Retired men taking on White Ribbon role in the prevention of domestic violence

PROJECT: Harry Watts, Bruce Kirkness and Peter McGilvray packing White Ribbon kits at Warnie's Cafe, Warnervale, this morning. Picture: David Stewart
PROJECT: Harry Watts, Bruce Kirkness and Peter McGilvray packing White Ribbon kits at Warnie's Cafe, Warnervale, this morning. Picture: David Stewart

HARRY Watts, Bruce Kirkness and Peter McGilvray reckon they’re part of a generation that is finally doing its bit to counter domestic violence.

The trio, from Hamlyn Terrace, said it was their generation that was increasingly providing not only the eyes and ears to recognise domestic violence, but the voices to call it out.

Yet it wasn’t always the case.

“The older men in our age group have noticed domestic violence for many years, and never taken any action,” Mr McGilvray said.

“Unless it involved your own daughter, you didn’t take any notice of it.”

Mr Kirkness said there was a time when, for some families, domestic violence was routine.

“It was part of some families’ way of life: the husband would come home from the pub with a skinful of grog, and he’d beat up the wife and the kids,” he said.

The child victims would often consider the behaviour to be normal and, in some cases, would grow up to perpetuate the cycle, he said.

Domestic violence hasn’t gone away in 2017. Far from it. Today, on average, one woman dies each week as a result of domestic violence in Australia.

But the three local men believe that times have changed insofar as community attitudes about domestic violence have shifted, and continue to evolve.

“It’s changed rapidly since awareness of domestic violence has increased,” Mr McGilvray said.

“Today, people generally just understand that domestic violence is not acceptable.”

Old edicts that frowned upon “dobbing in a mate” were also disappearing, Mr Watts said.

“We’re hoping the penny drops,” he said.

And that means that more friends, work colleagues, and relatives are realising that it’s not only OK to intervene on behalf of a person they suspect is the victim of domestic violence, but it’s a responsibility.

That’s one of the messages that the three men are helping to spread through their involvement with White Ribbon Australia on the Central Coast.

The organisation’s vision is: A nation that respects women, in which every woman lives in safety, free from all forms of men’s abuse.

It engages men to make women’s safety a man’s issue, too.

ROLE TO PLAY: The trio said people of their generation were now increasingly stepping in and calling out domestic violence if they recognised it in their families. Picture: David Stewart

ROLE TO PLAY: The trio said people of their generation were now increasingly stepping in and calling out domestic violence if they recognised it in their families. Picture: David Stewart

The trio was part of a 16-man contingent from the Warnervale Regional Uniting Church who get together this morning at Warnervale to pack dozens of White Ribbon kits.

Each kit contains hundred of pins, ribbons and cardboard panels. 

The kits will now be distributed among local Lions clubs and schools where the components will be assembled into 10,000 of the ready-to-wear White Ribbons associated with White Ribbon Day, November 25.

The ribbons are handed out at Central Coast shopping centres and train stations in the lead-up to the “16 days of action” from November 25 to December 10.

Mr McGilvray said the 16 days would include public walks at The Entrance on November 24, and at Terrigal on November 26, and a men’s luncheon at Mingara that would include business leaders and teenage boys from local high schools.

Guest speakers typically included former perpetrators of domestic violence whose remorseful stories were disturbing but so important for men to hear, he said.​