Editorial: The VAFA supporting White Ribbon

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By Michael Sholly – @vafaceo

It can be difficult to write a column each week on a Tuesday morning when it will be read by most on a Saturday.  The landscape can change so rapidly that I can be left looking rather silly; however, I feel it is appropriate for me to speak about the comments made by the Triple M journalists regarding Caroline Wilson.

The community landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade and unfortunately it seems the football culture hasn’t kept pace with that change.  Football change room talk is now no longer acceptable behind closed doors and certainly not in the public arena.  The behaviours at football clubs must reflect community values.

This year the VAFA aligned with Australia’s White Ribbon organisation. White Ribbon is an organisation working to prevent the most common and pervasive form of male violence – that towards women. All forms of violence are unacceptable and White Ribbon believes in the capacity of the individual to change and to encourage change in others. It believes our generation can and must work towards stopping domestic violence. Through primary prevention initiatives and an annual campaign, White Ribbon works to change the attitudes and behaviours that lead to men’s violence against women.

Clubs are able to secure a speaker from White Ribbon who will come and educate our players – currently all male – on domestic violence. I have logged on to whiteribbon.org.au and taken the oath to stand with other Australian men and women determined to treat all women with respect and to intervene safely when someone else doesn’t. Taking the oath is a symbol of my intention to be part of real change.

The VAFA may be viewed as one of the most traditional organisations in Melbourne but, like all organisations, endeavours to lead the community in cultural change.  I have met personally with about 50 VAFA clubs over the past month and one of the major topics on the Agenda has been the introduction of a VAFA women’s league. I am proud that each of these clubs have taken this back to their committees and as a result the VAFA will, in 2017, be the first senior competition outside the Victorian Women’s Football League (VWFL) to administer a women’s competition.

We already have seven clubs and nine teams competing in the VWFL. Melbourne University has had a women’s team for decades and now play in the Swisse VFL Women’s competition and have two other teams competing in the VWFL. La Trobe University has had a side for about a decade and in the last few years they have been joined by Kew, AJAX, Brunswick NOBSP, St Kevin’s and Fitzroy, who now have two teams.

The response to these meetings has been outstanding. The VAFA is confident the new competition will have at least 10 teams which is will be sensational.  These teams will be completely amalgamated with the club to make a fully inclusive environment.  With this inclusiveness, cultural changes will need to occur which will reflect community standards – not male football standards.  Unfortunately after the events over the past week there is still a long way to go.

The VAFA will work with AFL Victoria and the VWFL to ensure our clubs are understanding of the cultural changes that need to occur.  A first step a club may take is to become part of the White Ribbon campaign and get all their players and supporters to take the oath against women’s violence.