THE lawns of the Echuca Civic Centre were a sea of white on Friday as people took a stand against violence towards women.
About 200 people, dressed in white, came together to form a human white ribbon before Campaspe Shire Council held a free community morning tea in recognition of White Ribbon Day.
Campaspe Shire mayor Adrian Weston, Inspector Geoff Owen and Campaspe Family Violence Action Group deputy chair Paul McKenzie all took to the stand to say no to violence against women, to promote equality of men and women, challenge traditional gender stereotypes and roles and strengthen respectful relationships.
Insp. Owen urged the community to take a stand, to break the cycle of domestic violence.
‘‘When police become involved in family violence, it’s already happened. It’s too late,’’ he said.
‘‘We need the community to bring this issue out in the sunlight. We need to work in the preventative space to stop family violence occurring in the first instance.
‘‘We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem. It’s a community problem and needs a whole-of-community approach.’’
Mr McKenzie took the opportunity to launch the group’s four priority areas.
‘‘Creating organisations that are gender equitable and that promote respectful relationships between men and women. Promoting women’s equal participation in leadership, public and private life, increasing the understanding that gender dynamics underpin family violence and that family violence can be prevented from happening in the first place and finally a service system that understands and has the capacity to respond appropriately to all who experience family violence,’’ he said.
‘‘Violence against women is serious, prevalent and preventable. To stop women and girls being hurt and killed, we must challenge and change the attitudes that excuse, trivialise and condone violence against women. We need to send a very clear message that there’s never an excuse for violence and the use of violence is a choice.
‘‘We all have a role in preventing violence against women. It’s everybody’s issue.
‘‘We can all inspire our children, both boys and girls, to be equally strong, thoughtful and compassionate. We can break gender stereotypes by talking with our children about strong and powerful women, we can encourage our daughters and our sons to dream to be whatever they like without gender stereotyping roles.
‘‘And as community leaders of business, we can seek gender balance in decision-making roles and actively encourage women to take positions of leadership.’’
Mr McKenzie said gender inequality was embedded in our social fabric and would take time and effort to change.
‘‘A woman once told me until men take the time off work when their kids are sick or to attend the Easter hat parade, gender inequality in the workplace will persist,’’ he said.
The winners of the Campaspe In White competition were Echuca Food Store and Organics, Rochester Sports Power and Rushworth P-12 College.