United for the one cause

Taking their message to the streets. Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS 199071_04

By Mitchell Clarke

United as one large voice behind a ‘Together We Can’ branded Cleanaway truck, over 300 community members gathered to march against violence.

The message “Safe Kids, Safe Communities” was echoing through Pakenham’s Main Street from 12pm on Friday 22 November as a number of roads were closed to traffic.

The community led response aims to raise awareness that family violence, and all forms of violence can be stopped and prevented.

Organised by members of the Cardinia Casey Family Violence Network, the Together We Can (TWC) initiative is an annual march where a number of community organisations come together as one.

TWC collective impact facilitator Fiona Cost led the march and said it was “brilliant” to see all walks of life getting involved.

“It’s just so great to see the smiles, nods and thumbs up we were getting from people who were watching on as we marched,” Ms Cost said.

“As we walk together, we show our united effort to support children, families and communities to feel safe so that everyone can enjoy the great place that Cardinia Shire is.”

Businesses, emergency and support services, volunteer organisations, schools and general community members all took part in the march, with the initiative having the full support of Cardinia Shire Council.

“The more we can do to work on this as a community then the more likely we are going to have a safe, thriving community that functions in the best possible way,” mayor Jeff Springfield said.

“This is a complex issue and the more we can do to help prevent this and help people in these situations is so important.”

It’s hoped the loud and proud presence will create a conversation, even among those who didn’t take part in the march.

“There would be 100’s of people who will walk away from witnessing this march and think about and question what this is all about,” he said.

“Maybe they have a family member or a neighbour who they fear is suffering at the hands of domestic violence and they can speak up to a community organisation that is able to provide help.”

One of the organisations actively committed to addressing and responding to the growing instances of family violence within the Cardinia Shire is Victoria Police.

Every division across the state has a family violence training coordinator who is responsible for training every officer, no matter their rank or role within the force.

Across the Southern Metro Division 3, which covers Cardinia, Casey and Greater Dandenong, Senior Sergeant Darren Hedge is responsible for liaising with officers about their response to family violence.

“We’re looking at formal and informal training solely related to family violence and how our officers can handle it,” Snr Sgt Hedge said.

“Our members are gaining the ability to identify what family violence looks like in different areas, and with that they’re able to identify other behaviours which aren’t so obvious.

“It’s quite complex, family violence will continue to be a complex issue for us but it’s certainly a priority area moving forward.”

With reported family violence incidents on the rise in Cardinia, Snr Sgt Hedge said he saw that as a good thing, because it meant more people were self-reporting.

“There is a lot of community awareness about what family violence is and what it looks like, and it’s not just physical stuff, it’s also controlling and coercive behaviours,” he said.

“This can lead to really bad outcomes and people should be able to feel safe in their own home, they shouldn’t have to sit in silence and put up with bad behaviour.”

· If you or someone you know are in immediate danger, call the police on 000. If it is not an emergency and you want police to investigate, call 131 444.

· If you have used violence against family members and want to help to stop, call Relationships Australia Victoria on 1300 364 277.

· If you or someone you know needs free counselling about experiencing sexual assault or family violence, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

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