With some 200 staff and an annual turnover of $17M, YWCA NSW is one of Australia’s oldest charitable organisations, working with women, children, young people and their families to find the possible in their lives.
Here, Anna Bligh, CEO of YWCA NSW, talks about the issue of domestic violence – given its strong focus across the not-for-profit organisation. The message is clear: we have come some way as a nation, but not nearly far enough.
It’s not something many people know but I actually began my career working in a number of community welfare organisations. I worked in family support services in New Zealand and in Sydney for many years before getting into politics. I was a child support officer in a refuge for women escaping violent homes during the 1980s, and it was my first job out of university. Now, I’ve come full circle, working with the YWCA NSW, which works with women and children whose lives have been affected by domestic violence.
Here we are in 2015, a prosperous, well-developed and highly educated country and we still have at least one woman a week being killed at the hands of a partner or ex-partner. Anna Bligh
If you look at the issue of domestic violence in more detail, I think it’s fair to say that as Australians we have done a terrific job in putting much better legal protections into place over the last 30 years. We’re becoming less hesitant to talk about domestic violence and that is really important. That was a huge challenge early on in my career: breaking the silence that surrounds this issue. It was just something that people didn’t talk about. Society accepted the notion that ‘a man’s home is his castle’ and what went on behind closed doors was no one else’s business. Now we have CEOs of some of the largest organisations in the country talking about the issue on a regular and very open basis. This is progress, no doubt about it.
The steady shift
This shift has made it easier for women to disclose this information and seek help. But it has not done much to actually reduce the incidence of domestic violence. I can’t help but feel like there is something dark that is deeply entrenched in gender relations in Australia. Here we are in 2015, a prosperous, well-developed and highly educated country and we still have at least one woman a week being killed at the hands of a partner or ex-partner. It is sickening to think what the annual figure will be … I can’t escape the conclusion that there is a lot of unfinished business in our country regarding how men and women relate to one other.
Related to this, there is something about the way we define masculinity that is yet to be fully tackled. I am thrilled to see so many prominent men, as well as ordinary dads and brothers, making it known that this type of abusive culture is not okay. These are men who are saying that good men don’t hit or shame women. Men have to say to their mates that they are against this behaviour – this has to be part of the long-term solution. They need to be prepared to call each other out on it and say, ‘I don’t want to be friends with someone like you.’ And that’s going to be really tough. A big culture shift needs to happen, so that we all have safe homes in which to raise our children.
YWCA NSW (originally YWCA Sydney) was founded in 1880 and is part of a global YWCA network active in 133 countries worldwide. YWCA NSW has a long history of supporting Australian women, children and families during critical times of their life. Help is provided to empower both individuals and communities with the skills to make them stronger and more self-reliant. In addition to receiving funding from Government, Corporates, Trusts and Foundations and Individuals, YWCA NSW also relies on innovative social enterprises to divert net profits back into their programs and initiatives.
Written by Thread Publishing (threadpublishing.com). Connecting the world one story at a time to bring humanity back into business. © 2015