By Kyra Gillespie
When Annika McCaffrey became caught up in family violence, the adults she confided in turned a blind eye.
Then a teenager, the only option for Ms McCaffrey was to leave home at the age of 18.
Since her escape from violence, the now 20-year-old is a youth advocate for children and young people, and founder of The Hidden Victors: a project dedicated to empowering young people affected by family violence.
Audiences heard the firsthand account from the inspiring speaker at the 2018 Together We Can Community Leadership Summit.
Ms McCaffrey started by asking how many people had seen a young person lead the conversation around family violence. Only three hands rose in the crowd.
“That’s why I started out The Hidden Victors, because children and young people are often disadvantaged and aren’t treated as victims of family violence in their own right,” Annika said.
“They don’t have the privilege to stand up for themselves, and this needs to change.
“I decided to use the word ‘victor’ rather than victim, to show young people that they are strong for what they have gone through, and to remove the stigmas associated with being a victim.”
With guidance from the Youth Affairs Council Victoria, Annika produced a powerful short film that shares messages of hope for young people, from young people.
“I though the violence I experienced was normal, until I saw the way that my other friends lived, and the love that they were shown by their families.
“I left home when I was 18, because I know that I wanted a positive future for myself and my future family.
“I want to involve young people in the family violence discussion, to have their voices heard.”
Held at the Cardinia Cultural Centre on Thursday 11 October, the Community Leadership Summit saw leaders working in and for Cardinia Shire come together to come up with ideas around preventing family violence and putting awareness into practice.
The innovative day saw attendance from almost 200 local leaders from community, businesses, government, faith, youth, cultural and educational sectors.
Also in attendance was Professor Ann Taket, Chair in Health and Social Exclusion at Deakin University, who spoke about her VicHealth funded report, ‘Bystanders for Primary Prevention: a rapid review,’ which focuses on what the barriers and motivators are that enables people to intervene when they witness behaviours that lead to violence.
“Silence is seen as complicity, not neutrality,” Prof Taket said.
“Opening the discussion about family violence, and what we can do about it, is not political correctness gone mad, but holding on to basic human rights.”
For local farmer David Young, being involved with Together We Can has given him the tools to help prevent violence that he never had growing up.
“There were issues growing up at school and in the community where, if I’d had the skills, I could have made a difference in those individuals’ lives,” Mr Young said.
“I wish I’d had them at the time, and I’ve taken that with me into the rest of my life.
“So now I’m hoping to gain those skills by coming to events like this.”
Following the event, nine community solutions were chosen for the following year.
Council have allocated $30,000 for these groups to help them bring their ideas to fruition.
Each solution has their own working group with a nominated lead person, the next meeting date set, and the backbone of an action plan that will develop over the year.
“Today we set the agenda for the next 12 months to create sustainable change,” Cardinia Shire Mayor Cr Collin Ross said.