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16 Days of Activism

Our Stories for Change is a lived experience art exhibition for the 16 Days of Activism at Deakin University. The exhibit displays artworks created by women in our community who have been impacted by sexual and family violence.

Each year, from 25 November to 10 December, World Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism campaign calls for action against one of the world’s most persistent violations of human rights – violence against women.

During the 16 Days of Activism, people around the world will unite to raise awareness about gender-based violence, challenge discriminatory attitudes and call for improved laws and services to end violence against women for good.

The Walk against Family Violence (WAFV) takes place on Friday 25 November each year in Geelong, to take a stand on preventing violence against women. Show your support for victim-survivors and help send a message across Victoria that family violence and violence against women is never okay by attending a walk and stepping out in orange.


Our Stories for Change Art Exhibition

Meli and the Sexual Assault & Family Violence Centre, in partnership with the Barwon Area Integrated Family Violence Committee and their member support service organisations, came together to run two art workshops in November, for women who had experienced family and/or sexual violence.

Nineteen women who took part in the first the workshop, led by Victorian artist Jasmine Mansbridge, each creating something true to themselves and their lived experience.

The pieces, alongside an artwork created in a second workshop run by Wathaurong, make up Our Stories for Change Lived Experience art exhibition which launched at Deakin Waterfront on 29 November.

There are stories of darkness, of coming into the light, there are also stories of hope for the future.

Community, Strength, Unity & Challenge by Wathaurong Women

“Bunjil – represents the spirit of Wathaurong land – I felt like he took care of me and my family and supported me through the strength I found in my community.”

“Without my community, Wathaurong, we would not be able to achieve what we have.”

“Wathaurong wraps around us and are a holistic support (physical, emotional, and spiritual) – this has made me and my family strong today.”

“Weaving of wounds.”

“The support was invaluable – I was able to realise that it wasn’t my fault, and I was not alone or judged.”

“Family violence can happen to anyone – there is no judgement, only support.”

“The Circle – representing arms around the people who need it – this is a symbol of support without judgement, for family, friends and community.”

“We’re all here to embrace and support one another.”

“I find it a challenge to have a different more positive mindset, a challenge to find my boundaries, a challenge to accept what I have been through – it doesn’t mean it’s a negative thing but its more that I am proud of myself to keep challenging myself to find my peace.”

Vibrancy by Anonymous

The artist’s practice started with a flow of paintbrush movements, a rhythmical stream of images and memories to help form the foundation of her piece.

She was drawn to building up multiple layers on the canvas, reflecting “light” back into her work.

The warmth of the colours felt comforting and calming to her. The colours gently revealed themselves to depict the horizon. The horizon reflects the love and lightness of her children. The memories that have passed, the darker memories that are now distant and the stronger energies that shine through.

The work manifests itself in multiple textures, the hidden element of the sun, the strength of its rays bringing warmth and comfort. Memories now flood the artwork and provide movement. The movement of running, playfulness and letting go. Letting dreams become a reality.

Her children are depicted as vibrant beings in this piece, but they are also fragile. It’s this fragility that makes her family a stronger unit. Her strength and the strength of her children are her driving force.

“The Circle – representing arms around the people who need it – this is a symbol of support without judgement, for family, friends and community.”

“We’re all here to embrace and support one another.”

“I find it a challenge to have a different more positive mindset, a challenge to find my boundaries, a challenge to accept what I have been through – it doesn’t mean it’s a negative thing but its more that I am proud of myself to keep challenging myself to find my peace.”

Out of Oppression by LCS

Artist has not given permission for artwork description to be published.

Lock You In by Dannie

In this piece, Dannie takes us on a very personal journey of her own struggles with power.

The dark tones draw you in to her struggles with authority, the legal system, her isolation and the feeling of being trapped and controlled. She sees herself being towered over by power. Power that is bigger than her, a force she has no way of being free from.

She tries to make progress as she reaches out to the light, but feels like she is being pulled back into the darkness of fear and control.

The bars in the piece reflect the biased opinions that have been formed by people who are in positions of power. Locking you in. The light in the piece is about finding your own power, finding the light, being brave and giving women the opportunity to give their children a voice.

Ascension by Tia

Artist has not given permission for artwork description to be published.

Reclaiming Her Voice by Anonymous

The artist’s piece is a reflection of her desire to be free of control.

She has created the work to reclaim her own voice and her independence.

Her work is divided into two forms. The lower part of her work depicts the feeling of being trapped, being overwhelmed by the control of others. The wires express a dominating presence, holding back progress.  The entanglement of the lines seeks to imprison free thinking and free actions. A puppet master who is holding the strings and dictating the next move.

