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Ambassador Q&A: Hon Ken Wyatt

Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP
May/June 2017

What is your current professional role?
Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health.

How long have you been a White Ribbon Ambassador?
Five years.

What first motivated you to become a White Ribbon Ambassador?
I was asked, partly because I had spoken on the issue in Aboriginal health, and also because I had run, both in Western Australia and more so in New South Wales, programs which tackled the issue of violence and provided support to women. Also, speaking up on the issue is something I have done for most of my life in the work that I have undertaken. Being an Ambassador is an important task but it is also an opportunity to watch what’s happening and to offer the levels of intervention that are required.

How do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities see and experience the issue of men’s violence against women?
It is not acceptable and culturally it is not the way it was. What we are now seeing are levels of violence that not only impact on women but children, too. Children seeing men committing assaults against women and thinking it’s a normal process. We have to break that. When you’re in an isolated community, a regional town or sometimes in suburbs where you’re isolated, women may have no one to turn to, and kinship structures can play a role, where they can’t just up and leave.

How do you envision governments, and communities working to prevent men’s violence against women within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities?
It’s important that communities and health and Aboriginal organisations tackle this together because while governments will have an overview of programs and services, they can’t be in all places at all times. The strength of the community is its capacity to say to people, to men in particular, or to a woman who might be violent against a male “This is not acceptable” and certainly look at intervening when they need to.

What are some of the positive ways men from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have been engaged in preventing men’s violence against women and children?
What I have seen is senior men, elders, talk to young men who display behaviours that are unacceptable, and in some instances that works. The other has been around anger management
and then there have also been Aboriginal family health workers in communities who have played a key role in encouraging men to support the women. Men also have to step up in communities and call it out for what it is. I would rather see it referred to as assault because that is what it is. The other thing we need to understand is that it is not just physical assault, it is financial control, it is psychological, it also about isolating your partner from other people. Culture isn’t an excuse for the treatment of women that is detrimental to their social and emotional well-being and their integrity as a person.

To date, what have been the highlights for you as a long-serving White Ribbon Ambassador?
Being a Champion for this great cause has been a real highlight and one I strongly believe in, watching the increased awareness and responsiveness from the community stepping up and saying enough is enough. I have admired the courage of individual women who have been subjected to violence and have been able to be strong advocates for other women. White Ribbon day highlights a strong national focus that we should display not just on White Ribbon day but 365 days of the year.

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