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Not in our backyard

December 05 2017 By MARY BARRY, OUR WATCH CEO

I wish I could say I was surprised when Hollywood’s tsunami of sexual harassment and assault accusations rolled across the Pacific, over the fence and into our own backyard with a host of allegations against celebrity gardener Don Burke.

Don Burke Image

But the fact that such behaviour is widespread, and happens right here, is hardly surprising. It is hardly surprising after weeks of #metoo revelations, after recent research found one in five Australians think women are becoming ‘too outspoken’, and when the latest Bureau of Statistics figures show rates of violence against women are going up while general violence rates go down.  

Nor it seems, did the allegations shock anyone who’d worked with or ever met Burke.  

In fact many say Burke has enjoyed decades of protection from the consequences of his alleged abuse of women, thanks to other powerful people in the media.  

And it’s this story I want to focus on. Because it’s this story – of people in power hearing women’s allegations but not taking action, or witnessing unacceptable behaviour but ignoring or excusing it – that we hear time and time again. 

The fact that most of those powerful people are men is depressing in its predictability too.  

That is why I’m here to ask for your help. Australian men – I’m talking to you.  

Let me be clear about what kind of help I mean.  

We – women – are not damsels in distress. We do not need you to protect us, to ‘be a real man’ and fight off danger. No – what we need is for you to help change the kinds of toxic cultures that enable, protect – and worse, often reward – men who abuse women. 

Because many of you have significant influence in these environments – in your workplaces, among your mates, and in the places and spaces where you socialise.

This means you – men – have the power to create change. You can stand up and speak out when you see unacceptable behaviour, and you can call other men to account for sexist remarks, degrading comments, disrespect and abusive treatment of women. 

And you can help build workplace and organisational cultures and structures that ensure women are heard, men are held accountable for abuses of power, and respect and equality are valued and rewarded. 

Women are not weak – the many recent stories of survivors prove this. But we do need your help with the heavy-lifting of social change. We need you as individuals to respect women and treat us as equals. But we also need you to demand that your colleagues, friends, brothers and sons do so too. And we need you to use your influence and power to help change our culture.  

Women have been fighting these battles for too long. We need reinforcements. 
As Sandra Sully wrote last week, women and men are not enemies.  

Inequality is the enemy. Inequality leads network executives to value the ratings of one star presenter over the rights to a safe and respectful workplace of dozens of his female colleagues. 

And inequality is the biggest driver of violence against women. Evidence shows that where sexism flourishes, so does violence. 

At Our Watch, we are working to end gender inequality in workplaces, schools, sports clubs and the media by changing social norms, structures and attitudes. We are doing this because we know that building a culture of gender equality is the only way to prevent millions of women from experiencing the kinds of physical and emotional abuse and violence attributed to Don Burke.  

But women and men will only enjoy a gender equal world if we work together to build it. It should not only be up to women to make this change. We all need to stand up for what is right, even when it’s uncomfortable and awkward, even when it may end a friendship, and even when it’ll ruin the ratings.  

It’s time for all of us to weed out sexism and inequality. Not in our backyard. Not anymore.  


Lisa Zilberpriver, Media & Communications Manager, Our Watch: 0448 844 930 lisa.zilberpriver@ourwatch.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.”

Read guides for reporting about violence against women and their children.


Our Watch’s purpose is to raise awareness and engage policy-makers and the Australian community in action to prevent violence against women and their children.

To do this the organisation works to increase gender equality and respect in all aspects of everyday life, such as through schools; workplaces; media; sporting organisations; social marketing, and developing and influencing public policy.

Our Watch’s work derives from the government’s commitment to the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022 and gives expression to many of the activities in the Second Action Plan 2013–2016 – Moving Ahead.