It’s been two months since the first round of allegations of sexual abuse by movie producer Harvey Weinstein were published. The allegations and the global reaction has triggered what could be an enormous shift within the culture of Hollywood and prompted other countries and industries to examine their own cultures and structures of power (recently leading to the serious allegations against Australia’s Don Burke). As women are speaking out about abuse and harassment in unprecedented numbers, it seems like behaviour that has long been swept under the proverbial rug will now be much harder to ignore.

This year, running from 25 November to 10 December, is a 16-day global campaign to raise awareness of violence against women and girls. Started by the United Nations, the campaign aims to eliminate gender-based discrimination.

As we have seen in the Weinstein saga, starting the conversation is the key to creating change. Many local councils have been active advocates against gender-based violence and discrimination over the last few years and local government can play a key role in initiating conversations around the issue.

This year’s theme for the 16-day campaign is ‘Leave No One Behind: End Violence Against Women and Girls’. Councils have been hosting exhibitions, workshops, community walks, barbeques and documentary screenings. In October, 32 female mayors in Victoria joined together to co-sign a statement urging men and women to unite against family violence.

The statistics around gender-based violence in Australia are startling. Every two minutes police are called to a family violence incident. One in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence. One in five women have experienced harassment in the workplace. As we know, and can no longer ignore, the scale of this problem is vast.
But, this is preventable. The culture can change. Councils can and should continue the conversation – not just throughout awareness days and weeks – but throughout their whole organisations and communities and throughout the whole calendar year.