Rallying behind them and walking beside them, the Illawarra community will support victim-survivors of domestic and family violence this weekend as part of a campaign to raise awareness and improve local services.
The walk between Fairy Meadow Surf Club and Stuart Park organised by local Rotary representatives is part of a broader campaign to combat the issue within our society and an initial step aiming to help identify the need in the Illawarra.
“If we don’t start somewhere, it isn’t going to get any better and we have to start with looking at what is important in the community right there,” Rotary District Governor Tonia Barnes said.
“We need people to tell us what they need – we don’t want to impose what we think they need on them.”
As many as 200 people are expected to join the event, including members of the local police force who have been working alongside Rotary with the campaign, which has the theme ‘Say No to Family and Domestic Violence, Say Yes to Respectful Relationships’.
And with no need to sign up or register attendance, there’s hope that it could even be a discreet place for someone to reach out.
“There’s a lot more to this than having a good day out and walking around with your mates,” Tonia said.
“We’re there to listen to the general public. If they see that we care, that we’re there to assist, that we’ve got open ears, that might just turn them over to move into a facility to get some help.”
“It might just give them the courage and energy to do something about it for themselves.”
At the finish line, there will be speeches from inspirational survivors like Wollongong woman Stacy Jane, who took her own experience and used it to transform other people’s lives through her company Escabags, which provides thousands of bags containing essential products for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence.
Stacy was a finalist in this year’s Rotary Inspirational Women’s Awards.
Other speakers include Kirrily Dear from Run Against Violence and representatives from local police.
“We’re trying to get this message out there so the general community understand that this is happening to ordinary, everyday people that we know in the community,” Tonia said.
But the event isn’t just a one-off push for Rotary. It will also launch 16 days of activism and the start of more initiatives and action plans to address domestic and family violence and raise awareness within the community.
“We can’t just raise awareness and step back and say we’ve done our job,” Tonia said.
“We have to follow through, and a lot of these things will come through in our programs in other ways.”
The walk officially starts this Saturday, 15 November at 10 am from Fairy Meadow Surf Club, with marshalling between 9 am and 9:30 am.
For more information about the campaign, visit the Rotary 9675 website.