AllCommunity NewsJosh Kerwick

Hills Community Listening and Learning About Domestic Violence

Two recent events in The Hills have sparked key dialogue about domestic violence, raising important issues while acknowledging victims who are still here with us, and those who are not.

The first of these events was “Hills Say NO To Domestic Violence”, held at Castle Hill RSL on November 24th and organised by The Hills Domestic Violence Prevention Network.

Featuring a wide range of speakers and the launch of a poster campaign by Hills Shire Council, the event was a deeply moving one that stirred powerful emotions in the 85 attendees about the impact of domestic violence on the community.

Dr. Niveditha Manokaran and psychologist Kylie Druett both provided deeply personal and powerful talks about their own experiences with domestic violence. However, both women also had notes of hopefulness in their speeches.

Hills Community Listening And Learning About Domestic Violence
Participants in the hills reclaim the night

Niveditha declared the room as a safe space for anyone needing to start the journey of escaping an abusive relationship, saying: “This journey is bloody hard, and it is yours – it takes you to be able to make this change. And when you are ready, remember that you aren’t going to be alone.”

Similarly, Kylie’s heartbreaking talk on the Ripple Effect that has continued to affect her family concluded with praise for services committed to preventing domestic violence: “Despite the worst happening to our family, with support from services like the Hills Domestic Violence Prevention Network, we will have protection for our future generations.”

Another key element of Hills Say NO To Domestic Violence was the presence of students who had taken part in the Love education Bites program, including the presentation of a film created by students for the program and artwork completed by participants.

Crestwood High School student Tahlia Gray said: “Doing it with other students gave us that space where we could all come to the same understanding that’s now spreading throughout the whole school. Seeing all the artwork, it shows a huge range of students who have done the programs – I encourage young people to keep getting involved with programs and listening to speeches like the ones today to understand more.”

Her fellow student Thomas Vagg added: “Before the program, there were a lot of students in our grade who weren’t sure what’s right and what isn’t, and they needed that chance to learn from someone who isn’t their parents.

Tahlia Gray L And Thomas Vagg R At Hill Say No To Domestic Violence Hills Community Listening And Learning About Domestic Violence
Tahlia gray (l) and thomas vagg (r) at hills say no to domestic violence

There’s a lot more serious discussion around domestic and sexual violence now, which is a great positive change. We need to have a serious conversation with our friends about this stuff, and let them know you’re there for them and that you can always help out.”

The event concluded with a rose ceremony that gave 39 roses out to the audience, each remembering a life lost to domestic violence. Reclaim The Night, held on December 1st, is the second recent event to tackle the issue of domestic violence head on, where over 85 people marched through The Hills to raise awareness and emphatically say no to DV as a community.

Members from six Rotary clubs, Hills Soroptimists, Castle Hill Police and several Lions Clubs participated in the march, as well as Castle Hill MP Mark Hodges and Councillors Mitchell Blue and Frank De Masi. Castle Hill Rotary also ran a BBQ that raised $400 for the Hills Transitional Housing Project.

Speakers on the day included social worker and DV survivor Azita Abdollahian, Hills Community Aid’s Anita Fisher and Hills Sanctuary’s Carol Harding; the three women shared powerful words on their experiences working with DV survivors, the necessity of breaking the generational cycle of abuse and the need to call on the government to help those in our community suffering in abusive households.

Emeritus Mayor and key organiser of Reclaim The Night Michelle Byrne says while domestic violence is still ongoing, events like these are essential. She says: “Domestic violence is a serious problem. It’s getting worse, not better; from January to December in 2022, there were 325 reported DV related assaults in the Hills. In 2018 there were 217 – an increase of 10.6%.

“It’s not just a government or a policing problem, it’s a whole community problem. It’s going to take all of us working together with the police and government to end it, and that won’t happen if we don’t make more noise. We want change and we want an end to domestic violence in our community.”

Domestic Violence hotline: 1800 737 732

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