Prevent men’s violence against women

Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

How my childhood experience of domestic violence shaped my role as a White Ribbon Ambassador and fuels my passion for the social movement

My mother was devastated by domestic violence and abuse for the first ten years of my life.

Myself, my elder sister and my two younger brothers were also victims of domestic violence, abuse and neglect. By the age of ten, domestic violence in the familial setting had been our constant. Sometime later, myself and my two younger brothers were placed, without notice, into an orphanage.

These childhood experiences of mine had an astonishing effect on my life. As a result, I am a male and I’m a feminist. A passionate one. A feminist acquaintance of mine for whom I’d performed mentoring work, once challenged me to ‘own your feminism’. I’d vacillated for years. But I finally came to understand how I felt about feminism after reflecting on my youngest childhood experience of patriarchal formation and expression.

In the school yard

So, I was not yet 5 and was standing with other boys sorting it all out on our first day of school. At some stage, one boy exclaims, ‘Don’t touch girls. You’ll get a disease and if you get the disease and touch another boy, you’ll spread it’.

The incident and the words are etched in my mind because they were so deplorably reflective of the disrespect that was on auto-play at home. Throughout my schooling, I saw that sentiment burgeon and play out year-upon-year in boys’ behaviour until, during pre-pubescence, that anti-girl disrespect filtered and manifested into dehumanised, degrading contempt.

All of it, cementing toxic masculine culture and showing just how cheaply, shallow and self-serving boys saw girls. All I saw was beautiful, feminine hearts, skipping and bouncing, pig tails and curls innocently intertwined with optimism and an ignorance of the looming darkness of pubescent years in front of them, become the dehumanised prey of the male conquest, possession and disposal game. A game only boys could win and destined to victimise every girl who innocently wandered into its path. And the more enlightened I became to this culture to which I, fortunately, became isolated from due to my trauma and was a bystander to whether I liked it or not, the more my heart broke for girls.

Ambassador journey

Along that journey of discovering that unhealthy masculinity is a ‘thing’ and that I was being confronted with its toxicity 24/7, I came to realise in my late 40’s that I have a voice in the domestic violence space.

It’s my mother’s voice and all those other women who have lost their lives to domestic violence.

And as a male, I was also confronted to realise, plus or minus, that there is no more powerful voice of advocacy, support or experience than from a feminist bloke who lived through almost every facet of domestic violence, owns the responsibility of acknowledging the issue as a male problem and equally acknowledges that blokes are the only ones that can remediate the issues. And as a bloke with all of these things, I realised that my commitment to being my mum’s and other women’s voice, needed a platform.

Glenn Buesnel-May at work

Glenn Buesnel-May, White Ribbon Ambassador, and Nick Mazzarella, Director at White Ribbon Australia.

 

I had constantly checked the whole domestic violence landscape through which to share my experience, perspectives and advocacy of women’s human rights. All the organisational players, all the agencies, government and private, in the space. One day, a mate rang me and asked if I’d support his nomination to become an Ambassador in an organisation that both INVITED and EQUIPPED male voices to advocate and support women in the fight against domestic violence and violence against women.

And that organisation was White Ribbon.

I’d found a platform, and was ready to use it

I quickly fitted in. In fact, I was on my feet within weeks with my first speaking gig. It was intimidating in the lead up and my PTSD-borne anxiety was challenging my ability and willingness to speak to a crowd about an extremely private set of experiences. But then, I thought of my mum and a number of friends who were relatively recent victims.

As I stood at that first event and uttered the beginning sentiments of my past and redemptive present, I felt the wings of those silenced voices lift and propel me. I stared in shock as the whole audience, some shedding tears and others beaming with broad smiles, stood and applauded. My key themes of, ‘Good men running towards the gunfire’, ‘You’ll get through this’, and, ‘Be the voice of the victimised and vulnerable’, seemed to resonate. So too, my final exhortation for all men to take responsibility, to take ownership and to take the cruel burden from women who’ve been foisted with the responsibility of defending themselves from domestic violence. For me, I saw it as my responsibility to stand up and speak out and the White Ribbon ethos enabled me to do just that.

New learnings

Equally important for me was the foundational commitment of White Ribbon’s commitment towards ‘Primary Prevention’, which when I talk about it or think about it, immediately evokes that 5-year old’s school-yard exposure to the pollution of male sentiment towards women.

