‘It opened our eyes’: Silver lining in virtual domestic violence vigil
THIS year's candlelight vigil for the victims of domestic violence looked a little different to usual and held an unexpected lesson for organisers.
Bowen Neighbourhood Centre holds a candlelight vigil on the first Wednesday of May every year, remembering those who have lost their lives as a result of domestic and family violence over the past 12 months.
Due to strict social distancing rules, this year's vigil was virtual, with the centre calling for people to show support by sending and sharing images and videos online.
The lesson the Bowen Neighbourhood Centre realised, was that the digital event allowed more people than ever to show their support, and opened up a whole new channel of communication for those struggling with domestic violence.
Centre coordinator Stephanie Cora said after seeing the success of the virtual vigil, they are looking at how resources could be used towards technology to support people in their own homes.
"Obviously we can't do social gatherings so it was actually an idea that came from a Brisbane organisation and we, as a community group, thought it was a great idea," she said.
"It was a great way for those who don't have the ability to come down and even those who, perhaps couldn't come down because of the situation at home, to still take part.
"It opened our eyes to a whole other way that we can open up to people and offer them support.
"We might be able to put resources toward other avenues instead of brochures and face-to-face meetings."
Ms Cora said to "watch this space", as the Bowen Neighbourhood Centre would be exploring new ways to make a difference for domestic violence victims in our community.
"Now with this new world and new world order, we are being a bit more creative with how we can communicate with people, and looking at how we can use technology so people are not having to leave home and worry about if he knows," she said.
"Even though we aren't in the office, we are still here and supporting you and we are still hearing that people need help."
A director on the Bowen Community Council board,Tamara Henry, said the event was important to raise awareness for domestic violence and allow those in violent situations to see the level of support that was available in the community.
"With social distancing and isolation, domestic violence rates are rising around the world. It's a window of opportunity for victims and survivors to see the organisations that do offer the support for them," she said.
"To see there is counselling and help available.
"It opens it up so they see they aren't alone."
Ms Henry said it was "lovely" to see the level of community support surpassing previous years.
Ms Cora highlighted the importance of community support, saying it was "far from just Bowen Neighbourhood Centre" who helped support domestic violence victims in the community.
"I really do want to push that it is not just the community centre," she said.
"We had Julie a domestic violence counsellor from Whitsundays Counselling and Support, Jodie Todd from Centacare, Social Mind social worker Natasha Leaver, Whitsunday Regional Council community development officer Melanie Douglas, Xena Yasso and Erin Leitchauer from Cooinda Centre, Keira Prossor, Annie Cox and Rachel Walton and community member Tazi.
"And a big shout out to someone who has passed away recently, Rocky, a domestic violence survivor and spokesperson, who still came to every single meeting regardless of health."
• Bowen Neighbourhood Centre can be contacted on 4786 2111.
• DVConnect, the 24 hour Domestic Violence Helpline, can be contacted on 1800 811 811.