Men must change the behaviours and beliefs that feed gender inequality and excuse family violence, participants in Bendigo White Ribbon Day proceedings have been told.
About 400 people participated in today’s event, many dressed in orange to acknowledge November 25 as the start of 16 days of activism against men’s violence.
Guest speaker Hugh Martin challenged men and boys in the Ulumbarra audience to shift the way they thought of women and criticised the portrayal of gender in advertising and pornography.
“Family violence, in which men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators, is a men’s issue first and foremost,” Mr Martin said.
Among those in his target audience was 17-year-old Girton Grammar student, Declan Roscford.
He was one of several male pupils from the school’s year 12 cohort who volunteered to attend Friday’s event.
Boys at Girton were continually told by teachers their power was not something to be abused, Declan said, adding that the message was especially pertinent on the eve their adulthood in which drinking and partying culture would play a larger part.
“People who offend will see how many people are against it,” Declan said. “It’s peer pressure, but for good.”
Guest speaker Jenny Yates was among those in the crowd with lived experience of family violence. Abuse dealt to her mother had effected Ms Yates’ self-worth for years, with the woman telling the audience she married a perpetrator because she did not think she deserved better.
She said funding for women’s refuges was still insufficient and needed to be doubled.
But it was the people responsible for that funding – the country’s politicians – that Mr Martin believed set a poor example for how men should treat women, citing Question Time as an example of their violent communication style.
Federal Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters agreed, saying: “I have a front row seat and I see the anger, first pumping and screaming – it’s appalling.”
She walked in the White Ribbon parade alongside state MPs Maree Edwards and Jacinta Allan, both of whom said they were proud of their city’s stance against men’s violence.
Ms Allan described violence as “a massive, vice-like grip on women and children” in Victoria.
Members of the Bendigo Zonta club also participated in the White Ribbon walk, with former president Ann Horrocks saying her organisation was marking International Day for the Prevention of Violence against Women with events across the world.
Education was the tool she believed could empower women to stand up to violence.