You may be wondering why the State Leadership Team is wearing a different scarf this month.
Our Scout Promise has great meaning. It is about who we are, stating how we intend to live. From the first time we make the promise and subsequent re-affirmations we publicly commit ourselves to making the world a better place. It is a strong and powerful symbol of Scouting that we see in the Scout sign made when making this solemn oath.
The Scout sign is not readily understood outside of Scouting. It is recognised but the altruistic meaning is lost on most people. Yet outward symbols and images are important, we identify organisations, business and associations with their symbols. The golden arches, the white ribbon on a red can, we know these well. So what is our, Scouting’s, strongest symbol?
I believe it is the one common element of Scouts across the world, all 42 million of us. It is our scarf. The Scout scarf, the one piece of Scout uniform that BP prescribed for a movement that has become the largest peace organisation, the largest youth organisation and an organisation that seeks to change the world.
Our scarf tells a story: where we are from; it speaks of home, of where we belong. It identifies us, unites us and tells others who we are even when we are not in full uniform. For the month of November, I will be replacing my State scarf with a specially designed scarf. The scarf has meaning, tells a story and for me, shows one way I am choosing to live out my Promise.
Home sweet home is not always the case. Domestic violence is an issue that has for too long not been widely talked about yet it is all too common in Australia. On average, one woman is killed every week as a result of intimate partner violence. This sad and disgraceful statistic was, to me, shocking when I first read it. ‘That can't be right’ I thought. It is. Sadly it is.
These are only the incidents of violence that lead to the unnecessary death of an Australian woman. The full statistics of women living with violence are not known. What is understood is that the vast majority of abusive and violent behaviour occurring in our neighbourhoods across Australia is committed by men against women.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics’, Personal Safety Survey conducted in 2005 found:
- Just under half a million Australian women reported that they had experienced physical or sexual violence or sexual assault in the past 12 months;
- More than a million women had experienced physical or sexual assault by their male current or ex-partner since the age of 15;
- 37.8% of women who experienced physical assault in the 12 months before the survey said the perpetrator was a current or previous male partner and 34.4% said the perpetrator was a male family member or friend. Most incidences of physical assault against women in the 12 months prior to 2005 were committed in a home (64.1%);
- 33.3% of women had experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
- 19.1% of women had experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
- 64% of women who experienced physical assault and 81.1% of women who experienced sexual assault still did not report it to police.
Source: Department of Families, Housing and Community Affairs Fact Sheet 2 Women's Safety.
While we may be aware of domestic violence, we aren't seeking to understand the impact it has on a person who grows up living with it. Childhood domestic violence is referred to by UNICEF as "one of the most pervasive human rights issues of our time” recognising that we are still struggling to find a term that adequately describes what many children ‘witness’ between the adults in their lives.
There is considerable evidence that these children have an increased risk of experiencing mental health issues, behavioural and learning difficulties and are more likely to perpetrate violence themselves at a young age or later in life. They may in fact engage in bullying behaviours with other children or even in the workplace as adults.
A number of years ago I started wearing a white ribbon in November at work. I am a Principal of a school and didn't make mention of it unless asked until November 25 when I would produce a box of white ribbons, talk about White Ribbon Day and invite all staff, but especially the male staff, to join me in wearing one. Students would, and still do, ask why all the teachers were wearing white ribbons. That is a powerful moment and one that must never be underestimated.
Education can change the world. I believe this and have always believed it. The opportunity to engage in a discussion with a young person that is initiated by them is the chance to break the cycle, to raise awareness, to address the issue of domestic violence and in particular violence against women. I also find that it is usually a young man that asks the question and so the opportunity to model and share what a real man does and does not do is one that I hope may just change someone’s life. Real men don't use violence against women. Real men don't resort to violence.
Be prepared though. The young person you speak with, male or female, may well be one of the young people who has lived with, witnessed or even experienced domestic violence in their own home, the place that should be their safe haven. Assistance and support is available when such information is shared.
This November, the State Leadership Team and I will wear black scarves featuring a white and a yellow ribbon. The peak of the scarf has a speciall-made badge that incorporates the Scouts Australia and White Ribbon logos, approved by White Ribbon Australia. The inclusion of a white ribbon is obvious, perhaps the yellow requires explanation though. The yellow ribbon is for Luke Batty. His favourite colour was yellow and Luke was a Scout in Victoria.
White Ribbon provides resources for schools and youth that Groups may wish to use in their program during November. These can be found at:
I ask you to join me in spreading the message that violence against women is not acceptable, that violence against children or in front of children is not acceptable, that violence has no place in the home, our community or Australia.
Brendan J Watson OAM
White Ribbon Ambassador and Chief Commissioner Scouts Victoria
On my honour
I promise that I will do my best
To do my duty to my God and
To (the Queen of) Australia,
To help other people, and
To live by the Scout Law
never to commit, excuse
or remain silent about
violence against women
this is my oath