Benalla’s White Ribbon Day was a big success with hundreds of locals marching down Bridge St to the Botanical Gardens in support of ending family violence.
The event was attended by community members, Benalla Rural City Councillors, Benalla Health, Benalla Police, the CFA, SES, the Benalla Lions club, the Benalla young Leos, hundreds of students from FCJ College and Benalla P-12 college and a host of other organisations that support White Ribbon.
It was hosted by Benalla White Ribbon Ambassador Neil Stott who spoke passionately about the cause.
‘‘This is probably bigger than last year and I think the weather’s been great,’’ Ms Stott said.
‘‘Us all walking together is a great show of solidarity and the stories we’ve heard today are really powerful.’’
One of the main goals of the White Ribbon Campaign is to educate the next generation and end the cycle of family violence.
‘‘They’re (Benalla’s youngsters) the future. We can’t police ourselves out of this problem, but we can change it by changing our attitudes and if these young people go into their future relationships with this message this problem will disappear because the next generation will not be acting badly to their partners.’’
The White Ribbon Campaign is particularly important in Benalla as it had the most reports of family violence in the Goulburn region last year, and the most incidents witnessed by children.
Those alarming statistics, which might have come as a shock to much of the community, were presented at the White Ribbon Day launch at Benalla Health in October.
And those figures, while being an unacceptable blemish on an otherwise strong community, must be paid attention to.
The first step in addressing an issue like this is acknowledging that there is a problem, and the number of attendees at Thursday’s march shows that problem is being addressed.
Benalla Mayor Don Firth was part of the city’s first White Ribbon Day march back in 2010.
‘‘I was in the first March and it consisted of 45 people,’’ Cr Firth said.
‘‘So the message is getting across. What Neil (Stott) and his crew are doing is just great and it’s encouraging to see so many organisations and individuals getting involve.
‘‘I was just talking to friends about how it’s growing and it makes you think about your friends and the stories that were told here today.
‘‘I have experienced it once, 37 years ago, and it was a real dilemma what to do.
‘‘There used to be a belief that some women seem to attract men that beat them, but that’s a myth.
‘‘I’m glad it’s a myth, but it’s one that needs to be knocked on the head.’’
This year’s White Ribbon Day might be over, but planning on next year’s march will begin early in the new year.
With an increasing number of people getting behind the White Ribbon Campaign, and the next generation being educated about these issues, the hope is that family violence can become a thing of the past.