Ending violence against women

La Trobe alumnus Emily Maguire is leading a growing movement to end violence against women and children.

Emily Maguire’s career ambition is to work herself out of a job.

The La Trobe graduate is CEO of Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV), which provides vital information to people experiencing family violence, as well as training to help workers better respond to the issue.

“That old saying that information is power is really true,” Emily says. “We provide information to help women at whatever stage they’re at – whether its information on what services are available, or information on gathering evidence to prove an intervention order. Obviously, our hope is that one day we won’t have to exist,” she says.

At 33 years of age, Emily is among a new generation of leaders in the community sector. She began her Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe at 24, having already established a career in the public service.

“I decided to do a BA and major in gender studies and political science, and I could keep working at the same time,” she says.

Emily credits the breadth of her La Trobe Arts degree for helping her examine complex social problems.

“My degree taught me how to think,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what job I’m doing – I could be working with high profile ministers or working on project development, it’s taught me not to take anything at face value. What I was taught at La Trobe was to critique everything that was presented to me as fact.”

While Emily welcomes the increased public focus on family violence, she says more work needs to be done.

“We’re seeing much better media reporting and public conversations on family violence, which is great. But at the same time, we’re also seeing a really big backlash, and that’s partly because addressing this problem is about addressing some of the very foundations of our society, like gender roles.”

She points to the latest National Community Attitudes Survey towards Violence against Women released in 2014, which found that people’s attitudes towards family violence had remained the same over the past 20 years, and in some areas they had worsened. The survey highlighted the trivialising and excusing of violence against women as prevailing social trends.

For Emily and other advocates, the Victorian Government’s recent Royal Commission into Family Violence was a significant step.

“It was what we’d been hoping for, there is now a roadmap for reform,” she says. “What we need is bipartisan support for that, and a sustained funding stream for ending violence against women. This would be just like the way we fund other public health schemes like tobacco prevention and the TAC – we need the same thing for family violence.”

With a long road ahead, Emily says the community sector needs more people willing to tackle some of the country’s most entrenched social problems.

“It’s a great area to work in so I really do encourage people to come into the community sector,” she says. “In many ways you are part of something that’s pretty radical, and the sector is full of people who are hugely passionate about changing the world.”

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