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UN CEDAW Committee review of gender equality in Australia

Australia is a party to a large number of United Nations (UN) and other international instruments that are designed to assist all countries to raise their standards of conduct in a very wide range of fields. One such instrument is the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), signed by Australia in 1980.

As a party to CEDAW, Australia is obliged to promote and protect women’s rights, including equality before the law, freedom from discrimination, political participation, health, education and employment.

The UN CEDAW Committee keeps watch on the implementation of such instruments by conducting periodic reviews of the performance of countries against the standards they prescribe. Countries are obliged to report every four years.

Recently, on the 2nd and 3rd of July 2018, Australia’s record on women’s rights was reviewed by the CEDAW Committee. Domestic and international performances were examined, with the former including action on domestic violence.

The Committee drew attention to the following matters:

– The absence of a bill of rights at the federal level or other mechanism to integrate the protections provided by CEDAW and other instruments.

– The level of resources provided to the Office for Women (which has only 30 staff – fewer than White Ribbon).

– The need for targeted and gendered services to be provided for female victims of domestic violence, much more than they are.

– The need for federal legislation addressing domestic violence. The Committee remarked that this may be the only way to overcome problems with gathering consistent data and implementing policy in the federal context. It was suggested that the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) might address this.

– Serious concern about the influence of false claims by so-called men’s rights activists on government policies and practice.

– The family law regime not presently meeting the contemporary needs of families and effectively addressing family violence and child abuse.

The Committee also raised concerns over women’s health, economic security and homelessness in Australia.

Under health it noted that while abortion is covered under Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, it is still criminalized in NSW and QLD. White Ribbon Australia supports the autonomy of women to make their own choices about their basic right to health care. Our position on abortion may be accessed here.

Under economic security it noted that high rates of poverty are experienced by single parent households, the vast majority of which are women. Financial abuse, leading many women into poverty, is a well-recognised form of violence against women. Women need to be economically empowered and to have equal access to resources for their security.

Under homelessness it is well established that domestic and family violence is the principal cause of homelessness for women and children. The Committee questioned the lack of affordable housing in Australia, particularly its access to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, older women, single mothers and women leaving violence. White Ribbon works to reduce violence and thereby address the problem of homelessness.

The CEDAW Committee review provides a timely reminder to Australia that all is not as well as it should be in relation to women’s rights in a country like ours. NGOs, such as White Ribbon, have a role to play in pressing government for improved compliance and in shouldering some of the burden themselves – in White Ribbon’s case, by working to end men’s violence against women. Success in this endeavour reduces the consequences and the harms resulting from the matters particularly noted by the UN Committee.

Author Nicholas Cowdery AM QC is Chair of the White Ribbon Australia Board.

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No excuse for family violence. Don’t Sit on the Sidelines – Stand Up, Speak Out and Act

The family violence witnessed last weekend at a child’s sports game in Sydney is appalling and unacceptable. Violence within a family-unit should never be tolerated, and sadly violence in this family has been normalised. The role of the bystander is to safely intervene and stop abuse, when they witness accounts of abuse and violence towards women.

White Ribbon supports the police investigation into this violent outburst.

Men’s violence against women and children is preventable through education and action. When we teach our children, family and friends about respectful relationships, and practice it ourselves on a daily basis, we can truly end violence against women and children.

We need more men to stand up to violence and disrespectful men to reduce all forms of violence and disrespect.

1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence by someone they know. This statistic is unacceptable, but can be changed through a concerted investment and effort in prevention, across every aspect of Australians society.

We need to teach our children about respect for one another and how to disagree in a healthy manner which does not cause physical or emotional harm to another.

White Ribbon is calling on all Australians to stand up and speak out to end all forms of violence against women and children. The sporting community is critical to promoting respectful relationships and mobilising community action to prevent violence against women. Sporting clubs play an integral role in calling-out this poor behaviour and embedding a sporting culture, which promotes respect and equality.

