On Tuesday 21 November, Inner West law firm Gowland Legal presented the Inaugural Gowland Awards 2017, which highlight the best in domestic violence awareness and prevention and call out the worst examples of DV denial.
Anita Vitanova, founder of Inner West Mums, and Ginny Grant, from the admin team, attended the event, which was held at Parliament House, alongside dozens of dedicated frontline workers in domestic violence.
Gowland Legal principal solicitor Lyndal Gowland explained her motivation for initiating the awards. ‘We devised the awards to give a voice to frontline workers who deal with the banal reality of domestic violence every day. The denial of domestic violence is overt, covert, and insidious,’ she said. ‘“DV” remains trivialised … It won’t be fully accepted as an issue until its prevalence and seriousness is accepted as real.’
The MC, Andrew O’Keefe, a founding member and ambassador of White Ribbon Australia – an organisation that works to eradicate violence against women – spoke very passionately about the importance of individual acts of resistance.
Image: Anita Vitanova, Lyndal Gowland and Ginny Grant
In the tradition of the awards, the evening had two parts: the presentation of two Gold Gowland Awards, and the Howl for a Gowl – ‘I Called It Out’ Awards, citing appalling instances of domestic violence denial.
Gold Gowlands were awarded to actress Rebecca Gibney, for Excellence in Domestic Violence Awareness, and Leichhardt Women’s Community Health Centre, on behalf of a client, for Outstanding Acts of Survivor Resistance.
Lyndal Gowland said of Rebecca Gibney’s contribution: ‘Rebecca has used her position as a public figure in Australian television to raise awareness about domestic violence. She has been instrumental in bringing domestic violence to light by sharing her personal experience. Rebecca opened up a path for society to hear a message: that domestic violence is real, that is does not discriminate, and that it is okay for survivors to share their story.’
Rebecca Gibney accepted the award via a deeply moving video message in which she described the violence that occurred in her home while growing up. ‘Domestic violence is wrong. But saying it’s wrong is not enough … Yes, we do need tougher penalties, but we also need more refuges, more resources and access to counselling. There’s a lot that we need to do.’ Her mother, Shirley Gibney, and sister Stella Gibney, were present to accept the award on her behalf and gave poignant speeches.
Roxanne McMurray, of the Leichhardt Women’s Community Health Centre, accepted the award for Outstanding Acts of Survivor Resistance on behalf of a client. McMurray told of an exceptionally brave young non English-speaking woman who endured extreme acts of violence at the hands of her husband. After becoming fluent in English, the woman gathered the courage to leave the relationship. She undertook tertiary studies and is now working in her chosen field. It was a truly sobering account but one that demonstrated the woman’s tremendous strength and resilience.
This year, there were three categories in the Howl for a Gowl ‘I Called It Out’ Awards: the worst survivor/victim blaming statement, the most trivial or patronising remark about domestic violence and the most inaccurate statement about domestic violence. The audience was invited to howl, boo and hiss at the worst remarks in each category, which together formed a staggering snapshot of public domestic violence denial in 2017. An Inner West Mum had nominated one of the winning statements and Anita Vitanova proudly accepted the award on her behalf.
Many thanks to Gowland Legal for continuing to take a strong stance against domestic violence.
Cover image: Anita Vitanova and Lyndal Gowland
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