From the Archbishop
Make This ‘16 Days’
Last All Year Long
Make This ‘16 Days’ Last All Year Long
The Most Revd Kay Goldsworthy AO, Archbishop
In November each year, the spotlight is on the issue of family violence for ’16 Days in WA’.
For 16 days, starting on 25 November, the volume of social discourse on the topic rises, there’s a splash of orange across the landscape, and victim survivors and community workers come forward to tell their stories to a more primed and receptive audience.
It is a time when everyone in the community is invited to create change – ‘to educate, motivate and advocate in your community, and stand up to stop violence against women’.
Ironically, this long-term cultural change program ends just a couple of weeks before Christmas each year. Anglicare WA tells us the Christmas period is a time of year when its family and domestic violence services are ‘pushed to their limits, with women and children seeking support and refuge from violence at home.’
It is clear that change isn’t happening quickly enough for thousands of Western Australian women and children.
State and Federal Governments hope their National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children, which they launched on 17 October 2022, will speed up change and the plan has been supported in WA by $30.1m to fund family and domestic violence services.
One of the main messages of 16 Days in WA is that ending violence against women is everybody’s business.
That includes the Anglican Church of Australia, which has been ‘shining a light on family violence’ through the work of the Family Violence Working Group. The convenor,
The Reverend Tracy Lauersen, was in Perth last month (October) to speak to clergy and Synod members about the National Anglican Family Violence Project – and what she had to share with us challenged anyone who might think this blight on our community and our families doesn’t apply to us, or that family violence isn’t an Anglican issue.
A survey of more than 2,000 men and women found the prevalence of intimate partner violence was the same or higher among Anglicans than it was in the wider community; and the same or higher among church-going Anglicans than other Anglicans.
While most Clergy and lay leaders were well informed about the breadth of domestic violence, clergy confidence in their personal capacity to respond to domestic violence matters was low to moderate, and only a little higher among those who had been trained.
It is disturbing that the survey showed that ‘the dynamics of church relationships can inhibit disclosure’ and most Clergy believed that ‘Scripture is misused by perpetrators in Christian families.’
There were also great lessons in Reverend Tracy’s insightful presentations too – that ‘Churches who have built awareness of domestic violence are more able to respond when victim-survivors are ready’; that it helps when churches acknowledge that domestic violence happens’; and ‘at its best the church can provide a vital set of relationships, independent of the perpetrator, that sustain victim-survivors across the trajectory of their experience.’
In the first instance, I encourage you to learn more about the work of the Family Violence Working Group at anglican.org.au/our-work/family-violence/. And, if you’re not already familiar with the Anglican Church’s Ten Commitments for Preventing and Responding to Domestic and Family Violence, I urge you to study them too.
The Fifty First Synod formally received the four separate reports of the National Anglican Family Violence Project last month, and has requested all parts of the Diocese ‘introduce and develop primary prevention strategies and pastoral responses relating to family violence’. I look forward to learning more about (and contributing to) how that challenge is taken up.
Another ongoing personal challenge is to reflect on our own lives, and how we can be part of ending family violence in our community – perhaps starting with our faith community.
This 16 Days in WA, let’s make family violence a topic of our conversations – as individuals, members of the Clergy or on Parish Councils or other community groups – as a first step in creating a safe environment where victim-survivors might seek and find support.
Make a pact to challenge each other on what might be language, views or interpretations that are at odds with our commitment to love, peace and justice for all.
Canvas the opportunities to take practical action, however small or significant they might be or seem.
Everyone can help effect change. Violence against women is indeed everybody’s business.