Jimmy Barnes has always had one of the most powerful voices in rock. His primal, gravelly growl has been part of our national soundtrack for five decades, as we’ve sung (and often-times screamed) along to his hits, from ‘Khe Sanh’ to ‘Working Class Man’.
Now Barnesy is unleashing his powerful voice in print, sharing the story of his harrowing childhood in his deeply moving memoir Working Class Boy. He tells contributing editor Michael Epis (‘Soul Survivor’, p16) how the writing process, while painful, also helped him confront his past: “A lot of these experiences were like festering wounds. But expose them to the light and air, and they heal. I felt lighter. It really was a weight off my shoulders.”
It’s an important story, one that is raising awareness of family violence; his upcoming spoken word tour will also support the Luke Batty Foundation.
Anti-violence campaigner Rosie Batty believes Barnesy’s raw and honest account can effect change. “Personal stories are one of the most powerful tools we have to convince people of the need for action,” she says via email. “Family violence has touched so many of us but unless we demonstrate what the problem is, the solutions will be that much harder to achieve.”
And, as Rosie says, “the statistics speak for themselves”. In Australia, one in four children are exposed to family violence. One in three women has experienced violence. Domestic violence is the principle cause of homelessness for women and children. And, on average, two women are murdered by their partners every week.
“People like Jimmy have the ability to reach a bigger audience and raise awareness,” she says. “It can be hard to talk about these issues so he should be congratulated for speaking out.”
Rosie’s own story, the death of her son Luke in 2014, has inspired many (including Jimmy Barnes) to speak out against family violence. It has provided a space for us as a community to openly discuss these issues, which were once confined behind closed doors.
“It is now a conversation that people are more willing to participate in…We’ve come a long way, but there is still so much to do,” says Rosie. “What we know is that the system is overburdened and underfunded. But more than that, it needs significant cultural change so violence is better recognised and responded to.
“Unfortunately we still have a victim blaming mentality. We still place the responsibility and burden on the victim rather than truly challenging perpetrators and making them accountable.”
In this edition, we also bring you a Big Issue first – The Big Vendor Interview.
Barnesy shares his insights on life, family and rock’n’roll with The Big Issue vendors, who turn interviewers in this edition (p19). Big thanks to Barnesy for his generosity.
Amy Hetherington, Editor