Wagga City Council is recruiting three new staff members to lead a three-year community-wide gender equality campaign.
The project received $1,259,075 in government funding last year after the Health Centre’s research showed Wagga was in the top 25 per cent in NSW for domestic violence.
Now, with that funding secured, councillor Vanessa Keenan said it was time to start implementing initiatives to bring about change.
“One of the key components of the project overall is recognising the link between respect at one end of the spectrum and family and domestic violence at the other,” Cr Keenan said.
“Quite often, people will say if they see someone behaving appallingly towards women, they’ll call it out, but what this project aims for is if you see anybody being disrespectful, you call it out.”
Cr Keenan said one measure of whether the project has been a success will be at the 2020 elections.
“This project will be in its second year, and hopefully we’ll see some really good initiatives to encourage and support women of all backgrounds to put their hands up for council,” she said.
“We’ve never had very many women on council, so I think this project really has the opportunity to be the catalyst for fundamental and generational change.”
The project aims to achieve improved equality through three channels: organisational change within the council, sector engagement across Wagga, and community-wide engagement with residents.
Janice Summerhayes, the council’s community director, said that was where the three new staff members would be key.
“The project will access community members where they live, work, play, and learn by dividing the community into sectors, for example, sports, the arts, health, community services, faith-based, media, public spaces, infrastructure, and facilities,” she said.
“All three components will be implemented at the same time to saturate Wagga with multiple, mutually reinforcing messages and to accelerate change.”
Women’s Health Centre manager Gail Meyer said the research that conceived this project can be replicated at its conclusion to see how successful it has been.
“When we first opened, domestic violence was an issue that was apparent right from the very first day, but we thought we would do ourselves out of a job over the years,” Ms Meyer said.
“A few years ago, we realised we were busier than ever and things weren’t really changing, so we needed to get some Wagga-specific research.”
The council’s three new officers are expected to be instated in the next couple of weeks, with the committee’s first meeting to take place later this month.