Bega’s first White Ribbon Walk A Mile in Her Shoes event was an eye-catching, and for some eye-watering, way to draw attention to the festering sore that is domestic and family violence.
At 11am on Thursday, about 40 people, mostly men shod in a mixture of outrageous women’s footwear from high heels to the more forgiving wedges, walked from Kiss’s Lagoon to Littleton Gardens.
While there were plenty of laughs the serious message behind the event was not lost on the group who were proud to draw attention to the issue of domestic violence.
Organisers Sam Stevenson and Peter Cross were impressed by the number of men keen to take part in the walk.
They had no idea if it was going to work or be a flop until participants turned up on the morning.
“Peter and I decided to do this about three months ago,” Mr Stevenson said.
“I had been to a lot of events where there were always a lot of women making statements about domestic violence. Peter and I decided to try an event to get men involved.
“This is in not about trivialising what is a very serious issue. It is about bringing that issue out of the shadows.
“I’m in the RFS so I roped some of those guys in pretty quickly, but I had no idea who from the community might respond.
“To see all these people is wonderful,” he said.
So after a quick chat and some photos the group awkwardly made its way into Bega’s CBD. Along the way they were pointed at and laughed at, but they were also asked about what they were doing and some people even donated money to the cause.
It was clear to see the spectacle worked as a way to help get the message across.
“Despite the fact I found bones in my feet I didn’t know existed, it was really positive to see the way people were engaging in the street as we walked past. It felt like we broke down a few barriers,” Toby Schaefer-Darling from Bega said.
About 12 women took part in the walk, most in sensible shoes. Among them was Rural Adversity Mental Health Program coordinator for southern NSW Jen Keioskie.
She worked with victims of domestic violence for about 20 years. While she applauded the effort in Bega, she said there was still a long way to go.
“We need a generational and cultural shift in the way many men respect women and children. Violence prevention is everyone’s responsibility,” she said.