'Every Bird Counts' campaign addresses domestic violence in Central West NSW

'Every Bird Counts' campaign addresses domestic violence in Central West NSW

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'Every Bird Counts' - that's the message being spread on Friday 26 April by domestic violence advocates Birds in the Bush in Orange, NSW.

Founder and lawyer Vanessa Vazquez said ‘Birds Day’ is about showing support for a violence free community around Orange and the Central West NSW. They are also working to engage men in the conversation through initiatives like 'Blokes for Birds', encouraging them to be active allies in the fight against men's violence. 

“As part of our campaign for awareness and to be a community regional leader in domestic violence, and show the community and the larger community that domestic violence is an issue here and it won't be tolerated, we have launched merchandise," says Vanessa.

"We have shirts that say 'Every Bird Counts' and that's a reference to both the dead bird count - unfortunately we know that one woman every nine days is killed in Australia - and to birds more generally that every woman in our community matters.

"We have these t-shirts so that victim survivors in our community will see people wearing them and will realise that the people who are wearing these t-shirts are a safe place for them. So should they ever need to reach out, they will know that they are safe.

"We also have 'Blokes for Birds' t-shirts which are part of this year's push to get men to participate in this conversation.

"We've had a huge following for our events in the last few years by women, and now we want see our numbers buoyed by the men in our community.

"We have brilliant men in our community who are our greatest supporters and we want them to join us as active allies. We want them to don on their shirts or our birds earrings or bird brooches, as a show of solidarity because we are a community united against men's violence."

As this week's 'Birds Day' campaign kicks off to shed light on domestic violence, the alleged murder of Forbes mother Molly Ticehurst by an ex-partner, underscores its urgency and relevance.

Vanessa says the death of Molly, along with Kristy Armstrong in 2023, have left the community searching for solutions within what many perceive as a broken system. 

"Our community is understandably angry and frustrated by Molly's passing, particularly because we know that she was protected by a ADVO, an apprehended domestic violence order, which ultimately failed to protect her. And the community is despairing over what we need to do next and how we can work within what they see as a difficult and broken system.

"It comes almost a year from another woman, another local woman from Molong, Kristy Armstrong, who was killed. And that greatly affected our community. And her ex-partner is charged with murder and we're waiting on that outcome.

"But I think those two local women who died as a result of what appears to be violence from ex-partners is deeply saddening for our community.

"We want to be able to do better for these women and for their children that they leave behind. We know that Molly is survived by a five-year-old little boy and Kristy is survived by three little girls."

Vanessa established Birds in the Bush in response to the region's domestic violence rates, which are double the state average. Vanessa highlighted that with over 65 per cent of incidents going unreported, the actual figures are likely much higher. 

"The central west of NSW has double the state average of domestic violence incidents and their reported domestic violence incidents. So we know that over 65 per cent of incidents are unreported, so our figures must be much higher. We feel that it is a huge problem for our region."

Birds In The Bush is a volunteer organisation. It hosts an annual event to raise awareness and fundraise for local domestic violence services. 

This year’s event on May 2 with guest speaker Jelena Dokic sold out in just six hours, indicating the community's strong support for the cause. 

"On May 2, we have Jelana Dokic coming to Orange and she will be appearing before a strong crowd of 450 people. 

"We're looking forward to having a conversation with Yelena and her journey with her father's violence and growing up on the international tennis circuit.

"It's going to be a enjoyable event where we can all come together and make a difference.

"Yelena has kindly given us her signed towel by (Aryna) Sabalenka, who won the Australian Open, to auction off. We have some other great auction items and raffles.

"We're hoping people give generously at the raffle and auction which are both online so people can be buying tickets and supporting the cause that way if they're unable to come to the event."

Last year's event with Rosie Batty raised $100,000, and similar goals are set for this year, with funds supporting The Orchard Refuge, the only refuge in Orange for women and children escaping family violence.

"We started from pretty humble fundraising and started with $5000 in the first year, $30,000 in the second year and then $100,000 in the third year. And on the fourth year, let's hope we can at least hit that $100,000 again.

"So far, all our funding has gone to The Orchard, which is the refuge for women and children in Orange - and it's the only refuge here in Orange. In this last year, they've housed 118 women and 112 children escaping family violence.

"This year (fundraising) is a little different. We have multiple recipients. We have a family via the Country Education Fund. We're going to be giving a bursary for education of adult children who are attending university and TAFE and unfortunately have had a traumatic upbringing that involves domestic violence.

"We are also supporting Kristy Armstrong's children; we're funding a dance scholarship for those children because the little girls dance a lot and dancing was a huge part of Kristy and our memory of Kristy is a very proud dance mum. We want to provide the guardians, the girls' grandparents, with some income so that we can help share in the costs of continuing doing what they love and what Kristy loved to see them do.”

You can listen to a special extended interview with Vanessa who spoke with She Makes News about the impactful work of Birds in the Bush in supporting victims of domestic violence and advocating for change.


If you or someone you know is experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, domestic, family or sexual violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, text 0458 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au for online chat and video call services.

If you are concerned about your behaviour or use of violence, you can contact the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491 or visit  www.ntv.org.au

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