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The Power of One Voice

This week’s Gazette features the second in a series of eight-page liftout features on family violence under The Road To Respect banner.

Reporter Danielle Galvin delves into the different areas of abuse, specifically around control of the finances, as explained by Women’s Information and Referral Exchange service delivery manager Jessica Stott.

She also profiles Rachna Madaan-Bowman, who has made it her life’s mission at South East Community Links to work with refugees and migrants experiencing financial hardship, many of whom have experienced family violence.

Associate Professor Kate FitzGibbon from Monash University explains the impact of family violence on taking people out of the workforce.

Reporter Shelby Brooks catches up with a Pakenham Upper woman who has transferred her journey through family violence into a book - and a lawyer discusses the impact the Amber Heard and Johhny Depp case will have on those impacted.

The power of a single voice is not to be underestimated and Pakenham resident Michael Wright is living proof. Now an advocate for ending violence against women, Michael’s life changed when he decided to act. After Michael was in a car accident about 10 years ago, he left his Noble Park home seeking independence.

In 2015, he started volunteering at Outlook in Pakenham - a social enterprise with a focus on disability programs and employment. Michael was quickly hired as a system administrator in the IT department.

“Initially it was just about getting out of the house because I’d been out of work for a while, but also to give back to the community and have a positive impact,” he said.

“I really enjoy working at Outlook because we’re community-focused and like-minded people.”

An accredited organisation with White Ribbon, all staff receive training on family violence and equality, which opened up Michael’s eyes to the issues women and young children face.

“I said ‘Why don’t they just leave?’ and they said ‘You’re asking the wrong question, it’s ‘why do the men do it in the first place?’ and that was a light bulb moment for me because I’m an educated person and I had never even thought of it,” Michael said.

“There’s this huge problem there, so I had to do something about it.”

Michael become aware of the many barriers women struggle with within a domestic violence situation and planned to play his part in preventing violence against women.

He has now sat on the White Ribbon Victorian State Committee as secretary for the past six months, attending online meetings with people from across Victoria to generate change.

The committee is getting the ball rolling on a number of programs including the Pronoun Project, which encourages organisations to use pronouns, specifically on email signatures.

Michael said this project was the first step to recognising everyone as equal.

“One of the drivers for domestic violence is inequality in our society, so having respect for everybody is important,” he said.

“By using pronouns on an email, it can make everyone feel included and equal and once one person starts talking about it, it encourages that conversation around equality.”

Also, a member of Cardinia Shire’s Access and Inclusion Committee to promote equality in the community, Michael said his disability plays a role in his advocacy.

“Evidence shows us that women with disabilities are more likely to be a victim of domestic violence which is horrific,” he said.

“It’s one of those problems that we can fix it takes money and commitment but it can be done by working together.”

Michael’s own family was touched by violence when his sister’s relationship became abusive.

“We didn’t get along with her partner and we had a breakdown in our relationship,” Michael said.

“She was brave enough to get past that situation and ask ‘Can I come back?’ and if I hadn’t done this work I would have said ‘no’, but I said ‘of course because we need to support women to make that change.”

Michael said everyone has a role to play to support women and put an end to gender stereotypes.

“I like to bake and I’ve copped a bit of slack for it and even telling sexist jokes - this is where gender inequality comes from,” he said.

“You don’t need to join a committee as I did, you just need to do a little bit and keep thinking about it.”

Source: Pakenham Gazatte 29 June 2022

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