Libby Davies

on Sunday, 22 April 2012. Posted in Leadership Interviews, Issues Motivated Leadership, Eliminating Violence Against Women

Libby Davies
CEO, White Ribbon Australia
Libby Davies

Prior to joining White Ribbon, Libby Davies was CEO of Family Services Australia and National Director of UnitingCare Australia.

As Chief Executive Officer of Family Services Australia from 2001 to 2006, Libby worked closely with 88 member organisations to achieve the highest levels of service delivery across the sector and was an effective conduit to Government on behalf of member organisations.

Prior to her role at Family Services Australia, Libby was National Director of UnitingCare Australia, the national peak Uniting Church body on community service matters.  In this role she managed the National Secretariat, built the organisation’s profile, lobbied Government and represented Uniting Care Australia in national forums. 

For the last four years, Libby has worked in a number of advisory, consultancy and interim roles, including Senior Policy Advisor for the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, and Interim Executive Director for Anglicare Australia.


In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly declared 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, with a white ribbon as its iconic symbol.  White Ribbon began in Australia in 2003 as part of UNIFEM (now UN Women). It formally became a Foundation in 2007. White Ribbon is Australia's only national male-led violence prevention campaign.  The White Ribbon Campaign is now the largest global male-led movement to stop men's violence against women. White Ribbon believes in the capacity of the individual to change and to encourage change in others. It believes that our generation can and must work towards stopping violence against women.  White Ribbon, as part of the White Ribbon Campaign, invites men to make a difference by swearing an Oath never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women. This Oath is not just a 'feel good' statement. It is an active commitment which promotes positive attitudes and behaviours towards women and drives signatories to, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, 'be the change you want to see in the world'.  When the White Ribbon Campaign culminates each year on 25 November men and women across Australia are encouraged to wear a white ribbon as a symbol of this Oath. By swearing the Oath and wearing a white ribbon these men and women are openly showing their commitment to challenging and changing the attitudes and behaviours which contribute to violence against women.

Interview with Libby Davies

How successful has the White Ribbon Campaign been in Australia? 

Part of White Ribbon’s success can be measured by the amount of activity and awareness generated by the Campaign. In 2010:  

  • White Ribbon supporters around the country hosted over 200 events.
  • White Ribbon received more than 2000 media mentions.
  • White Ribbon Australia trended second globally on Twitter on White Ribbon Day, 25   November.
  • The White Ribbon Facebook “fan page” grew to more than 10,000 fans.
  • The campaign led to a 16% increase in awareness to 70% over pre-campaign awareness levels.
  • There was a 58% increase in the number of My Oath swears.

The 2010 Campaign’s success in engaging the community is also reflected in brand polling results compiled by Review Partners.  

These results showed that in addition to a significant increase in awareness of the issue and White Ribbon, the proportion of people who would become involved in the campaign continued to rise again in 2010 to 67% (to two out of three people). Both men and women were prepared to support the cause after the campaign, but the campaign had a proportionately greater influence on men than women. 

It is also encouraging to note that the majority of people surveyed (64%) believe that, over the past few years, men have become more inclined to try and prevent violence against women.

White Ribbon’s task is to ensure that this level of awareness and understanding is strengthened, and that this in turn leads to a change in behaviours and attitudes towards women. 

In addition to awareness-raising, White Ribbon has successfully piloted a program with schools in the Sydney region. The White Ribbon Breaking the Silence in Schools Program works to inspire principals to strengthen the culture of respect in their schools that is age-appropriate for their students and engages all parts of the school community. To-date 60 schools have participated in the Program and it has been so successful that White Ribbon is now working to expand the Program nationally.

What are some of the impediments to this Campaign's success that you would like to overcome? 

White Ribbon, like most social awareness, normative change campaigns, faces some specific impediments which the Campaign is working to overcome. 

1.     Access to resources: as a not-for-profit organisation, White Ribbon relies on a mixture of government, corporate and community support to sustain the Campaign.

2.     Engagement: the issue of men’s violence against women is one which is still considered by some as a social taboo not to be discussed in public. White Ribbon’s challenge is to break the silence around this insidious issue and to engage the whole community in the prevention of men’s violence against women.

3.     Measuring change: Metrics to measure behaviour and attitudinal change are challenging and take many years to document. In addition, as awareness of the issue increases, so too does reports of violence. This is because there is a greater understanding amongst the community that violence is not to be tolerated and that there are ways out of domestic and family violence situations. 

What specific actions is the Campaign advocating to lead social change in the prevention of violence against women?

The White Ribbon Campaign is unique in that it works to engage men as part of the solution in the prevention of men’s violence against women. The White Ribbon Campaign calls on men to take a leadership role around this issue, to act as role models for other men in their community and to create a culture which does not accept men’s violence against women. 

Beyond raising awareness, what strategies are in place to connect with those who are violent against women? 

The White Ribbon Campaign works with Ambassadors to connect with all sectors of the community. White Ribbon Ambassadors are tasked with setting the right example for other men, for standing up to their mates when they are committing acts of violence against women and to create a culture which does not accept men’s violence against women. When individual men take action in their daily lives to reduce or prevent men’s violence against women, this makes a difference. White Ribbon asks individual men to create positive change by: 

Putting your own house in order

o  Not using violence

o  building respectful and non-violent relationships

o  boycotting sexist and violence-supportive culture

o  informing themselves of the realities of men’s violence against women.

Being a positive bystander

o  Intervening (safely) in violent incidents

o  challenging perpetrators and potential perpetrators

o  supporting survivors

o  being an egalitarian role model

o  challenging the social norms and inequalities which sustain men’s violence against women.  

Has the White Ribbon organisation considered running workshops for men to change violent behaviours towards women?

White Ribbon is a primary prevention campaign and as such does not work in the service delivery space. White Ribbon does, however, refer the public to behaviour change programs and White Ribbon’s research papers reflect on the type of interventions that bring about normative change.