LEADERS of specialist central Victorian services responding to women who have experienced violence have urged people to take gender equality seriously.
It comes as people around the world mark the start of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence.
Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
One woman a week is killed in Australia by her current or former partner, on average.
Hundreds of thousands more are living with violence and abuse.
Gender inequality drives violence against women.
It manifests in a variety of ways, including in people's working lives.
While this year's Gender Equality Scorecard shows progress is being made, women are still at a financial disadvantage to men.
Bendigo service leaders have called on the community to call out gender inequality and to stand against violence.
What the 16 Days of Activism means to central Victoria
AROUND the world, communities are converging on a theme: "Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape".
This is the global theme of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence. And it is one central Victorian experts working in the sector say has great relevance to our community.
Loddon Campaspe Centre Against Sexual Assault chief executive Kate Wright believes sexual assault is 'the last taboo' topic.
"We find people still don't want to engage about sexual assault because it's a very controversial and at times triggering conversation," she says.
What she hopes is that the dialogue and actions generated by the global movement this year will continue throughout the year, and encourage people who might not usually engage in the topic locally to open up to it.
One in five women have experienced a form of sexual assault, Ms Wright says.
The drivers are largely the same as those of family and domestic violence.
To reduce the incidence of sexual assault, communities need to strive towards gender equality.
That means becoming aware of gender biases and challenging rigid gender stereotypes, and developing an understanding of how these inequalities are primers for violence.
"That's where call it out is a very powerful message," Ms Wright says.
"Respect women: Call it out" is the theme of the 16 Days of Activism in Victoria.
Annie North Women's Refuge chief executive Julie Oberin said gender equality was trivialised in Australia to the point where there were jokes about it.
"It's just not a funny thing," she said.
"Any sort of violence or abuse is linked to gender equality."
She said it was important people learned to consider issues with more empathy for those who knew all too well the harm caused by gender inequality.
"Call it out. Just call it out," Ms Oberin said.
Centre for Non-Violence chief executive Margaret Augerinos said she had seen a positive shift in the community about how gender equality was viewed.
"Sixteen years ago we wouldn't have seen our community rallying and calling for action," she said.
"We're seeing more and more community members who are embracing the messages and want to get involved.
"We need this level of engagement, mobilisation and action every day of the year."
Women's Health Loddon Mallee chief executive Tricia Currie said it was important the community as a whole engaged in discussions about gendered violence.
"It's everybody's business," she said.
"We know in our communities people are ready to take action."
She said ways people could take action included being discerning about the things they walked past and the things they accepted.
Ms Currie said it could be anything from calling out a sexist joke to safely raising concerns about a controlling partner.
She called on people to start to look into the issue to better understand how they could take positive action.
"Where that pushback or resistance happens it means we have to stand up for each other and with each other," Ms Currie said.
"We're acutely aware that when a woman calls it out it's still an absolute issue in our community and beyond."
Australia's national organisation in preventing violence against women, Our Watch, said the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women called on all Australian to play their part in ending the everyday incidents of sexism and disrespect that could lead to violence against women.
"Today is a day for remembering the many victims and survivors of the scourge of violence against women," said Our Watch chair Natasha Stott Despoja.
"We know that many women experience multiple forms of sexual violence and harassment in their lives.
"Today is also a day to remind people of the good news - that violence against women and children is preventable, not inevitable - and we all can play our part."
Reflecting on the international theme, Ms Augerinos said it was especially pertinent to young people, who had largely led the charge on standing up against sexual assault with campaigns like #metoo.
Ms Wright said learning about active consent was also really important in reducing sexual assault.
"We still have to challenge the myths and attitudes that exist around victim-blaming," she said.
She said learning more about active consent was about people being open to the information and messages coming to them and reflecting on their own attitudes and beliefs.
Ms Wright encouraged anyone who wanted more information to who needed support to contact the Loddon Campaspe Centre Against Sexual Assault on 5441 0430.
The long road to equality
EMPLOYERS are making progress on gender equality, results of this year's scorecard reveal.
But there is a long way yet to go, with the gender pay gap dropping by only a fraction of a per cent.
Annie North Women's Refuge chief executive Julie Oberin said the results of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency's annual scorecard showed real progress was far too slow.
"In fact it appears that progress is in real danger of losing momentum and falling backwards," Ms Oberin said.
"Of particular concern is that we hear a backlash against striving for gender equality by some employers who don't see the economic and social value arising from it.
"Even if they apply policies and strategies because of pressure, there is little accountability for how these measures are implemented or taken up with success."
She said the 13.3 per cent increase in the number of employers that had developed policies and/or strategies on domestic or family violence was positive, along with an increase of almost nine per cent of employers offering paid domestic violence leave.
"However, it is highly disturbing that more than 50 per cent of employers still don't offer paid parenting leave," Ms Oberin said.
"Not only is this discrimination, but it fails to recognise the economic and social benefits to the company, the staff, the children and the community as a whole," she said.
A $25,700 chasm remains between men and women's earnings.
Ms Oberin described the continuing gender pay gap as 'a disgrace', particularly 50 years after the 1969 equal pay decision.
"Men are advantaged in all industries, occupations and management categories," she said.
"An increase of 0.5% is a laugh.
"Men earn an average of $25,679 more than women each year. For men it's another day another dollar. For women it's another day another 84.1 cents."
Ms Oberin was also alarmed that the number of women CEOs hadn't changed, with only 17.1 per cent of CEO positions held by women.
"This has been at the same level for two years running and is a disgrace in the year 2019," she said.
Ms Oberin said a lack of women in leadership, the gender pay and wealth gap, uneven access to paid domestic violence leave, little access to paid parenting leave, lack of superannuation and the general undervaluing of 'womens work' contributed to gender inequality.
"We know now that domestic and family violence is both a cause and consequences of gender equality," she said.
"The current pace of progress is too slow and too uneven."
Region supports global movement
BENDIGO residents will take to the streets on Wednesday to condemn violence against women.
The Greater Bendigo Against Family Violence Community Action Showcase is the largest event scheduled within the city in support of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence.
But there are a range of initiatives planned throughout the region in solidarity with the global movement.
Castlemaine Library will mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women today with an event from 4.30pm discussing violence against women and the impact of the #metoo movement. Bendigo Library will host the same event on Tuesday, December 5.
Bookings for both of the free events can be made online at goldfieldslibraries.com
The Central Goldfields Shire has a program of events for the 16 Days of Activism, culminating in a community vigil on Monday, 9 December.
The vigil runs from 7pm - 9pm at Station Domain and Maryborough Community Hub on 48 Burns Street, Maryborough.
Further information is available from Go Goldfields: facebook.com/GoGoldfields/
The Greater Bendigo Against Family Violence Community Action Showcase runs from 12pm - 1pm on Wednesday along at Sidney Myer Place and Pall Mall.
It includes the community's walk against violence, which starts at 12.30pm.
Participants are encouraged to wear orange, representing a future free from family violence.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, family or domestic violence, help is available from the following:
- 1800Respect (National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Line) - 1800 737 732
- Sexual Assault Crisis Line - 1800 806 292 (24hrs)
- Lifeline - 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline (kidshelpline.com.au) - 1800 55 1800
- DHHS Child Protection Intake North Division Intake - 1300 664 977
- SOCIT - Sexual Offences Child Investigative Team - 5444 6701
- After hours child protection emergency service - 13 12 78
In an emergency, phone 000.
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