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Girls Own Space – Gender Equity through the Arts

Isley Sutherland and Jenneke Kjilstra-Shone

South Gippsland Shire Council has been successful in receiving a grant of $85,000 under VicHealth’s innovative “Gender Equity through the Arts” program. This program has been developed in response to the community concern about violence against women and aims to encourage women and girls to feel more secure in public places. Only seven such projects have been funded across Victoria by VicHealth.

The South Gippsland project is titled “Girls Own Space” and will involve the claiming of a space in the towns of Korumburra, Leongatha, Foster and Mirboo North, to become safe and inclusive, through the vehicle of art. In each town, a women’s peer network of young women (15 to 28 years) of all abilities will be established to work with Council staff, professional artists, artist mentors and local community members to activate a public place where they would like to feel more safe, secure and welcome.

The project is being evaluated by Victoria University and will contribute to the evidence base around effective interventions to address gender inequality through art. The project will commence in late June and be completed by March 2020. It will be coordinated by Council’s Rural Access Officer, Alisha Gilliland, and Arts Development Officer Mary Sullivan. The funds received will directly assist the local economy as it will enable Council to employ at least four local artists to assist with the individual projects and pay for materials from local suppliers, and build local capacity in the arts and creative industries sector through direct employment and skill development of local artists.

The success of the Respectful Relationships Poster exhibition in the walkway beside Leongatha Memorial Hall last December was a key motivator for staff to seek this funding and build on the momentum. For more information on the Girls Own Space project, please contact Alisha Gilliland or Mary Sullivan – 5662 9200 /

Image: Isley Sutherland of IS Architecture and Jenneke Kjilstra-Shone, apprentice carpenter, who will be facilitating the art project in Mirboo North