Keeping Our Community Safe
Everyone has their day in court…thankfully, mine wasn’t as a contestant it was as a LGSC reporter, I felt somewhat remote but none-the-less embedded in what seemed to me to be an often depressing and difficult scenario. LGSC 2019 Participants were privileged to visit the Warrnambool law Courts and see Peter Mellas’s Magistrates Court in session for several Contest Mention appearances. This provided an insight into how the criminal justice system works in Victoria and the challenging range of issues that are presented.
Outside the court, Magistrate Mellas spoke to us providing a wider appreciation of how the legal system represents a third arm of Government. We were also privileged to see the Koori Court with Registrar, Carla Sudholz who explained the significance of the layout and processes used. We all walked away understanding more about the diversity of issues within our community legal system and the challenges magistrates face in providing protection and support to the community.
Family violence against women and children was discussed providing both context and background for some of the deliberations seen in the Magistrates court. The figures on sexual assault are staggering. One in four women are sexually assaulted by the time they are 18 years old. This is not a stranger danger warning as 95% of all assaults are perpetrated in the family home.
Gender inequality is at the core of much family violence and the mistreatment of women. The responsibility for stopping family violence rests with everyone in the community. As a father / stepfather for five men between 22 and 24 years old, I feel a particular responsibility to challenge their view and ensure them some solid advice to help them evolve more balanced and ethical behaviors.
Our Speakers reinforced that we must be always alert to family violence and if we hear or see something untoward with a friend or colleague, we should never brush it off. The sobering thought is, that it takes 33 significant incidents of family violence before women may take action. Your concern and support can immediately save a life and / or provide the opportunity for children to grow up in a normal and healthy environment.
The source of much family violence and other crimes appears to be well researched and lays at the foot of either substance abuse or mental health issues. We learnt how widespread methamphetamine (Ice) is around the Great South Coast region. This insidious drug reduces inhibitions and brazen crimes are committed without the inner self control that we all have.
The role of keeping our community safe should not fall on the police or courts. In the case of family violence there may be few symptoms that something is wrong until the matter has escalated. It is everyone’s responsibility so we all need to step up and do our part and we should never allow it to become just another day in court.
Anthony Dufty, 2019 Program Particpant