Empowering Women in the West…

Violence against women is a very real problem in this country…

An unfortunate way to begin a story, but there it is.

As this is being written, 64 women have lost their lives to violence so far this year.

On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. 1 in 3 Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15. Australian women are nearly three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner. Almost one in 10 women (9.4%) have experienced violence by a stranger since the age of 15. Young women (aged 18–24) experience significantly higher rates of physical and sexual violence than women in older age groups. *

It was with these horrifying statistics in mind, that Andre Conate began her mission to bring self-defence to women, “Looking at the statistics, I felt that there needed to be a safe environment where women could learn self-defence. Having studied martial arts for over 25 years, I felt that I was the most qualified person to bring this empowering environment to life . . . I wanted everyone to feel safe and capable of self-protection, if any situation called for it.”

And so, in January 2014, Self Defence Hub was born.

Self Defence Hub focuses on having female instructors teach self-defence classes.

Female instructors making all the difference to this particular learning environment, according to Andre, “I’ve been in the martial arts industry for many years and have seen some instructors (usually male) inadvertently intimidate women. Their intentions were to help, but I noticed that the general feel was that women became more frightened.”

Andre has worked hard to ensure that classes are a safe space to learn self-defence, “My aim is to empower women and give them basic self-defence skills, so they are more confident. When they walk out the door – even if it’s only after one lesson – they will know that they have effective skills.”

Andre began traditional martial arts when she was 11 years old and after 10 years of studying, decided to test her skills. She attended a seminar that was military-style training, and discovered quickly that her abilities were not going to stack up against her larger male counterparts, “All the years of learning this traditional style of martial arts was not going to work against these huge burly men. It was earth shattering! I was in disbelief. My foundations of avoidance were great (to an extent) but everything else, simply did not work.” 

Andre’s confidence disappeared, “For a chunk of my life, I was known to be the strong one. To not have that anymore was challenging.”

Not one to be deterred, Andre began researching, attending all the self-defence seminars she could find. Krav Maga (Israeli Martial Arts) and Systema (Russian Military Style) – learning skills and effective techniques that work for smaller framed people. Andre’s confidence quickly returned.

Self Defence Hub has been the perfect platform to utilise that confidence, allowing Andre to share her knowledge and empower other women to feel that strong sense of self. Her efforts have not gone unnoticed, being featured as an “expert in self-defence” on Channel 10’s The Project and Channel 7’s The House of Wellness – a real career-highlight for Andre.

Andre on Channel 7’s The House of Wellness.

So, what’s next?

Andre is in the process of opening a full-time centre dedicated to helping people learn effective self-defence. The centre will be in Altona North, holding women’s-only classes, mixed classes and children’s classes. Hoping to open their doors early in the New Year, you can expect a big launch, to celebrate this next chapter in Self Defence Hub’s story.

In the meantime, Andre is putting together a Fundraising Event at the Laverton Community Centre on November 29 (see details below.)

The International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women Self Defence Workshop will be a special 2-hour self-defence workshop to raise funds and awareness of this special day.

On November 25, 1960, three sisters were assassinated in the Dominican Republic on the orders of the Dominican ruler Rafael Trujillo. The Mirabel sisters fought hard to end Trujillo’s dictatorship. Women’s rights activists have observed a day against violence on the anniversary of their deaths, since 1981.

Andre is hoping to raise at least $250 to go towards Djirra, “It’s an organisation that helps women escape violent relationships and situations. Djirra is an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation, which provides specialist support and services to Aboriginal victims and survivors of family violence and sexual assault – www.djirra.org.au. Any donations on the night would be appreciated.”

Andre’s ability to motivate and inspire, makes her the ideal woman to lead the charge on this campaign, and she will be doing so while wearing orange, “Wear a touch of orange in solidarity with the cause – the colour symbolises a brighter future and a world free from violence against women and girls. Join us, because it is the perfect opportunity to learn self-defence for women with other women. They can practice with other beginners in a fun, safe and supportive environment.”

If you cannot make the workshop, you can still join the campaign! You can participate on social media via the following hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld, #OrangeTheWorld, #HearMeToo, #EndVAW and #selfdefencehub.

Register here to attend the fundraiser.

Melissa Longo


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