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Call to action

Call to action

By Paul Dobbyn

YOUNG people in detention often spoke of being raised on “a diet of hate” when Brisbane priest Fr Wally Dethlefs visited them on his rounds as chaplain.

“They would say things such as all they’d ever seen in their homes was anger, violence and hatred,” the priest, who last year received an Australia Day award for his services to youth, said.

“In fact I’d say from experience, 90 per cent of those I’ve spoken with, either as young people in detention or those in adult prison, have come from homes where domestic violence was a part of daily life.”

Fr Dethlefs welcomed the publication of a special taskforce report – Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland.

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge and St Vincent de Paul Society state president John Forrest also welcomed the report and its call to action.

Archbishop Coleridge made a commitment “to do whatever I can to end the epidemic of domestic violence amongst us”.

Fr Wally Dethlefs: A hero for young Australians. Photo: Emilie Ng

Fr Wally Dethlefs: A hero for young Australians. Photo: Emilie Ng

Micah Projects chief executive officer Karyn Walsh said religious leaders “have a vital role to play in supporting victims of domestic violence and educating parishioners about the problem”.

The report contained 140 recommendations including the creation of a specialised domestic violence court and trialling GPS monitoring of high-risk perpetrators.

Statistics revealed that in 2013-14 more than 66,000 domestic violence incidents were reported to Queensland police – equating to more than 180 incidents reported every day across the state.

In 2012-13, 17 homicides relating to domestic and family violence occurred in Queensland.

Archbishop Coleridge said the report made for “sobering reading”.

“Words are not enough; it’s time for action,” he said.

“I urge the entire Catholic community of the archdiocese to focus on this issue and to commit to doing everything possible to ensure that domestic violence stops.

“This is a call to all our parishes and communities, including our schools where our children bear the scars of the violence they see or suffer at home.

“If you have any thoughts about action that might help, then now is the time to speak up.”

Fr Dethlefs said priests could make a major contribution as parish leaders to bringing the issue into the open.

“It’s important to set up an atmosphere in the parish community where people feel they can talk about domestic violence,” he said.

“If you include in a homily even a sentence on the topic, it gives people in a sense permission to talk.

“They may start to think: ‘Hey, this priest may be okay to talk about this with’.”

Mr Forrest said “it’s encouraging to see the State Government take a strong stance on the issue and actively work towards a strategy for real change”.

“Some of our housing programs and services offer single parents, often women escaping domestic violence, support in their recovery and rebuilding,” he said.

“We work on the frontline as a Family Intervention Service provider in the Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Gympie, Bundaberg, Maryborough and Brisbane areas.

“The release of the Government’s report provides a platform for all service providers, government, charities, not-for-profits, survivors and the wider community to work together for the best outcomes.”

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