Zone 8 unites to say no to domestic violence
“I thought jeez, this is shocking what's going on. What could I do as an incoming president of our club?” says Dave, now Rotary District Governor for Zone 9640 for 2023-24.
“I went back to my wife that night, and our club, and spoke about making domestic and family violence the main focus of my first year as president.”
A few months later, 800 people walked down the main street of Ballina in the start of the club’s campaign to try to raise awareness of this issue. On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner, according to statistics cited by non-profit Our Watch. This year, there are remarkably 20 Districts that make up Zone 8 united for the plight of gender-based violence They encompass 16 countries from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Island Nations, over 25,000 Rotarians and 20 Governors.
“We have clubs across our zone combining for a common cause,” says Dave. “This is a rare opportunity and has not happened in over 30 years. Imagine the community interest, impact and engagement.”
The campaign against domestic and family violence has helped transform the Ballina-on-Richmond club. In just the past few years, membership has grown from 33 to about 80 people, spurred on by those wanting to help tackle what Dave points out is now the biggest issue facing police today.
“Find your club’s relevance and members will come,” he says.
The death of Lindy Lucena in January, just one street back from Ballina’s main street, marked Australia’s first domestic and family violence related death for 2023. Lindy’s partner was charged with her murder and breaching an apprehended violence order. After this local business Cherry Street Sports Club asked Rotary “what can we do?”
“Cherry Street Sports Club have over 100 staff and for six weeks over Christmas and New Year they all wore our ‘Rotary Says NO to Domestic Violence’ shirts to promote awareness of domestic violence,” says Dave. “They also have beer coasters that they put at all their tables that mention domestic violence.”
The community response was so positive that Ballina Rotary thought what next? A $25,000 club grant between it and Cherry Street Sports Club helped launch the “Purple Friday campaign”, which will mean businesses in Ballina all wearing Rotary’s tops every Friday for the remainder of 2023. Within just two weeks, Rotary had 90 businesses order over 1000 free shirts. Those proudly wearing them include local council staff, primary school workers, tradies, hospitality professionals and retail staff.
“Purple Friday” has helped raise awareness of domestic violence and encourage conversations, says Dave. There are many examples of Ballina women having conversations about their lived experience of this that has never happened before. “I encourage clubs to visit our website and order your shirts,” he says. “They are a great shirt to wear at any of your club’s functions and a conversation starter.”
As part of its broad campaign against gender-based violence, Ballina Rotary also supports the program “Love Bites”. The club helps fund the delivery of this program in high schools on the Northern Rivers. “Love Bites” covers topics such as power and respect in relationships, sexual assault and consent, warning signs of a controlling relationship, and much more. “Research will confirm that the best way to bring about long-term positive change in this area is to educate our youth on what a respectful relationship is and what it looks like,” says Dave.
During this year’s International 16 Days of Activism this year, held from November 25 to December 10, Ballina Rotary will also ask clubs to unite with their community and organise activities that will help raise awareness of domestic violence. This may be a walk, vigil or another activity. They encourage clubs to partner with other organisations that may already be doing something for this event. Ballina Rotary are proposing a zone-wide day of action on December 1.
With the NSW Police recently coming onboard, forming a formal partnership with Rotary Districts of NSW, and their Queensland counterparts expected to follow soon, the campaign that Rotary started will only grow.
“NSW Police see this is the game changer,” says Dave.
“As leaders in our community, we need to stand up and say ‘we’ve had enough of this. What’s happening at the moment isn’t working. Things need to change.’”
To order shirts and other support materials see https://rotaryclubofballinaonrichmond.org.au/#sthash.ddtCkGvf.dpbs