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By Garry Howe

Coverage of Cardinia Shire’s innovative Together We Can campaign began on a powerful note.

Among the first of over 80 stories carried in the pages of the Gazette over the campaign journey to date was the revelation by then Cardinia mayor Jodie Owen that she was, herself, a victim of family violence.

At the launch event in April 2016, Cr Owen described the horror of walking in on her grandmother sprawled across the floor after being beaten by her grandfather. As a child, she witnessed her grandfather’s derogatory remarks about women and his attitude that their opinions didn’t matter.

Years later, Cr Owen found became engaged to a man who began showing similar signs. “Nan said to me, ‘don’t be like me’. So I didn’t, and I have her to thank for that.”

In the many editions that have hit the streets since, we have reported the stories of other victims and those of perpetrators.

On a more positive note, we have looked at those setting an example, like the respectful relationship fostered by John and Laura Veloso of Officer and their three kids Jakin, Hanel and Malach.

Campaign ambassador Dr Joy Louisa Doherty shared her perspective as well. She helped framed the campaign’s guiding statement – “I have the human right to live in a safe and healthy family environment in Cardinia Shire. I am ashamed of the violence and will act now to play my part to end family violence”.

Psychologist Tim Mulvaney spoke about the traumatic impact family violence can have on a child’s brain development and behavior for years to come.

High profile domestic abuse survivor Kristy McKellar came on board to head up the shire’s first Survivors’ Advisory Committee, the first of its kind to be launched by a Victorian council. Her insights played a key role in the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

The state’s first Minister for Women and the Prevention of Violence Against Women, the late Fiona Richardson, came on board in August 2016, signing the Together We Can pledge. She was back in the area a few weeks later as Rosie Batty captivated the audience at a family violence prevention forum at the Toomah Centre.

Star News Group has been there at all the major events like the annual walk against family violence through the streets of Pakenham and chronicled achievements like Outlook and the Shire of Cardinia achieving White Ribbon Workplace Accreditation.

There have been the heart-warming human interest stories, like Leanne Rider making trauma teddies to comfort children in family violence situations. The Agnes Bears are named in honour of her grandmother.

Others have expressed their views through the pages of the paper, like Pakenham-based travel writer and photographer Kate Newman, who in a ‘Me Too’ moment hit back at rape threats made by an online predator.

The bulk of the reporting has been done initially by Aneeka Simonis (now at the Herald-Sun) and currently by Kyra Gillespie, who grew up with an interest in the issue. Her father is a men’s behavior group facilitator.

The Gazette will continue to chronicle the great work done under the Together We Can banner.

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