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January 27
You don’t have to be a bystander

Many of you know that YMCA Victoria has been implementing a unique, ground-breaking project promoting gender equity and respect in their workplace since 2012.  YMCA Australia was fortunate to promote this on a national basis when they employed Scott Holmes in 2015.

The impact of this project on individuals became evident again to me last week when a young female staff member at the Y Australia office. Michelle shared this story with me.

Michelle was recently out enjoying herself at one of Melbourne's popular entertainment precincts when she was walking along the street and came across an arguing couple.  She described the situation as verging on violent with loud threats and abuse being made towards the female.

Michelle said that in the past she would have probably crossed the street and hurried on, eager to avoid the situation, as she would be scared to get involved with an angry male.  She described how she had gone through the staff training conducted by Scott last year in which the role of bystanders was discussed.  Realising that everyone has a role in preventing violence against women, Michelle took the bold step forward and interrupted the barrage of verbal abuse with a strong and loud exclamation - "Excuse me, don't talk to her like that!"

To Michelle's surprise, and relief, almost immediately a number of other people including the guy's friends reacted to Michelle's circuit breaker and intervened.  He was bundled into a taxi and sent on his way and the young lady was comforted by friends.

I reflected on Michelle's story over the Australia Day holiday where I was heartened and proud that we are able to celebrate the actions of another significant Australian in David Morrison as the 2016 Australian of the Year.  This following from the extraordinary impact that Rosie Batty has had over the last 12 months.

Morrison's landmark speech culminating in the seminal statement "The standard you walk past is the standard you accept" can be no better demonstrated than with Michelle's actions.

Well done Michelle.

More Information on the impact of bystanders

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