White Ribbon Day was celebrated one month earlier in Wurrumiyanga, maybe it has something to do with the chances of finer weather than November, when the rains start bucketing down on the Tiwi Islands. The morning began with a brisk one kilometre walk from the new shop at one end of town to the beach park at the other. Contingents of Strong Men chanting ‘no more violence’ in Tiwi language competed with the pleas of students from Xavier College seeking peace, calm and togetherness for the community.
Like a tsunami gathering pace down the main street, the noise drew people out of their houses, and some of them even got swept up into the excitement by joining the procession. Others couldn’t be coaxed and I was left wondering what stopped them from supporting the ‘No More’ cause?
At the conclusion of the walk, there were a number of strong speakers including Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu, Charlie King of the NoMore campaign and the coach of the Tiwi Bombers Football Club, who have just finished developing their policy, outlining the clubs stance on domestic and family violence. When the men linked arms indicating their commitment to treating women with respect and Tiwi dance broke out, there were goosebumps all round.
This gathering was an opportunity to introduce the community to the Healing Our Children (HOC) project. Together with Tiwi staff Patricia Munkara and Cynthia Portaminni, we created a yarning space in the shade of a huge tree and invited community members to explore the brand new talking tool kit –It Takes A Forest To Raise a Tree –hot off the printing press. The tool kit will be used in a new group support program next year, for women with young children who are living with or at risk of violence. Designed as an early intervention and prevention tool, it aims to reduce the number of children being exposed to violence by increasing women’s protective behaviours towards their children. RANT also promoted a series of learning workshops coming up in November, which will train volunteers in the community to be peer mentors in the HOC project.
Sadly though, even on a day like today, no-one is immune to exposure to violence. Last night, one of our very own staff members was the victim of an unprovoked attack by a female family member.
Driving home from the event, we also came upon two young men on the street fighting, one armed with a long metal pole. The rest of the community ran towards them like magnets. Unfortunately, the children were in tow, following their role models. As my heart sank, the police arrived and the crowed eventually dispersed, and then I was suddenly jolted awake by Cynthia bellowing in her strong Tiwi way at those walking away from the scene “No more violence…we’ve had enough…no more”. Those words, chorused only just hours before, were echoed again across the community in the moment when it was most needed. Small children were also heard murmuring ‘No Fighting’ as they walked home with their parents. ‘No more violence.’