Goal of rugby league game surpasses tries scored

Players and spectators alike can expect much more than a mere game of rugby league when the Taree Bulls next compete against Forster Tuncurry’s Hawks. Beyond tackles and tries, the event will see players don white and take a pledge to raise awareness about domestic violence.

According to CatholicCare Family and Domestic Violence Case Manager, Stacey Northam, such a simple event serves to address a very serious issue.

“The figures are appalling,” Ms Northam said. “On average, one woman dies every week as a result of intimate partner violence in Australia. As is the trend across Australia, domestic violence rates have continued to rise in the Hunter Valley and this concerning issue needs to be addressed.”

Ms Northam said the ramifications of domestic and family violence stretch beyond the immediate victim and affect the entire community.

“Domestic and family violence is not an issue confined to the household,” said Ms Northam. “For example, the leading cause of homelessness for women and their children is domestic and family violence.

“On top of this, domestic and family violence is one of the most significant and visible contributors to trauma-related mental illness within the community, and to behavioral, cognitive and developmental impairment in children,” Ms Northam said.

CatholicCare delivers a ‘Brighter Futures’ program which incorporates ways to empower victims to find new paths away from violence. The program works alongside families facing challenges like domestic violence, with involvement mainly based on referrals from Family and Community Services.

“The Brighter Futures team works with vulnerable children and families using a strengths-based case plan that focuses on reducing the child protection risks for children 0-9 years. Case plans are developed in partnership with families which focus on safety planning, healthy relationships and outcomes that positively impact children in the community,” Ms Northam said.

“The ‘healthy relationships’ workshop teaches women non-physical warning signs which equip them for future relationships they may have,” said Ms Northam, “However our most pressing task is to put the safety of children first.”

Ms Northam has said that while empowering women remains a key strategy in addressing family and domestic violence, developing a culture which respects women is equally important, and drives events like the recent White Ribbon Rugby League Day in Taree.

“Like most adults in general, and sports stars in particular, the Taree Bulls are men whom children and young people look up to,” she said, “By having players take a public pledge against domestic violence, a very clear message is sent which counteracts this culture of violence.

“Young boys need to be exposed to examples of what a good man looks like,” said Ms Northam.

Director of CatholicCare, Ms Helga Smit, has said that although White Ribbon Day is observed annually on November 25, the impetus behind July’s event is the recognition that the issue must not just be relegated to the end of the year.

“In the same way the consequences of domestic and family violence aren’t confined to the household, the issue is not something we can just observe once a year,” Ms Smit said. “We need to address this in a proactive, ongoing manner.”

If you or anyone you know is impacted by domestic or family violence, please call CatholicCare’s Manning office on 6539 5900.

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Lizzie Watkin Image
Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.