Engender Equality Candles

North West Tasmania Candlelight Vigil

An invitation to remember and honour those who have been killed by family violence with a candle-lighting ceremony.

  • Wednesday, May 3rd
  • 6.00pm – 6.30pm
  • Gnonman Room, Wharf Precinct, Ulverstone.

This is a free event. Please come prepared with warm clothing. Candles will be provided.

For further information please contact: Family Violence Counseling and Support 1800 608 122 or Engender Equality 0428 057 415

Engender Equality Plate

The dangerous form of abuse around food that often goes unnoticed

I was constantly run off my feet so I could never take a moment to myself for anything. Nova, late 20s

Food control is a form of coercive control that is often invisible and potentially life-threatening, explains Alina Thomas, the CEO of Engender Equality.

Food control was just one aspect of abuse Nova experienced in the relationship she has since escaped.

“If he didn’t want to eat what I was making, he would demand I leave to get something else for him,” Nova, in her late 20s, says.

“He’d say he’d watch what I was cooking, then allow it to burn while I was gone so … me and my children would have nothing.

“Other times, he would give food set aside for her children to his pet dogs, or take it out of the fridge so it went bad.

Nova’s ex would steal money she needed for groceries, make negative comments about her body, stop her from exercising, and criticise her food choices.

He would also make demands around food that impacted her ability to complete basic daily tasks, like showering.

“Every time he wanted a coffee or something to eat, he would have me drop whatever I was doing to make it for him. Like stopping me from bathing, or [he would] wake me up in the middle of the night to go make him what he wanted.

Read the story at ABC online

Engender Equality Face

Deborah thought her abuse was normal - but a late autism diagnosis changed everything

By Megan Oliver, with photography by Maren Preuss

  • Posted on ABC online Monday 9 Jan 2023 at 5:10am, updated Mon 9 Jan 2023 at 11:33am

All I ever learned was that it was my fault. I had some dark fault inside me where I was always getting it wrong. – Deborah Hunter

Deborah Hunter always knew she was different from those around her — she communicated differently and struggled socially, but didn’t know why.

“I took it to be some kind of intrinsic naivety. I never seemed to get it right,” she said.

“Even when I tried to be a ‘good girl’ and behave as appropriate or expected, I was forever getting things wrong.”

The emotional and physical abuse started in Deborah’s family home, but she didn’t realise it was abuse.

Read the ABC news story

Engender Equality Woman

Engender Equality Board Vacancy (volunteer)

Volunteer role: Do you have a passion for gender equality, family violence, governance and administration?

Engender Equality is looking for a passionate and self-motivated person with spectacular administration skills to work alongside the CEO and support the governance board. As a skills based board we seek to recruit new board members who can fill gaps in the board skill set. At this point we need someone with legal expertise and/or is able to represent an element of the regional diversity of the state.

Vacancy closes on the 23 January 2023

Engender Equality Mic

Tasmanian woman shares experiences of family violence ahead of election

By Bec Pridham
Posted to The Examiner online April 10 2022 – 3:30am

Charlotte’s* first encounter with family violence was as a child. Living with incessant bullying and harassment in her family home, she was forced to flee in the middle of the night at age 16.

The violence left behind a devastating legacy that followed her into her intimate relationships – the trauma, coupled with her disability, leaving Charlotte vulnerable.

“It’s often expressed that autistic people lack empathy. You could describe that as a disability in communication. We are unable to perceive simple conversational cues, and this causes people to be uncomfortable. It causes misunderstandings both ways. It causes a lot of conflict,” she said.

“Relationship after relationship the men learned to manipulate [me], a person with autism, to manipulate to the point of an autistic meltdown, and they then claimed ‘see, look what you made me do’.”

“Then they punch you.”

Charlotte met the father of her son at a young age.

She fell pregnant early into the relationship, which left her feeling locked in.

“I had a strong sense of needing to survive. If it hadn’t been for my son, I wouldn’t have.”

Her partner was violent and coercive, taking her car keys so she could not escape, controlling how she spent her money, forcing all the child caring responsibilities upon her.

“My partner broke my neck and (according to him) it was my fault. And once it happens time after time after time after time, you’re convinced that it’s your fault.”

She never recovered from the incident, left physically disabled and in constant pain.

“I didn’t leave him until my son was 16 months old.”

While each victim’s story is nuanced and incredibly complex, Charlotte’s escape from violence is somewhat of an anomaly.

She did not leave. He did.

“I wasn’t going to leave. I wasn’t going to run again.”

