Promoting respectful relationships to enhance safety and well-being was the primary focus at Whitehorse Council’s ‘Call to Action’ interfaith forum, held at Box Hill Town Hall, recently.
The event provided an opportunity for pooling the combined experience of faith and community leaders from Monash, Whitehorse, Manningham and Bundoora to generate ideas to prevent family violence.
Round table discussions were held to encourage collaboration and cooperation within interfaith communities to promote effective responses and advocate for change. Questions were encouraged from the floor engaging interaction around resources, networks and knowledge within the diverse faith communities.
Acknowledging the challenges and opportunities for capacity building for primary intervention within faith settings, the forum highlighted the importance of mutually enforcing strategies to prevent violence.
Anissa Gracie, Community Safety Officer from Manningham Council, spoke from her personal experience as a child who suffered from family violence. As a panel member, she also responded to questions around complexities of addressing gender issues, including patriarchal paradigms within faith traditions.
Tarang Chawla, Our Watch ambassador, survivor advocate and commentator, provided a man’s perspective whilst sharing the story of his sister Nikita’s murder caused by a violent partner. He provided statistics around the escalating issues of violence against women and called for leaders to step up and drive changes in cultures, behaviours and power imbalances leading to it.
Collectively, everyone present agreed that underlying and precipitating factors for violence need to be addressed. Faith communities can support one another in prevention activities by promoting respect.
“Respect and positive behaviours need to be role-modelled to achieve equality,” said Dilnaz Billimoria who was instrumental is getting the diverse faith communities together.
Shashi Kochhar OAM, chairperson of Monash Interfaith Gathering, found the speakers to be excellent. “They were able to tell their stories that resonated with many. However, I was unsure of what to take home as a message/moral from their stories and wasn’t clear on what we need to adopt in our day-to-day lives to make a difference in the community”, he said when asked to provide feedback.
According to him, this universal topic needs a lot of thinking, respect and understanding and has to go beyond being a “tick the box” exercise. “Overall as a group, we are on the right track. However, our focus now needs to be on more actions and adjustments. I am positive if we keep working together with a genuine desire to make changes, we will notice the changes in society within our lifetimes”, said Shashi.
This event was an interesting activity around the broader meaning of respect and safety, and kept everyone engaged. A light dinner was also provided. The event attracted a large and diverse participation from representatives of various faiths.
Resource Information mini booklets were also handed out with contacts and details of organisations and services in various councils that can assist in counselling, support and intervention.