Western Australia Indigenous and Multicultural Workshops Recap
In May 2018, Sunila Kotwal traveled to Western Australia on behalf of White Ribbon Australia, running workshops to engage with ethnically diverse communities to take a leadership role to prevent men’s violence against women. Sunila shares with us her experience of this Western Australia tour.
This Western Australia trip allowed me an opportunity to engage with Indigenous and multicultural communities on behalf of White Ribbon Australia. I ran a series of workshops during my trip that were insightful and inspiring. During the trip, I engaged with the Office of Multicultural Interests (OMI), Department of Home Affairs, White Ribbon Ambassador and former WA Committee Chair Andre De Barr, Aboriginal Ambassador Wayne Wood (Branch Secretary of Australian Services Union WA), Ambassadors Joe Tuazama and Ibrahim Kebe, and the WA Police.
At the beginning of the trip, I delivered two workshops with the Aboriginal organisations Jacaranda Community Center and Moorditj Koort (Healthy Heart) Aboriginal Health and Wellness Center, engaging with the health workers. These health workers came up with ideas to spread awareness of preventing men’s violence against women, such as having messages on the back of buses and playing White Ribbon videos at pubs to bring this issue on the forefront of people’s mind.
Embodying this year’s NAIDOC theme ‘Because of her, we can’, the workshop participants looked at ways to teach their sons and men from their families to build respectful relationships with their wives, partners and daughters, ensuring that the cycle of violence was broken and it did not pass on to the next generation.
The next set of workshops were with multicultural communities. I facilitated four workshops across two days with Karen, Chinese, Muslim and Indian communities.
Karen people live in Myanmar, Thailand and Andaman and Nicobar Islands (India). In this workshop, I engaged with Karen community leaders who had identified the problem of family violence and wanted it to change. The enterprising Secretary of Karen Welfare Association filmed participants taking the White Ribbon Oath during the break, speaking in English, Burmese and Karen. The Karen community is proactive, and want to engage with the White Ribbon social change movement by becoming Supporters, Ambassadors and Advocates.
This was our very first opportunity to engage with members of the Chinese community in Western Australia. Participants began to open up when I pointed out the similarities of the issues faced by migrants in the new country such as a lack of awareness of support services for the victims. They also learned about how White Ribbon, as a primary prevention agency, can engage with silent bystanders to ensure that abusive and violent behaviour is prevented before it can occur. By the end of the workshop, the participants were keen to make a difference within their communities.
The third workshop was with the Muslim community and was organised in the morning to observe Ramadan. They were active participants and every single person in this group said that their role model was Mohammad, the Prophet.
Everything that was discussed, was related back to the Quran: this is what the Prophet did, this is what his wife did; he respected his wives and their viewpoints, he took advice from them, and the Quran does not teach violence. Relating the messages to their religious scriptures made the messages more relatable. It was insightful for me to engage with such a devout religious group. The Muslim community was open, articulate and ready to engage.
The final workshop was with the Indian community. The President of the Indian Society of Western Australia (ISWA) is very committed to preventing violence within the community. This was the first time the people had come together to talk about domestic violence. The Indian Consul General Mr. Amit Kumar Mishra attended the event, highlighting the importance of this issue. White Ribbon Advocate Madhuri Mathisen spoke at length, not only sharing her experience as a survivor but also offering her support to the community as a counsellor. Overall, the Indian community members showed willingness to take leadership and work collaboratively. ISWA has already organised their first event ‘Men’s Breakfast’ on 1 July 2018.
My main takeaway was unfortunately how prevalent domestic violence is in every community. Some communities have taken initiative to stop this, while it is still a taboo topic within some communities. With cultural awareness and sensitivity, identifying specific issues and initiatives for each community, customizing the delivery of the messages, it is possible to engage with these communities and encourage them to take leadership to stop men’s violence against women. After all, who does not want a happy family and healthy, well rounded children?
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Author, Sunila Kotwal, is White Ribbon Australia’s Diversity and Inclusion Manager. She is of Indian background and has been with the organisation for two and a half years. Sunila works across the different programs at White Ribbon, embedding diversity and inclusion into all the organisation’s work to reflect Australia’s diverse community needs.