Tree branches out to raise family violence awareness
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.