Blue Mountains Posts

Western Sydney and Mountains: Runners against violence - the RAV challenge returns in 2021!

By Sirmai Arts Publicity
Posted: 24 Jun 2021
Kirrily Dear
From a lone woman running across the outback to a group of coastal teens creating a hip hop song, the aim is the same: let’s get everyone in Australia talking about family violence and what it means to have a healthy relationship!

Australian runners and walkers alike are invited to participate in the 4th annual Run Against Violence Virtual Team Challenge, a nationwide movement to raise awareness of family violence by running 1300 kilometers.

Founder and leader of the campaign is Mudgee's Kirrily Dear, but there are local teams participating from Mulgoa, Glemore Park, Werrington, Orchard Hills, Castlereagh, Cranebrook, Emu Plains, St Clair, Erskine Park, Glenwood, The Ponds, Glenbrook, Blaxland, Springwood, Hazelbrook and Katoomba!

In 2020 the challenge raised $120k and had 3,000 participants. This year, the goal is $180k and 5,000.

Together with Brad Smithers, Kirrily Dear (pictured right) established the charity Run Against Violence in 2015. The RAV Virtual Team Challenge was established in 2017 in conjunction with Kirrily’s solo run from Broken Hill to Sydney which was held over 19 days, the 1300km solo run brought people together from throughout regional NSW to raise awareness about family violence and its impact on the community. 

Kirrily says RAV highlights family violence is a significant problem in our communities.

“Our virtual run equates to 1.7 million steps. 1.7 million is the estimated number of Australians who experienced physical abuse before the age of 15*.”

Run Against Violence is a volunteer organisation whose purpose is to end the silence through starting constructive and comprehensive conversations around family violence. Says Kirrily, “Our job is to engage the broader community in conversations about family violence to reduce the stigma and isolation people who have lived with domestic and family violence. When that stigma is removed people then share their story, reach out for help. We deliver awareness campaigns and community activities in order to create the platform for these conversations around family violence to be heard”.

During the challenge, teams of up to 20 people will walk or run in their local area. Daily uploads of their distances onto an online tracker keeps them in the competition. The tracker collects and collates each team member’s distances so the participants can watch their team track across the map from Broken Hill to Sydney. To be successful, the team is required to cover 1300km in the 19 days of the challenge.

Run Against Violence has recently joined forces with the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) to help ensure that every teenager in Australia has the opportunity to learn about what healthy relationships look like for them.

NAPCAN’s Deputy CEO, Leesa Waters, said: “We are very excited to have the support of Run Against Violence in our work. Both our organisations are particularly concerned about the impacts of violence on children. Both our organisations believe that we all have a part to play. And both our organisations believe that educating young people is key for short- and long-term change.

“When we look at the damage that sexual assault and family violence causes, it’s clear the focus needs to be on prevention. We need to stop this before it happens. “RAV will be supporting us with funds to enhance and expand our Love Bites Program.The work includes development of tools to help measure the impact of our programs, as well as a grants program to help expand the program into communities that don’t have adequate funds to train their Love Bites facilitators.” Although NAPCAN runs Love Bites on a simple cost-recovery basis, the sustainability of the program relies heavily on the passion in the community to keep it going. It is often the areas in most need that struggle to raise the funds to train facilitators particularly if they are in rural or regional areas, where it can be difficult to even get to the training, and where there can be high staff turnover. The funding from RAV will be a huge boost for these areas.

“Love Bites is an innovative respectful relationships education program that gives Australia’s young people the opportunity to have frank and open conversations about what healthy relationships look like, what red and green flags look like, what consent looks like, and much much more,” added Leesa.

The program is delivered in safe interactive environments by highly trained facilitators from outside of the school - usually people who are already skilled at talking about these challenging topics including sexual assault workers, domestic violence professionals, youth and social workers or Police.

It’s different from other school-based programs because it delves into the serious conversations and links young people to external support systems. Most importantly, it doesn’t ‘teach lessons’; instead, it facilitates conversations so that young people can think about what a healthy relationship might mean for them and what boundaries they feel comfortable with. Adults will often say that they wished they had known these things when they were young.

The program also encourages the students to create artwork and hip hop songs to share the knowledge they have gained, and these are then promoted to bring the conversations into the broader community.

“Our work is all about creating a whole-of-community network of people committed to preventing violence, and this partnership with RAV is a great example of the power of working together.” 

The importance of these sorts of partnerships have been highlighted in a sad and shocking way with the recent petition from former Sydney student, Chanel Contos, who is calling for more consent education in schools with the Teach Us Consent petition.

Reading the thousands of testimonies of school-based sexual assault is a harrowing reminder of the importance of programs like Love Bites.

NAPCAN thanked RAV for their generous funding and looks forward to promoting - and participating in - the Run Against Violence - Virtual Challenge.

“Run Against Violence is living proof that we can all work together to end family violence and we all have a role to play” said Leesa.

Everyone is invited and encouraged to participate – if you can move 10 metres or 10,000 metres in a day, join us in this movement to end family violence. People can enter as teams or as an individual and, if prefefred, RAV can help you find a team. Help RAV reach their goal of 5,000 participants for 2021!

Registrations Open: Monday 28 June 2021
Challenge Starts: Anytime Monday 30 August 2021
Challenge Finishes: Midnight Friday 17 September 2021

* Sourced from ABS Personal Safety Survey 2016.

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