But along with my newfound platform, my eyes were opened equally to the sometimes-complex interplay between the agencies dedicated to the issues of domestic violence and violence towards women. I was confronted by the politics. I was also confounded by the very natural (and human!) position dynamics of the feminist movement. The different colours and perspectives, foci and passions, whilst still aligned with what one could safely say are foundational principles upon which feminism has developed, sometimes idiosyncratically stood at odds with the White Ribbon mission. And I had to become comfortable that there were frictions and antagonisms that would distract my focus, but equally, I needed to became comfortable with those differences, and resting on the truth that the source of the passions of such a diverse collection of agencies, organisations and voices was decency and respect, and they are marching to the beat of the same drum.

Where I’m at now

And so, with eyes wide open on my experiences and their meanings, my broadening of sober wisdom and passion for understanding the issues of human rights from a feminine perspective in all its glorious complexity and colour, I declared, as my wonderful, feminist friend exhorted me…

I am a feminist.

And I have White Ribbon to thank for giving me the platform, the passion and the voice to declare that in doing my little bit to bring justice, decency and respect to women who have been victimised and those at risk of becoming victims, of an insidious cultural malaise.

And to never forget that that voice is my mother’s.

In memory of Jeanette (Handebo) May.

Author Glenn Buesnel-May is a White Ribbon Ambassador.

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What is an active bystander?

You may have heard of the term ‘bystander’ before, but what does being an “active bystander” mean?

Being an active bystander means seeing a situation unfolding and doing something about it. Taking action. Not just standing by. It means effectively (and safely) intervening when you see someone looking uncomfortable or if they’re in danger.

The opposite of an active bystander means seeing a situation unfold and doing nothing about it when you can. An inactive bystander or witness, if you will. And being inactive is more common than you’d think.

A term known as the bystander effect’ was coined to describe this very social phenomenon.

What is the bystander effect?

The term ‘bystander effect’ came about after the infamous murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City, 1964.

Kitty was a 28 year-old woman working at a bar in Queens. One night after a shift, a man named Winston Moseley followed her outside her apartment and stabbed her 14 times. After walking away and leaving Kitty for dead, Moseley came back and stabbed her several more times until she died, after no one came to her aid.

Kitty Genovese-bystander effect-White Ribbon Australia

Reportedly, 38 of her neighbours witnessed the attack, hearing her cries for help (the number has been debated in subsequent years) but failed to step in and help her.

After this tragic incident, social psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley popularized the term bystander effect’ that describes situations just like this.

Why do we do this?

There are two major causes of the bystander effect.

The first is due to a diffusion of responsibility. This means that, in the presence of many other people, there is no pressure for any one person to respond. When there are many witnesses, individuals don’t feel the responsibility to act, since the responsibility is thought to be shared among all of the witnesses present.

The second reason is due to social influence and conformity. As individuals, we monitor the behaviour of those around us to determine how to act because of the need to behave in socially acceptable ways. This can mean that when other witnesses fail to react, individuals take this as a signal that a response is not needed.

If not now, then when? If not you, then who?

As a functioning society, we have a responsibility to take care of each other. This starts at an individual level with separate people standing up and speaking out for their fellow human beings.

But, it’s important to have the skills to be able to safely intervene. You now know what being an active bystander is, you just need to know what to do if you ever find yourself in that situation.

What can I do to be an active bystander?

If you see someone being harassed, and you feel safe to do so, step in and offer assistance. This is especially important when the person in danger is part of an oppressed or minority groups including, women, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Taking action can look like many things. It could mean:

  • Calling police
  • Saying something to the perpetrator to diffuse the situation
  • Showing the perpetrator that you’re there and watching what’s going on
  • Saying something to the people beside you about what you’re seeing (loud enough for the assailant to hear)
  • Pretending that you know the person being harassed or starting a conversation with them so they’re not alone.

From big things to smaller things, showing solidarity with the person experiencing harassment makes all the difference.

Our STOP model is an easy way to remember what to do. STOP stands for See, Talk, Offer support, Prevent.

 

Author Madeline Storey is the Communications Coordinator at White Ribbon Australia.

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The importance of domestic violence leave

In March 2018, the Australian government announced legislation entitling workers to take five days of unpaid domestic violence leave per year. This provision is a positive step in recognising that domestic violence is a workplace issue, but the lack of paid leave fails to address the financial burden placed on victims.

