“Many of you wouldn’t know this but I’ve never known a life without trauma.”
An emotional Rosie Batty addressed an unusual audience at the National Gallery of Australia on Thursday morning: a marquee full of firefighters, police officers and school students all busily colouring-in.
Ms Batty was in Canberra to launch Colourathon, a national day of action that saw close to 1000 Australians pick up a coloured pencil and create a mini artwork to raise awareness and funds for family and domestic violence.
Colourathon focused specifically on the needs of children in family and domestic violence situations.
It’s an issue painfully close to the heart of 2015 Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, whose 11-year-old son Luke was tragically killed by his own father in an horrific act of family violence in 2014.
She used her own experience of trauma as a child to highlight the need for better understanding and care for children in family and domestic violence situations.
“At six I lost my mother suddenly, I wasn’t subjected to violence or cruelty but my world was shattered and so was that of my two youngest brothers,” she said.
“It was a generation where children were seen and not heard – we didn’t understand that children needed to be treated and acknowledged as feeling, individual beings – and we still don’t do it very well.
“We don’t recognise the impact that trauma has on a young person.”
Colourathon is an initiative of Big hArt’s Project O, a program that empowers young women in rural, remote and regional Australia to be forces of change in the small communities and towns they live in and love.
Teenage girls from as far as Roeburn in the Pilbara, Wynyard in Tasmania and Cooma are currently involved in Project O, hosting workshops, fundraisers and educational events in their home towns as a way to change attitudes and influence others across a range of issues and topics faced by their communities.
Cooma-based Taylah Brooks, 14, said she loved being part of Project O and making a difference in her home town.
“I’ve learnt heaps by being being involved in Project O and we’ve shown people that domestic violence just isn’t okay,” the Year 8 student at Monaro High School said.
“We’ve done work with local cancer research and we’ve done a few other fundraisers that went to different organisations in our community that really helped them.
“I’m hoping to show other young women that just because you’ve got a stereotype doesn’t mean you have to stick to it, you can break the barrier and do what you want.”
Colourathon is the biggest project undertaken by the Project O girls this year and has so far raised more than $31,000 to help pay for for specialist childhood trauma training for staff in women’s shelters.
“There is work to be done in supporting organisations who are supporting and working with children,” Ms Batty said.
“Children are the most powerless, the most voiceless, the most overlooked and yet they are the ones we love more than anything in the world.”
Hundreds of Canberrans took part in Colourathon, including Canberra Raiders players and local SES volunteers.