Drought, bushfires and now a pandemic have placed ongoing pressure on the livelihoods and relationships of all Australians through a struggling economy, rapidly changing social restrictions and fear about the future. Farmers and their families can endure these challenges in a way urban inhabitants don't. For example, support services that are readily available in cities can be hours away or non-existent, the range of specialised expertise is smaller, and regional communications can be unreliable.
In this context, it's worth reflecting on the statistics we're seeing reported about family violence. Google has revealed a 75 per cent growth in related search topics since lockdown. The national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service 1800 RESPECT has seen the use of its online chat tool increase by 38pc between March and April, while 70 per cent of domestic and family violence practitioners surveyed by the Queensland Domestic Violence Services Network identified that that COVID-19 had led to an escalation of violence for their clients.
White Ribbon Australia has recently re-launched and, in this new chapter, is working with the Queensland Farmers' Federation to empower communities to address local challenges. This is achieved through state and regional committees across Queensland and via 'community action groups' - people who want to develop solutions to the problems they have identified in their own community. Especially when more formal support and health services are so distant, communities are coming together to identify gaps and propose a plan of action essential for preventing violence and increasing safety for women and children.
If you're interested in joining an existing committee or starting a community action group to discuss what might be done to help make farming families and communities safer, White Ribbon Australia would love to hear from you. You are also invited to join 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty and White Ribbon Australia's executive director Brad Chilcott for an online conversation at 6pm AEST on Friday July 31 discussing how we can all work together to end gendered violence across all of Australia. Please visit https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/white-ribbon-night-2020-rosie-batty-in-conversation-with-brad-chilcott-tickets-112077809746 or email email@example.com for more information.