Ambassador Q&A: John Aggus
White Ribbon Ambassador John Aggus reflects upon the role and the significance of working in a White Ribbon accredited workplace. John Aggus strongly believes that the change can come from small daily efforts and the prevention.
What is your day job?
Senior Operational Policy Officer (Child Protection and Children in Care) at the Department for Child Protection and Family Support (the Department) in Perth.
How long have you been a White Ribbon Ambassador?
Since July 2015.
Why did you decide to become an Ambassador?
The reason why I became an Ambassador, was that throughout my career as a social worker/team leader in both the UK and Australia, I have seen the short and long term impact of violence against women and children and the devastating effects it has on their lives. Too many times I have seen men not take responsibility for their behaviours and simply avoid taking steps to do the right thing and stop. The impact for such men is that they lose out too!
In my personal life, I have come across men who think it’s their right to be able to be violent and control their partners. Often disguised in statements such as “I can’t help it I get angry and jealous” or “she’ll spend all the money I have” I have met men who try to justify their behaviours, blame their partners and have a view of entitlement to control all aspects of their partner’s lives.
When I heard about White Ribbon I jumped at the chance to be become associated with an organization and campaign that was saying what I was saying and thinking. White Ribbon stands out because it confronts the conversations men don’t have, but should have, with each other about ending men’s violence against women. White Ribbon’s web site and resources are aimed at how to have the conversations and support women needing help are fantastic and should be seen and understood by all men!
In what ways have you been involved in the White Ribbon Campaign?
As a White Ribbon Ambassador, I have promoted White Ribbon in my work and personal networks. I feel proud to be a part of the Department and that my workplace is the first government agency in Western Australia to become an accredited ‘White Ribbon Workplace’. We have policies and procedures to support staff experiencing violence and help those perpetrating violence to stop. The Department is one of the key organisations tackling family and domestic violence in the community.
I work as part of a skilled and experienced team to support our dedicated and hardworking colleagues who work on the frontline of child protection, much of which involves dealing with the impact of family and domestic violence. This has included making sure that the important messages from the White Ribbon campaign are heard, including in the redevelopment and delivery of learning programs for staff, our casework practice manual and relevant policies, procedures and guidance.
I have also worked closely with the Department’s family and domestic violence policy unit who lead the State and support other government and partner agencies to stop violence against women and assist men to take responsibility to change their controlling behaviours. There has been law reform in Western Australia which now recognises that family and domestic violence causes emotional harm to children who witness it.
Personally I have continued to have discussions with men I know (and sometimes men I don’t) about the impact of men’s violence against women and what we can do to change attitudes and behaviours. This includes having one on one constructively challenging conversations as well as discussions and debates with my friends. I also have offered to support women I know are experiencing violence in their relationship, including providing advice and information about where to get help.
Why is Gender Equality important to you as an Ambassador?
The majority of family and domestic violence is caused by men against women. This violence is part of the wider gender inequality that occurs in our communities. Changing cultural attitudes about violence against women has also to be part of the wider conversation towards creating a world where men do not think they have an entitlement to be violent and organisations do not perpetuate gender inequality.
Thanks to White Ribbon and others driving social change, gender equality and violence against women is now more openly discussed than it used to be. It’s fantastic to see the development of prevention programs such as schools adopting the White Ribbon Breaking the Silence Program, where children are taught the importance of respectful relationships from an early age. This alongside White Ribbons association with high profile people and organisations creates influence to get the message across and supports the movement for social and cultural change.
I believe that change also comes from the small conversations we all have and I see that is a big part of my role. In my experience creating change for one woman and one child in one family is equally as important alongside the bigger discussions and changes needed in our society.
What goals do you hope to accomplish as an Ambassador in the future?
In my personal and professional networks, I want to continue in my role as an Ambassador and encourage men to talk about and stop violence against women. I will continue to participate in events that show my support for stopping violence against women including the annual domestic violence march held here in Perth to recognise the victims and survivors of domestic violence.
At work, I am in the process of organising a series of White Ribbon lunchtime workshops for male staff to discuss what it means in practice to promote stopping violence against women. I will use the excellent resources and videos provided on the White Ribbon website to start the conversation. I also intend to do something similar with my personal friends on White Ribbon day this year.
Most importantly I will carry on the personal conversations to create change and make a difference with the people I come across in my life. My goal is that alongside other men and women these conversations will assist in the bigger changes need for us all to be able to make Australia a safer and more equal place to live together.