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Beyond Her Lens: Stories of Resilience

A photographic exhibition exploring women’s resilience through the pandemic.

Launch Event: Tuesday, May 31, 5:30pm-6:30pm
Exhibition Opening Hours: June 1-7 • 9am – 6PM
Venue: Bendigo Library, 259 Hargreaves Street

In Pictures:

Beyond Her Lens presents an insightful and resonant picture of women in Bendigo and their response to an unprecedented global crisis.

Fifteen women have turned the camera on themselves, their families, and their neighbourhoods, sharing intimate moments of their lives in Bendigo during a pandemic.

This photographic exhibition explores how local women have drawn on their strength and resilience, as the impact of COVID continues to unfold and present new challenges.

Photographers in the series come from various levels of skill and experience behind the lens, with most images captured on smartphones. The exhibition is part of a series of community projects across the Loddon Mallee to address women’s wellbeing and connectedness throughout the pandemic.

Women in the Pandemic:

The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women has been a common theme through COVID-related commentary. The pandemic has both magnified and exacerbated deep pre-existing, structural gendered inequalities. The impacts for women will be long-lasting, potentially resulting in long-term disadvantage and economic insecurity.

Women have been more likely to be affected by job losses and to suffer severe financial impacts, resulting in significant consequences for their pay and economic security.

Women have also shouldered the burden of increased household demands, including caring for children because of school closures, caring for unwell family members and managing increased levels of anxiety in young people.

The heightened risk of family violence during the pandemic has been well documented. Globally, evidence suggests that family violence, perpetrated by men against women, is exacerbated during emergency situations. Family violence data from 2020 and 2021 in Victoria confirms this, as does data across other regions.

Personal stories can be incredibly powerful in communicating ideas, shifting attitudes, and changing systems. By sharing these local perspectives, we hope to keep the conversation going so we can work together to advance gender equity and ensure women’s expertise, knowledge and experiences are valued in emergency planning and response.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing:

Each photo series explores one or more of the 5 principles for personal wellbeing.

Five Ways to Wellbeing is a framework that sets out simple actions to improve personal wellbeing, backed by extensive international research. The principles of wellbeing include connect, give, keep learning, be active, and take notice.

Connect – Having friends and family to connect with is important for maintaining mental health and wellbeing. You could go for a walk with a friend, meet new people at a community event or spend time at home with your family. Call or message someone you have not spoken to in a while to reconnect.

Keep Learning – Keeping your brain active and learning new things can help to boost your self-confidence, provide you with new coping skills and knowledge and even help to give more meaning and purpose in your life. You could try learning a new skill or exploring a new hobby, listen to a podcast about a topic of interest or read a book you have been meaning to get on to.

Take Notice – Slowing down can help you to learn self-awareness, reduce negative thoughts and maintain a level of calmness. Take the time to slow down, be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. Some pathways that may be helpful for you to connect with yourself and the present moment can be yoga or meditation, taking a stroll outdoors, or just going outside and feeling the sun or the breeze on your skin.

Be Active – When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain and trigger a positive feeling. There are many ways you can stay active. Go for a walk or run, do yoga, jump on your skateboard or bicycle, get out in the garden. Do what feels right for you.

Give: Giving to others can have an overwhelmingly positive effect on your personal wellbeing. You do not have to spend money to give. Generosity can be as simple as taking the time to check in with a friend or offering your seat to someone on public transport. If you take some time to practice empathy and identify ways you can improve the lives of those around you, everyone will reap the benefits. If you have spare time you can volunteer in your community. Try contacting a local organisation that you support and see if your skills can be utilised there. This might be a local support service, your local community radio station, an opportunity shop.

About the Project:

This project is a collaboration between Bendigo Community Health Services and Women’s Health Loddon Mallee, made possible with support from the Victorian State Government.

About Women’s Health Loddon Mallee:

Women’s Health Loddon Mallee lead change by advocating for the health and wellbeing of all women across the Loddon Mallee Region, with a strategic focus on sexual and reproductive health, primary prevention of violence against women, mental health, and gender equity.

WHLM recognises that women in our communities are diverse and have a variety of needs, circumstances and aspirations that affect their lives and their health. They are committed to working towards a future that sees equitable distribution of power and resources across all gender groups.

Their team of health promotion professionals work to enhance gender equity by providing health information, education and support for local and regional organisations, local government, education providers, and community groups.

About Bendigo Community Health Services:

Bendigo Community Health Services delivers more than 50 programs and services across the region, playing a critical role in helping people lead healthier lives.

We focus on the person and their strengths, factoring in their life experience and understanding they are the expert in their own lives.

Our programs and services are broad, reflecting the diverse needs of our community.

They include (and are not limited to) alcohol and other drugs counselling and withdrawal services, chronic disease management, sexual health, community education, mental health counselling and programs, exercise physiology, health promotion, refugee settlement, a needle syringe program, physiotherapy, workplace education and youth services.

BCHS also helps people manage specific health needs, such as podiatry and living with chronic conditions such as diabetes, respiratory or heart disease.

Our critical work reduces the pressure on our public hospitals and the broader public healthcare system.

We also advocate on behalf of the many and diverse communities we work with, to effect systemic change that will lead to more positive outcomes for all.

We are committed to amplifying the voices of the people we work with, to ensure the healthcare system reflects their needs – and in particular those with intersecting experiences.