The setting was spectacular, the conversation was not the usual small talk over dinner. At the fabulous Doltone House on Jones Bay Wharf in Sydney a cross section of Australian culture came together to talk about what can be done to address domestic abuse and family violence, and to support The Dangerous Dance feature length documentary to raise the funds to get made. The fundraising push is on-going so if you can donate to the production budget you can do so fully tax deductible at Documentary Australia Dangerous Dance Donation Page
In the few days since that gathering the nation has been shocked by the story of a ten month old baby being publicly abused on a train by his father while his stricken mother, also a victim of domestic abuse, failed, in her fear, to protect him. When what happens behind closed doors comes out into public people feel moved to help, as the onlooker in the train carriage, too frightened to confront the abuser directly (just as the child’s mother was) asked police to intervene once she alighted from the train.
This amazing group of people – survivors, business people, experts, and supporters – gathered at this dinner to have that awkward conversation, the one about how much abuse and violence is going on behind closed doors in Australia, and to contribute to solutions, and hear about these harsh realities.
The evening kicked off with a warm welcome to country from Aunty Fay Carroll of the Ngunnawal/Wiradjuri people, born on Gadigal land (Sydney). Aunty Fay shared some wise words and applauded the efforts of all who attended and who contribute to healthy community on a wider scale.
Introduced by the dazzling She Business founder Suzy Jacobs – a lively and intelligent Mistress-Of-Ceremonies for the evening…
…filmstretch’s Producer Claire Stretch and Director Brendon Stretch took the stage to thank everyone for their support.
An emotive and challenging short film made specially for the evening by Brendon with themes of love, relationship, violence, masculinity and identity left the room moved and confronted. It began the evening as it continued – with deep contemplation of the underlying issues involved in domestic violence amongst the gathering.
General (Retired) David Morrison AO, the current Australian of the Year, spoke with great compassion in his keynote speech. He directly praised and honoured victims of domestic violence, reminding the audience that although some come out the other side of the experience of abuse as survivors, others don’t make it. A frightening reality that gave all pause for thought.
Tara Costigan’s uncle, Michael Costigan, Director of The Tara Costigan Foundation – echoed David’s words as he spoke of the horror of a family who lost a woman to violence from her former partner. Tara was killed with an axe as she clutched her five day old baby, leaving two other young children motherless as well as her baby girl.
An impassioned plea for indigenous men, their negative representation and struggle to be treated as good men, good fathers and good husbands was begun by an audience member who reminded the room that rates of family violence and abuse cross all boundaries of culture and economic status, and need to be seen as a society wide problem.
Donors and sponsors among the dinner guests included HM Communications, Adshel, Pacific Magazines and Channel 7, Ooh Media, Avril Henry & Associates, The ASX, The National Council of Single Mothers and Their Children, Sotheby’s Sydney, She Business and Belgrin Public Relations.
The panel discussion was led by Professor Catharine Lumby, who has worked in a pro-bono role advising the National Rugby League on cultural change and educations programs for players. Her deep knowledge of what does and does not work in terms of changing minds and behaviour shone through in her contributions.
Dean Widders, ex NRL player, White Ribbon Ambassador and proud Anaiwan descendent spoke with passion about addressing men and their behaviour, and about the importance of asking men to step up and create a positive culture. His work with both indigenous and nonidigenous men through NRL and in community gave Dean a strong place to come from in calling for a proud male identity that refuses violence and abuse.
Lisa McAdams’ spoke openly about her own experience of domestic violence, and advocated for a deeper understanding of both the terrible experience and toll of domestic and family abuse, and the possibility of changing the culture that allows and supports such abuse continuing. Her experience and research has led her to become a strategist and solutions consultant for public and corporate entities who are determined to put a stop to DV, and the response from those in the audience from both sectors gave testament to how much interest and willingness there is now in Australia to bring an end to abuse behind closed doors.
Martin Fisk, Chief Executive of Menslink, told heartbreaking stories of the young men his organisation works with who have grown up in an environment of family violence and desperately want to avoid replicating their childhoods as they grow into men. The crisis of young men and their identity in current culture was laid out, and the bravery and struggle of those who also face issues in their families and communities including abuse, violence, mental health, drug/alcohol issues, and suicide and who need extra support to manage transforming their lives was starkly outlined. Martin has been heartened by the willingness of schools, businesses and corporate groups who have partnered with Menslink to offer these young men resources and hope.
Anita Bentata brought the discussion home to the body and heart, to the level of trauma that those who have lived with domestic or family abuse suffer psychologically and physiologically . An expert and psychotherapist dealing exclusively with the issues that traumatised people deal with through story (a gentle and unthreatening way to approach the horror of these traumas) she talked with great clarity about the level of gentleness, understanding and compassion needed to help a loved one who is in an abusive situation escape, or to help those who manage to escape begin to heal. Her personal journey has been transformed into an empathic resource for everyone who has suffered – first hand or through witnessing.
The Panel, Speaker, Auctioneer, Mistress Of Ceremonies & filmstretch
Amazingly, after such emotionally charged topics had been raised, the conversation over dinner was lively, positive, and solution focused. A call for men who would be willing to come together to create a new initiative for men by men was met with willing volunteers. A sense of determination filled the room and an atmosphere of hopefulness.
Many raffle tickets were sold, and significant funds were raised in an auction led by Sotheby’s Auctioneer Gayle Walker, who valiantly both shared personal stories and celebrated dinner guests’ generous bidding. Alongside the room wide auction, a business card draw and silent auctions on each table left many guests with wonderful goodies to take away. The Dangerous Dance thanks all those who donated prizes so generously including: Mofox, The Colin James Method, BriteKite, Xplore, Intrinsic Brilliance, Greater Western Sydney Giants, Demagogic, Simply Bowen Therapy, Flat Friends, Pamper Hamper Gifts, Hamblins and Off The Wall Photography.
filmstretch are even more determined to make this documentary, and the support across the spectrum of Australian society represented by the speakers, guests, donors and sponsors at the Gala has not only raised funds but raised hope that tackling domestic and family violence is something that Australia cares deeply about.
All photos can be seen at: Gala Dinner Photos and video of this wonderful event will be appearing on The Dangerous Dance site over the coming weeks. A new preview of the documentary will also appear, it’s being cut now!
Please continue to support this film. Donations are tax free,
Please continue to support this film. Donations are tax free, donate atDocumentary Australia Dangerous Dance Donation Page. And remember to use and recommend filmstretch for corporate video, web video and marketing video – our usual work will support our efforts to get this film made www.filmstretch.com.au