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Q&A with Emily Macguire for Victoria's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

Domestic Violence Resource Centre's CEO Emily Macguire reflects on how we all have a role to play in creating lasting change during Victoria's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

22/11/19 1.04am
Image of Domestic Violence Resource Centre's (DVRCV) CEO Emily Maguire
Domestic Violence Resource Centre's (DVRCV) CEO Emily Maguire

DVRCV has partnered with Respect Victoria to develop resources for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. Why is it important for people to support the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence and the Respect Women: Call it Out campaign?

"The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence takes place annually between 25 November and 10 December and is an important period of the year to be actively focusing on gender-based violence against women. The focus of this year’s campaign is bystander action through Respect Victoria’s Respect Women: Call it Out campaign, which encourages Victorians to call out sexism, sexual harassment and disrespect towards women.

It’s important for people to support this campaign because our words and actions can build a society where women are respected as equals and violence against women is not tolerated".

Given DVRCV’s role in workforce development how can workplaces support the Respect Women: Call It Out campaign and promote gender equality in general?

"Workplaces can get involved by encouraging people in their sphere of influence (staff, partners and stakeholders, clients, etc) to call out sexism, sexual harassment and disrespect towards women in the places they live, work and play. The Respect Women: Call it Out campaign toolkit provides resources to support this.

It's also important that workplaces build on the work they do around significant days of action or particular campaigns to make preventing violence against women and promoting gender equality 'business as usual'. For example, workplaces can undertake audits to assess their policies, practices, procedures and culture ; they can establish working groups where staff and leadership can be engaged in creating positive ways to increase workplace equality; or they could develop an action plan that is publicly shared across the organisation and with key partners demonstrating their long term commitment to creating a safe, equitable and supportive workplace. It’s important to do this work in a way that recognises both the strength and areas for improvement of each unique workplace".

How do you believe individuals can influence culture change?

"I think we often forget that it's individuals who change the world. We are all friends, siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins, colleagues of someone, and we all have a bigger sphere of influence than we think because doing and saying nothing is no longer an option if we want to create a world where women and children are thriving, respected and safe and where nobody experiences family violence in any form".

How do you maintain momentum as part of a long-term culture change? Particularly in achieving gender equality? What are the opportunities and challenges?

"Maintaining momentum towards positive change is one of the most difficult things to do in long-term work like preventing violence against women or building a system that is responsive to the needs of women and their children - and all victim survivors of family violence - but that is also coordinated and highly effective.

Maintaining momentum is about keeping this issue on the policy agenda, the public agenda and the political agenda. While we can hook our efforts to prevent and respond to family violence into other major reforms - for example, those in mental health, youth justice, education or child and family services - we also need to keep a spotlight on just how prevalent violence against women and family violence are and continue to educate the public and professionals about the issue.

One of the biggest challenges we face is the resistance and backlash to gender equality, to addressing the gendered drivers of family violence, and to the naming of violence against women as a social and cultural issue. But the more we engage with this resistance and plan for it, the more we educate and communicate, the more we will be able to continue to make courageous social, cultural and institutional change".

What do you believe are the benefits of gender equality for everyone?

"Everyone wins in a more equal world. Both women and men are safer, healthier, have more enriching relationships, and are able to be more fully rounded people because we're not forced to fit in to a box that says 'this is what a woman is' or 'a man should only behave like this'.

Importantly, our children will also grow up in a world where they can be paid equally, they can have access to the same sorts of jobs, they can play whatever professional sport they want, they can dress how they like and they won't face the gendered barriers that are faced by many Australians today".

What will you be doing throughout the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence?

"DVRCV has been working hard behind the scenes with the Municipal Association of Victoria and Respect Victoria to produce 16 Days of Activism resources for 2019. There's a campaign toolkit (available as a zip file) with lots of ideas about ways to get involved, plus posters, feminist book lists, social media tiles and more". Download resources here.

What will be your focus for the next year in your current role and what do see as the biggest drivers of change in family violence reform and gender-based violence?

"The focus of my role at DVRCV will, as always, be on advocating for effective change across both prevention and response. DVRCV have a new five year strategy which highlights a vision for the way in which we'll work to build the capability of professionals, organisations and systems across the state, and I'm really excited about what that means for the way in which we work, how we collaborate and who we can reach to support in-depth, sustainable change.

From my perspective, the biggest drivers for change in the reform are; political leadership and willingness; a high level of support and commitment for reform from the specialist sectors who have been leading this work for decades; an increased community awareness that is pushing for better outcomes for victim survivors and a demand for men who use violence to change the way they behave.

If we can keep the momentum going in all these areas, and use the incredible talent and expertise that's out there in the specialist prevention and response sectors, then I think we'll start to see the positive impacts of these reforms very soon".

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Reviewed 29 October 2020

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