Dresses honour women killed by violence in Australia this year

TOUCHING TRIBUTE: Individually made dresses remember the women killed by violence in Australia this year. Picture: Simone De Peak
TOUCHING TRIBUTE: Individually made dresses remember the women killed by violence in Australia this year. Picture: Simone De Peak

It is a haunting sight: so many empty, lifeless dresses.

Individually they bear the name of one woman killed through violence in Australia this year.

Collectively they send a powerful message that something drastically needs to be done to stop the loss.

When the campaign to have them made was started six weeks ago 49 women had been killed.

Last week, a total of 67 dresses had been thoughtfully and symbolically made to match the national toll.

Sadly, that figure rose again this week and a 68th dress is now being made.

Newcastle women’s activist group AWE is behind the project aimed to bring awareness to the devastating number of women in our country being killed through violence.

Seeing all 67 dresses together for the first time last week was “a kick in the stomach” for AWE spokesperson Fiona Whitton.

Ms Whitton also observed that if that many people had been killed by terrorism then immediate action would have been taken.

AWE wanted to do something that would have impact during the 16 days of activism for the elimination of violence against women, a United Nations recognised period of time between November 25 and December 10.

November 25 is the international day of violence against women and December 10 and is the international day of human rights.

AWE put a call-out to the community to help make the dresses, which bear the name and age of each woman who has been killed.

The response has been overwhelming.

“We weren’t expecting people to create them as beautifully as this,” Ms Whitton said. “A lot of thought and care and compassion have gone into creating all of these dresses.”

In making a dress herself, Ms Whitton wanted to show what had been lost.

“I didn’t want to represent her as much as remember her and bear witness to the fact that she’d been here and had all of the opportunities in the world but that had all been taken away from her,” she said. 

“A few people I have spoken to who have made dresses have been surprised by how difficult it was and how confronting it was.

“Saying you’ll do it is one thing but then spending hours thinking about them and being with this woman and reading their story … then seeing them all together is like a kick in the stomach.”

The dresses will serve as a reminder of the national loss at the Hunter White Ribbon Breakfast at Wests New Lambton on Friday.

If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, phone 1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732.

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