The delicate but essential topic of domestic violence was analysed in detail in a forum in Canberra on Wednesday 27 July 2016.

Titled Domestic Violence: Causes and Cures, the forum brought together experts in their field to present their views and answer questions from the audience who had gathered at the Golden King Restaurant in Phillip.

The dinner and discussion was organised by Forum Australia and partly funded by the ACT government.

Mohammed Ali, President of Forum Australia and community leader,  introduced the forum noting that it was time to discuss these sensitive topics across the community and across cultures.

The event was hosted by well-known ABC TV and Radio personality Siobhan Heanue who spoke briefly about her experience as a journalist and introduced each of the speakers.

The first speaker, David Matthews, Interim Coordinator-General for Family Safety at the ACT Justice and Community Safety Directorate outlined the territory government’s programs to support victims of domestic violence.

The second speaker, Martin Fisk, CEO of Menslink, a Canberra charity that supports young men aged 12-25 through free counselling, mentoring and school education programs, spoke about the root causes of family violence among young (and older) men and some possible short and long term strategies to resolve it.

The next speaker was Mary Pekin, CEO of Relationships Australia, dealt with how family violence starts in relationships. In particular she highlighted early warning signs of unhealthy behaviours and how relationships can be protected.

The final speaker,  Dr Tahmina Rashid, Associate Professor, International Studies, at the University of Canberra, approached the topic from a South Asian context, looking at causes – notions about men and women’s role and status, linking cultural practices and use of religion to justify domestic violence.

This was followed by a robust question and answer session in which Michael Costigan, father of Tara Costigan who was murdered by her ex-partner in February 2015, reiterated the view that those in the front line of domestic violence should take a lead in dealing with domestic violence.

Sumaiya Quasim pointed out that no community is immune from domestic violence, pointing out that Sabah Al-Mdwali was killed by her husband in their Gordon home just shortly after Tara’s murder.

Mansoor Syed, Vice President of Forum Australia, asked the panel to clarify the definition of family and domestic violence.

After the conclusion of the forum, the speakers spoke about the value of the forum.

“While so much of what we spoke about was depressing and seemed overwhelming, the fact we were even having this forum is a terrific sign that we will change this culture,” said Mr Fisk.

“It is wonderful that you have open up space for discussion on domestic violence especially because it involves diverse communities that are often not engaged with the issue,” pointed out Dr Rashid.

“I was very inspired and moved by the passion of all the people there to address and defeat this issue,” said Ms Pekin.

Ms Heanue thanked the speakers for “providing such stimulating, open and useful discussion on a fraught subject.”

Mr Matthews also expressed his gratitude to all who attended.

“I very much enjoyed the evening and listening to your contributions,” he added.

The forum was concluded by Vote of Thanks by Helen Wilson, Treasurer of Forum Australia, with a reminder that the Forum Australia AGM will be held on 26 August 6:30pm at the Southern Cross Club in Woden.

More photos and videos of the forum can be accessed through Forum Australia website.

Photography by Jumanah Husna.