It is hard not to be moved by the sight of pairs of shoes laid out in neat rows, a candle sitting with each pair to signify the light of a life that has been taken by domestic violence.
When you see these shoes are predominantly those belonging to women and children, the message is even more poignant.
May is National Domestic Violence Prevention Month Coast residents are invited to join regional domestic and family violence support service Centacare/SCOPE and the Sunshine Coast Council in uniting to send a clear message that domestic and family violence will not be tolerated in our community.
Thousands of people are expected to attend a community march from Alexandra Headland to Mooloolaba on May 2, which will be followed by a candlelight vigil at the Loo with a View to remember those who have been affected by domestic and family violence.
SCOPE program coordinator Angela Short says while it is heart-warming to see the event bringing together people from all walks of life against domestic violence, it is also a very emotional experience.
“As anyone whose attended in the past knows, you can’t help but be moved. People are quite surprised to see the amount of shoes and candles and hear the statistics of the domestic homicides that occur along with the genders and ages of the victims,” she says.
“As a professional, it is encouraging to see people acknowledge that the topic is no longer taboo and that we are now supporting the voices of the victims. I hope this event builds a swell of further support for people to learn more about the signs of domestic violence and what they can do to help someone who is in that situation. This is how education and cultural change happens.”
Centacare Scope manager Brigitte McLennan says the service has experienced a steady increase in demand for domestic and family violence support from people in the Sunshine Coast area.
“During 2017, our Centacare Scope Service supported 4249 domestic and family violence victims, almost 30 per cent would identify as at high risk of harm,” Ms McLennan says.
“The number of referrals we received from the Queensland Police Service in 2017 increased by 14 per cent on 2016 figures. That’s been a significant increase for us to cope with.
“The gathering of the local community to make a stand against domestic and family violence at our annual vigil can be a really powerful way to encourage people experiencing domestic and family violence to come forward and seek help.”
Mayor Mark Jamieson, who lead the 2017 march, says Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month will engage and educate Queenslanders to create a community that supports respectful relationships, practises positive attitudes and behaviours, and promotes a culture of non-violence.
Ms Short says the social movement is heading in the right direction and is being supported by changes being made to the way emergency, community, education and law services connect and assist domestic violence victims who may come to one or all of these systems seeking help.
The National Domestic Violence Prevention Day to Remember is on May 2. The march begins at 5pm at the HMAS Brisbane Memorial, Alexandra Headland and the candle lighting ceremony is at the Loo with a View in Mooloolaba from 5.30pm to 6.30pm.