in ,

It’s time to shine a light to end violence against women

University of Newcastle's Gender Research Network project officer Rachel Bond. Picture: Stephen Bisset.

Newcastle’s Civic Park and the University of Newcastle’s NuSpace will be bathed in an orange hue from this week as part of an effort to shine a light on the insidious problem of violence against women.

A permanent lightscape, part of the City Lights For Social Change project funded by City of Newcastle’s Special Business Rate Scheme, will be switched on this Wednesday 25 November to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women as well as kicking off Newcastle’s 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women.

Organised by the University of Newcastle’s Gender Research Network, the centrepiece of this year’s 16 Days of Activism (operating in 2020 under the global theme of Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!) will be the switching on of the lights and a vigil remembering victims of gendered violence that, this year, will be live-streamed from Civic Park from 8pm.

“The 16 Days of Activism is an international campaign promoted by the United Nations that encourages people to look at gendered violence that is occurring against women and different ways the community can come together to oppose such violence,” Gender Research Network project officer and vigil organiser Rachel Bond told Newcastle Live.

Rachel added that while the impacts of COVID meant that much of this year’s campaign will run virtually, with 45 women killed by violence in Australia in 2020 alone, such initiatives were more important now than ever.

“Sadly, Newcastle has been impacted by COVID so there are some long-standing events which won’t be going ahead in their usual format, for example, Walk A Mile Koori Style which has been gathering amazing momentum. Sadly they’ve had to do that in advance which will be released as a video rather than something people can attend,” Rachel said.

“So we’re really asking if people can come to the launch which will be virtual. Although it’s virtual, you are allowed to meet in places so people are organising to get together and watch it at the pub, others are organising parties where everyone will have their devices out and watch it there.

“We’re trying to create that strong sense of community even though we can’t all be together.”

Speakers attending this year’s vigil include ACON community health officer Samara Shehata, Nova CEO Kelly Hansen, Hunter New England Health multicultural liaison officer and academic Nafi Ghafournia and Warlga Ngurra Women and Children’s Refuge manager, Rae Hopkins.

Also attending will be Councillor Carol Duncan, Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon, and State Member for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp.

“The vigil is all about remembering women who have keen killed by violence in the past year in Australia, ” Rachel said. “It’s a harrowing thing to have to do, but definitely necessary.”

Following the 16 Days, the new lighting infrastructure will continue to serve as an ongoing platform for organisations to ‘light the park’ specific colours for campaign awareness, with support from local sound and lighting crew Scion.

“The lights will not only serve as a practical way to discourage violence but will be
a permanent reminder that our city stands for equity, safety and supporting the vulnerable in our community,” Gender Research Network Director Patricia Pender said.

Head here for more information on Newcastle’s 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women. The vigil will be streamed here from 8pm on Wedensday 25 November.