The upper section reflects a series of pillars. Pillars of support, that support each other equally. Each pillar is equal to the other – not one is dominating. The artist invites the viewer to be a part of her journey as a pillar that can support others.

Fractured by Anonymous

Artist has not given permission for artwork description to be published.

Personal Power by Ros

Ros approached her work with fluidity and freedom, tapping into her own flow and movement.

She blended her paint to make pale pink, the colour that represents unconditional love. The love that comes from a sense of safety, comfort and empowerment.

The movement in her work provided her with a flow and ease that allowed her to let go and create. Working in motion with a sense of liberation, she let her hand instinctively flow across the page. Each stroke and swirl depicting her growth towards self-love and compassion.

Colours are extremely important to Ros and therefore were carefully selected within this work.

The pale green represents the heart chakra, a constant source of strength and love, red, the base chakra for grounding and yellow, the solar plexus chakra for personal power.

Authentic Self by Anonymous

The artist chose to approach her piece around the importance of raising a generation of young men where they can be their own authentic selves, unrestricted by traditional gender norms.

The symbols stimulate a dialogue of conversations that can be spoken about at home, to provide boys with the courage and freedom to form their own opinions and be the people they want to be.

This collage of symbols encourages boys to find their passions whether that be music, books, travel, sport, dance, nature, superheroes or rainbows and being able to explore it all, unashamedly. Other symbols represent allowing boys to feel and express the full gamut of human emotions, from love to heartbreak and everything in between.

The work encourages us to question the stereotypical norms that exist in society and these hyper-masculine “boxes” created for men. It is an invitation for us all to question why boys are forced to “fit in” and why they have to feel caged by expectations set by society.

The work invites us to approach the upbringing of boys with an open book, with exploration, giving them the freedom to be many or multiple things without shame or expectation. To have a voice, to speak up if they see something that they can’t accept.

The artist’s message is to create a space for our men and boys to just “be”. Offering them the opportunity to view the world through a lens that is authentic to them.

Inner Child by Prue

As Prue commenced her work she was drawn to the use of gentle strokes of paint, blending muted colours with primary colours intuitively, following her love of experimentation.

As she explored colours and techniques, her gentle nature, softness and calmness started to flow through her work.  It was in this moment that she connected to her inner child. The playful, childlike innocence of being completely free – to be that beautiful person, the person she has always been. That innocence that was taken away by dominant characters, masculine forces that drew her away from her true self. She built up walls to protect herself and those walls are scars that still linger. Her playful inner child has a voice and it’s here that this voice is represented in her artwork.

Falling Raindrops by Anonymous

This artwork represents how family violence can be subtle, cumulative and the individual aspects may seem inconsequential.

Each shape represents a raindrop and each raindrop has repetition and a similar pattern. The patterns represent the repeating patterns of coercive control. Lower down in the work we see the accumulation of these repeat patterns. Each layer is hidden by another layer and another and another. No one sees all the layers combined. They can’t see the individual aspects within these layers and the cumulative impact.

At the top of the piece there are blank raindrops without colour. The blank shapes represent the lack of understanding from society on the topic of family violence. These blank pieces of information are not visible to people within society and to those that are given the responsibility to prevent violence. However, once leaving family violence, healing is also taken in small cumulative steps and not easily seen until looking back.

Finding Stability by Anonymous

The artist’s connection to strength was a major focus of her work, focusing on the tree as a symbol of strength. A tree has stability, a strong foundation, it has the ability to transform by shedding and growing new leaves.

While painting the orange and red leaves she sees them headed for their own transformation, ready to fall to the ground with a new chapter about to start.

The tree heals itself along the way and organically grows on its own terms, within its own rhythms. As humans, we don’t say no, we keep pushing ourselves, we feel guilt if we ask for time to ourselves. The colours of the leaves also represent that burnout is present in society. A self-sacrifice that is unhealthy.

The primary colours also represent signals that mechanically control our lives. The conductor that keeps the signals going, reading messages and trying to align, but miscommunicating. This obligation to never make a mistake, never show negative emotions, never be at fault. It’s a heavy burden.

Wholeness by Kate

Kate’s art practice is a reflection of a series of journeys she has taken throughout her life and an expression of the experiences that have shaped her identity.

The interconnecting lines in Kate’s work reflect the road that has taken her down the path she is on.

The mountains depict the many ups and downs and upheavals in her journey.

