Rotary have partnered with NSW Police to design and distribute 150 umbrellas with a very clear message: ‘Say NO to domestic violence’.
Richmond Detective Chief Inspector Bill McKenna spoke at the launch outside Ballina Police Station, which took place as brilliant sunshine broke through after days of rain. ‘This is an excellent initiative,’ he said. ‘The issue of domestic and family violence isn’t a taboo subject.
‘People need to talk about it, to family and friends, and most importantly, report it to the police, so we can assist putting in the support and welfare that is required.’
DCI McKenna said police would be carrying the new umbrellas in their squad cars, to crime scenes and roadside stops, as a very visible reminder that the issue needed to be taken seriously. He described the DV collaboration with Rotary in recent years as a ‘great partnership’.
Rotary District Governor Jeff Egan travelled down from Tweed for the DV umbrella launch. He told The Echo the strong focus on DV from Rotary started with Dave and Robyn Harmon, including initiatives such as the school education program Love Bites (teaching young people about respectful relationships) and community walks against domestic violence.
Mr Egan said the Rotary Club of Ballina on Richmond was leading the way with the issue, but DV was ‘on the agenda for all Rotary Clubs. It’s a scourge for not only Australia, but other countries as well.’
Ballina Mayor David Wright said he wanted to congratulate Ballina Rotary for continuing ‘their fabulous work’ on the DV issue. ‘I go to police meetings and the biggest thing on the crime statistics is domestic violence. And most of it goes unheralded, it’s insidious in our shire.’
He said he applauded the local police for being pro-active on the issue. ‘it must come out in the open. We’ve got to think of the young lives. It’s not just mums and dads who are affected by this.’
Making waves and saving lives
Kiah Bowen is the Regional Domestic Violence Coordinator with NSW Police. She said Rotary’s activism on the DV issue in Ballina was making waves around the world, especially the Love Bites program for young people.
‘The more we can get the whole community talking about domestic violence the better,’ said Ms Bowen. ‘It’s not something we want to stay behind closed doors. There’s no excuse for abuse in our communities any more.’
Kiah Bowen believes domestic violence is everybody’s business, and said COVID health orders and lockdowns should not discourage people from reporting themselves or others at risk.
Ms Bowen told The Echo, ‘If they hear something or they know something’s not right, we want people to be confident that they can come to the police station and that we can help. We want people to be calling Crimestoppers.’
She flagged 16 days of domestic violence activism from 25 November to 10 December, with numerous community awareness initiatives planned across the whole northern region of NSW.
Along with increased reporting, Kiah Bowen said early intervention was the key to stopping young people becoming either domestic violence perpetrators or victims.
Rotary District Governor Nominee Dave Harmon agreed, saying ‘the best way to bring about change with domestic violence is to educate youth.’
Mr Harmon is now in negotiations with QLD Police to spread the Rotary-Police DV partnership further north.