Cuppawareness Coffee Cup Initiative

The story of how a simple idea grew into a project with the potential to change an entire community

Co-written by Lisa Reardon Toomey.

How can something so simple as branding the sides of 50,000 coffee cups, create a movement of change in regional New South Wales? 

Domestic violence is everywhere, and the social impact is now touching every Australian. Sadly it is increasingly a topic reported in the media.  But it’s more than just a cause or a political discussion topic.  It affects people’s lives, with very real and long-term consequences.

As a Domestic Violence Liaison Officer with Mid North Coast Police Local Area Command, Karen Bleasdale’s life is touched by domestic violence almost every time she puts on her uniform and heads off to work. She sees the effects of domestic violence on children and families first hand. Karen sees that it affects people in every age group, family type, socioeconomic background, and ethnicity.

Domestic Violence is a gendered crime

While domestic violence does not discriminate by race, age, wealth, ability, education, or sexual orientation, it is a gendered crime. According to White Ribbon Australia, women are three times more likely to be in a relationship that includes violence against them by their intimate partner.  In Australia one woman is killed every week (on average) by a current or former partner. The statistics certainly reflect the observations of police officers in their work throughout the Hastings community.

Image for coffee cups domestic violence advocacy project

The inspiration behind the idea

After years of working with domestic violence victims, Karen came to realise that the power of police and the legal system alone has not been enough to shift these statistics in a positive direction. She also realised that a change is unlikely until there is a change in the community mindset about men’s violence against women. From her years of experience, she knew that a problem that affects the whole community needs a whole-of-community solution.

She set her mind to figuring out a way to get information into the hands of those who need it most, before police and emergency services are called in. Karen wanted a way to put a subtle message into the community that there is help for families who struggle with high conflict relationships and violence. A way to say, “you are not alone, your community cares about you and your pain.” 

Karen thought to herself, “What is something that almost everyone in the community is interested in, that could be used to get a message out?… Coffee!”

The coffee cup initiative is born

Who doesn’t love coffee? Coffee is often the catalyst for a great conversation. Who hasn’t opened up to a friend over coffee?  All that empty advertising space on coffee cups could surely be put to good use as a way to put information directly into the hands of those who may need it.  

Why not put the domestic violence helpline phone numbers on cup sleeves so that a woman can slip it into her purse or pocket to have on hand when she is ready to make the call?  This could also be a great conversation starter for women, and men, to talk about the effects of domestic violence in their lives.

Not only that, but as a subtle, almost subliminal message to everyone in the Hastings that domestic violence is not a private matter, it is a public issue that affects us all and we can all do something to bring it into the open. But how? A great idea is like a seed, it needs a lot of help and nurturing to make it grow.

Image for coffee cups initiative

Karen contacted The Westport Club for some advice about sponsorship and funding. Community and Sports Manager Jenny felt that this would be something the Hasting Local Clubs Grants Committee would be interested in supporting. She approached the committee, garnering the support of Port City Bowling Club.
Port City Bowling Club, together with The Westport Club, has generously funded this initiative. 

The Westport Club lends a hand

The Westport Club – in addition to making a financial donation – wanted to do more. Our aim is to build relationships with our community. We have the resources to help and we are happy to engage these resources to support Cuppawareness. 

With the help of graphic design and marketing specialists on board, it now started to feel like the seed was beginning to sprout. But would local cafes and restaurants come on board?

Stewart Clark at Doppio or Nothing is a local business owner with a big heart and a strong community spirit. When Karen called on him for a quote for the cups, lids, and sleeves, he wanted in. He immediately offered to help with storage and distribution and in getting the word out to his clients.  He was confident that coffee shops would jump at the chance to be involved as well. 65 businesses are now committed to using the cups and sleeves during White Ribbon Week in 2017. All of the feedback from the cafes has been positive,with owners excited to be on board.

“…a great way to get the message out there to the public. There are so many Australians that drink coffee every day.”  – Dunbogan Boat Shed

Stewart also knew that the process of putting sleeves on such a large number of cups would be no small feat. He suggested that it would be a good project for parolees. Some parolees have been perpetrators of violence and could benefit from involvement in such a task. The department of parole and probation and the Country Women’s Association are both assisting with this process. And so, the seedling continues to grow, assisted by some unexpected partners.

