Breaking Silent Codes | Head On Photo Festival

Breaking Silent Codes


Belinda Mason - Blur Projects

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Exhibition Description

Breaking Silent Codes is an exhibition of portraits of First Nations women from across Australian and the Pacific who came together to share stories of cultural and spiritual responses to the issue of family & domestic violence and sexual assault in communities across Australia and the Pacific. In March 2020, the women travelled to New York to share their stories with women from across the globe. provided a platform for women to discuss the ways in which community, religion, authority and family create silences around sexual assault and family & domestic violence.

In August 2018, UNSW Arts and Social Sciences, Women’s Legal Service NSW and the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence sponsored and hosted a unique forum of 42 Aboriginal, Torres Strait and Pacific Islander women intended to ‘Break Silent Codes’ and share stories of cultural and spiritual responses to the issue of sexual assault and family violence in communities across Australia and the Pacific.

The forum provided a platform for women to discuss the ways in which community, religion, authority and family create silences around sexual assault and family violence. There are many injustices experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait and Pacific Islander communities. For a long time, it has seemed that all other matters of injustice are more important than the sexual assault and domestic violence in communities. Women experience this as a silencing of issues important to their spiritual and physical well being.

Through this book, we share with you the stories of this gathering which has now become a movement of its own for First Nations women across Australia and the Pacific.

Artist Bio

A multi-award-winning artist, Belinda Mason has worked with emerging artists with disability or disadvantage to create acclaimed collaborative and inclusive multimedia exhibitions for the past two decades. In  2016 & 2018, Belinda presented at a parallel event of the United Nation Commission on the Status of Women in New York, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disability in Geneva 2016 and World Conference on Indigenous Persons in New York in 2014, United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva 2013.

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Exhibition Space

Dates and Times

01 May 2020 to 01 August 2020

Open Hours

Exhibitions Nearby...

  • THEN: 4 M O N T H S O L D ( 2 0 1 2 )
    NOW: 5 Y E A R S O L D ( 2 0 1 8 )

    “Back then Kenneth was being treated in Coffs
    Harbour. He had a heart condition and doctors
    were coming from Sydney to treat him. Three
    weeks later it was decided he would need
    surgery and so Kenneth and I travelled to
    Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick.
    It was a very hard time and looking at the
    photo it reminds me how difficult it was
    to see my child like that. I really relied on
    friends and family at the time as my mum
    was also undergoing treatment for breast
    cancer – her surgery was booked for the
    same day as Kenneth’s.

    He needed to be in the Intensive Care
    Unit (ICU) before and after the operation.
    Throughout all of this Kenneth was a
    curious and inquisitive baby. I remember
    he would always whinge when he couldn’t
    see what was going on, so the nurses in ICU
    always made sure his bed was raised up.
    When looking at the photo with all the
    tubes, monitors, and so many doctors for
    that one tiny baby, I can’t believe we were
    in Sydney for just two weeks and then ready
    to go home.

    Since then he’s had check-ups along the
    way, but after his five-year appointment,
    doctors advised there was no need for
    further treatment. He’s been so well since
    that I can’t even remember the name of
    the condition or the surgery! The only sign
    it ever even happened is Kenneth’s big
    scar. As he was so young at the time, he
    has no memory of the whole ordeal, but
    he knows he has his scar. When people
    ask he doesn’t really know where it came
    from, he just knows he has the same scar
    as his uncle.

    Kenneth is now this happy-go-lucky kid who
    loves his dad’s trucks. Life has been pretty
    cruisey with Kenneth starting school and
    just making friends with everyone. He has
    also recently been made sandpit monitor
    which he takes very seriously.

    It has been a very eye-opening journey and
    we would love to thank all the wonderful
    doctors, surgeons and nurses for all their
    amazing work.”

    K A R I N A
    K E N N E T H ’S  M U M


    Then and Now
  • Griffith NSW is naturally arid country but has become an oasis of commercial cropping and cloven-hoofed animal farming through the use of irrigated water within the Murray-Darling basin. While this has benefited farmers and consumers, over-allocation of water is done at the expense of important wetland habitats and the associated cultural integrity of First Nations peoples.