Clarence men joined those from around the world on November 25 to pledge personal responsibility to stop all forms of violence against women.
Pledge-signings were held throughout the region as part of White Ribbon Day, including at Grafton, where politicians and emergency services personnel joined local men for the ceremony at the Clarence Valley Council chambers.
The day was about much more than ceremony, however, with all local men urged to treat women in their lives with respect, and as equals.
Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said that unacceptable behaviour towards women included much more than physical abuse – it could be as subtle as jokes and snide remarks. He urged males of all ages to treat females as equals at home, work, and school.
Also expressing their vow for personal action was Mayor Richie Williamson, Sergeant Dallas Leven, and Grafton Fire Station officer Col Dreyton.
White Ribbon Day was also a day to talk about domestic violence as a wider issue.
An increasing number of local women are making their way to court to take action against domestic violence, according to Carol Pancik, of the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service.
Ms Pancik attributed the increase to a new initiative where police are now able to directly refer women to the domestic violence advocacy service.
“This is to make sure that women aren’t lost in the system, or that apprehended violence orders are taken out without someone supporting them,” she said.
A shortage of affordable rental properties in the Grafton area remains a significant barrier to women leaving a violent household, according to Ms Pancik.
“They don’t want to leave and lose the roof over their head, and they’re mindful that leaving their home they may end up homeless,” she said.
Mayor Williamson said council had made changes to planning rules to encourage development of affordable housing. He said development charges would now be waived for those building granny flats or second homes on their property, to encourage further development.
Cr Williamson said, however, that the primary responsibility for affordable housing was with the State Government.
State MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said his government had created a $1billion fund to increase affordable and social housing in NSW, which would be made available next year to developers and organisations.
Mr Gulaptis said a joint effort by small housing providers would be needed in the Northern Rivers region, as there was no single provider that could create a large volume of affordable housing.