Community takes oath against violence

City of Ballarat staff member Mark Patterson at the White Ribbon oath swearing. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric
City of Ballarat staff member Mark Patterson at the White Ribbon oath swearing. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

People from all walks of life gathered together on Friday morning with a single purpose – to take an oath and sign a petition pledging a commitment towards ending violence against women. 

The annual White Ribbon oath swearing took place in Armstrong Street, following a breakfast at St Patrick’s College, with Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria, councillors and community organisations in attendance.

Sergeant Justin Johnston, who is head of the Ballarat Family Violence Unit, had been sworn in as a White Ribbon ambassador earlier in the morning before taking part in the oath. 

“A big part of our job now as police – almost 40 per cent of our work in fact – is around domestic and family violence,” he said.

“It is up to men everywhere to put a stop to the violence, for them to make a difference, have some courage and take ownership of the problem.”

He said the oath provided an opportunity for men to let others know they wouldn’t tolerate violence.

“It’s costing lives, it’s costing money and it’s hurting our community so let’s put an end to it,” he said.

Centacare chief executive officer David Beaver said social attitudes still needed to change. 

“Men have been privileged in our community and we do not always respect the importance of women,” he said.  “I think the community has been designed for men and there needs to be more equality. All people should call others out if they see disrespect for either males or females.” 

Councillor Des Hudson opened and closed official proceedings, while deputy mayor Mark Harris gave a speech leading into the public swearing of the oath.

Cr Hudson said while attitudes wouldn’t change overnight, it was important to keep working towards it. 

“We need to be mindful that this is not just a one day focus, this should be part of our practices in our everyday life and for strong men to actually stand up to challenge those behaviours,” he said.

“Hopefully we’re also saying to people who are victims of family violence that there is support out there and you don’t have to be embarrassed or suffer in silence.”