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COMEDY and family violence are an odd combination, but for family violence survivor Juliet Moody, they’re necessary.
Juliet, 40, of Gungahlin, doesn’t mean people should laugh at those who experience family violence but rather use the platform of comedy to raise awareness.
“Family violence is prevalent in all areas so I think we should talk about it in every arena, including comedy, arts, sport, everywhere,” she says.
“It happens everywhere, it happened to me – a comedian – so why not raise the issue in this space?”
Which is exactly what Juliet did two years ago. She created the “Fearless Comedy Gala”, a safe event where people can come along, raise money for the Domestic Violence Crisis Service in the ACT and not be the brunt of the joke.
The gala seemed fitting for Juliet, who says comedy helped her come to terms with her experience of family violence.
“Comedy was the thing that built my confidence and gave me my identity back,” she says.
But a career in comedy was at first unexpected and terrifying for Juliet, who had experience in singing, drama and cabaret. Not comedy.
“I don’t think it was ever something I thought I really wanted to get into, but I love making people laugh and I used to make parody songs about my teachers and then perform them to my friends at school,” she says.
Comedy first became an interest for Juliet when she met her comedic partner, Catherine Crowley, through their jobs as drama teachers, about 14 years ago.
They started doing a bit of improvisation for a music theatre show, where they would write silly, cheeky songs for fun.
It was that experience, which eventually inspired them to start their glam, folk collaboration, Sparrow Folk.
“Our first concert was for our friends and family in Cathy’s backyard because we thought we were hilarious,” she says.
And it seemed others did too, because the unexpected duo went on to win the ABC’s “Exhumed” competition and then perform in the Adelaide and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals.
“For us we’re loving this ride we’re on. This year we’re creating a brand new show called ‘Nest Friends’,” she says.
Juliet says they’re the first glam, folk band ever created. They originally played the Canberra Folk Festival, which was where they invented their name and realised their genre better fitted into comedy.
They called themselves Sparrow Folk because they felt like little chirping sparrows compared to the other “fabulous” musicians at the folk festival.
As their following grew, an experience at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival spurred Juliet’s idea to use comedy as a platform to raise awareness for family violence.
A man at the festival was making fun of victims of domestic violence in his act.
This had a massive effect on Juliet who decided to reclaim comedy and say: “It’s not okay to make fun of family violence victims or use that space to condone them”.
“For a long time I’d hidden my experience, and then thought what if we use the forum of comedy to raise awareness?” she says.
“I still don’t think we’re quite at that place of understanding what it’s like for victims of family violence.”
Since going public about her experience, Juliet says a confronting number of people have come up to her saying they’ve been through something similar.
“I want to try and turn a terrible situation into a laugh. I want to challenge people to think about it differently. I want people to see that this happened to me and I rebuilt my life, so hopefully they can too,” she says.
“I think it’s most important to remember that there’s always people out there to support you, and you’re not alone.
“I wish I recognised that earlier on and realised I was not in a safe space and needed to leave.
“If you see a friend or family member going through something similar, ring a support service and they will tell you how to support them.
“There’s always signs and generally if you get a feeling, that’s usually for a reason.”
The Domestic Violence Crisis Service’s 24-hour crisis line is at 6280 0900.