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Byron Shire
January 27, 2022

Ballina walk to say NO to domestic violence

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Ballina Rotary’s President Dave Harmon with Jodie Shelley and Mayor David Wright. Photo David Lowe.

The Rotary Club of Ballina-on-Richmond is commemorating 100 years in Australia with a public walk in Ballina on 27 March saying NO to domestic violence.

The walk will go from Captain Cook Park to the Marine Rescue Tower and back, and is part of the R100 Baton Relay. It’s one of a series of events around the country celebrating 100 years of Rotary working in the community.

Rotary’s Dave Harmon and Jodie Shelley caught up with Ballina’s Mayor David Wright to talk to The Echo about the walk, and its message.

‘We’re raising awareness of domestic violence and we’re linking Rotary, which is a well-known brand world-wide,’ said local Rotary President Dave Harmon.

‘We helped rid the world of polio, surely if we can do that we can try to bring an end to domestic violence, and change people’s thoughts about DV and respectful relationships. So our club is the one that’s put forward the domestic violence cause, and all the other regional clubs have come on board,’ he said.

‘In towns and cities around the Northern Rivers you’ll see people in the purple shirts, doing something to raise awareness about DV, and 100 years of Rotary.’

Timely action

With marches around the country this week seeking concrete action to address gender-based violence, Rotary’s Ballina walk could not come at a better time.

Mayor David Wright told The Echo he’s been aware of the DV issue and concerned about it since childhood. ‘My family was good, but the old days in Byron Bay, it was a pretty rough town. There weren’t a lot of jobs, and people just thought it was the norm.’

Ballina Mayor David Wright. Photo David Lowe.

He remembers family violence was also an issue when he first went out teaching, with men getting on the grog after being paid and ‘people getting belted up all the time, then families coming round begging for something to eat.

‘That’s why I’m very supportive of this and everything I can do to support our local community,’ said Mayor Wright.

‘It’s not fair on kids, they’re traumatised from the start, it’s not fair on the women. It’s not fair on anybody associated with domestic violence. It’s really something I wish we could wipe out.’

Rotary showing the way

Mayor Wright remembers an anti-DV march organised by Rotary two years ago, which attracted 800 people.

‘Some of the speakers gave horrendous stories. I went out just shellshocked. People are now speaking about it, which is great. Awareness is the first step in stopping it,’ he said.

Regarding the Ballina walk, Dave Harmon said, ‘We’re inviting all the public to join us, the more the merrier. We hope to see as many turn up as possible.’

Mr Harmon sees respectful relationships as the key to stopping domestic violence, as well as preventing sexual harassment in the work place, and the abuse of children.

‘It’s all about respecting each other,’ he said. ‘Women deserve to have a safe workplace environment, and it’s important for men especially to stand up and say we won’t cop this, it’s not right.’

Ballina Rotary’s Jodie Shelley says she’s proud to see 57 fellow clubs taking up the domestic violence cause in the district. ‘This has been noticed all across Australia, and overseas. From this, it looks like there might possibly be a national Rotary campaign in the future.’

Dave Harmon says he’s going to be particularly pushing the DV issue when he becomes Rotary District Governor in 2022-23.

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With 100 years under their belt, Rotary shows no sign of slowing down, especially in Ballina.

‘This group have always been ahead of the game,’ said Mayor Wright. ‘They’ve got great people who do things and they raise money for very good causes. They’re not just talk – look at this.

‘Rotary have been lucky to have younger people come in, as well as older ones, and lots of women in the club.’

Mayor Wright said he was happy to see the club take a leading role in the community, even with difficult issues like DV. ‘There are no pluses with domestic violence.’

Ballina Rotary’s Jodie Shelley and Dave Harmon with Ballina Mayor David Wright. Photo David Lowe.

‘It is a difficult thing to talk about,’ said Dave Harmon.

‘A lot of males in particular shy away from talk about domestic violence. They’re confronted by it. There’s people in our club who are confronted by it. But I say to them, it’s really good you feel that way, because you’re meant to feel like that, and it means the message is getting through.’

He remembers Mayor Wright speaking at the opening of Harmony House, about how Ballina didn’t have a heart in the early days, and didn’t connect with causes like this, but now that has all changed.

David Wright puts it down to the growth of groups which help build community and a helping ethos from a young age, like Nippers. ‘There are so many good stories. People respect each other now. We’ve got some fantastic young kids.’

Dave Harmon sees the growth of the Love Bites program in local schools (which teaches respectful relationships) as an extension of this. ‘Rotary’s investing time and money into that, and that’s how we bring about change, through educating our youth. We’re very proud of that. It’s a game-changer.’

27 March Ballina walk details

It’s free to participate in the walk but pre-registration is required for COVID safety: www.trybooking.com/BOIJQ. There will be COVID marshals on the day.

There will be a free BBQ breakfast at 7am on 27 March, outside The Cove, and the walk will start at 8am.

For further enquiries, please contact Dave Harmon on 0401 956 996.

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