"Being an ambassador is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things you can personally do to support the campaign"
Hunter Valley-based magazine Coalface recently spoke to Komatsu's Mt Thorley Branch Manager Craig Burgess about his decision to become a White Ribbon ambassador and why he believes other miners should follow suit.
Q. How long have you been a White Ribbon ambassador?
A. I have been an ambassador for around 18 months.
Q. What drove your decision to become an ambassador? Have you been exposed to violence against women at some point in your life?
A. As a young child I grew up in a household where observing domestic violence was a regular occurrence. Having an abusive father didn't lend itself to a very enjoyable childhood and it came as a huge sense of relief when my mother left and removed us from that situation. At the time, support for women who were experiencing violence in the home was minimal, and it wasn`t something that was talked about.
Domestic violence really is Australia's dark hidden secret and being an ambassador allows me to speak out, promote discussion, and encourage change. Importantly, as the father of two young boys I want to be a good role model for them, as they develop and grow into men.
Q. What does being an ambassador really mean? What are some of the things ambassadors do?
A. Being an ambassador means taking an active stand against any form of violence committed against women and is a promise to live by the oath not to commit, excuse or remain silent about this issue.
Ambassadors reflect on their own behaviors and attitudes towards women, and safely challenge the attitudes and behaviors of others that condone, or excuse violence against women. Some ambassadors host or attend fund-raising and awareness events in the community and others speak at these functions to spread the White Ribbon message, especially around White Ribbon day. They encourage males who are using violence in their relationship to seek professional help and use their networks to promote discussion and social change.
Q. What type of person does it take to be an ambassador?
A. Any man can be a White Ribbon ambassador. The key is to have a passion to be part of a campaign that aims to stop domestic violence before it occurs.
Q. As a branch manager at Komatsu, have you implemented any programs or initiatives in the workplace regarding violence? If not, do you plan to?
A. Having been recently appointed to the Mt Thorley branch, my plans for 2014 include building workplace awareness and increasing the knowledge of our employees in how to address violence against women.
Komatsu has a long and proud history of supporting a number of Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, both locally and globally. One of Komatsu's core values is respect, and so my role as an ambassador for White Ribbon is very much aligned with Komatsu's direction.
As a company, we offer our staff confidential access to an Employee Assistance Program that can provide an opportunity for staff to talk about the effects of violence in a safe and confidential setting.
Q. Do you believe people in leadership/managerial positions need to lead the way when it comes to violence and other social issues and be role models for their employees?
A. Yes, people in positions of leadership are role models for the behavioral expectations within any organisation, whether it is a workplace, community group or a sporting team. They generally hold a greater amount of influence in the organisation and therefore their behavior needs to send the right message.
Q. Do you see a connection between violence and the mining industry? Why or why not?
A. Domestic violence is widespread and occurs in all parts of society regardless of industry, location, age, or socio-economic status. I am not aware of any statistics that suggests women in mining cultures experience violence at greater levels than those experienced in the general community, however mining communities, like all others in Australia, still experience violence at unacceptable levels, often with devastating effects.
Q. What do you think needs to happen?
A. We have come a long way in the last 40 years but there is still more to be done. Violence is a serious problem. In Australia one woman is killed every week by their current or former partner. There needs to be an increase in awareness that violence does not stop with physical abuse and that it includes verbal and emotional abuse, intimidation, isolation and control.
The good news is that most men share the belief that violence against women is never acceptable. These men can play a positive role by influencing others.
Q. Would you recommend other miners become White Ribbon ambassadors?
A. Absolutely, but there are many ways to show support for this cause and becoming an ambassador is just one of them. The White Ribbon website is a great place to find out some of the things you can do to make a difference, whether large or small. As more men become involved in the campaign, the drive to affect change will strengthen.
As Craig said, being an ambassador is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things you can personally do to support the campaign. You can swear the oath, like Craig, to never commit any form of emotional or physical violence, you can become a volunteer, make a donation or participate in a community fundraising event.
Komatsu would like to thank Coalface magazine for permission to reproduce this interview.