ON 31st May 2017, the Islamic Women’s Association of Australia (formerly known as IWAQ) and JK Diversity Consultants held the first Queensland Women’s Interfaith forum about Domestic & Family Violence (DFV). The forum featured diverse speakers who shared their knowledge and experience within their faith communities. Michelle Royes discussed a research project funded by the Brisbane Sisters of Mercy highlighting the gap in services for men who are perpetrators of violence against women. The “Caring for Dads” project will commence as a pilot project in the Ipswich Western region and Caboolture region.

Pushpa Bakshi – Chairperson of GOPIO Women’s Council highlighted a number of challenges faced within the Indian Hindu community, particularly the dowry system, gender infanticide (aborting female foetus) and elder abuse, and how the community is tackling these DFV issues through community education and women’s empowerment programs. GOPIO provides many events throughout the year supporting these areas be it through their Women’s Council, Youth Council and Business Council. These alone has provided leadership skills that has seen many women develop high self-esteem and even taken the courage to start up a business/organisation themselves. The main annual event of GOPIO, “India Day Fair” encourages organisations for the prevention of DV to take part in the parade, reaching thousands with their message on a multi-cultural and diverse platform.
Salam El Merebi expounded on the Islamic perspective on domestic and family violence and how she and a group of Muslim women founded Sakina, the first shelter for CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) women and their children. She also discussed the need to provide education and training for faith leaders and Imams to assist women dealing with DFV issues as a prevention strategy.

Venerable Miao Xin articulated the Buddhist perspective on domestic violence within the framework of gender equality as espoused in Buddha’s teachings. She focused particularly on the Buddhist imperative of nonviolence as the normative behaviour between people.

Jatinder Kaur shared the Sikh religious teachings around gender equality and how she and others within the Sikh community have been able to make progress on lifting the silence on DFV issues within the Sikh communities across Australia. She stressed that there was need for more community education and awareness about DFV in diverse faith communities.

Unga Falou’s presentation was from the heart; she powerfully shared her lived experience of DFV within the Pacific Islander context and the devastating ripple effect and ongoing trauma as a consequence of the psychological emotional impact of growing up within a DFV household. She also shared how her Christian faith provided solace and allowed her space to come to terms with her past struggles and hope for a healthier future for her family.

A panel discussion with the speakers and invited guests Archana Singh, from the Honorary Indian Consulate, and Muna Ibrahim, from IWAA, provided an opportunity for questions from the floor. Many of the questions and responses focused on issues related to gender and patriarchy and cross sections between faith traditions. Resource issues around family violence associated with in-laws and the need to introduce certain policy changes, particularly around immigration, were also highlighted during the panel discussion.

Over 40 participants attended this women only event, and feedback was overwhelmingly positive. As the organisers had to turn people away, there will be another similar forum for Interfaith for Male faith leaders to be held in November to commemorate White Ribbon Day.

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