Mawal said a feeling of joyful sorrow had overwhelmed him.
“We came together for one cause and in one mind,” he said.
“We’ve also gathered to put to rest such a terrible disease.”
He recalled explaining to an 11-year-old boy that it was unacceptable to throw punches at his mother when he got upset.
He’d learnt the behaviour from his abusive father.
“Imagine the hatred in this little boy’s heart,” he said.
“Imagine the pain this mother is experiencing.”
Fr Mawal said everyone had the right to a life without fear, hesitation and isolation and that blaming drugs, alcohol, a violent upbringing or stress for family violence was unacceptable.
“There is no excuse,” he said.
“This is why we’re here today and why your voice is needed tomorrow.”
Ms Nixon was instrumental in initiating change within Victoria Police to acknowledge the magnitude of family violence and encourage reporting.
She said no one in the force or society wanted to talk about family violence.
“They said it was a family matter,” she said.
But Ms Nixon said it did enormous harm to the community.
“This is not just about women. Violence hurts us all,” she said.
She urged people to speak up.
“If you hear family violence, call the police,” she said.
“Don’t be a bystander. Don’t let it go on.
“The consequences can be enormous.”
For help or support regarding family violence call the 24-hour Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service Victoria (WDVCS) on 1800 015 188 or visit www.asksomeone.org.au.
Those who are in immediate danger should phone triple zero.