“On White Ribbon Day, we call on all men to swear the oath,” said White Ribbon Chairman, Andrew O’Keefe. “Let’s face it; swearing comes naturally to most Aussie men. We swear when we’re laughing, we swear when we’re mad, we swear whether we’re elated or deflated. But this is an opportunity to swear to make a difference.”
When was the last time you swore with the blokes?
On Friday 25 November, thousands of men and women across the country will ‘Swear and Wear’ to mark White Ribbon Day, the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. On this day, men and boys will stand up for the women in their lives and swear to stop men’s violence against women. The White Ribbon Campaign is the largest global male-led movement to stop violence against women. It engages and enables men and boys to lead this social change. The White Ribbon Campaign invites men to make a difference by swearing an Oath never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women. This Oath is not just a ‘feel good’ statement. It is an active commitment which promotes positive attitudes and behaviours towards women and drives signatories to, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Some of Australia’s most prominent men will join in, including White Ribbon Chairman Andrew O’Keefe, Keith Urban, Gerry Harvey, Rove, Hazem El Masri, Adam Goodes, Dicko, Kochie, Hamish & Andy, Billy Birmingham, Wil Anderson, Michael Long and Rob Oakeshott, to name a few. FOCUS caught up with local White Ribbon Ambassador Rob Oakeshott, the local Federal Member for Lyne, to find out why this campaign is so important to him.
Why is The White Ribbon Campaign important to you?
Personally, I am a father of daughters, a brother of sisters, a husband and a son. Women surround me, and in many ways define me. Politically, if there was one thing we could do in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region to improve economic and cultural life, it would be greater empowerment of women and girls – and an obvious big part of that is minimising violence.
As the local ambassador for the White Ribbon Day, what do you hope our region takes away from this campaign?
That violence against women and girls exists in our region, and we all need to bear witness to that; we must do what we can to minimise it.
Why is it so important for our community leaders to stand up and ‘swear’ in the White Ribbon Campaign?
Group dynamics in male behaviour is real, so the more men who say violent behaviour against women and girls is unacceptable, the greater the chance of broader cultural and group behaviour improvements.
Violence against women takes a huge toll on the individual, the community and Australia’s legal, health and welfare resources. The annual economic cost of violence against women and their children is estimated to be $13.6 billion, and this is expected to rise to $15.6 billion by 2021. Tell us some of the ways it is affecting our local communities here on the Mid North Coast – and what is being done about it?
We still have a large number of breaches of AVOs in our community, and this is just one example of the reality that violence still occurs throughout our region. And it has economic impacts locally – demands on already stretched local services, missed work and the many related social costs of violence. We on the Mid North Coast are far from immune. There is good work going on throughout the community through the network of agencies who work hard in trying to address root causes, and ultimately, it is up to every single man to look himself in the mirror and make a decision that violence is not what defines him. If help is needed to manage or control violence, then seek it out.
How do you think men can be positive role models to the younger generation?
We are all role models – men and women – to future generations. All our actions matter. We live in a great region, with many wonderful people. Some struggle with anger management, and some get caught in violent situations. I think the best we can do is continue to encourage each other to chase the highest values in life, to chase those values ourselves and try to be role models. We also have to provide as many services as we can for those who slip on that climb to higher values.
Thanks Minister Oakeshott.
Swearing will take place at over 200 events around the country. There will be swearing in Parliament, in the streets, in the city centres, in the most remote parts of Australia.
So, how can you get involved locally?
This year’s local event will commence with a short march through the Taree CBD, to raise awareness of the campaign to stop violence against women. This is the time for local men to stand up and support women in their campaign. If you would like to be a part of the march, we will assemble under the big fig tree in the park by the Manning River at the lower end of Manning Street at 10am and end at Taree High School Hall in Albert Street. There will be addresses from local White Ribbon Ambassadors, who have sworn never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women and make themselves available to spread the message. In our first event last year, this list grew to more than 35 local men, including lots of teachers. There will be an opportunity for all men to swear never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women, in the ‘I Swear’ ceremony at Taree High, followed by a BBQ lunch. All are welcome: men, women and children. To find out more about this fantastic day, becoming a White Ribbon Ambassador and supporting this event, please contact Peter Glencross from Communities for Children on 6539 5900. Please let us know if you do sign up, so we are aware of your commitment to this cause.
This year’s local event is co-ordinated by the Communities for Children Fatherhood Program, based at Catholic Care Child and Family Centre in Taree. The event is supported by Biripi AMS, NSW Police, Interrelate and a host of other service providers on the day. For more information about White Ribbon or to sign up to be an ambassador, go to the White Ribbon site at: www.whiteribbon.org.au/ambassadors/nominate