The lines in her work straighten out to express how she is still searching for her own peace. Achieving wholeness and feeling whole is the driving force behind the piece. It’s within this push and pull struggle that she feels a sense of heaviness. She feels a heavy weight on her shoulders, a desire to give everything she can to her child, everything she has promised, but the unending weight of trauma smothers her.  Taking a breath to connect back into herself but feeling breathless. This heaviness, the weight is unrelenting.

Wholeness is her path, her path to healing, her clarity on what path to choose next.  She is striving to build a world where she can be whole, and her life can be fulfilled.

Infinite by Anonymous

The artist approached her practice through the creation of interwoven strokes to reflect the concept of being infinite, unending and without boundaries.

Like the interlacing of a woven basket, her work grows in proportion and complexity with each individual layer of paint. She explores her own freedom of working and creating something continuous. She introduces repeat patterning, creating a halo effect. This element allowed her to express shapes in the abstract form, free of control and with a sense of freedom.

Open Door by Celina

Celina’s love of self and self-care are expressed poignantly in this piece.

In creating this piece, Celina channels her own love of self-expression with openness. Her openness invites you into the symbolism of her work.

The door represents the freedom to find her own path. Opening the door to a new journey, a new chapter. To breaking the cycle – changing the path you’ve been given.

Her work exudes love of self and love of family. The feeling of togetherness with her children, being connected and being grounded.

The door is slightly ajar, opening us all up to new inspiration and new beginnings. An open door can change a person’s life.  When you come to an open door you step into a new realm. Each step is a step in the direction of your future, to new beginnings.

Patterns of (Un)accountability by Blaze

The artist commenced her art practice by using repetitively-ruled pencil lines to create her own replication of Aida cloth. This practice reminds her of the meticulous nature of her perpetrators mind, one that provides him with the capacity to digitally stalk and so quickly inflict control over her.

Incongruently, the patterning and re-patterning of crosses within the lines labour her with the more grounding loves of her life. In doing so, the artist is compelled to re-commit to her own agencies, responsibilities, and accountabilities towards the entrenched acceptance of settler colonialism and her own guilt felt as a settler woman on Stolen Land. Such commitments, although not always starkly clear to her, stand in subtle contrast to the white middle-class patriarchal heteronormative “romance” that he represents and manipulates us with.

While writing poetic stanzas to process her rage against the White patriarchy, she finds herself gravitating to the restful practice of cross-stitch embroidery, a skill passed on to her by her maternal grandmother when she was just 6 years old. Through redrawing the lines of the Aida fabric and the cross-stitches that rehearse and reinforce important matrilineal and feminist practices. These actions allowed the artist to find a release from these toxic “patterns of (un)accountability”. She invites us all to immerse in the cross-stitch embroidery pattern together – to actively participate in stitching advocacy for institutional accountability on this sacred land of Djilang, Wadawurrung Country. Her work is deeply supportive of feminist practices that provide space for anti-colonialism insurgency and revolt.

As a useable pattern, the artist additionally welcomes you all to cross-stitch your own artwork as a form of demanding accountability for yourself and for others.

Support and Empathy by DJ

DJ’s artwork is deeply representative of the caring and giving person she is. This piece reaches out to the viewer in the same way DJ reaches out to others. She is deeply proud of her ability to be compassionate to others, ask questions and listen to the answers given. She is resolute in her commitment to listen fully to others – letting them lead the conversation so they truly can be heard. These simple needs of listening and being present were the very needs that were not afforded to her.

DJ draws right and left handed and this interplay gives her the capacity to connect to her child and adult self. She does this intuitively but by doing this she intimately connects the two.

The child and adult self share the foreground and each circle represents the past. Some circles are closed, others are more open. The circles that have a harder edge represent distrust. Above are the birds, her protectors. The birds are free. Free to fly as they are no longer needed to protect DJ. The birds flying free remind DJ that she can be free also.

Self Growth by Brea

Brea’s work was inspired by the concept of growth.

Her art practice offered her an invitation to step into the world of symbolism, using the tree to reflect her own desire for self-growth. Her use of raw, textural elements to depict the ground was a major focus of the work. This somewhat intangible element is introduced to provide protection, a foundation that has the strength to hold her, to ground her.

She remains incredibly optimistic throughout her art practice explaining that everyone can grow, everyone can find a new journey to growth.

Under the protection of the tree’s canopy, she no longer has to scream to be heard. The branches are a visual representation of reaching out, striving for what she desires most in life, the feeling of normality. She craves a simple and peaceful life filled with love.

This project was funded by a grant from the Anthony Costa Foundation and the Aim for Change Foundation. We also thank Rotary for supporting this project.

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