Tag Archives: domestic violence

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #47

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.

Year of Self Compassion #18 #dancing

I have always loved to move my body, but to call these movements dancing would be an overstatement. The instruction to dance as if no-one is watching is easier for me when no-one is actually watching. In a conversation this past week I learnt of women who danced to a DJ hidden behind a screen while they removed their veils and danced wildly and inclusively with women of many cultures. And then last night I had the opportunity to dance with women from all over the world and together we laughed and moved easily between and around each other in a universal language of movement. The evening ended with Shania Twain’s “Man I feel like a woman!” With around 50 nations represented in the room the whoops and cheers and freedom expressed moved me to tears. There was a glimpse of living like it’s heaven on earth.

Sing like no one is listening.
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Dance like nobody’s watching,
and live like it’s heaven on earth. – Mark Twain

I am wobbly and finding it hard to find solid ground. The earth between my feet keeps shifting despite my attention to the horizon. Looking up helps. I know singing helps and last night I was reminded dancing helps. The global sisterhood helps. Family and friends help.

In a week where I have drawing from a well of women’s wisdom (at the Global Summit for Women) and a week where famous men have been on trial with one notorious conviction completed with a sentence, my heart and head turn to the women we are for each other and in each other’s lives. I was honoured to hear from the first woman President of Kosovo Atifete Jahjaga tell her nation’s tale of systemic sexual violence and how she has led the movement for this taboo to be lifted by recognising this women as war heroes and survivors alongside other veterans. The women who survive domestic violence and those who stand alongside of them in the law, the shelters, the support services, in the hospitals are the foot soldiers in this everyday battle field where power plays out in the bedrooms and kitchens all around the world. This past 12 months has been a watershed year with campaigns like #metoo going like wildfire around the world aided and amplified by social media and the bravery of women speaking up and telling their stories.

My inner work is solitary and swirling. More discoveries every day seeking to be banished but not before integration, feels like asking canker to make a home before it is treated. Canker in birds is an ancient pathogen that goes back to the dinosaurs. The pathogen has patriarchy in its DNA and infects my heart and soul. Patriarchy needs to be as extinct as any dinosaur. There is an antidote for pathogen and I have a suspicion that dancing’s healing powers might be part of the medicine. My privileges are many, and call me back to reality. all the while I am on one hell of a personal journey. I am a reluctant traveller on this road, but whether I want to walk it or not, the path unfolds before me.

Time to dance like no-one is watching.


Photo by Levi Guzman on Unsplash

I am Woman

Dear Sor Juana,

Strolling from Butterfly Walk to Blueridge Drive is the kind of walk Mums, Dads, neighbours, and children take most days of the week to get to the local kindy or perhaps to give their dog a run in the park, or climb a tree.

This week that walk was made by a family and community in mourning. While they slept, a young mother ‘s life was taken by her partner, her body in the front seat of a car in view of her little ones and a neighbour made the call to police. This is not the first time. In my country Sor Juana, Jackie Ohide was the 25th woman this year (and it is not yet the end of March) to have her life ended in this way. I was in shock when I heard the news and soon afterwards was flashing back to another Jacqui fifteen years ago who too had her life extinguished, just a suburb away. How many more Jackie’s and other women just like her need to die. What aren’t we getting right?

Fifteen years ago I was in a car travelling to the city and got a call from the place Jacqui worked at. I was the chairman of the Southern Domestic Violence Service and she was one of our staff. She first came to us as a client and then sometime later joined the payroll. I turned the car around and went to be with all the staff. We gathered them all in, held them close as loose or as tight as they needed to be held. We mostly though sat in silence and in shock. It was those memories that flooded back. The shock. The silence. What could we have done to protect her. She was stalked to her death by her ex-partner. It was cold blooded no crime of passion or frustration. It was horrible. Unlike this week’s Jackie, Jacqui had left her home and the violence about seven years earlier – and she still was not safe.

I was deeply moved in Butterfly Walk when neighbours extended their love and support to Jackie’s family and friends – a community bound together in solemn grief, committed to care for her boys, to keep her memory alive. They described her smile, her joy, her mothering. Mostly mute and in between sobs, we witnessed her brother, sister, mother and closest friends paralysed by the incomprehension of her death. Little ones from her children’s kindergarten arrived in single file with a single sunflower held aloft. No words work to describe the emotions experienced by watching their arrival and respectful, gentle, little faces sitting on the ground while the grown ups made their speeches.


I came home Sor Juana to my friendly house, in my friendly street, but who knows what goes behind some of the doors here too? I am committed to be more vigilant to watch and speak up when I see violence or even get a sniff of it. I re-read what I had written a couple of years ago to mark the One Billion Rising Campaign – Jacqui (of 15 years ago) is in that post. I thought about her boys who would be in their twenties now.

