Through the influence and reach of sport, Australia is having an important national conversation about racism.
Racism is one evil we live with.
Family violence is another.
The statistics are shocking.
One woman is killed by a current or former partner almost every week in Australia. Some research suggests this rate is higher.
One in three has experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
One in five has experienced sexual violence.
One in four has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.
Women in Australia are three times more likely than men to experience violence at the hands of a partner.
Almost half of the women who experienced violence by an ex-partner said children had seen or heard the violence.
This is the real terror at our doorstep.
There’s no escaping the link between gender inequality and violence against women and children.
The only way to eradicate gender-based violence is to challenge deeply entrenched attitudes, beliefs and distorted values that give rise to violence against women.
Stop the violence before it begins.
Again, sport is well positioned to confront this societal curse as Natasha Stott Despoja, chairwoman of Our Watch explains.
“Evidence shows that people who support gender inequality and sexism are more likely to hold attitudes that condone or excuse violence against women, therefore, it is appropriate that we challenge these attitudes in settings where we can have maximum reach, such as the sporting community.”
Four major sporting codes – the AFL, NRL, Netball Australia and the ARU – have stepped up the fight to prevent violence against women and their children.
Each has received $250,000 as part of the Our Watch Sports Engagement Program to create inclusive, safe and welcoming environments, increase awareness and push the message that violence is never an option or a solution.
There is no excuse.
It’s time for our sporting codes to get serious about challenging stereotypes, calling out sexist jokes and attitudes, victim blaming and violence against women.
Women’s voices must be heard on the field, in the boardroom, the coach’s box, the stands, the medical room, and the media.
Their opinions valued.
Only when this happens can we begin to build respectful relationships and wipe out generations of inequality that underpins violence against women.
Winning, medals, premierships, an unexpected victory over an old foe – sport takes us to a happy place.
It unites us and makes us feel good.
Sport also has the power to make us think about what’s really important.
The uplifting scenes at the SCG on Saturday, Richmond players in indigenous jumpers, the AFL captains’ statement condemning racism, Melbourne players with the colours of the Aboriginal flag taped around their arms, Ross Lyon’s strong words – these are the messages that can help build respect, decency and fairness.
It is here that sport holds sway.
It magnifies our broader culture in a way that very few things can, and in that sense it’s an incredibly powerful tool.
What it throws up can be confronting, but to become a more aware and humane society it’s important that confronting issues be tackled widely and tackled head on.
It’s not up to sport to solve these problems. That’s the responsibility of our political leaders but sadly they’ve dropped the ball.
So use the powers bestowed upon you, sport.
Keep the conversations going.
There’s a lot more work to do.
If you or someone you know is impacted by domestic or family violence or sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit http://www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.