WIMMERA leaders hope the launch of a new regional strategy will make significant inroads to help end violence against women.
Women’s Health Grampians has led work on the Communities of Equality and Respect plan, which Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford launched on Monday.
Wimmera councils, Wimmera Uniting Care and Wimmera Primary Care Partnership were among the organisations that developed the policy in the past four years.
The strategy lays the foundation for violence prevention work and aims to promote gender equality.
It also calls on organisations to take action and make a commitment to end violence against women.
The launch in Ballarat included a panel discussion involving Yarriambiack Shire Mayor Ray Kingston and Wimmera Uniting Care chief executive Wendy Sturgess.
Cr Kingston said councils needed to take an active role in creating respectful communities.
“We have to be brave about having real conversations and asking tough questions of ourselves and our organisations,” he said.
“I think it’s a lot easier for me and male leaders to talk about this issue than women in leadership roles.
“When a woman is in a position of power, some in our community can perceive that she is acting out of self-interest or is whinging.
“It is a lot harder for people to draw that conclusion when men voice the same message.”
Horsham Rural City Council chief executive Peter Brown, who also attended the launch, said domestic violence was an important issue in the region.
“Horsham and other Wimmera municipalities have disappointing statistics around family violence,” he said.
“Horsham council is keen to play its part and address this problem.
“One fundamental thing councils can do is ensure all councillors and staff understand the importance of the issue, and are open about it.
“We'll be doing training with all our staff in this area.”
Former Northern Grampians Shire Council chief executive Justine Linley was also part of the panel discussion.
“As leaders and managers, we need to take off our rose-coloured glasses and examine our own organisations,” she said.
“It will be one of our biggest challenges.”