Port Macquarie gathers to Reclaim the Night fighting for the right to feel safe

Pink knitted beanies could be seen all over Port Macquarie on October 26, as over one hundred people came together for the Reclaim the Night march.

The aim of the march was to acknowledge the right that everyone, especially women, has the right to feel safe at night, and that violence is never the answer.

Organiser Kelly Eyeington, a social worker at Port Macquarie Base Hospital, said the march had exceeded expectations.

“We are so pleased with the turn out, it is a credit to the community that they came out to say that violence in general is bad, and everyone, especially women, has the right to feel safe wherever they go at night,” Ms Eyeington said.

“It will take the whole community to stamp out violence, and it was great to see so many men, children and women from different groups in the Hastings at the march,” she said.

“Thank you so much to all who helped make the night possible, including Mid North Coast Health District, Headspace, the band, our volunteers and Baker’s Delight.”

For the first time in Port Macquarie, many donned pink beanies as part of the ‘Pussy Movement’ coined in the United States in recognition of the plight of women.

“All the money raised will go to the Hastings Women and Children’s refuge here in Port,” she said.

Port Macquarie-Hastings Mayor Peta Pinson said that it was wonderful so many in the community came to support the cause.

“As a nation we have a proud history of marching together in unity, and I thank everyone for joining together to reclaim the night,” Mayor Pinson said.

“Everyone of us has the right to feel safe in our homes, in our streets, our park lands, our neighbourhoods and most importantly our community.

“We do not accept violence or disrespect; we expose the excuses that are made for abusive and aggressive behaviour and the leniency to which it is responded to,” Cr Pinson said.

“We all need to build a culture by empowering our young people, and teaching our young girls and boys about decency and respect by example.

“For too long violence, especially against women has been invisible; it is a violation of human rights, and it has serious impacts on the health and well-being of those affected,” she said.

Alan Pretty, General Manager of Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol services for the Mid North Coast Local Health District, brought an edge of reality to the march, giving crowds an insight into just how extreme violence in our community is.

“You’ll notice lanterns carried tonight during the march, these lanterns represent women victims of family and domestic violence.

“Australian research shows, that 1 in 5 women aged over 15 years, have experienced sexual violence, 1 in 3 have experienced physical violence, and 1 in 4 women presenting to our emergency departments in Australia have experienced domestic violence at some stage,” Mr Pretty said.

“Domestic and family violence is preventable, and Mid North Coast Health is committed to working with all key stakeholders here in a shared approach to achieve this result.

“There is a lot of positive work happening in the community as we can see tonight,” he said.

“The Mid North Coast have specialist staff who work across the region who provide care and support to those who need it, these include sexual assault services, drug and alcohol services, women's health services and mental health services.

“The prevention of violence against women is of an enormous social and economic benefit to all of us, and we all have a part to play, both in our professional and personal lives.

“Let’s start tonight by reclaiming the night for the Port Macquarie community so the whole community can be safe from violence,” he said.