Courtesy Jatinder Kaur
IN the spirit of White Ribbon Day on the 25th of this month, six faith religious leaders from across 5 different faiths came together at Queensland Men’s Interfaith Forum about Preventing Domestic Violence to take a stand against violence against women. The forum was held at the Multi-Faith Centre at Griffith University’s Nathan Campus on Tuesday 28 November. This was the first forum of its kind to be held in Queensland. According to the organiser, social worker and advocate Jatinder Kaur who runs JK Diversity Consultants which works in culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, “I was aware of similar Interfaith leaders forums discussing sensitive topics, however in Brisbane there was clear gap and need for prominent Male faith religious leaders to speak out against Domestic violence and family violence”.
The well-attended forum which included representatives from Queensland Police, the Department of Communities, Brisbane DV service providers, and a diverse range of community members showcased a range of diverse Male faith leaders, which included: Reverend Richard Tutin and Reverend Peter Moore from the Anglican Faith; Swami Atmeshananda Vedanta of the Hindu Faith; Mr Ariel Heber, President of the Jewish Community, Mr Ranjit Singh from the Sikh Nishkam Society of Australia; and Mr Anas Abdalla, representing the Muslim Faith.
The purpose of the forum was to bring together diverse male faith leaders to discuss in positive interfaith dialogue views, perspectives, and challenges in preventing violence against women within culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse communities. The forum provided an opportunity for Faith leaders to discuss strategies and positive initiatives toward zero tolerance of domestic and family violence. Although statistics on domestic and family violence are difficult to ascertain within migrant and refugee communities, it is recognised that Domestic and family violence is a serious problem in all cultures and communities across Australia. However victims from diverse backgrounds often face extra barriers to seeking help including social isolation, limited English skills, being unemployed, and other patriarchal cultural norms which can prevent women leaving abusive relationships.
Debra Bennett, who performed the welcome to country, said of the forum: “the diverse panel provided a rich picture of Faith perspectives on gender equality, gender roles and responsibilities, and realities of domestic and family violence. The panel identified the gaps in support for victims and the need to educate faith communities about Domestic and Family Violence prevention and clearly articulated the fact that culture and societal values can and do influence members of faith communities and misconceptions do arise”.
Nina Atkin, who volunteered at the event and is doing a PhD on Domestic and family violence in culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Queensland, agreed that the forum was an important first step in addressing D&FV in these communities. “One of the biggest things to come out of the forum for me was how refreshing it was to see six faith and community leaders admit that there is a serious domestic violence problem, and to acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers: that we all need to work together across gender and cultural lines to bring about change”.