Ambassador Q&A: Maris Depers
With vast experience as a counsellor and running programs for Corrections NSW, White Ribbon Ambassador Maris Depers, is a firm believer and advocate for the prevention of violence against women.
What is your day job?
I am a Psychologist/Drug and Alcohol Counsellor with the Salvation Army First Floor Program in Wollongong NSW. My night job is running Domestic Violence offender programs for Corrections NSW.
How long have you been a White Ribbon Ambassador?
I have been involved in organising White Ribbon events and activities for about 5 years in my local area but I officially became a White Ribbon Ambassador in 2015.
Why did you decide to become an Ambassador?
It was really important for me to take that step because, while I have been actively involved in White Ribbon events and activities for many years, and men’s violence prevention programs, I had always considered myself an ambassador in all the work and interactions that I have. I decided to become an official White Ribbon Ambassador last year because I was seeing that there is still a lot of work to be done. So I asked myself – what else could I be doing? And becoming an official Ambassador was a step that I hadn’t taken.
This has also been important for me personally because I have a two year old daughter and I felt an increased sense of responsibility to help try and ensure she doesn’t grow up in a world where men’s violence and abuse against women is acceptable.
In what ways have you been involved in the White Ribbon Campaign?
A group of men in Wollongong have been working to organise White Ribbon events each year for the past 5 years. We’ve held community dinners, launched anti-DV ad campaigns, held community theatre events and more recently, large community walks to help spread the White Ribbon message.
In addition I have also spoken to groups of men, organisations, schools and the media about White Ribbon.
Why is Gender Equality important to you as an Ambassador?
From my experiences working with both offenders and survivors of DV I’ve been able to hear about the social conditions and belief systems which have allowed domestic/family violence and sexual assault to occur and continue to be an issue in our community. I find it abhorrent that as a community we are still struggling to achieve gender equality in households, businesses, organisations and educational institutions.
I also feel that gender equality is important because I see myself as a feminist and believe that a society based on equality is one which benefits all members, men included. I want to live in a society that allows all humans to achieve their potential, be active and respected contributors to the world in which they live in, be involved in the decisions which are made, and be able to benefit from the rewards of being members of a community.
And I believe we can do it!
What goals do you hope to accomplish as an Ambassador in the future?
As a White Ribbon Ambassador, I hope to stay involved in White Ribbon activities at my local level and become further involved in White Ribbon initiatives at a regional level. I hope to be able to meet other Ambassadors and hear about how they live the oath and do the work they do, and find opportunities to work together where we can. I also hope I can make men’s violence prevention work more central to the work that I do on a daily basis, hopefully making it a feature of my career goals in the coming years.
Ultimately though, I would like to see the statistics on violence against women change and help to create a safer world for my daughter and all of the other amazing, talented, creative and strong women in my life.