What kind of domestic violence leave is currently offered?

In July, New Zealand passed legislation granting ten days paid leave. This is what was called for by the Australian Council of Trade Unions in their submission to the Fair Work Commission.

Many Australian workplaces already offer significantly more than the national standard. Surf Coast Shire Council set a global precedent in 2010 by offering 20 days paid leave to victims of domestic violence. Since then, some workplaces have expanded provision to include uncapped leave, paid leave per incident, accompanying financial support and assistance with accommodation. Some have even extended paid leave to staff members supporting family members, friends or colleagues who are victims of domestic violence.

Why is domestic violence leave important?

Experiencing domestic violence is a deeply traumatic and stressful time in a person’s life. Given that 2 in 3 women experiencing violence from a current partner are working, employers have the capacity to provide critical support to affected employees.

Accessing paid leave allows employees to take time out to deal with the significant physical, emotional, psychological, legal and practical consequences of domestic violence. This includes accessing medical care and counselling, meeting with police and solicitors, attending court, finding and moving in to new accommodation, and arranging new schools or childcare for children.

60% of women | White Ribbon Australia Employee wellbeing | White Ribbon Australia

 

These are often costly and time consuming processes. Many victims end up exhausting their other leave allocations and face losing their job. Coupled with the fact that financial abuse is experienced in the majority of abusive relationships, too many victims are forced to choose between accessing support and financial security.

Not all victims choose to leave a violent relationship, but for those who want to, cost presents a significant barrier. The Australian Council of Trade Unions research showed it costs $18,000 and takes 141 hours, almost all during business hours, to escape an abusive relationship.

Retaining a job provides financial and social independence for women experiencing violence, which can make it easier for them to leave.

How does providing domestic violence leave affect workplaces?

Investing in employee well being is both the right thing to do and is good for business.

Providing domestic violence leave raises awareness of the issue, reduces stigma, and demonstrates care for staff. The offer of leave also increases the likelihood of an employee disclosing, providing the opportunity for workplaces to further support them to stay safe while working and to get help before the situation escalates and becomes more dangerous.

Through supporting victims of violence to remain in their job, your organisation benefits from higher employee retention rates and improved productivity. Externally, reputation as an employer of choice and responsible corporate citizen is enhanced, attracting quality talent and loyal customers.

Concerns about what it would cost businesses to providing paid domestic violence leave are offset by benefits and mitigated by low uptake. It is estimated that 1.5% of female employees and 0.3% of male employees are likely to utilise provisions each year, with wage payouts equivalent to 0.02% of existing payrolls.  The cost to employers of offering domestic violence leave are therefore minimal, but the impacts can be life-changing for staff who need it.

Beyond domestic violence leave

Providing paid leave is just one way that employers can support staff members affected by domestic violence. To effectively respond to the issue, a comprehensive organisational response is required.

It is important to create a workplace culture that reassures victims that it is both safe and worthwhile to disclose an experience of domestic violence. Staff need to know that they will be believed and appropriately supported, trust that their story will remain confidential and not fear adverse consequences for their careers.

A strong policy framework outlining entitlements including leave, referral pathways for counselling and support services, flexible work options and workplace safety planning provides the foundation for workplace responses to victims. This needs to be reinforced through clear leadership commitment, informative communication about the issue and training to equip managers to respond appropriately.

Take a look at our Workplace Accreditation Program Framework for further inspiration on how your workplace can strengthen responses to victims of domestic violence and also engage in prevention activity.

 

Author Amy Crichton-Peterson is a White Ribbon Australia Workplace Advisor.

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The changing face of men at work

I have had the privilege of working in the mining industry for 30 years.

There are many things that have changed during my time in mining, but there is one thing I am most proud of and happy to see – mining has never been more diverse.

It is full of men, women, fathers, husbands, wives and mothers, people from different countries, varying education backgrounds and religious beliefs. It is not, contrary to the stereotype, an industry full of rough and aggressive men who use physical intimidation to get what they want.

Of course, this stereotype isn’t unique to mining. In many respects, it has been ingrained in the mythology of what it means to be an Australian, to be a ‘real man’.

The typecasting of Australian men as a ‘tough tradie’ is often exploited and reinforced by advertising and the media by portraying men in stand over positions with a menacing look.

