Gandhi Peace Centre forum on domestic violence

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A Domestic violence awareness and volunteer recruitment public program was organised by Gandhi Peace Centre Australia (GPCA) at Wenworthville Community Centre on 21 February 2015. Lord Mayor Greg Cummins from Holroyd City Council, Consul Arvinder Singh Ranga from Indian Consulate Sydney, Raj Datta  Strathfield Councillor,  Tony Issa, MP from Granville and other community workers and associations including the Technocrats Association of Australia, Macquarie Partnership lawyers, Ceylonese Tamil Women’s development group, True Blessings institute, TISI Sangham of Australia, Kannada Sangha, Australian Malayalee Heritage League, Malayaleepathram, and Om Get Together were present.

Speaking on the occasion Mr Cummings stressed the need to educate the men who are perpetrators of the violence in most of the cases. He said the Holroyd Council was willing to help victims.

Mr Tony Issa also stressed the need for awareness on the matter. He pointed out the sufferings of ‘sisters’ in the case of domestic violence. He said the issue is so serious that every fabric of the society is affected. Tony said they had recently conducted a domestic Violence Program for the members of the Lebanese Community and exhorted GPCA to join hands with people from outside the Indian Subcontinent. GPCA applauded the call and said the coordination and networking is in pipeline as well.

Consul Arvinder Ranga representing the Indian Consul General and High Commissioner highlighted the programs available including emergency funds and legal aid with the Indian High Commission to Indian Citizens in Australia. Mr Ranga assured all support from the Consulate to GPCA’s DV venture.

The project SAFE, Safety and Family Education, is a brainchild of professional Social Workers from an Indian background. The SAFE line is run by laypersons from the community who are trained to attend telephone calls by any person experiencing family and domestic violence.   Explaining the process Ms Veena Bhatte, the Chair of the SAFE forum, said, “There is an intake committee by the trained Social Workers who attend the call during business hours.”

Any person who needs support due to family and domestic violence can contact the intake line on 0420 351 927. The intake notes down the contact details and passes on the information to trained volunteers.

The volunteer thereafter contacts the person and speaks with her/him. There is no counselling or legal guidance. The volunteer as a friend listens to persons experiencing the violence and provides her a “shoulder” to lean on.”

Ms Bhatte further explained that this interaction could be one single call or ongoing calls; however, the person is thereafter referred to the NSW Domestic Violence line, or the police or local support services.

There will also be ongoing mentoring of the persons supporting them throughout their journey to independence.

Involved in the SAFE project are GPs, social workers, psychologists, and lawyers who could guide and assist victims. The program was supported by the presence of a representative from the Attorney General’s office and Department of Community Services that deal with emergency services with regards to individuals experiencing Domestic Violence.

Earlier Padmanabhan Karamil, Vice President of Technocrats Association of Australia, received the guests and participants at the venue. Dr Rohitas Batta, Vice President of GPCA, welcomed the guests and introduced them to the participants. Rohitas emphasised that DV issues be taken up by the community and governments seriously.

Raj Dutta, Strathfield councillor, highlighted that domestic violence is across various communities and more should be done to address the problem. He expressed deep regard for India’s rich heritage and was extremely pleased that the Gandhi Peace Centre was embarking on such a noble undertaking.

The program and information was presented in an innovative street play showcasing the values and support experienced by the women who are victims of domestic and family violence and the physical and emotional loses they suffer when they lose such supports in Australia due to their cultural and linguistic barriers.

Siraj Sargruoh, President of the Organization, presented in brief the Peace and Non Violence activities of GPCA through its community development work.

Bharati Mehta, founder Director of GPCA and the recipient of the UIA Community Worker award, had a session with the women who experienced domestic violence. Ms Mehta said there would be ongoing training and public programs for the volunteers and members of the community. Currently GPCA is providing free volunteer services to people from the Indian subcontinent. The event was supported by Technocrat Association of Australia, UAE Exchange and Malayalee Patram.

Published in The Indian Sun, Sydney

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