Shining a candlelight on domestic and family violence in western Sydney

It was a space for people to come together to grieve, share messages of hope, and ensure that the people behind the horrific statistics are never forgotten.

On Domestic Violence Remembrance Day, 4 May, western Sydney community members gathered at 6pm in Centenary Square Parramatta for a candlelight vigil in honour of the women who have lost their lives this year to domestic and family abuse.

The event, which was a collaboration between Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) Integrated Violence Prevention and Response Service (IVPRS) and Uniting Youth Services, reinforced the need to renew the community’s commitment to raise its voice and stand up against domestic violence to create a society that refuses to accept violence as a norm.

May is also Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month.

WSLHD IVPRS Domestic Violence counsellor, Zual Hakim, said the hope for the candlelight vigil was to “help raise awareness of the social and personal impacts of domestic and family violence and the need to work together to help support, believe and act on this epidemic”.

Keynote speaker and director of Indian Crisis Support Agency, Menaka Lengar Cooke, said that 40 per cent of police call outs in Parramatta and 60 per cent of call outs in Blacktown are related to domestic and family violence.

Vigil guest speakers included women who have experienced domestic violence who shared the message that domestic and family violence affects people from all walks of life and includes many forms of abuse.

They also spoke to the importance of speaking up to help the community understand how to recognise domestic violence and the importance of reaching out for support if needed.

“So far this year, we have lost 16 women in Australia to femicide, and every one of them was loved,” said WSLHD IVPRS Domestic Violence counsellor Savvina Tsougranis.

Every one of these women left behind have people and communities who will always grieve for them.”

Following the event speakers, guests explored interactive stations that took them on a journey from darkness to light, from pain to healing, and from despair to hope.

One station included a shrine with items that represented the women who have tragically lost their lives to domestic and family violence, whereas another station featured a resilience succulent plant table that represented the ability of victims of abuse to thrive and survive; and a ‘Hope’ artwork, with community messages written on the leaves of a tree, reminding us that through collective efforts we can create a safe community.

WSLHD health workers can access other resources about working with patients/clients who are or have experienced domestic violence via the IVPRS intranet page that is only accessible to WSLHD staff.

If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing domestic violence, when it’s safe to do so, you can contact the following supports:

  • NSW Domestic Violence Line, for crisis counselling, referral, or support on 1800 65 64 63
  • 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 for sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling and support services
  • Link2Home on 1800 152 152 who can help refer women experiencing domestic violence to crisis accommodation
  • Child Protection Helpline – 13 21 11
  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • WSLHD IVPRS – 9881 8787

If you are in immediate danger or in an emergency, always contact Triple Zero (000).