The contrast Sor juana  the hopeful anthem of my childhood I am Woman being remastered and mixed with some of my country’s greatest songstresses, brought me to tears when I saw it on television this week. Women’s voices raised in unison to declare strength, confidence and promise of better times ahead. I wonder Sor Juana did you get strength from the women’s voices in the chapel? Rising in voice and spirit to proclaim the Magnificat where the meek and humble are exalted, hungry are filled with good things, the rich are sent empty away and mercy is promised. So many women of your era chose the convent to cut themselves off from the menfolk to keep themselves safe from the vagaries that may come with wedlock or being a spinster.

There weren’t too many women roaring at Butterfly Walk this week, but the silence was very loud.

And the work goes on.

I stand with the women and men who commit themselves daily to be amongst this work – the activists, the shelter workers, policy makers, emergency service workers, the police, child care workers, council officers … the list goes on … we are all in this work … friends, neighbours, men, women, boys, girls, sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts.


If you wish to support Jackie’s family

Jackie Ohide Appeal

BSB: 065156

Account Number: 10608745
or send a message of support: jackieohideappeal@outlook.com

One Billion Rising

It’s personal. It’s everybody’s business.

At the Abbeti

From the window of the Abbey in Rudesheim

I am one of the two in three women that have never experienced violence in their homes and I have a responsibility to support and speak up on behalf of my sisters. This week all around the world, women, children and men, danced their way to a new world of nonviolence – the goal was to have a billion rising.

As I got ready to go to my local event I was quite emotional thinking about who I was rising for – its personal. And the personal is political is the fundamental first principle of feminism.

As a social worker I counselled and supported many women and children who were choosing to say no to domestic violence and helped them on their way one way or another to a new start. I didn’t do this for very long and it was incidental to my main role and responsibilities at the time. But rising up wasn’t for professional reasons – it was personal.

I was rising up with two women in mind.

For Maxie and Mavis (names changed) – two very different women from two very different worlds.

Maxie: in her 30s, user of drugs and alcohol, mother of two young boys, friends in motorcycle gangs and friends in prison, lived in suburb with highest unemployment rate and in public housing. Literacy rate of a ten year old. Honest, hardworking and loved her kids.
Mavis: in her 40s, glass of wine at Christmas, devout Christian, mother of three teenagers, friends in the church choir and clergy. Lived in a suburb and indeed same street as the highest elected official, home owner and employed. Honest, hardworking and loved her kids.
Both victims of domestic violence.
One turned up in a women’s shelter one didn’t.
One was stalked by her ex and murdered in front of her children – lured to the site of her death by her own child maliciously used by his father.
One is happily re-married and living on the edge of a beautiful national park.

I knew them both. One was the mother of a young friend in a youth group I supported, the other was an employee of a shelter where I was on the Board of Directors.

When I heard the news that Maxie was dead, I was in my car taking one of my children to school.
I helped Mavis move out of her home and packed up her kitchen – all the pots and pans – leaving one or two for the man remaining behind – she didn’t want to leave him with nothing to cook in.

I have never experienced violence in any home I have lived in. I have always been respected and protected.

On the street, outside of the security of my home, I have had a knife pulled on me as a teenager at dance; a gun held to me while doing a home visit as a social worker; driven past unexploded land mines in a war zone and been subjected to verbal and physical abuse for speaking my truth about injustices I’ve seen around me. I witnessed one of my daughters being assaulted on public transport.

I don’t like the words domestic and violence being put together. Violence is violence and there should be no distinction. If you get attacked in your home or in the pub – it shouldn’t be any different – violence is violence. Violence is not domesticated because it happens in the home!

Maxie was killed on the street, in a shopping centre car park. It was reported as domestic violence and her death was recorded and reported in that way. If it had been an outlaw motor cycle gang member killed in front of the same shops it would have been a very different story on the news that night.

In your time Hildegard, women flocked to your convent – leaving the land, their families and their lives to join you. I wonder how many of them were also leaving behind violence and taking up with you as their ‘no’ , their rising? I remember reading once that Clare of Assisi had attracted over 10,000 women to her order in the first 10 years – can you imagine what kind of impact that would have made at the time (early 1200s)? I can’t help thinking that the women joining together in this act of solidarity was their rising up, to say no to the patriarchy around them, to choose a life that was defined not by their relationship to their father, husband or brothers, but to their relationship to other women and their God. Unlike Clare, you Hildegard were a property owner and used your power to redistribute the wealth and for land reform. Your genius was honoured by B16 when he made you a saint – I find this link between you both quite amazing now given the turn of events. He has used your example in his letters and sermons as someone who challenged the church to turn away from the abuses it was experiencing at the time.

The redistribution of wealth is happening now too, and as the church bleeds from the violence of abuse compensation is transferring to those who have been the victims and are now the survivors of that abuse. For me their bodies are the Body of Christ and through the unholy acts, their witness to call the church to account is no less prophetic as the acts you took dear Hildegard.

They are rising and in their rising, they are helping to purge the Church. This too is not domestic. It is personal and it is political … and for me it is spiritual too.