Let’s Chat: Sitting Down with Leanne Fairbrother and PollyannaR

Posted On: December 20, 2023

Let’s Chat Gippsland and PollyannaR BIG Respect Gippsland partnered in this year’s Let’s Chat Gippsland campaign. We sat down with them and asked them a few questions on reflection of the campaign ending. The campaign itself was a huge success with:

What was one of your favourite responses to ‘Respect Is..’ and why?    

Leanne: I have many favorites, but the best ones were from people who really had something to say and had a story to tell. What we heard repeatedly was that although it was challenging these conversations were long overdue and needed to happen.   

PollyannaR: Respect the 1v1. It was a gaming reference, a high school student that wrote it had a really great example of why it represents respect to him. It just felt like I learnt a new language to connect to young people and they had a much deeper experience of respect then I gave them credit for

What was one of your most memorable moments of the campaign (positive or negative)?

Leanne: Positive – Working collaboratively with so many different people and organisations to make this project happen. PollyannaR especially, was an absolute joy to work with – so much fun, extremely professional and an amazing human being.  

 Positive – Having my own family photo taken by PollyannaR. Both my children learn about respectful relationships at school and really wanted to be part of the project. For me this is what it’s all about – encouraging the next generation to get involved and make a difference. 

 Negative – Getting up at 4am to set up one of the pop-ups!   

PollyannaR: My most memorable moment was two similar experiences at two different photo booths. We had two elderly ladies, one who was in a domestic violence situation after becoming a carer for her elderly husband and one who lived through traumatic sexual assault as a child and had witnessed  her mother being sexually abused. Both women came straight up to me in urgency when I asked them if they would like their photo taken to prevent violence against women. 

As they started to share their stories, I realised I had two family violence response workers next to me listening. They were able to guide each woman in an in-depth conversation and find out if extra support was needed. In both situations the conversation went for over 15 minutes before the women came back with their signs and were able to be photographed with their strength and vulnerability. After printing their photographs, the women came up and told me how important this is and how much it matters to them still with urgency and grief in their eyes but relief in their smiles as they both hugged me.

I was so grateful to have professional support staff that were there to help these women and I was not just there for a tokenistic photograph. One woman needed support and resources right then and the other needed to know her story mattered, and her suffering acknowledged. It was a sad but humbling moment that helped me understand the power of a photograph is equally as important as the warm wrapping support that was surrounding me and my camera. I could have walked away from that interaction with a sense of overwhelm, defeat, anger and injustice but instead, I felt what we were doing and how we were doing it was actually what our community needed, and it worked

What does respect mean to you?

Leanne: To me respect is a community where harmful attitudes and behaviours that drive violence and discrimination are challenged.  

PollyannaR: Is a gut feeling I need to trust; it will always let me know if I am not receiving or showing respect. 

What impact do you hope the campaign has had on participants?   

Leanne: I hope that the participants keep chatting about respect and what it means to them, in their homes, their workplaces, their schools and their community. Let’s keep the conversation going!  

PollyannaR: I’m not sure I can answer that. I feel like I’ve seen hundreds  of people with hundreds  of different impacts. But overwhelmingly, I would say I saw brave women fighting for women not to be abused by men, it really was that simple in the end

What does a safer Gippsland look like to you?

Leanne: A place where everyone is safe, equal and respected.   

PollyannaR: For me, I feel like if men were leading the conversation and encouraged accountability then women wouldn’t have to. 

If you haven’t seen the BIG Respect Gippsland Facebook page yet be sure to check it out!

If you need help:
In an emergency call 000
Yarning Safe & Strong 1800 959 563 AND 13YARN
Safe Steps on 1800 015 188
1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732 (24 hours)
Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault on 1800 806 292