GIPPSLAND, it’s time to chat.

Vibrant orange was the colour code, and gender-based violence was the theme, as representatives from Quantum Support Services, with the support of The Orange Door and Gippsland Women’s Health (GWH), descended upon Sale’s pedestrian mall on Tuesday as part of this year’s 16 Days of Activism campaign – Let’s Chat Gippsland.

Let’s Chat Gippsland is a community campaign as part of the 16 Days of Activism international initiative against gender-based violence spanning from International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25, to Human Rights Day, December 10.

The campaign encourages individuals and organisations to raise awareness and take action against gender-based violence, and ultimately put a stop to violence against women and girls.

Services and organisations across Gippsland have joined forces to end gender-based violence; the campaign launching in Moe on November 25, visiting Yarram, Meeniyan, Inverloch, Yarragon, Warragul, Noojee, Maffra, Lakes Entrance, Rosedale and Morwell before appearing in Sale’s CBD.

Equipped with bright orange balloons, trays of cookies, and the classic smell of snags on the barbecue catching in the wind drifting down Raymond St, representatives from Quantum Support Services were hard to miss.

Let's Chat Gippsland 2022 in Sale
Representatives from Quantum Support Services descended upon Sale’s mall to spread an important message on Tuesday. Photos: Zoe Askew

As Quantum representatives handed out free sausages donated by Coles Sale, cooked by Rotary Club Sale volunteers, waved signs donated by Wellington Signs and passed over balloons donated by Spotlight Sale to little hands, an important conversation was started – gender-based violence prevention.

Pasted to the windows and walls of Wild Honey Cafe and The Juicy Unicorn were vibrant posters compelling customers to start a conversation. For those grabbing takeaway, the message was painted orange on their coffee cups.

GWH chief executive Kate Graham says prevention is possible.

“We know that violence against women can be prevented, and the first step is having important conversations about the issue and what we can all do,” she said.

“This year sees a great diversity of free events and activities on offer across Gippsland; it has been a truly collaborative effort.”

Wellington Shire councillor, Gayle Maher, commended the work of GWH and other supporting agencies for their efforts, in the most recent council meeting on Tuesday, December 6.

“Sadly, Gippsland has some of the highest rates of family violence in Victoria,” Cr Maher said.

“The 16 Days of Activism campaign has aimed to support our communities in understanding what respect means, what it looks like, and how to put it into practice each and every day.

“And this, as we all know, starts at home but also our sporting clubs, our schools, our workplaces and our public spaces, and how we can strive to make where everyone lives a safe place.

“I am sure we can all work together to try hard to make a dent in this issue, and certainly, one thing COVID has at least taught us is that community matters, and I am sure that we will all strive to make the change where we can.”

Let's Chat Gippsland
Let’s Chat Gippsland is Gippsland’s regional campaign, part of the international gender-based violence prevention campaign, 16 Days of Activism.

Gippsland experiences increased rates of family violence. According to Crime Statistics Victoria data, in 2020, Wellington Shire recorded the highest rate of family violence in the state.

Family violence is violence between family members, such as between parents and children, siblings, and intimate partners. While men can be victims of family violence; it is most common for this type of violence to be perpetrated against women by men.

While more recent data reveals a reduction of family violence across the state between June 2021 and July 2022, Wellington Shire still records the fifth highest family violence rates in the state.

After an increase throughout the pandemic, the number of family violence incidents recorded by police decreased by three per cent this year. However, family violence incidents were still three per cent higher than pre-pandemic, according to the Crime Statistics Agency, which released key family violence measures from the 2021-22 Victorian Family Violence Database on Wednesday, December 7.

Family violence-related ambulance and emergency department presentations also decreased, the number of clients provided with family violence-related homelessness services decreased by 10 per cent, and calls to family violence helpline services decreased this year.

Calls to the Victims of Crime Helpline were down three per cent, and calls to the Victims’ Assistance Program were down 21 per cent.

Crime Statistics Agency chief statistician, Fiona Dowsley, said recent figures could mark the beginning of a return to pre-pandemic trends.

“The number of family violence-related contacts across many services decreased this year, following higher than usual increases throughout the pandemic,” Ms Dowsley said.

“Close monitoring over the coming months is vital for understanding whether we will see a return to pre-pandemic patterns in service contacts.”

Gender-based violence does not discriminate against age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, profession or religion.

Gender-based violence is not limited to physical violence.

Gender-based violence is any act that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.

Gender-based violence has no place in Gippsland.