Ambassador Q&A: Gerard Lessels
What is your day job?
I am the Tjuwanpa Women Ranger Coordinator. This is an Indigenous Women Ranger Program that provides real jobs and real opportunities for Indigenous Women to work on country and address the issues of Conservation and Land Management around their region. We are located 130 kilometers to the west of Alice Springs at Tjuwanpa near Hermannsburg (Ntaria) and we work over an area of approximately 10,000 square kilometers.
How long have you been a White Ribbon Ambassador?
I have been a white Ribbon Ambassador for 3 years.
Why did you decide to become an Ambassador?
Three years ago I was looking for a way to get some information on how to be proactive about reducing violence against women in our Community and how to empower women to stand strong and proud. This was in response to the senseless and tragic death of one of our women rangers. So after hearing about White Ribbon and attending a seminar in Alice Springs, I decided to become an Ambassador, convinced that White Ribbon would provide me with the support and information that I needed to take the next step.
In what ways have you been involved in the White Ribbon Campaign?
As an Ambassador, I have been involved with the annual sports weekend carnivals at our Community that involved football and softball competitions in which 10 other remote Communities attend. I have also taken part in three annual White Ribbon Day marches in our Community, the first of which was attended by 120 people and the third involving 400 people from 62 different entities – a large proportion of whom travelled 260 kilometers to attend. As part of our annual march, in addition to saying “NO” to violence against women, we offered all attending school students from Year 5 to Year 10 some options for choosing a better lifestyle by attaching a Career and Pathways session to the event. Through this we have been able to show students the types of jobs that are available through a better education. On the same day we worked with the Bully Zero Australia Foundation to run anti cyber bulling workshops for the adults and all the students from three remote schools in our region.
I have also worked as a White Ribbon Ambassador with Stan and Roy who together head the “NO MORE” Campaign in Alice Springs and the surrounding Southern Region of Northern Territory. Additionally, I have developed an amazing relationship working with the Northern Territory Police who actively support our Communities to reduce violence against women.
Why is Gender Equality important to you as an Ambassador?
In Culture, women fulfill the other half of the story, but our children are growing up with a skewed version of what a family is and how to respect women. If we can achieve gender equality within our Communities, our Communities will be strong, Families will be strong, and therefore Country will be strong. This will support our children to seek better education and that way they can achieve goals and fulfillment which means they can restart the cycle of Communities being strong.
What goals do you hope to accomplish as an Ambassador in the future?
I would like to see a continued reduction of violence against women in our Communities. I would like to see a greater proactive involvement in members of Community in the running of our annual march and yearly activities. I would like to see other Communities follow the path of Hermannsburg/Ntaria and adopt the White Ribbon Campaign, and together we can accomplish these goals and actively make a difference.