It is not only wrong, but dangerous to portray that a true blue Aussie man must be tough, intimidating and get angry when he doesn’t get what he wants. Glorifying male aggression and dominance as being what ‘real men’ do perpetuates and normalises violence in our communities.

White Ribbon Australia is a national organisation which challenges this stereotype and champions the important role men play alongside women in preventing domestic violence. I have supported White Ribbon since 2014 and was proud to become a White Ribbon Ambassador in 2017.

Fortescue is proud to be part of the many organisations aiming to become a White Ribbon Australia Accredited Workplace. The Workplace Accreditation Program targets both men and women and empowers them as active bystanders to ‘be the change’. This is an important step in Fortescue’s commitment to ending domestic violence as we accept our responsibility as an industry leader on important issues such as family violence.

During my career, I have seen instances that I am not proud of, but overwhelmingly, I have worked with people committed to making our industry and our community safer.  Today, I am proud to stand alongside men and women, united in the belief that good men, ‘real men’, cannot and do not sit on the sidelines while those they love are at risk of harm.

Author Greg Lilleyman is the Chief Operating Officer at Fortescue and a White Ribbon Ambassador.

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It’s all about the little things. Ambassador and Father Adam Fraser talks about positively parenting his daughters in 2018

According to the latest data from The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1 in 4 women (2.2 million) have experienced emotional abuse by a current or previous partner since the age of 15, and 1 in 6 women (1.6 million) have experienced physical and/ or sexual violence by a cohabiting partner since the age of 15. As a father of two girls, this fills me with fear and so much rage I want to scream at the world.

Because of this I constantly think to myself, how can I help prevent them from becoming victims of this silent epidemic? Yes, silent, because despite living in the 21st century, the supposed era of information, there is still a lot of secrecy around this issue.

As a parent, I see it as my duty and obligation to educate my daughters in a way that they will never accept any kind of abuse, let alone from a partner, the person that is supposed to love and cherish them above all. So, what do I do? Well, it’s all about the little things.

Positively Parenting Daughters | White Ribbon Australia

Break down traditional stereotypes

First of all, both my wife and I set an example for them of equality. By having a healthy relationship, where communication, respect and equality are key. We share and rotate between the different house hold tasks. Also, in our house dad does not ‘baby sit’ you, he parents you!

Why is this necessary? Even though we have made progress, we still live in a society where strong sexist stereotypes around the role and expectations of a man and a woman still exist. Breaking down these stereotypes is a critical step in relationships being more equal and functional.

Get rid of bullshit fairy tales

The vast majority of classic fairy tales have the female as the weak one who needs to be rescued by the male character. Yeah, not in our house! Those stories are banned and replaced by books with strong females. Books such as “Strong is the new pretty” and the Rebel Girls book series are our staples.

One of my proudest moments was listing to my five-year-old discuss with her friends who their favourite rebel girl was (hers was Frida Kahlo) and how they didn’t like the latest peroxide blonde pop star because she wasn’t ‘rebel’ enough.

Don’t joke about chasing boys away

I used to do the traditional thing that dad’s do. Where we threaten to not let our daughters out of the house and that we’ll chase their boyfriends away. This dad joke sets up a combative relationship between their family and their chosen partner. Instead when my daughters talk about getting married or having a boyfriend, I talk to them about the qualities they should look for in a partner; kindness, compassion and thoughtfulness. I also talk about how beautiful relationships can be and what joys they will experience from a good one.

A partner is not the missing piece in your life

Another aspect I think it’s important to mention is that, even if we don’t realise that, we live in a world where there is still a lot of pressure for a woman to be in a relationship. Like it’s some sort of social achievement, and being single is just not okay. How many jokes about single women have you heard?! We don’t do that with men, so why do it with women? This attitude creates a mindset in women that it’s better to be in a bad relationship than be single.

Never come from a place of judgement

Heaven forbid that you have a child that finds themselves in an abusive relationship. But if they do, you want them to feel safe enough to turn to you for support. Judgement kills safety! When your children turn to you about a deep and emotional situation, you must make it a good experience. If they show vulnerability and you shame them or judge them or get angry, they will never do that again.

I am hopefully setting up an environment where my girls know they can talk to me about everything and I’ll always be there to listen. Which, if you think about it, will also help prevent them from becoming abuse victims, because they’ll know it’s okay to ask for help and that I’ll always be there to support them.

 

Author Dr Adam Fraser is a White Ribbon Australia Ambassador, speaker and peak performance researcher.

