Robert Reed OAM, lawyer, founder and domestic-violence prevention advocate, Darkness to Daylight

You get a real appreciation of the way in which mind and spirit can overcome physical limitations – the extent to which we can push ourselves if we have a good reason to do it.

In 1995, Brisbane lawyer Robert Reed OAM ran from village to village down the West coast of Japan as part of the American Indian Movement’s Sacred Run. The experience proved to be transformative – irrevocably changing Robert and his relationship with running and community action. Almost two decades later, the special counsel at MinterEllison Lawyers brought this style of event home with the launch of Darkness to Daylight. The 110-kilometre run invites thousands of Brisbanites to honour the lives lost at the hands of domestic violence and support ChallengeDV on its mission to create a domestic-violence-free future. With Darkness to Daylight about to complete its 11th year this May, we chatted to Robert Reed about the power of purpose, domestic-violence prevention and what it’s like to run 110-kilometres.

To start, we’d love to know how you became so active in this work. You created Darkness to Daylight whilst working as Special Counsel at Minters – a position you still hold today. How did you originally get involved in advocacy against domestic and family violence?
I was fortunate to be given the full-time role of managing pro bono and community investment in the Brisbane office over 20 years ago and, as part of that role, domestic and family violence was drawn to my attention as an issue we could be part of addressing. I attended a conference on this issue in the early days of my role where real life 000 calls of a domestic violence incident were played and this impacted me emotionally to really want to be part of the change.

Darkness to Daylight is inspired by the American Indian Movement’s Sacred Run – an event you completed in 1995 and have widely described as life-changing experience. What inspired you to then recreate this style of event nearly 20-years later in response to domestic and family violence in Brisbane?
When the 2011 tsunami hit Fukushima on the coast down which we were running in 1995, I was reminded of the power of running with purpose and message and ran 100km to raise funds for the recovery effort. Wanting to then bring the concept to my work, a conversation with our long-standing community partner Challenge DV reminded me of the number of lives lost to domestic violence and I knew that an event in the style of the Sacred Run would be an effective way to raise awareness of that number, to symbolise the issue and to honour those lives.

The event is most notably bannered by its 110-km run, with each kilometre representing one life lost every year to domestic violence. Why did you decide on such a physically intensive outlet to engage with this issue?
It’s all about the symbolism. When we think of people running 110km overnight, even as part of a group covering that distance, they appreciate how big a distance that is which in turn highlights how huge is the number of lives lost. There is also the symbolism of each person involved, whether they run the full distance themselves or not, putting themselves through a physical intensity which at least in part connects their hearts and minds to what must be endured (on a much greater scale and not by choice) by those for whom we are running.

For most people, we’d imagine – the idea of completing a 110-km run over 13-hours is unimaginable. What’s the experience like?
I have either run all night and covered whatever distance I could in that time or taken longer to cover the full 110km. Either way, the experience is humbling and you get a real appreciation of the way in which mind and spirit can overcome physical limitations – the extent to which we can push ourselves if we have a good reason to do it. Although it can feel isolating at times in the middle of the night, there is also more predominantly and overwhelmingly a real feeling of community as we are all out there pushing ourselves and doing our bit for the cause.

The 2024 run will mark the 11th Darkness to Daylight. Do you have any standout memories of the event from over the last ten years?
I have so many memories of people who have made this concept their own and gone above and beyond for the cause – people who have run further than they ever have before, people who had not even been runners at all until they joined Darkness To Daylight, a participant who covered 110km barefoot, young school students out running all night. Standout memories for me are the closing ceremonies when I look out at the hundreds of people who are now doing this and it makes me feel like we can make a change and, most importantly, when people who have escaped violent relationships have approached me to say what a difference this event has made to their lives.

Darkness to Daylight plays a crucial role in funding the preventative programs Challenge DV performs throughout the year. Why are workplace workshops so central to Challenge DV’s mission?
We partnered with Challenge DV in the first place because we saw their approach to addressing domestic and family violence through workplaces as so important. Workplaces are where so many people gather for such a huge chunk of their lives and, with that reach, and by understanding, thanks to organisations like Challenge DV, how to recognise, respond to and refer the inevitable number of their staff who are impacted by domestic and family violence, those workplaces can have a huge impact in addressing the issue.

Darkness to Daylight turns 11 this year – what do you hope to achieve over the next ten years?
I hope to see it continue to grow. The ambition is that we have so many people doing this, all ages and from all walks of life, that the event, and ultimately the issue itself, simply cannot be ignored. I hope that there will be a cultural shift where there is universal zero tolerance of domestic and family violence with no lives lost and that we will be running 110km only as a memory of what it was like in the past.

What do you say to people who want to get involved but feel intimidated by the idea of an event like this?
Please remember that this is a symbolic and flexible event. As with the Sacred Run, we do not expect each individual to cover the whole distance. All we ask is that you be part of the community that is symbolically covering the distance. It doesn’t matter how far or fast you run or walk or even if you don’t run or walk but contribute in other ways. All we ask is that people do as much as they can for the right reason – to end domestic and family violence. Every step counts.


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