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66 Defence Issue 1 2016
Defence personnel mark White Ribbon Day at the
Australian Defence Force Academy
Darryl Johnston and Michelle Fretwell
IOLENCE against women starts
from a lack of respect. Men can
choose to be violent against women
or not. They can also choose to
seek help to deal with their violent
behaviour. These were the messages from the
2015 Australian of the Year and anti-domestic
violence campaigner, Rosie Batty, at
Defence’s White Ribbon Day flagship event on
1 December 2015.
Rosie was joined at the Australian Defence
Force Academy in Canberra by V8 Supercar
champion Craig Lowndes, more than 600
Defence personnel, Australian Federal Police
and Emergency Services representatives, as
well as ACT Government community service
Chief ABC political reporter Chris Uhlmann
acted as Master of Ceremonies and interviewer.
During the event Rosie related her own
story in which her son was killed by his father
at a junior cricket training session in country
Her account of that day in February 2014
brought some members of the audience to tears.
She also spoke about how she felt being named
Australian of the Year following such a horrific
“I felt undeserving because I was standing
beside people who had done something,
whereas I was there because something was
done to me,” Rosie says.
“Since Luke’s death it has been bittersweet –
feelings of incredible pride but at the same time
feeling that I do not deserve this and the pain
that goes with that.
“But I have also been given, and continue
to receive, amazing opportunities, respect and
assurance from people I meet.
“This has helped me to find purpose in my
life and give me direction.”
She says violence against women comes
from a lack of respect that can be passed down
from father to son. It is also a choice men make
and it is no longer hidden behind closed doors.
“As a society we still find it difficult to
believe and understand that violence towards
women and children is a gender issue and that it
comes from a lack of respect,” she says.
“We still want to blame drug and alcohol
abuse, the woman, mental illness, everything, to
try and make sense of something that makes no
“It’s a topic that used to be hidden behind
closed doors, which no one acknowledged, no
one intervened and no one cared about.
“In many cases men who themselves are
suffering from addiction, depression or mental
illness can choose to be violent towards women,
or seek help instead.
“My message to young people is: it doesn’t
matter who you are, male or female, you will
have incredible challenges in your life. At some
point you may suffer from anxiety, depression
or post traumatic stress. The questions are,
‘What are you going to do about it? Who are
you going to talk to? Who are you going to
reach out to? Who are you going to listen to?’ ”
Craig says young men need positive role
models and male attitudes towards women are
“Violence against women is not only
physical, but also emotional. Social media plays
a large part,” he says.
“We use social media in motor racing to
communicate with fans. They can be very
passionate, but some of the comments can be
“When using social media, people should
take a step back before posting their comments
and ask whether they would like that said about
Craig says attitudes towards women in
traditionally male-dominated sports, such as
motor racing, are changing.
“When I first got into motor racing, it was
very much a blokes’ sport,” he says.
“In the past, women were the receptionist
or worked in administration. But now there is a
lot more depth in the industry. We have female
mechanics, engineers and drivers.”
“As a team, we have about 46 full-time
workers and now it is almost a 60/40 split
between men and women,” he says.
According to Craig, even the fan base
has changed, with whole families, including
mothers and daughters, attending race meetings.
The flagship event was summed up by
reminding the audience that violence is a choice
and referring to the book Man’s Search for
Meaning, in which Viktor Frankl chronicles
his experiences in the Auschwitz concentration
camp during World War II: “To be radically free
and to have a choice on how to respond to the
circumstances is the essence of leadership.”
Right, motor racing
champion Craig Lowndes
speaks at Defence’s flagship
White Ribbon Day event
at the Australian Defence
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