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Sport could be the answer to preventing violence against women

Gender Equality and Sport Culture in Australia

I have labelled myself as a feminist for the past decade. I am now twenty and my thoughts and views on the issue have not changed, in fact they have continued to expand and develop. I’d like to highlight the importance of sport in this current climate- in shaping community values, behaviour and attitudes towards gender equality.

There is a strong connection between the prevention of violence against women and gender equality particularly within fostering respectful relationships and employing inclusive, safe environments for women. The 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women Article 3 states, “women are entitled to the equal enjoyment and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field”. In order to properly exercise these rights, it is crucial to have conversations with young men about the importance of respecting women.

I want to emphasise whilst men are also subjected to violence, it is not to the same degree as women. Violence against women is a widespread problem and men have the power to change that. You see, violence against women is not just a woman’s issue, it is a man’s one too. It is a woman’s prerogative to live in a society that is inclusive and anti-discriminative of gender, an environment in which violence against women does not exist.

Toxic Masculinity

Toxic masculinity; the patriarchal structure surrounding young men to behave in certain ways and gain acceptance into the infamous “boy club”. This is a normality in many different sport clubs across Australia. It is important to redefine what it means to be “masculine”, and that begins with a conversation on self-respect.

I recently watched a TED Talk called ‘”Locker room talk.” Says who?’ given by activist and motivational speaker Alexis Jones. Firstly, Jones spoke about the increasing need for participation from men since “the majority of these young men have never been invited to sit at our table”. This is a crucial first step in engaging young men and broadening their perception of masculinity- inside sport clubs is a prime place to begin.

Alexis raised three main points:

  • imbue these men with self-respect,
  • broaden a definition of confidence,
  • and work with them.

Hence, educating young men within the sport environment is an effective approach to preventing violence against women and strengthening gender equality.

Primary Prevention

With one in three women having experienced physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by someone known to them, we need to make primary prevention a priority. I truly believe that sport has the power to inspire young men and redefine the concept of masculinity to further prevent violence against women.

Since sport is so influential, elite athletes also have a significant role in being able to speak up and take action and positively inspire young men and women. With women’s sport getting more attention, it is great to see leaders, both male and female, act efficiently and address the issue that is violence against women.

By educating young men, transforming attitudes, creating inclusive environments and speaking out against violence of women in sport environments around Australia, we can as a society improve the lives of women and children.

As Jones says, “men are not simply the problem when it comes to violence against women, they’re also the cure”.

Author Indianna Dimmer is a White Ribbon Australia Sports Program intern.

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The importance of supporting men through positive fatherhood

Ron Mitchell here again, Fatherhood Program Coordinator at White Ribbon Australia. I hope you enjoyed my last blog about modern dads. I really enjoyed writing it and sharing a bit about my life as a young dad.

My time at the Multicultural Council of the Northern Territory

I want to now talk about a different aspect of my life. My work life.

Prior to leaving Darwin in December 2017, I was the Program Manager at the Multicultural Council of the Northern Territory (MCNT) based in Darwin. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Australia’s top end as a practitioner and advocate in the multicultural sector.

For twelve years, I was committed to quality service provision and best practice project management. I worked with colleagues in Darwin’s collaborative community services sector to identify and address the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals and families within the Australian multicultural community.

I learned that resettlement is a multi-layered and long-term process and that recently-arrived migrant and refugee families continue to experience challenges with successful resettlement in Australia many years after arrival.

Migrant men and their challenges

From my time at the MCNT, I learned a lot about perceptions of masculinity and fatherhood from the experiences of recently-arrived migrant men settling in Australia. For many of the men I worked with, the resettlement experience was disempowering – particularly with long-term unemployment (when they expected to be the primary ‘breadwinners’), changing family dynamics (their wives gaining a sense of independence through receiving Centrelink benefits), and intergenerational conflict from their children becoming ‘Westernised’ and no longer respecting their authority.*

For many men being resettled, there was a clear division between the experiences in their home countries and their new experiences of Australian life. There was a constant tension between maintaining traditional cultural practices and parenting styles while adhering to the demands of a new society. I saw these issues create ongoing challenges for maintaining good relationships with their wives and children, often leading to alcohol abuse and even domestic violence.