It’s very shameful to admit to domestic violence and so you don’t. And so I’ve suffered in silence. I took it to be my fault and tried to be a good girl. “People leaving abusive relationships shouldn’t be made to think it’s their own fault.

Charlotte said she was “lucky” to have a close circle of friends she could lean on. They began inviting themselves to dinner at her home every evening, telling her partner he needed to leave. After three months, he succumbed to the pressure, and moved out.

Charlotte did not receive her autism diagnosis until later in life, when her complex post traumatic stress disorder rendered her unable to manage her life.

“I was forced to begin to address the abuse in my adolescence in the family home, the reason I had to leave, why it came to that. If I’d only known earlier, if there was only enough support … I cannot stress how vital that diagnosis is.”

Charlotte said Australia’s family violence situation has made little progress since she left decades ago.

“People who are suffering from gaps in equality, people that are leaving violent and abusive relationships or families, are still at a disadvantage as much as they were 30 years ago. They really are. And this is both in terms of society acceptance and lack of support.

“It’s very shameful to admit to domestic violence and so you don’t. And so I’ve suffered in silence. I took it to be my fault and tried to be a good girl.

“People leaving abusive relationships shouldn’t be made to think it’s their own fault.”

It is a message resounding from those working in the family violence sector, who point out that raising the profile of women is desperately needed if Australia is to really address the issue.

Women’s Legal Service Tasmania chief executive Yvette Cehtel said Australia’s focus needed to be on primary prevention, not just early intervention and response.

“If we want to change attitudes and the way people behave, then we need to get in early and we need to do it before there’s a problem and we need to have nuanced conversations with all of our young people about what respectful behaviour looks like,” she said.

Ms Cehtel said she was looking at the government to implement a positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment and promote gender equality.

She said we should understand family violence as being on the extreme end of a continuum of inequality.

“The attitudes and the behaviours that allow unequal treatment of women is all along that continuum,” she said.

“If we’ve got one in three people at work being sexually harassed, we’ve got a massive problem with equality in the country.”

Ms Cehtel referred to the Kate Jenkins report, Set the Standard, which lists diversity, equality and inclusion as requirements of a safe and respectful workplace.

Launceston White Ribbon Committee secretary Carol Fuller said there was a difference between equality and equity.

“Women aren’t the same as men, so they have different needs. And to live a successful life and contribute all that we can to society, we need equity,” she said.

“Equity means that because we’re different, we need different systems. We need different processes that allow equality to happen.”

Ms Fuller said the government focused much of its resources on supporting people in danger, but needed to look at the bigger picture.

“What I would like to see, what White Ribbon would like to see, is stepping back and stopping it before it even starts,” she said.

“You can’t do that immediately, it’s a long-term drawn out changing of societal attitudes.”

Ms Fuller pointed to harmful gender stereotypes, sexist language and jokes, unequal laws and unequal pay as factors that might seem innocuous, but lay the foundation for violence.

She wanted to see the government pour the same efforts it did into changing societal attitudes to smoking, using the same consistent, prolonged and broad campaigning.

“I don’t think the government can do anything immediately in terms of stopping it … there’s no magic wand. This is going to take generations. But we’ve got to start now,” she said.

The state government launched the Safe Homes, Families, Communities plan in 2019, investing $26 million over three years in responding to and preventing family and sexual violence.

In March, the Commonwealth committed $20 million to electronically monitor high-risk perpetrators deemed high-risk.

Charlotte has been working through her PTSD with professional help.

She has also become an advocate for change, helping other women.

“If people know that someone like me has pushed through it, then anyone can do it,” she said.

View the story at The Examiner online

Engender Equality Woman

Upholding the presumption of innocence does not preclude believing victims

Published in The Mercury, 19 May 2021

With distressing regularity, women in Australia are disclosing their experiences of sexual and interpersonal abuse at the hands of male politicians and men in senior public office. As we come to grips with the pervasiveness of a culture of sexual impunity that, it seems, reaches even the highest echelons of Parliament, we are witnessing another unsettling trend: the failure of our leaders to condemn the abuse in question.

The default explanation is all too familiar: the individual against whom the allegations have been made has denied any wrongdoing; they are entitled to the presumption of innocence; it’s a legal matter and no comment can be made.

And yet, we know the prevalence of violence against women is abhorrently high in Australia. We also know that sexual and interpersonal crimes often go unreported and are even less frequently prosecuted in the courts. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, fewer than one in five women have reported their most recent sexual assault to police.

