Andy Wong is wearing orange today to show that he condemns gender-based violence.
The Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) Manager is standing in solidarity with others around the world who, like him, are determined to change it.
“As a man, I think it’s even more important to stand up to violence and say it’s not right,’’ said Andy, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
“No one should have to live in fear, especially not children.’’
A FDR Practitioner for nearly a decade, Andy has seen the grim impact of domestic abuse on clients of all ages.
The children stick in his mind the most. Like the little boy who would cower, almost as if to shrink, when he heard a loud noise, or when he talked about his mum being sick.
“A lot of the time, domestic violence is just part of how they see life,’’ Andy said.
“It’s like someone telling you what they do for work; this is what some children work with every day. It’s very sad.’’
Research shows that relationship breakdown and separation is a time of increased risk of family violence.
Under Australian family law, separating couples must make a genuine effort to resolve disagreements through dispute resolution services before they can apply to the courts for parenting and financial orders, including care arrangements for children.
Through Centacare’s regional and metropolitan FDR services, Andy and his team each month support about 100 clients, of which 60 per cent disclose some form of emotional or physical abuse.
One in three of those clients have never been in contact with a specialist domestic violence support service.
“Often they don’t recognise what they are experiencing because, for them, the violence is normal,’’ Andy said.
“It’s not until they start talking to us that they start to see cycles of abuse.’’
In this context, FDR provides a vital safety net amid family breakdown, Andy said.
While specialist domestic violence services refer clients to his team, practitioners in turn seek their support for the mostly women who are at risk.
Andy said the safety of children in parenting matters was the priority, with greater weight given to the protection of children from harm when determining what is in their best interests.
“It becomes, what can we put in place so that both parents are safe from each other to ensure the children are too?’’
On a day that aims to raise understanding and awareness of the scourge of gender-based violence, Andy implored women to reach out for help.
“They are not alone – there is support out there,’’ he said.