Kim Forsyth, left, and Vivian Philpotts hold up photos that will be displayed as part of the Lancefield Romsey Stand Together campaign against family violence. The exhibition will be displayed concurrently in both towns throughout May and June.

By Colin MacGillivray

THE Lancefield and Romsey communities have banded together to denounce family violence with a photographic exhibition to be hosted concurrently in both towns throughout May and June.

The Lancefield Romsey Stand Together exhibition is an initiative of Sunbury and Cobaw Community Health.

It features photographic portraits of people who have written a personal pledge to take action to combat family violence.

Community members and groups were invited to submit pictures for the project in late 2020, and photographs were taken at the Lancefield and District Farmers’ Market during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign.

Sunbury and Cobaw Community Health health promotion officer Lauren Tyrrell said the idea for the exhibition was born from a study conducted jointly by the health service and Swinburne University.

“The study was around talking to the community about their priorities around mental health and wellbeing,” she said.

“We did a series of consultations with the community and family violence was an issue that came across very strongly in those consultations.

“The Lancefield Romsey Stand Together campaign was a way to mobilise the community and for them to show they don’t accept family violence and talk about ways they could create a more safe and respectful community.”

Ms Tyrrell said statistics showed family violence was a problem in the Macedon Ranges region.

In 2020 there were 517 police callouts to family violence incidents across the shire, representing a 14.4 per cent increase from the previous year.

“We know [family violence] is a really underreported crime, so even though the stats are really high, they’re probably not representing the whole picture,” Ms Tyrrell said.

“It is a hidden issue in the community, so the whole idea of this campaign was raising community awareness and showing support for the idea that we don’t accept family violence.”

The exhibition began last week at Romsey Community Hub and Lancefield Neighbourhood House, where it will remain on display until Sunday.

From Monday, it will move to Romsey Maternal and Child Health Centre and Lancefield’s Bendigo Bank branch until May 31.

From May 31 to June 15, the exhibition will be at Romsey’s Bendigo Bank branch and Lancefield Primary School, and from June 15 to 28 at Romsey Primary School and St Mary’s Primary School, Lancefield.

Ms Tyrrell said the fact several community groups and organisations had volunteered to host the exhibition showed people were embracing the anti-violence message.

“The primary schools themselves were involved in the campaign. They got a staff group together to hold up a message, and there are photographs from all three of the local primary schools,” she said.

“Similarly, the library staff submitted a photo, and the two neighbourhood houses in Romsey and Lancefield have been very involved in the whole project.

“The coordinators of those two organisations are featured in the campaign and will be hosting the portraits at their organisations.

“Bendigo Bank has been really supportive, and the primary schools, the library – all those places in the community where people go, I think it’s important for them to see those respected and trusted organisations getting behind that message.”

Ms Tyrrell said the exhibition was part of an effort to change cultural attitudes towards family violence.

“One of the drivers of violence in our community is attitudes that condone it,” she said.

“The influence we can have in that area is going to make a difference in the long term.

“It’s about culture change and societal change, and we know family violence is preventable if we can challenge some of those drivers.”