3 Sep 2021

Conversation starter

Youth support
A project between various Mackay services raised awareness about domestic and family violence in the Mackay region with the towns first ‘Red Bench’ officially unveiled on 18 May 2019.

An initiative of the Red Rose Foundation, the Red Bench Project aims to build a permanent reminder that domestic violence occurs within all of our communities. A Red Bench in a public location seeks to raise public awareness and provide an opportunity for this critical issue to remain visible.

Ben Pearson, Regional Engagement Partner and convenor of the new Mackay Strategic Action Leadership Team (SALT), said that Mackay and other areas in North Queensland are not immune to domestic and family violence. Because of this, the SALT decided to embrace an initiative to start the conversation about it in the community and install the first Red Bench in Mackay.

Cindy Kember and Linda Smith from Children, Youth and Families, first approached the SALT about the idea and working together to make it happen.

“When Cindy and Linda approached the SALT, we thought it was a great idea and Paul Hicks, Pastor at Mackay Church of Christ, discussed it with the local Men's Shed to see if they could help make an appropriate bench," Ben said.

“A pew had been donated to the church and  the Men’s Shed members loved the idea of using this pew as the Red Bench due to the connection it then holds between Children, Youth and Families and the Church of Christ as they work together on this community issue,” Ben said.

The Men’s Shed did it up, painting it a vibrant shade of red.

“Being a pew, it is quite a unique red bench.”

Ben said he instantly liked the idea of the Red Bench and what it stands for.

“We don’t have a solution for domestic and family violence, but the red bench brings awareness in the community about the problem and gets people talking.

“We come across domestic and family violence regularly in our communities through our churches and services, and we wanted to raise awareness in the community and start the conversation.”

Regional Manager for Children, Youth and Families Services, Linda Smith said that the bench symbolises “changing the ending” when it comes to domestic and family violence.

“Domestic and family violence does not discriminate; it does not matter if you work, don't work, are wealthy or are homeless. Domestic violence is an issue that we all need to talk about, raise awareness and say Domestic and Family violence is never okay,” Linda said.

Domestic and family violence continues to be an issue across Australia. On average, one woman a week is killed by someone in her family or who she had an intimate relationship with, and one in four children are exposed to family violence (impactforwomen.org.au)

The SALT would like to install other red benches across the region to raise awareness in other communities.
“We were the first to install a bench in Mackay, but mere weeks before we unveiled it, we found another organisation in town was also planning on installing one.”

The bench, which sits outside the local Church of Christ. Team members, including Director Children, Youth and Families Mike Folland, Linda Smith, Cindy Kember as well as Paul Hicks, Churches of Christ foster carers, men from the Men's Shed, and some church community members all attended the opening and ribbon cutting.

To find out more about the Red Bench Project, go to https://www.redrosefoundation.com.au/