Domestic 'no lesser sort of violence': Quentin Bryce
QUENTIN Bryce is angry and determined.
The kind and gentle altruistic 73-year-old icon of Australia's political and social landscape is determined to end domestic violence.
After five months chairing the Queensland Government's Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence, Ms Bryce knows there is no easy solution.
She understands it will take political commitment and social change to wipe out the scourge tearing Australian families apart.
But the former governor-general exudes an air of confidence.
Confidence that Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will ensure every one of the taskforce's 140 recommendations come into play; confidence that our communities will start talking openly about the problem and offering help where needed; and confidence that today's children will grow into calm and loving adults raising families in an environment of peace and love.
"I'm gravely concerned by this dreadful behaviour - this terrible scourge - in our society," Ms Bryce says.
"It's important that we know about domestic violence - that it's not something that's cast aside as some lesser sort of violence - 'Oh, it's just a domestic' or because it happens at home it's not violence as we generally understand."
Ms Bryce and her panel of experts from all sectors of the domestic violence spectrum - including police, academia and family and women's support organisations - had a massive task.
Not only were they investigating the depth of the problem and finding solutions, they were hearing the stories of those who mattered most - the victims.
And the stories flowed - from strangers and from people Ms Bryce has known for years.
"There was a selflessness in (the survivors' stories) and a great deal of courage because to go back into dark disturbing horrible times in their lives must have been very difficult," she says.
"I sat and talked to women from all walks of life, from all parts of our state - many women wrote to me, many emailed to tell their stories and I can tell you that many times I've sat at my computer with tears pouring down my face.
"Particularly when I heard from people who I've known all my life, whom I had no idea who had been victims of domestic violence.
"There were stories that were absolutely alarming - some that were so deeply saddening and (about) the insidiousness of the violence ... the dreadful things that are done to women to keep them under control.
"They and their children are living in fear, in constant anxiety - some of those stories were unbelievable."
There's no doubt the adult survivors tore her heart apart, but the smallest victims left a permanent mark on her soul.
"I often ask myself 'What about the children?'
"I think of a little boy I met (after a meeting with survivors).
"I could see how angry he was.
"He expressed this enormous anger from every part of his body really.
"We had a conversation about lots of things, he seemed to really welcome the conversation and I was concerned to calm him down - he was furious.
"I asked him, what he wanted to be when he grew up - going through the usual questions like a grandma does I suppose.
"He just looked at me and said 'I don't want to be anything'.
"It is so upsetting because this was a little boy who had had horrific violence around him - the sort of violence one can't imagine."
Ms Bryce does not waver in her belief that today's children will make a better tomorrow.
"There is hope," she says of the next generation.
From a specific domestic and family violence court to tougher criminal penalties; more emergency housing; a massive media campaign that could cost millions of dollars and compulsory state school education programs; the Not Here Not Now report covers every aspect of family violence.
Its recommendations will not happen overnight - it will take months, if not years, for many to come into effect.
But the problem is here and now and the only real hope society has of addressing it is one of pure simplicity, Ms Bryce says - acknowledging its existence and talking about it.
Ms Bryce says many people do not realise that domestic violence knows no boundaries - be it social, cultural or economic.
She recalls attending events where elite members of society demanded she change the subject to something joyful.
She waves one arm to the left of the crowded room and announces "there are perpetrators here ..." - and waves to the right - "... and there are victims".
"We must get across a very strong message," Ms Bryce says.
"Don't be a bystander. Take action when you see something that makes you feel uncomfortable, concerned, worried.
"It's hard to do that - people find it enormously difficult to confront domestic violence.
"It's a horrible thing to think that a woman is in serious danger from the actions of a person whom she loves - an intimate relationship.
"It's about not letting our community get away with it.
"Behind all the terrible facts and figures there are stories of terrible tragedy, of deep sadness, of loss.
"Lives that are characterised by fear and anxiety.
"We don't want that."
WHAT THEY SAID
A selection of comments from victims to the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence:
- "I am so sad and desperate and in so much pain and just don't want to be here anymore."
- "My terror started as far back as I can remember ... at every opportunity I was the subject of abuse. My father, kicking, punching, threatening to slit my throat, raping me."
- "Domestic violence victims are emotionally crippled and weak from the abuse but we are not stupid."
- "Custody of our children was awarded to my husband, a perpetrator of domestic violence with a criminal history. He was never made accountable for his actions or for the effects his violence towards me has had on our children."
SOURCE: Our Journal - A Collection of Personal Thoughts About Domestic Violence