“Even if someone tries to destroy who you are as a person, if you believe in yourself you can do great things.”
That was the message local White Ribbon ambassador Barry Merritt had for those at yesterday’s Forbes Ochre Ribbon event.
Mr Merritt said he witnessed and was a victim of domestic violence as a child.
He was told he’d grow up the same – a prediction that haunted him when he met his girlfriend at age 15.
“I started thinking to myself, when is this going to start happening? I love my girlfriend and I don’t want to hit her,” he said yesterday.
Mr Merritt’s message to young people gathered at the Wiradjuri Dreaming Centre was, “just because someone tells you you’re going to be like somebody, doesn’t mean you have to be”.
“Just be yourself.
“That girlfriend is now my wife.
“We have been together for more than 33 years and I love my wife. We have raised three amazing sons – Zac, Kye and Traie.
“So I give permission as a man to stand up and protect our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, granddaughters. And let the offenders know as a male, it’s not okay.”
Wednesday marked the third year Forbes has hosted an Ochre Ribbon event, raising awareness of family violence and its devastating impacts in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Organiser Kelly Bowden said Ochre Ribbon Day is culturally focused in its values and contributes to the message that Aboriginal people will not tolerate violence against our men, women and children.
Locally, the day’s events are organised by Binaal Billa, in partnership with Yoorana Gunya and Forbes Wiradjuri Dreaming Centre.
There was an “Amazing Ochre Ribbon” race, music by local talent Paige Ellison, a mannequin challenge, sausage sizzle and more.
Ms Bowden said Binaal Billa Family Violence Prevention Legal Service was one of a number of community services that can support victims of family violence.
Police are the immediate response if violence is occurring, call 000.
Binaal Billa is in Spring Street or on 1800 700 218, Yoorana Gunya Family Healing Centre is in Church Street on 68501222 as well as Centacare in Lachlan Street.