Illawarra residents have been called to take action against gender-based violence at a solemn vigil in Wollongong that saw 60 roses laid out in memory of women lost to violence.
The vigil in MacCabe Park was organised by Women Illawarra and the Illawarra Women's Health Centre to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
As Michelle Glasgow, general manager at Women Illawarra, read out the names of women who had been killed this year, members of the community lined a path with roses to represent each of these women, as well as others they knew who had died as a result of violence.
Ms Glasgow said she hoped the vigil and the visual representation of these women would remind the community that these were real lives.
"I just means a lot to me that these women aren't forgotten and aren't just a statistic," Ms Glasgow said.
She said it broke her heart that the community was still coming together in 2023 to recognise this "insidious violence".
The project Counting Dead Women Australia reports 54 women have died as a result of violence this year.
On average, an Australian women is killed by a current or former partner each week.
After delivering the acknowledgement of Country, Ash Markstone told the crowd that the theme of this year's campaign asked people to invest in the prevention of violence against women and girls, and create strategies to stop gender-based violence.
But she said there had been a lack of investment in women's health and safety and while services like Women Illawarra and the Illawarra Women's Health Centre were working for change, they were fighting an uphill battle.
"I challenge every person here today: when you return to your workplace, to your family, to your school, to be the change that's needed," Ms Markstone said.
"Demand more from your organisation, commit to donating and fundraising, organise a group to write to your local state and federal politicians, educate your coworkers, and refuse to be silent when misogyny and sexism and discrimination occur in front of you."
Ms Glasgow said she was not sure why the community had not yet been able to halt gender-based violence and address the stigma surrounding the issue.
Those working in the sector could not do it alone, she said, but even having conversations and showing such behaviour was not acceptable was helpful.
"As a community, when we put our minds to it, we can change things," Ms Glasgow said.
She said there were other things people could do: believing women when they spoke out, donating to services, or even offering to store important documents like identification in case a woman had to flee a violent partner.
Wollongong singer Malika Reese performed Tracy Chapman's Behind the Wall and her own song, which described the change she wanted to see.
"All I want today is women and children's safety, clean air that we can breathe, an end to misogyny," Ms Reese sung.
"There can be no excuse for violence towards women and youth, we deserve to be safe and secure."
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women takes place each year on November 25 and marks the first of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, which ends on Human Rights Day.