 

With White Ribbon Night weekend next weekend, 27-29 July, we are calling on our sporting communities to play an integral role in ending abuse and disrespect against women. Don’t just sit on the sidelines – stand up, speak out and act to stop violence against women.

 

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For media enquiries please contact Irina Kamychnikova on 0426 221 550.

Note to media

White Ribbon Australia asks all media to include the following line when reporting on incidents of men’s violence against women:

If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 for advice or support. This free service providing confidential advice is open 24/7. In an emergency, call the police on 000. All incidents of violence should be reported to the police.

For urgent support call Lifeline 13 11 14

If you are in danger, please call the Police – 000

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DP World Australia partners with White Ribbon as a Silver Sponsor

DP World AustraliaWhite Ribbon Australia is proud to announce that DP World Australia has continued its commitment to preventing men’s violence against women by becoming a Silver Sponsor.

DP World Australia is the leading container terminal stevedore in Australia, a critical link in the cargo logistics chain with a unique set of assets, machinery, skills and experience. Each year, the company creates a clear path for 1700 ships, 1.5 million trucks and 3100 trains across Australia.

DP World Australia first attained White Ribbon Workplace Accreditation in 2015 and is currently undertaking reaccreditation with White Ribbon’s Workplaces Team. White Ribbon is proud to be both working with the company’s workforce through the accreditation program and to receive its support as a Silver Sponsor.

Paul Scurrah, DP World Australia’s Managing Director and CEO, said DP World Australia is proud to be a Silver Sponsor of White Ribbon Australia.

“With a male workforce of 92 percent, it was an easy decision to align with White Ribbon, the world’s largest movement of men and boys working to end men’s violence against women.

As an accredited workplace, our sponsorship with White Ribbon reinforces our commitment to playing an active role in preventing violence against women.

We are proud to be part of the change needed to build greater equality and respect between men and women, and work to reduce attitudes in society that support violence,” he said.

Through Silver Sponsorship, White Ribbon will be supported to deliver primary prevention initiatives that aim to stop violence before it happens, through education, awareness raising and by challenging ingrained attitudes and power inequalities that give rise to men’s violence against women. White Ribbon is dedicated to delivering programs in schools, workplaces and the broader community.

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For partnership enquiries, contact partnerships@whiteribbon.org.au

For media enquiries, contact media@whiteribbon.org.au

 

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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.

Western Australia Workshop with African communitiesThis 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.

Indigenous engagement

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.

Multicultural engagement

The next set of workshops were with multicultural communities. I facilitated four workshops across two days with Karen, Chinese, Muslim and Indian communities.

Karen

WA Workshops with Karen 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.

Chinese

WA Workshop with Chinese communities

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.

Muslim

WA Workshops with the Muslim community

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.

Indian

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.

Summary

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.

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Mate, we need to talk. Ambassador Andrew Swan calls on men to stand up and speak out after the murder of Eurydice Dixon

Mate, we need to talk.

I’m guessing you don’t need me to tell you what happened to Eurydice Dixon. The whole nation seems to be in a state of shock, and rightfully so.

Everybody has their own way of understanding, coping with, and responding to tragedy, and that’s OK. However, of all the responses we’ve seen in recent days, only one can actually prevent future tragedies like this from occurring. That is, for us – the everyday men of Australia – to stand up, speak out and act to prevent men’s violence against women.

Don’t agree?  Well, let me ask you a few questions:

When was the last time you felt afraid, powerless or unsafe?

In the street? At work? At home? Anywhere?

This week? This month? This year? Ever?

Believe me, if it has ever happened to you, you’d know.

Imagine if you were made to feel afraid, powerless or unsafe regularly enough that you planned for it, just in case. For example, by carrying your keys in one hand and phone in the other as you walk home, uncertain of who you might encounter. Sound familiar?

Violence occurs when someone is hurt or made to feel afraid, powerless or unsafe. It can be physical, emotional or psychological. Anyone can experience it and it happens across communities, ages, cultures and sexes.

