Mayor opens up on hidden horror

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Cardinia Shire mayor Jodie Owen described the horror of walking in on her grandmother sprawled across the floor after being beaten by her grandfather.

As a child, she witnessed her grandfather often making negative remarks about women.

He was the kind of man who held the attitude that women’s opinions “didn’t matter”, she said.

For Cr Owen, the issue of family violence is a deeply personal one.

The Together We Can launch on Thursday morning motivated her to talk publicly about the impact family violence has had on her own life.

“My beloved Nan was a victim of family violence, which she endured over several decades,” Cr Owen said.

“She tried to leave my grandfather a number of times, but he always managed to convince her to go back.

“He inflicted some serious injuries on her, right up until three weeks before he died when he was aged in his seventies.”

Ms Owen said it was not until her late teenage years when she realised the true extent of the imbalance of power between her grandparents.

After walking in on an incident of violence during a surprise visit to her grandparents’ house, her grandmother told her to leave otherwise “she would be next”.

Years later the mayor found herself engaged to a man who began showing signs of similar behaviour.

“Nan said to me, ‘Don’t stay … don’t be like me’. So I didn’t, and I have her to thank for that.”

Cr Owen emphasised that the community needed to believe it was not impossible to create social change for family violence, noting that drink driving and smoking were once socially acceptable.

“If we are serious about stopping family violence, we need to be prepared to ‘call out’ our friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances who behave this way,” she said.

“If someone my grandfather respected had faced up to him about the way he treated Nan, maybe that could have made him think twice.”

Cardinia Shire Council has announced that family violence would be treated as the number one priority for the region.

The shire has the second highest rates of recorded family violence incidents in Melbourne’s southern metropolitan region.

CEO Garry McQuillan said Together We Can was the first council-led initiative of its kind in Australia aimed at tackling family violence issues.

“Victoria Police reports show that there were 1364 family violence incidents reported in Cardinia Shire during 2014/15. That’s 15 per cent higher than the state average,” he said.

Members of the community have been invited to share their ideas via an online portal.

These submissions would contribute towards an action plan identifying local solutions that work towards combatting family violence issues in the long-term.

Join the conversation about family violence at togetherwecan.org.au

Originally published at Pakenham Gazette.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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