For many women and children who have been abused, disclosing the experience comes at an enormous personal cost. Their integrity is doubted, their mental health is called into question; at some level we ask, “What could she have done to prevent it?”. If a case does reach court, the ensuing stress will cause a lasting impact on the victim-survivor. For many, the justice process becomes the defining story that shapes the rest of their life.

The barriers to reporting sexual crimes are only heightened when we insist that the law itself prevents us from condemning acts of abuse and expressing support for victim-survivors. The presumption of innocence should never be positioned in opposition to the fundamental principle of listening to, believing, and supporting people who have experienced abuse. While we continue to feel that we must do one or the other we are missing a critical opportunity to address broader cultural values that condone violence against women.

When our leaders and others in positions of influence feel compelled to ‘take a side’, they immediately declare that one account of events deserves to be upheld, inevitably suggesting that the other account should be called into question.

If we unpack this automatic positioning of a disclosure of abuse in opposition to the principle of law, we understand the reluctance of victim-survivors to report their experience. Each time a public figure refrains from commenting on a disclosure of interpersonal abuse they reinforce the common myth that women fabricate sexual crimes. Furthermore, they demonstrate that the wellbeing and discretion of people who use abuse will be protected by their contemporaries.

Supporting survivors alongside upholding the principle of law isn’t only possible, it is essential. The contemporary spotlight on gender-based violence brings with it an expectation that our political and cultural leaders will demonstrate compassion and respect towards all victims of violence and abuse.

Allegations of abuse will continue to arise and the response must be to offer an expression of gravity to the allegation. Leadership must deliver a statement of empathy and extend dignity to the people who have potentially exposed the misconduct.

The challenge for this decade is to shift the complacency that tolerates gender-based violence. The insidious belief that violence against women in an unfortunate but inevitable ill must be addressed at every opportunity. Our goal must be to bring to light the everyday behaviours that perpetuate this complacency. Talking about abuse should not create more harm than the abuse itself.

As for the alleged behaviour, whether it has occurred or not, its very possibility should be condemned by our leaders. Condemning an act or indeed a culture of abuse is entirely possible without defaming individuals.

Improving the way our leaders respond to accusations, against themselves and their peers, will invite a new level of accountability, new standards of behaviour and play a key role in the culture change that is so vital to reducing sexual violence in Australia. The time to develop this maturity is now.


Alina Thomas, CEO Engender Equality

Elinor Heard, Policy & Communications Officer Engender Equality.

Engender Equality Book

Local author tells personal story to support family violence victims (book launch)

Monday, 16th April 2018

Local author tells personal story to support family violence victims (book launch)

Deborah Thomson found the peaceful life she always wanted in Chasm Creek, on the North Coast of Tasmania, but it took her a long time to get there. Deborah Thomson has written a book about what happened when her life was changed irrevocably by an abusive partner, a relationship which she endured for 17 years.

Whose Life is it Anyway? Recognising and Surviving Domestic Violence published by Brolga Publishing, aims to support people being impacted by abusive partners. “I have written this book to help others in similar situations to leave early in their relationship, before they too suffer debilitating trauma,” stated Deborah Thomson author of the new book. “Since leaving I have come to realise how debilitating trauma is when associated with staying in a long-term violent partnership. Lived experience has shown me that such trauma can take half a lifetime to resolve,” explains Ms Thomson.

Alina Thomas, CEO of Family Violence service SHE, says that Deborah’s experience is not uncommon. “Trauma is an inevitable consequence of long term abusive relationships. We see hundreds of women, every year in Tasmania who are left with physical and emotional symptoms of trauma due to ongoing abuse in relationships.”

The courage of women who have survived Family Violence can give hope to other people experiencing family violence as well as be a source of inspiration to the broader community. Family Violence advocate Rosie Batty changed the way that Australia responded to family violence and our local advocates say there is still a lot that needs to happen. As Author Deb Thomson explains, “we need to do whatever we can to keep the issue of DV in the public’s vision while simultaneously supporting victims in whatever way possible”.

Alina Thomas believes there needs to be a greater investment in primary prevention and early intervention. “In Tasmania we are very focused on a tertiary response, what the police and the courts do after the violence has occurred. But if we are going to see a reduction in the family violence epidemic we need to be investing in programs that target the problem before it escalates to this point,” stated Ms Thomas.

Deborah Thomson’s book Whose life is it Anyway will be launched by Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner AC at Fullers Bookshop on Wednesday 18th April at 5.30pm.

For photos, interviews and more information please contact:

Deborah Thomson, Author

6431 8024

0402 652 806



Alina Thomas, CEO SHE

6287 9090

0438 788 291