On Wednesday night, in my role as a White Ribbon Ambassador, I had the honour of speaking to a group of extraordinary Murri men, includng an ex-Olympian, about domestic violence and White Ribbon Day.
White Ribbon Day is held on 25 November each year. It is the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. White Ribbon Day is an international movement of men saying that they are opposed to violence against women.
I am one of the 600 or so White Ribbon Ambassadors appointed by the White Ribbon Foundation.
I was honoured to talk to these Murri men. In my practice as a Brisbane family lawyer, I have acted for indigenous men and women over the years. Too often there has been violence in the relationship, often much worse than seen in non-indiginous relationships, often associated with other social deprivation, such as alcohol and drug use.
I was honoured on Wednesday night because these men were taking a stand against violence against women. The fact that they wanted to hear from someone talking about domestic violence was significant in itself.
After I had said what I had to say, I was amazed to listen to the men:
- one man had previously tried to watch Once Were Warriors, the critically acclaimed fim about domestic violence in a Maori relationship. He found it too traumatising and disrespectful to women, and had only watched 10 minutes of it. Some years later he had watched the whole fim, after hearing much critical comment of how good it was. I said that I had only managed to watch 15 minutes of it myself- as I found it touched a raw nerve.
- one man, an elder, had such a passionate commitment to ending domestic violence that he chairs the committee of a domestic violence service.
- another man, Norm Stevens, considered that it was more important that he had previously been a poster boy for White Ribbon Day, than a former Olympian!
Three years ago Norm was asked by the Sergeant running the local PCYC whether Norm was prepared to be photographed for White Ribbon Day. Norm readily agreed, and photos were distributed in the local area.
For me, while was that was great, it emphasised to me how much more important Norm considered the fight against domestic violence, as against the fact that he had represented Australia in boxing in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, and that this would have taken some personal courage, given that they were the boycott Olympics.