Survivors and front-line workers to march in inaugural Step Out

OPEN DOOR: Albury Deputy Mayor Amanda Cohn and Alicia Emerson-Webber, event co-ordinator, are marching in the inaugural Step-Out Albury Wodonga event. Community members are invited to march, meet front-line workers and connect with support services. Picture: MARK JESSER
OPEN DOOR: Albury Deputy Mayor Amanda Cohn and Alicia Emerson-Webber, event co-ordinator, are marching in the inaugural Step-Out Albury Wodonga event. Community members are invited to march, meet front-line workers and connect with support services. Picture: MARK JESSER

Saturday is November 25, but it is not only the International Day of Violence Against Women.

Neither is it just White Ribbon Day, which began with a group of Canadian men in 1991 following the shooting of 14 women, a day first marked in Australia in 2003.

It’s the first time survivors and front-line workers have taken ownership of how the issue of gender-based violence is addressed on this day, in Albury-Wodonga.

They will be marching, like many communities around the country.

But they will also be uniting counsellors, police officers and support agencies in an event that aims to provide a contact point for those in need, and foster discussion in the community.

It began with Judy Langridge, a survivor.

The Albury mum lived through a serious physical attack in 1994 and felt ‘white hot rage’ when she was assaulted by Albury masseur Xiawen Shen.

“I’ve spent the last 23 years doing the best I can, in and out of counselling, and when he sat on me, I thought, it’s happening again … I’m still not safe,” she said.

“I was angry at the arrogance of him, and I’ve spoken to another woman involved in this case, and she said the same thing.

“He was so selfish about his own sexual gratification he could de-humanise us.”

It motivated Mrs Langridge to reach out to staff at Albury Community Health about beginning an event to empower survivors.

“Once you have been violated, you feel so small and wounded, you lose faith in humanity,” she said.

“The point of getting a march together is to show that there are people who care, who believe in you, and for perpetrators to get the message that this community is watching, and they will act.”

Albury Community Health Sexual Assault Service co-ordinator Kelley Latta, Major David Bonnor and committee members Dee Crothers and Judy Langridge at the launch of 'Step Out Albury-Wodonga'. Picture: SIMON BAYLISS

Albury Community Health Sexual Assault Service co-ordinator Kelley Latta, Major David Bonnor and committee members Dee Crothers and Judy Langridge at the launch of 'Step Out Albury-Wodonga'. Picture: SIMON BAYLISS

Albury Deputy Mayor Amanda Cohn will be among those marching this evening.

“We have survivors in our community, we have perpetrators in our community, and this is something that’s happening to peoples’ loved ones and in their workplace,” she said.

“Working in the emergency department, I’ve seen the results of physical assault, which is only one of the types of family and domestic violence.

“One woman a week is being killed by a partner or ex in Australia and it’s completely unacceptable.”

Mrs Langridge calls it a community problem.

“We can all watch each other – most of us are going to step in if they see somebody at work who hasn’t been there for a while, and talk to them,” she said.

“We’re teaching our kids about language, we have support groups, we’re starting that generational change within the community.

“This is one way people who might not know what to do can just come out and join us.

“You throw a stone into the pond and there’s a ripple effect.

“Let’s step out.”

That Step Out Albury-Wodonga committee will continue that conversation across the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Base Violence, and into their planning for next year’s event.

On each of the 16 days, The Border Mail will be sharing the messages of support from Step Out, the stories of survivors and the work of people who are creating a society where women and men feel safe and respected.

  • The committee invites all residents to meet near the Albury Entertainment Centre on Swift Street at 4.45pm, to march to QEII Square where an event will continue into the evening, featuring family-friendly food and entertainment, including Sara Storer.

If you need support, contact 1800 RESPECT.