As service providers in Darwin, my colleagues and I at MCNT were very concerned about the impacts of the resettlement process on migrant men and their families. So in November 2017, in partnership with my colleagues from the community services sector in Darwin and consultation with community leaders, I co-founded the first ever Multicultural Men’s Group in Darwin. The group explored many issues of concern for migrant men including the lack of information about living in Australia, competitiveness for employment, health and wellbeing, and respectful relationships within the family unit.

Positive masculinity

The entrenched patriarchy of society has reinforced the attitudes, behaviours and violence-supported social norms of male dominance and privilege. Not just for newly arrived migrants, but for all Australians born and raised.

I believe it’s so important that we, as a society, start building a positive vision of masculinity. I can see it starting to happen in the men around me. Many fathers are taking on more equal care-giving responsibilities and breaking down the gendered stereotypes that they have been told to traditionally follow.

The importance of fatherhood

It is estimated internationally that about 80% of men become biological fathers during their lifetimes.

The birth or adoption of a child is a milestone for men and provides an opportunity for men as fathers to review their lives and often generates the motivation to take greater responsibility, and develop stronger and more respectful relationships.

Supporting dads as they go on this journey of caregiving, and empowering them to reject the traditional roles or “boxes” that hold them back was one of the aims the Multicultural Men’s Group addressed. Now I’m proud to be part of White Ribbon’s Fatherhood Program, building on the aims and goals I first set out to address in the Northern Territory.

Fatherhood is truly a time of transformation that inspires men to adopt a caring masculinity and act as positive agents for social change. I’m so excited to see what the future holds for the dads of Australia.

Author Ron Mitchell is White Ribbon Australia’s Fatherhood Program Coordinator, a proud husband and father of two.

*I must openly state that there is ultimately no excuse for any form of men’s violence and abuse against women, and that the perceptions within this article relate to the experiences of some migrant men I encountered in Australia sharing their personal perceptions of their resettlement.

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Are you a modern dad?

By way of introduction, I’m Ron Mitchell the Fatherhood Program Coordinator within the Community Development & Engagement Team at White Ribbon Australia. As background, I am a happily married man and the proud father of two adult sons (born 21 months apart), who I like to believe are now fine men. To a large extent, my views of involved fatherhood were formed and evolved during the early 1990s when my sons were still infants.

Evolving definition

You might have seen our launch of our new Fatherhood Program over the weekend to celebrate Father’s Day 2018. Today I wanted to discuss the role of fathers and father-figures as I’ve seen and experienced during my time as a father and share an anecdote with you about an experience with one of my sons. I also invite you all reading this, to share your perspectives, experiences and anecdotes with us on social media. Use #whiteribbon #fatherhood to let us know your stories.

As we’re currently seeing in contemporary Australian society, the role of ‘father’, the concept of ‘family’, and the expression of masculinity and gender roles within families are becoming more socially diverse and broadly defined than in the past. The term ‘father’ now includes a range of males who function in a caregiver role for children.

In addition to biological fathers, there are adoptive fathers, foster fathers, stepfathers, and a range of relatives and friends who, as social fathers, play significant fathering roles in the lives of children. I think you’d agree that positive male role models in every form are essential in shaping the lives of young kids. That’s the remit of White Ribbon Australia and our new Fatherhood Program.

My story

By all accounts I was effectively a stay-at-home dad in the early 1990s, although I had not heard of the term at the time. I was at University undertaking studies towards a Bachelor’s Degree and I was the primary caregiver for our sons. My wife was working full-time to support my studies. My infant sons were enrolled in the University child care centre. I recall I took my sons to a playgroup a few times near where we lived. I was certainly the only man there at that time amongst all the other female caregivers. Somehow we fitted in okay, although it was still a social stigma at that time for a man to attend a playgroup.

I recall very well one time when I arrived at the child care centre. To my alarm I found my older son wheeling around a toy pram with dolly passengers.

I asked the educator, “What are you doing to my son?”

She replied, “One day he is going to be a father”.

Her comment really put me in my place.

Upon reflection, the child care centre was quite progressive for the time, and in their own way was normalising male caregiving for the children in their care. My son was probably modelling my own behaviour as a caring father.

I often wonder how many other dads have had experiences similar to mine. I think it’s a good time now for modern dads and social dads to celebrate special moments with the kids in their care. And to reflect on their impact on the small humans whose lives they help shape.