Coffee cups making a big difference in the community

Cuppawareness is a pilot project that has the potential to make a huge impact on the Hastings community. It even has the potential to grow into a state-wide or even nationwide event. An idea that has grown from a tiny seed, through nurturing and compassion, into a community event that could bear fruit for years to come. 

“With so many women impacted by domestic/sexual violence, White Ribbon Day is instrumental in raising awareness. It gives a voice to the issue. It is about speaking out about and opening the discussion surrounding DV. We would love to support this community initiative and important cause.” – Hastings Coffee Co.


Image of lady on telephone after finding coffee cups with information on them

What can community members do to be a part of this exciting movement?

How you can help

If you would like to show your support for Cuppawareness, there are several simple but meaningful things you can do;

  1. Find Cuppawareness on Facebook and “like” and “follow’ the page. Invite your friends to like the page too and help spread the word!
  2. Visit the White Ribbon website, learn more about domestic violence and how it affects people, and “take the oath” to stand up against men’s violence against women.
  3. After taking the oath, take a photo of yourself with a printout of the oath. Finally, upload it to the Cuppawareness Facebook page to show your support.
  4. Finally, buy a coffee from one of our partner cafes and restaurants. Meet with a friend and start an honest conversation that could change the course of a family.

Start the conversation

Letting someone know that they are not alone, that they are not trapped. Make them see that there is help out there and you are there to support them. Breaking down the barriers by starting conversations is the most important thing we can do. Awareness is a fantastic goal, however real change is necessary to make all this effort worthwhile. And real change can happen, and does happen, one meaningful conversation at a time.

“We (are) delighted to assist in getting the message across about our community’s non acceptance of Domestic Violence.” – Growers Cafe 


Thank you to the local businesses who are generously supporting the Cuppawareness initiative:

The Westport Club  Port City Bowling Club A Classy Café & Espresso Bar Airport Café  & Bar
Beantree Cafe & Bar Bels Gordon St Bakery Black Market Bagels Bookface
Breakwall HQ Burger Rebellion Buzz Cafe Café Red Ricardos Tomatoes
Carlos & Co. Café Casualties Espresso Cedro’s Cougar Cats Café
Curlys Café Drury Lane Dunbogan Boatshed Café Flynn’s Book Café
Four Espresso Fresh Plus Café Fuzzy Ducks Café Growers Market Café
Happy Pickle Hastings Coffee Co. Hogs Breath Inside out at Lighthouse
Kendall Tennis Court Kew Corner Store Laurieton United Services Club LV’s on Clarence
Meg & Me Espresso Bar Miss Nellies Murray Street Bakery Oasis by the River Restaurant &Café
Peloton Espresso Bar Port Macquarie Golf Club Ruins Café Haywood St Ruins Café Innes Lake
Salty Crew Kiosk Sandbar Café Restaurant Seasalt Café Restaurant Slice Food Co.
Surfside Café TAFE Port Macquarie The Co. Café The Coffee Shot
The Udder Cow Café TJ’s Macquarie Uni Top Spot Two Worlds Cafe & Kids Play Centre
Urban Grain Bakery Winkys on Clarence Hungry Workers Coffee @ Munster
Peak Coffee Pty Ltd Abundance Café Chop ‘n’ Chill Watermans Café
The Cox PlateCafé Dark Alley Café The Holy Goat Coffee Lounge Game Over Café
Cassera’s Patisserie, Pastry and Bakehouse Group Therapy


White Ribbon Week

The Cuppawareness coffee cups and sleeves will be used from White Ribbon Day. Saturday 25 November 2017. The cups will of course continue to be used until stocks run out.

Need help?

If you or someone you know is experiencing Domestic Violence, there are many ways you can get help. Visit the White Ribbon website for an extensive list of support services and counselling hotlines that you can call for help at anytime. There are also lots of helpful documents such as fact sheets available on the White Ribbon website which you can download for free.