ALGWA networking breakfastOn the first morning of the ALGA National General Assembly, the Australian Local Government Women’s Association’s (ALGWA) held a networking breakfast in conjunction with The White Ribbon Foundation, Australia’s campaign to stop violence against women.
Attended by 90 councillors and council staff from all over Australia, the breakfast was not just a chance for women in local government to meet and network. In a moving address to the gathering, Foundation Chairman Andrew O’Keefe drew attention to the work of White Ribbon, and also to some of the startling statistics about violence against women in our communities.
“White Ribbon is a cause I feel terribly passionate about,” said Andrew. “As I mentioned, I am the Chairman of the Foundation, but I’m also a husband, a father, a brother, a son and a friend. As all of those things – I have special women in my life who I love very much.
“That makes it impossible for me to sit still and accept the fact that one in three Australian women will be abused or assaulted in her lifetime. One in three. Whether we know it or not, every single one of us in this room knows a woman who has suffered the appalling effects of violence.
“It’s a terrifying statistic for the women and girls in our community, because it means that if you’re female, you are unsafe. It’s also a collective shame on all Australian men, because certainly we are better than that. And it’s sad for our community as a whole, because it means that the promise of our country – a promise of equality, harmony and opportunity – is largely a lie.”
Andrew went on to discuss how prevention has become key to addressing violence against women, a focus that the White Ribbon Foundation has always advocated, and that the Federal Government recognises in their 2011 ‘National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children’.
“For the first time,” said Andrew, “it is now nationally accepted that prevention is every bit as important as justice, health and emergency responses to violence. At White Ribbon, prevention is paramount.”
While a serious topic for a networking breakfast, Andrew’s address left attendees moved and impressed at his and the White Ribbon Foundation’s commitment to uncovering the causes of violence against women and the underlying social and cultural conditions that support it.
As Andrew said, “It’s all about power. Violence is not inherent to manhood, and violence against women doesn’t occur because she made him do it.
… It’s only by changing those attitudes of power and privilege that we can begin to change the violent behaviours that flow from them.”
The ALGWA would like to thank The White Ribbon Foundation, Andrew O’Keefe and all those who attended the breakfast.