Author Ron Mitchell is White Ribbon Australia’s Fatherhood Program Coordinator, a proud husband and father of two.

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The evolution of Ambassadors – busting myths about our most recognised and controversial program

Since the genesis of the White Ribbon movement in Australia, the endorsement of community representatives, particularly men, as Ambassadors has been a central feature of our mission to end men’s violence against women.  Our Ambassador Program has been highly successful, although it hasn’t been without its critics.

The original thinking behind our Ambassador Program in 2003 was for every Australian man to become a White Ribbon Ambassador. Whilst this model of campaigning saw many successes, and made significant strides in spreading awareness about men’s violence against women, it was not without its flaws and drew criticism; some justified, some constructive, and some misleading and inaccurate. Critique is something we always consider seriously, as learning is crucial to this journey. The criticisms we faced could be seen to follow certain themes that I would like to address to reflect the developments of the Ambassador Program.

If anyone can be an Ambassador, the status becomes obsolete or too easy.

This is something we’ve learnt from, as we accept not every man should be an Ambassador. We instead need individuals who are genuine, knowledgeable and active to lead the charge in ending men’s violence against women. Our original rationale was to make all men part of the solution in ending men’s violence against women. This failed to fully account for the way in which the gendered inequalities that drive men’s violence is perpetuated, often unconsciously, through socialised and normalised patterns of behaviour. The insufficiently flexible ‘blueprints’ or ‘social scripts’ given to men and women, which at their root often give men a more valuable social position, enable abuses of power. In short, this did not go far enough to challenge the status quo, and a movement that does not challenge the status quo will have limited success in changing social outcomes.

In recognising this, we have implemented a more robust recruitment process for White Ribbon Ambassadors, which we continually reinforce. All Ambassadors have demonstrated a depth of understanding of the issue, real-life engagement with the movement, and credibility as a representative through a 5-step application process involving:

  • An online training package.
  • Written application.
  • Telephone interview with a White Ribbon Australia Ambassador Team staff member.
  • Police Check.
  • Reference Check.

This has reduced our numbers from 2900 to 1200, and we aim to ensure that only the right people will become White Ribbon Ambassadors.

What do Ambassadors actually do?

White Ribbon Ambassadors come from all levels of society, in communities across the length and breadth of Australia.

Their main role is to bring the movement into everyday life – personally and professionally. Through their roles as friends, brother, fathers, sons and colleagues, Ambassadors drive the movement to prevent men’s violence against women through their interactions both publicly and privately. By continuously discussing the issue, they put the message more firmly into the public consciousness that violence against women is an issue that must not be tolerated.

Whilst the widely-publicised promotional campaigns to raise awareness are the most immediately visible, and make a significant contribution to the movement, the power of everyday interactions cannot be understated. It is through everyday interactions that society changes. Through the network of active Ambassadors, we can influence hard to reach people or those less connected to the issue, and this is the real strength of a genuinely community-led grassroots movement.

We create accountability for the individuals who represent the movement. All Ambassadors have agreed to a role description and code of conduct that sets out expectations for an initial two-year tenure, which if not met will result in this status being lapsed. We have regular communication with our Ambassadors to provide support, give training opportunities and educational tools, and we have implemented an activity log where Ambassadors evidence their activity towards the movement under three streams: Engage, Educate and Act. It is a requirement for Ambassadors to demonstrate their activity to remain in this position.

White Ribbon is about the brand.

The white ribbon as a symbol has become ubiquitous in the movement to end men’s violence against women. As a symbol, it’s a powerful tool in bringing attention to the issue and uniting those supportive of the movement to end men’s violence against women. We make no apology for utilising this powerful tool to spread awareness, and harness support under the banner to prevent violence. As an organisation passionate in its mission, we view the symbol as one of our greatest assets in empowering communities to take up the charge, and unite people from all backgrounds to work together.

Ambassadors tell us that the white ribbon is a physical reminder that holds them to account in their behavior wherever they are. It reminds them to notice the issue more in their day to day lives, commits them to doing something about it, and gives them the platform to act with confidence.

The ribbon is a unifying statement that our Ambassadors carry into their communities. One of the most important functions of the symbol is that it tells other people that we oppose violence against women wherever it occurs. It makes the issue visible and stops us from turning away. It is a declaration to act, for if we don’t act now, nothing will change.

Author Sam Wainwright is White Ribbon Australia’s Ambassador Program Coordinator.

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