Ambassador Q&A: Alasdair Roy
White Ribbon Ambassador Alasdair Roy shares with us his views on the importance of involving young people in challenging the views on violence against women in society.
What is your day job?
I am currently in private practice, providing psychological services to individual children and young people, as well as engagement activities with groups of children and young people to seek their views on issues of importance to them. Between 2008-2016, I was the ACT Children & Young People Commissioner, and between 1997-2007 was Deputy Public Advocate (Children & Young People).
How long have you been a White Ribbon Ambassador?
I became a White Ribbon Ambassador on 12th September 2012.
Why did you decide to become an Ambassador?
I believe that stopping violence against women is fundamentally an issue for men. It is men who are responsible for the majority of violence against women, so it stands to reason that men have the power and responsibility to end violence against women. Not all men use violence, but all men can do something to stop violence, and I wanted to be one of those men who takes positive action to make a difference.
In what ways have you been involved in the White Ribbon Campaign?
Even before I became an Ambassador, I tried to be as involved as possible in White Ribbon activities, or activities related to ending violence against women. I sold ribbons and arranged fund-raising activities in the workplace, attended events held by other people or organisations, and, when I was the ACT Children & Young People Commissioner, I spoke publicly about the impact of family violence on children and young people. I was also on the Management Committee of the ACT Domestic Violence Service for over 10 years. Since becoming an Ambassador, I continue to commit myself to all those things, but I also try to be an ‘ambassador’ in the true sense of the word. That is, I try to represent and promote the work of White Ribbon in my every day activities. Ending violence against women will not happen if we only talk about the issue on particular days, or at particular events; it needs to be a continual dialogue involving as many people as possible. I am also currently a member of the White Ribbon Capital Region Committee.
Why is Gender Equality important to you as an Ambassador?
Gender equality is important to me as an individual, not just because I am a White Ribbon Ambassador. As a child, I was acutely aware of, and uncomfortable with, the roles ascribed by our culture and society to women and men. I could never understand why ‘girls had to be girls’ and ‘boys had to be boys’. Why can’t people be whatever they want to be? In the context of violence against women, not only is it wrong and unfair for women, or anyone else, to be subjected to violence, it is also wrong and unfair that men are raised to think that violence is OK. Gender inequality can be held responsible for so many sad and harmful aspects of Australian society.
What goals do you hope to accomplish as an Ambassador in the future?
There are two key areas of interest that I am keen to keep on my, and White Ribbon’s agenda. First, in any discussion about stopping violence against women, it is critical to engage directly with children and young people (those under 18 years of age). We need to move beyond simply teaching children and young people about family violence, with this teaching being usually from an adult perspective, to talking with children and young people so as to gain an understanding of their views, experiences, and perspectives. Children and young people are not only victims of family violence, but are also, potentially, current and future perpetrators of family violence. We need to talk with them about this. As a White Ribbon Ambassador, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the development of mechanisms to engage respectfully and effectively with children and young people about violence against women.
Additionally, it is necessary to acknowledge that both our community and government currently accept a level of physical violence against children and young people, which is recognised in law as ‘reasonable chastisement’ – or, colloquially, ‘smacking children’. In contrast, both our community and government no longer accept any form of violence against women, anytime, anywhere. Many children and young people have told me that they are aware of this incongruity. For example, one 14 year old young man recently said to me ‘I don’t get it – why is it OK for parents to hit kids, when it is not OK for anyone to hit anyone else. What has my age got to do with it?’ I am not saying that the ongoing emotional, physical or sexual assault of a woman, or man, by their partner is the same thing as the occasional smack of a child. They are fundamentally different things. But, they are both violent acts which occur within a domestic context, and children and young people are aware of this. As a White Ribbon Ambassador, I hope to encourage community and political discussion about the physical discipline of children and young people, and its relationship to family violence.