Tree branches out to raise fam­ily vi­o­lence aware­ness

The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By Char­mayne Al­li­son

ONE woman dies ev­ery five days in Aus­tralia at the hands of her cur­rent or for­mer part­ner.

This year alone, 64 Aus­tralian women have died from fam­ily vi­o­lence.

It’s chill­ing sta­tis­tics like these which led the Royal Com­mis­sion into Fam­ily Vi­o­lence to cre­ate rec­om­men­da­tion 95 — to strengthen hos­pi­tals’ re­sponses to fam­ily vi­o­lence.

And Echuca Re­gional Health is back­ing this rec­om­men­da­tion.

As part of the 16 Days of Ac­tivism, the hos­pi­tal will have a tree set up near the hos­pi­tal cafe where peo­ple can hang mes­sages of hope to help raise aware­ness of fam­ily vi­o­lence.

‘‘It’s part of a cam­paign the Women’s Hos­pi­tal has started which en­cour­ages peo­ple to write a mes­sage on a pa­per leaf and ‘leaf’ your heart mark on a tree of hope,’’ Strength­en­ing Hos­pi­tal Re­sponses to Fam­ily Vi­o­lence Ini­tia­tive clus­ter lead Cyn­thia Opie said.

‘‘At the end of the 16 days on De­cem­ber 10, all the pub­lic health ser­vices across Vic­to­ria will take their tree down to South­bank in Mel­bourne where we’re go­ing to dis­play them as a for­est of hope.

‘‘Hope­fully through this we can en­cour­age women and chil­dren across the world to have their voices heard and to­gether we can end fam­ily based vi­o­lence.’’

Ms Opie said do­mes­tic vi­o­lence was a chronic so­cial health is­sue hos­pi­tals ad­dress.

‘‘It’s per­va­sive, yet sadly peo­ple who ex­pe­ri­ence it don’t talk about it and that’s one of our main con­cerns,’’ she said.

‘‘I’ve heard peo­ple say it’s as com­mon as can­cer and we should tackle it in a sim­i­lar way. And as much as I agree, the dif­fer­ence is des­per­ately needed to that if I had can­cer, I’m more likely to tell you about it.

‘‘There’s a lot of shame and bar­ri­ers around dis­clos­ing you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing fam­ily vi­o­lence. Plus there’s the fear of ret­ri­bu­tion.

‘‘But we’re try­ing to change this story, we’re try­ing to help vic­tims and sur­vivors to open up.’’

While Ms Opie said men can also ex­pe­ri­ence vi­o­lence at the hands of their part­ners, she said sta­tis­tics were heav­ily weighted to­wards women.

‘‘We need to move away from myths of it be­ing a low so­cioe­co­nomic is­sue, a drugs and al­co­hol is­sue or a men­tal health is­sue. It’s not, it’s an is­sue of gen­der in­equal­ity,’’ she said.

‘‘So that’s part of the story we’re try­ing to change as well.’’

IM­POR­TANT CAUSE: ERH's Cyn­thia Opie and hos­pi­tal chief ex­ec­u­tive Nick Bush are en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to hang mes­sages of hope on a tree in sup­port of peo­ple suf­fer­ing fam­ily based vi­o­lence.

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