Sometimes it’s subtle: challenge your mates to do better

A softly spoken school teacher, Ipswich Citizen of the Year Vanessa Fowler has been chipping away at the giant cliff face that is domestic violence.

In conjunction with Griffith University, she has launched the Alison’s Gift Mates Bystander Program.

The aim is to conduct workshops in the corporate sector to educate people on recognising the signs of domestic violence and family violence and how to be an effective bystander.

The first set of training workshops were with Rio Tinto recently and Vanessa is really pleased with the feedback.

“People that go through the training will say, ‘this has really raised some issues with me, my wife’s best friend or my brother and his wife’, it really starts people thinking about the signs to look for,” Mrs Fowler said.

“I think the message we want people to take away is be someone who does something.

“Everyone one of us is a bystander but we have to gain the skills to be an effective bystander.

“We can sit back and not do anything, we are still a bystander, what we want is for people to know what to do in that situation.

“How to be able to intervene sensitively without there consequences for the victim.”

It’s not just black eyes

Vanessa’s sister, Allison Baden-Clay was murdered by her husband in 2012.

“She kept it very well hidden and looking back there were no visible signs,” Mrs Fowler said.

“We didn’t know that it was domestic violence, the education wasn’t there.

“We now know it was absolutely domestic violence and it started many years ago and was built up over time.

“We were ignorant to the fact domestic violence wasn’t only physical. There is so much we have learned.”

Why being kind is so important

Being kind has a ripple effect.

It can lead to better relationships, happiness, improved self-esteem and mental health.

Most importantly being kind creates an environment where asking for help is encouraged.

“Strive to be Kind Day is on Friday, 26 July. We encourage everyone to wear yellow, Allison’s favourite colour,” Mrs Fowler said.

“We are asking people to be kind because we believe if there is more respect between each other and if we are using the right language in our conversations then we are going to change the mindset within our community and reduce the amount of violence we see every day.

“This year our focus is around relationship red flags. We are trying to make the public aware that domestic violence manifests in many different ways that it’s not just physical.”

It’s a difficult time of the year for Mrs Fowler and her extended family.

“July is the month of Allison’s birth,” Mrs Fowler said.

“We start off the month with her birthday and for us its bitter sweet because the Strive to be Kind campaign is so uplifting for all of us because we know people are remembering Allison and reflecting on her life.

“But it’s also tinged with sadness because we know her three girls, who are doing extremely well and growing up to be beautiful young women, we know there is always going to be a dark hole for them and they will always miss their mum.”

Allison Baden-Clay

You can buy a yellow ribbon to wear on the Friday from Sammut Bulow, Realway Property Consultants Yamanto, Terry White Chemist Winston Glades, Coles Ripley and Centre Management Riverlink.

Read also: 

                  >>> Vanessa Fowler’s quiet resolve is changing the way we think about family violence

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