Bellingen was ahead of the game in showing solidarity with the Women March 4 Justice movement, staging two events that preceded gatherings held around the country at midday today.
About 100 people, mostly but not all women, attended the rally in Maam Gaduying Meeting Place Park on Sunday despite the hot, humid weather, then about 30 women (and two men) came to a symbolic Burial of the Patriarchy near Lavenders Bridge at 9.30am on Monday morning.
Lily Isobella, whose life's work is about empowering young women to resist violence against them, compered the rally and read a powerful poem 'Still I Rise' by Maya Angelou.
You may shoot me with your words,You may cut me with your eyes,You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I'll rise.
Lily said she'd had to practise the poem multiple times to ensure she could make it to the end without being overcome by its emotional force.
She noted that 16 women had already died violently this year in Australia, and we're only midway through March. Then she read out their names.
Jennie Fenton, another one of the rally organisers, spoke about intersectionality, which is the compounding effect of facing multiple forms of disadvantage and discrimination at once. For example, the statistics show that young women with a disability are much more likely to be sexually assaulted than to get a job.
A clear call from the rally was for men to step up and take an active part in ending violence and assault against women - not just by refraining from doing it but also by organising among themselves to promote equitable, respectful relationships and challenging the violence-supportive attitudes of other men.
On Monday March 15, women were invited to gather at the Bellinger River wearing black for a mock funeral of our patriarchal society.
"Even if it's not dead yet, we're happy to bury it alive," organiser Mary-Anne Kate said.
A group of friends came up with the idea before there were plans to hold local marches and rallies, as a way of marking the nationwide protest.
As well as dressing in black, some of the women wore ties - symbols of patriarchy's constricting effect - which were symbolically thrown in a bin.
People stepped forward to denounce an aspect of patriarchy that they wanted to 'bury', before taking turns to throw dirt on its grave.
Even if it's not dead yet, we're happy to bury it aliveMary-Anne Kate
Some of the many things they wanted to do away with included oppression, misogyny, objectification, commodification, domination, wage inequality, the fear of being attacked, the use of mental health diagnoses as a weapon against women, psychiatry that medicates women and tells them they're disordered, and the privileging of promising young men over sexually assaulted young women.
Cath Cooper, another of the event organisers, called for women to harness their collective power by coming together and speaking about their pain. "Let's not hide it away, let's not be in our rooms crying," she said.
After the burial of the patriarchy, the women tossed flowers into the rushing waters of the Bellinger to remember the women who have been killed by domestic violence.
Her Stories for Justice
The March4Justice events on Sunday and Monday were a precursor to an upcoming interactive public art installation Her Stories 4 Justice, where the women of Bellingen can share their stories of injustice and hopes for the future.
A key element of the work is the creation of 'Womanifesto' where participants can share their ideas for change in response to the question, "What can we do as a community to create a better world for women?"
Exhibition organiser Jane Grant said Her Stories 4 Justice is an opportunity for the women of Bellingen to tell their stories of injustice, inequality, disrespect, sexual harassment and sexual abuse - in a safe, inclusive and anonymous way, that is also highly visible.
"The stories and vision that emerge from this process form the beating heart of the March 4 Justice movement in Bellingen and will serve as an important record told through the female lens," she said.
Location and timing for the exhibition is being revised and will be announced in coming days.