A contingent of 50 women will travel from Newcastle to Canberra this weekend to display 150 white dresses on the lawn of Parliament House in a call for greater action on domestic violence.
Each dress will represent a woman murdered through domestic violence in Australia in the past five years. The dress initiative was started in 2016 by local feminist group AWE, inspired by the REDress Project which focused on the issue of missing or murdered Aboriginal women across Canada.
Representatives from numerous domestic violence and women's organisations in the Hunter will take part in the event in the nation's capital on Monday morning.
Prior to handing the dresses to the federal government, they will be hung on a clothesline erected on the Federation Mall lawn, where advocates will speak and pay tribute to victims.
"We want to ensure we get heard and these women's stories get heard," said Nova for Women & Children CEO Kelly Hansen, who will travel to Canberra for the event.
"By showing the dresses we hope to gain the attention of the government to make change. This shows that those women were human beings, not just a name in the paper.
"They were let down by the system and by society."
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As well as bringing attention to the victims, the event will serve as an opportunity for campaigners to call on the government to take greater action on domestic violence following the recent budget, which they say doesn't do enough to address the issue.
The Newcastle contingent will call on the government to increase funding to domestic violence and homelessness refuges, so that no woman is turned away when requesting assistance; immediately address the national housing crisis and act on gendered poverty by raising Jobseeker, which is disproportionately required by women.
The idea to take the dresses to Canberra came from Warlga Ngurra Refuge for Women and Children, one of the region's shelters that is currently being overwhelmed by demand.
"All refuges in the Hunter are at capacity," Ms Hansen said. "Which is very frightening. It could lead to a fatality.
"The Hunter is never quiet about these issues, we need to do more so if that means taking these dresses to Canberra to be heard that's what we'll do.
"We're heartsick of bearing the grief, we're passing that grief on to those in power."
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