Bairnsdale is set to turn orange from 10.30am on 28 November, when the “Walk to Change the Story” is held, to highlight the need to end violence against women and children.
“Walk to Change the Story” is an initiative of Gippsland Lakes Community Health (GLCH) who, at the start of this year, invited other local organisations to help raise awareness about the alarming prevalence of violence against women and children in our community, and to highlight the local support services available for those impacted.
Sue Medson OAM, chief executive officer at GLCH says, “It’s horrifying to think that in Australia, one woman is murdered by her former or current partner every week; and equally alarming to discover that when it comes to reported incidents of family violence, East Gippsland is actually ranked 13 out of 79 local government areas in Victoria.”
“Walk to Change the Story is a community walk that will temporarily shut down Main Street in Bairnsdale from around 11am to 12pm.” Ms Medson explains. “The Walk starts at McCulloch Street, travels down Main Street and ends at the All Abilities Playground. In the adjacent reserve, there’ll be a free BBQ lunch, with lots of activities including entertainment, a traditional indigenous smoking ceremony, drum beat circle, temporary tattoo competition, guest speakers, information stalls and giveaways. Toorloo Arm Primary School will also launch a professionally produced music video that they created, which shares their powerful messages around respectful relationships and the prevention of violence.”
As a participant in the Respectful Relationships school’s program, Toorloo Arm Primary has spent much of this year exploring the impact of violence and the ways it can be prevented. The process saw students express their feelings through the creation of artwork, and many of the designs they came up with have been used to help promote the Walk, including the Walk’s official logo.
Kerry Hughes, Principal at Toorloo Arm Primary School says, “Our school has a strong values-based culture that provides all stakeholders with a consistent language around behaviours. For social change to happen, we need to start at the grassroots. The implementation of the Respectful Relationships program and an amazing partnership with Gippsland Lakes Community Health has strengthened our culture of respect for others instilled empathy, and empowered students to be upstanders to be able to say that violence in any form is not okay.”
The students at Bairnsdale Primary (“754”) will also be walking on the day. Says principal Trudie Nagle, “The scourge of domestic violence, and the regular murder and physical aggression against children and women every week, is a problem that Australian communities must address quickly. Events like this highlight the need for action and all students and staff at 754 are proud to be involved.”
It is hoped the Walk will inspire other schools to encourage students to explore and express how violence affects them, and how it can be prevented in the future.
GLCH is inviting educational institutions, community groups, organisations, businesses, and community members to participate in the Walk and activities. Everyone is encouraged to wear orange, with free t-shirts available from GLCH in Bairnsdale on Walk day (while stocks last).
“We appreciate the local businesses who are supporting the event by displaying posters and other resources, wearing orange on the day, and by sending staff to walk,” says Ms Medson.
Nick’s Bairnsdale on Main Street is one such business, who are turning their window display orange in support of the event. Co-owner Amy Walkley says, “Nick’s are proud to support such an important community event that will raise awareness about violence against women and children.”
“We all have a responsibility to encourage change and to end the vicious circle of violence, once and for all,” says Ms Medson. “As Ms Hughes said, it’s not something that can be achieved overnight, but we need to start somewhere, and this is why the Walk to Change the Story was created.”
Walk to Change the Story is led by Gippsland Lakes Community Health (GLCH) and is supported by Uniting, Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault, Gippsland & East Gippsland Aboriginal Co-Operative Ltd (GEGAC), Save the Children, Respectful Relationships, Yoowinna Wurnalung Healing Service (YWHS), Bairnsdale Regional Health Services, East Gippsland Shire Council, and Victoria Police.
More details, including updates, can be found on the “Walk to Change the Story” page on Facebook.