Chance to hold onto hope

Jenny Lewis and Jack Keain from the Port Pirie Domestic Violence Action Group in the Women's Keepsake Garden of the Port Pirie Library. Picture by Neralie Bailey.

PORT PIRIE – The Port Pirie Domestic Violence Action Group (DVAG) is a committee comprising both professionals and community members dedicated to raising awareness about the impact of domestic violence and working towards eliminating gender-based violence.

Chairperson Jenny Lewis has been involved in the group for 23 years and sees the key role as being advocacy and awareness raising in the community.

“I find it one of the most horrific crimes, that women and children don’t feel safe in their own homes,” Ms Lewis said.

“It has an impact not only on the individuals experiencing violence but on their extended family and friends who see what is happening.

“In recent times we have seen a woman murdered every four days, in this civilised society.

“So we have to continue on.”

The group marked 30 years of service to the community of Port Pirie in 2023 and is one of the oldest domestic violence committees in the State.

“Even though the statistics, the women’s faces and their stories tell us that we have what is often referred to as an epidemic and a national emergency, it is always important to have hope, hope for a future without violence against women and children,” Ms Lewis said.

She explained one of the new projects for the group was to place a ‘red bench’ in the city, with the preferred location being in the Women’s Keepsake Garden at the Port Pirie Regional Library.

The benches are an initiative of the Red Rose Foundation, which began in Queensland, and to date benches are found in New South Wales and Queensland.

The presence of a ‘red bench’ in a public location aims to raise awareness of domestic violence and provide an opportunity for this important issue to remain visible with the Foundation’s motto being to #Change the Ending.

Ms Lewis said the group had chosen an existing bench in the garden and hoped to have the Port Pirie Regional Council’s support for it to be painted red and a plaque attached with the hope of spurring discussion around domestic violence.

“The Women’s Keepsake Garden is where DVAG planted three roses some years ago, in the garden that was made by women, for women many years ago,” Ms Lewis said.

“We planted a white rose to remember the children, a red rose for women and a yellow rose for a sense of optimism.

“We put a plaque there the following year remembering lives lost united against domestic violence and not far from the roses there is a bench we hope to have painted.

“You need to always hold onto hope.”

Ms Lewis said she thought other groups, perhaps schools and local non profits, may also decide to paint or install a red bench to keep the conversation going about ending domestic violence in the community.

Her advice to extended family, coworkers and friends who see someone potentially experiencing domestic violence is firstly to always believe the person and any disclosures they make.

“We can’t force someone to leave, that’s really important because we don’t know what is going on in their particular situation.

“We know domestic violence is not a safe situation to be in but we also know that when a person decides to leave, it becomes more dangerous because it is all about that power and control; so the risk increases.

“If there is imminent danger, the police need to be called but in the meantime there are lots of resources and it’s really important to let the person know that you are there, you are going to be there and be ready with the support when they are ready to ask for support.”

Secretary of DVAG, Jack Keain said that it was unfortunate the committee still existed because it meant that domestic violence was still happening.

“It’s one of those things that we are hearing more about, it has been dragged out of the darkness,” he said.

“We will keep working.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help now, call triple zero (000).

Uniting Country SA Domestic Violence victim support service 8633 8600; National crisis line 1800 RESPECT;