No one is immune and it’s more likely to happen at home than in public.

While it’s true that most men are not violent, abusive or disrespectful, we have all seen and will know those who are. To stop violence against women, well-meaning men must do more than merely avoid perpetrating violence themselves.

If we do nothing, nothing will change.

We must pursue equitable and respectful relationships. We must challenge the violence of other men. We must demonstrate that being ‘a man’ means being someone who lives by the values of respect, inclusion and equality. Should we fail or refuse to do this, we will not be perpetrators but perpetuators who chose to let violence continue.

Changing attitudes and behaviour will take time but if we succeed it will be time well spent, and lives saved.

So, what small act can you do, starting right now, to make a difference? To begin with, do what most of us have done all our life: love, respect and protect women. If you can do that, then try to do the following:

Be aware…

  • Of the facts. Know the facts about violence against women.
  • Of yourself. Have the confidence to explore your own actions, beliefs, and opinions, confront your faults and make a plan to improve.
  • Of victim-blaming. Learn what it is and how to recognise it. Tell others.

Speak up…

When it matters. Call out bad behaviour and safely challenge others who overstep the line.

Talk with women and girls…

  • About their experiences. Be willing to listen and learn.
  • About your own behaviour. You may not see the impact that your words and deeds are having.

Talk with men and boys…

  • About the problem. Learn how the issue touches their lives.
  • About how to respond. Empower them to call it out.
  • Early, and often. Mentor and teach one another about how to be men in ways that don’t involve degrading or abusing girls and women.

If you question what impact any of the above actions can have, give one of them a try today and see for yourself. I did, and the response indicated that I still have work to do. When it comes to tackling such a big problem, we all have work to do.

Everybody has their own way of understanding, coping with, and responding to tragedy. But you have a choice. You can remain in the silent majority of men who disapprove of violence but do little to prevent it. Or, you can stand up, speak out and act to help all Australians live a better life.

Mate, it’s up to you.

Take the White Ribbon Oath today.

Author Andrew Swan is a White Ribbon Australia Ambassador and active member of our Victoria State Committee.

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Expressions of interest open for Fatherhood Program Expert Reference Group

About the White Ribbon Australia Fatherhood Program

With the support of the Australian Government, White Ribbon Australia is launching the Fatherhood Program. For many men, fatherhood is a time of transformation that inspires a deeper understanding about the importance of their role to act as positive agents of social change.

This whole-of-community program will be engaging men – as fathers, soon to be fathers, or those in father figure roles – to model and foster positive and respectful attitudes and behaviours towards girls and women. White Ribbon Australia will be engaging men from all cultural backgrounds across Australia through their involvement in White Ribbon Australia events and programs and interactions with White Ribbon Australia Ambassadors.

Expert Reference Group (Voluntary)

The ‘Expert Reference Group’ will be established to guide the development and implementation of the White Ribbon Australia Fatherhood Program Activity Work Plan. For the full position description click here.

How to apply

Expression of Interest (EOI) for the White Ribbon Australia Fatherhood Program ‘Expert Reference Group’ must be lodged by Saturday 30th June 2018 with Ron Mitchell, Fatherhood Program Coordinator, White Ribbon Australia, via email on: ron.mitchell@whiteribbon.org.au

The EOI should include:

  • A brief CV/resume outlining your relevant experience and qualifications.
  • A brief statement addressing the following selection criteria (1-2 pages).
  • The name and contact details of a referee who has worked with you professionally.

Selection criteria

  • Demonstrated expertise in various aspects of the prevention of men’s violence against women.
  • The commitment to inclusive practices that engage with and educate men in a national campaign.
  • Demonstrated experience in the development of innovative training programs and resources.
  • The commitment to maintain confidentially while sharing information, ideas and expertise.

Process

All EOIs received by the due date will be evaluated against the selection criteria by White Ribbon Australia and the applicants will be informed about the outcome.

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