It was so fitting that my first official speech as Mayor, was for the opening of a space to commemorate women impacted by domestic violence. A space for reflection, to keep vigil, for rest and for healing and hope. As I looked out into the crowd gathered there were many familiar faces, as well as a new generation stepping into their leadership and old and new collaborators. I have deep roots in this work, as an ally and a friend, both personally and professionally and now as a civic leader another platform to bring this scourge out of the shadows into the light.
I can remember a time where a man could get prosecuted for throwing a punch in a front bar or at the footy but not at home in the bedroom or kitchen. Violence against women and children is the way I have often explained the feminist principle of the personal is political. By making visible what does happen to one in four women in their homes in the public space, we begin to make possible a future where it is no longer acceptable and the shame women feel is diluted.
Language is critical too – femicide – it is a hate crime mostly undertaken by those known to their victims as past or current intimate partners. It is the most extreme version of gendered violence. One of the useful proxy indicators is how these perpetrators treat the pets. I am wondering already in my new role about how to bring these two pieces of data together to make the place safer.
The City of Onkaparinga are partners in a the local version of the UN’s sixteen days of activism against gendered violence . There will be a men’s march today inviting men to walk in solidarity and play their part in ending the violence. I am thrilled the local men’s football association are taking the lead in the march. Acts of solidarity need to be visible and men need to find spaces and support where they are safe too. Increased surveillance, lighting, laws and re-training are helpful but will never be enough. While there are a proven litany of actions institutions and individuals can take with effect, this is a systems problem and the root is patriarchy and colonisation.
The women of Iran and their allies are an inspiration and acts of solidarity we can extend as ripples around the world do make a difference. We can often see systemic oppression more clearly elsewhere than we can close to home. We too are ripples and the new Spirit of Woman space at Seaford is a potent statement of solidarity, hope and healing.
Education, justice and equity are the foundations of a culture of peace and we need to get to the root causes. There is a direct correlation for me too with climate and racial justice. These too need to come out of the board room, council chamber, shareholders meeting and into public spaces for debate, deliberation and action.
As I start to go about my new role as Mayor of South Australia’s largest municipality I am going to be carrying with me two Jacqui’s – one who was murdered by her ex-husband, an employee of the domestic violence service I used to chair, and another Jacqui whose tragic end is the reason we have a butterfly garden in Hackham West. (I have written about these women before.)
I am going to be carrying with me the knowledge from the Joseph Galtung on how to build a culture of peace that I first learnt when doing my Masters degree. I am going to carry with me endless examples of non-violence I have studied from John Dear to Greta Thunberg. I am going to carry with me the yearning I hear in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. I am going to carrying with me the best questions I can muster and ask them at times where their answer might open up or enable something new to emerge. I hope I will be able to bring visibility and make a contribution to decreasing violence and making more places safer for us all.
A beautiful moment when champion Helen Oxenham OAM had the smoking and ochre painting brought to her by Naomi Hicks and Maureen.