By Aneeka Simonis
GENDER neutral books will be read to kids across the southern metropolitan region in the coming weeks to help fight the stereotypes which contribute to gender inequality and violence.
It comes as data shows family violence reports are increasing in Cardinia shire and that more than 40 per cent of incidents are witnessed by or inflicted on children.
Exposure to violence at a young age can have a dangerous normalising effect on impressionable minds – or worse, warned a child health expert.
Libraries in Pakenham, Dandenong and Springvale are among those taking part in the early intervention program which is due to take place on Thursday 1 and Friday 2 December.
Stories including Not All Princesses Dress in Pink and Sleeping Bobby are some of the titles to be read to kids as part of the Victoria Against Violence 16 Days of Activism campaign.
WAYYS Family Violence Integration Co-ordinator Linda Watson said gender equality messaging needs to start early to help positively shape young people and their perception of gender.
“The books challenge gender stereotypes and provide an excellent opportunity to explore and contest the traditional expectations society holds for boys and girls,” Ms Watson said.
“They shift the conversation towards an approach that tackles gender inequality and an adherence to rigid gender roles as the primary causes of violence, rather than awareness-raising alone.”
Family Life’s Tom Mulvaney, a provisional clinical psychologist working with children and youths, said exposure to violence in a family setting can have dangerous lasting mental and physiological impacts.
Some form as the child begins to normalise violent relationships observed in the home, others due to the consequence of being brought up by unstable caregivers.
Cardinia Shire experienced a 3.4 per cent increase in family violence incidents in the past year, with 1500 recorded incidents per population of 100,000.
It recorded the most incidents in the entire southern metro region including Casey, Greater Dandenong and Frankston.
Storytime sessions will be held at libraries in Pakenham, Springvale, Doveton and Dandenong on Thursday 1 December and a session will be run at Endeavour Hills Library on Friday 2 December. See libraries for times.
Anyone who is experiencing family violence can phone the Safe Steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Centre on 1800 015 188.