9 December 2015
Colleagues, distinguished guests, members of the Sunshine Coast community and particularly Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, welcome to the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) and the ‘Make It Stop’ Symposium.
It’s quite sad in a way that we need a symposium of this type, but of course it’s long overdue. I’m not sure where Rosie gets her resilience from, given the journey she’s endured, but I’m sure much of the attention being given to domestic violence at the present time is pretty much due to her story and the way she has been able to engage with the Australian public. Those telling statistics that put things in perspective and have all of us reflecting on how on earth we’ve turned a blind eye to domestic violence for so long. How empowering to have her here with us today.
Every cause, every institution or business that aspires to be successful needs an engaging, articulate champion. And Rosie Batty is the epitome of what constitutes a champion. She has driven home the message on domestic violence.
The last couple of years have seen USC evolve into a new university: and in the context of us moving from a single campus institution to one that has distributed campuses there are a range of challenges. Whether it’s the Sunshine Coast or Gympie or Fraser Coast or Moreton, a key challenge is understanding the demography of the various communities we now serve, or will soon be serving, and how this interacts with issues like domestic violence.
Educationally disadvantaged communities, multicultural communities, communities with high unemployment rates, communities with high rates of youth suicide – these demographics are all related to domestic violence. We, as a university that aims to be embedded in the community need to understand how these regional realities interact with domestic violence and how we can contribute to better outcomes – whether it’s through the graduates we turn out, our impact on local economies, the research we conduct into local issues, or via hosting an event such as this one.
And we have developed something quite special this year that will directly help. After years of planning we have established the Sunshine Coast Thompson Institute thanks to the philanthropy of Roy and Nola Thompson. The Thompson Institute will be a focus for mental health research, teaching, and clinical outreach. It will ultimately greatly enhance our potential to make a difference when it comes to addressing the issues behind domestic violence.
So, on to the University’s involvement with this event. Event partner – Chris Turner, CEO of Sunnykids approached Professor Doug Mahar, Head of School of Social Sciences, to see if USC would be interested in a Symposium on Domestic Violence. USC was very interested indeed! A working party was quickly formed, ably led by School Administration Officer, Melissa Martin. It consisted of interested academics from Social Work, Psychology and Counselling as well as eager volunteers from local domestic violence organisations.
USC is all about making a difference in the local community and whilst domestic violence is personally experienced by individuals, it’s not a private, personal matter. It’s a public matter, because the scale is so extreme that it is affecting the substance of communities. This is why USC was keen to host such important discussions at this important community event.
So the University of the Sunshine Coast is proud to be joining SunnyKids, SCOPE, in Place, Uniting Care Community and the Suncoast Community Legal Service Inc. to form the Sunshine Coast Domestic Violence Action Group, and to host the 2015 Sunshine Coast Domestic and Family Violence Symposium to be known as ‘Make it Stop' A Sunshine Coast Plan to Stop DV.
The Symposium will create a unified voice, on a local level, of organisations and professionals working within the sector and experiencing the increasing strain domestic violence issues have on resources. I understand that the afternoon session will include a work group discussion on the community’s desired responses to various aspects of domestic violence to help create a best-practice response to be provided to Government.
You have a big day ahead that will help shape our regional community to be a better place, especially for those who are touched by domestic violence. I wish you every success with your deliberations.