Pale ghosts of murdered women seeming to glide through the main street of Wingham, and standing like silent statues in Fotheringham Park in Taree, have earned Rosie Herberte the rare distinction of a 2022 Edna Ryan Award.
Rosie was one of 18 women honoured at the awards for making a feminist difference. In Rosie's case, she was awarded for making a difference through the arts.
With a background in street theatre, Rosie's ghosts are a starkly beautiful yet unsettling and confronting sight.
And they are meant to be confronting. They represent the ghosts of women murdered through domestic violence, the ghosts embodied by women of the STOP (Street Theatre Opposing Patriarchy) theatre group.
Related: Memorial service for murdered women
The ghosts first appeared in 2019 to mark the United Nations' International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and they have been reappearing annually since, COVID-19 restrictions permitting.
"Last year, we did a morning in Wingham where we walked through the streets with (the ghosts), which was an astounding experience," Rosie said.
"We had an 11 year old girl and two other women and they were the ghosts. The response in Wingham in two hours went from women and children who were sitting at a café applauding us and hugging us, to a bloke in a four wheel drive who actually tried to run us over, which was, in its way, quite wonderful, because it showed exactly what we were dealing with. So he actually became part of the show!
"It was gentle, we were silent. The ghosts don't talk, they sort of float through the landscape. So yes, it was quite effective and for the persons doing it themselves, the women who were the ghosts, it was a profound experience for them as well."
Rosie said she was a "bit perplexed" on hearing she had won an Edna Ryan award.
"I was a bit shocked really, that the stuff that I do would be considered worthy of recognition. I was going between 'oh my God, that's so wonderful', to 'oh, no, I'd rather remain anonymous'," she said.
"I've just used my time and any agency I might have to amplify certain issues for women. Safety being one of them.
"At the moment, the focus is on the fact that women still, in the 21st century, aren't safe.
It absolutely astounds me that is still the case in the 21st century, we're still having to deal with ingrained misogyny, that is very difficult to shift.- Rosie Herberte
"It absolutely astounds me that is still the case in the 21st century, we're still having to deal with ingrained misogyny, that is very difficult to shift. Although it is coming around, obviously. People are beginning to realise that the inequity is a false construct, that inequity between men and women."
Rosie went to Sydney to attend the awards and said it was a wonderful, supportive experience.
Instead of a trophy, Rosie was presented with a "very soft" pashmina, and a lapel pin of the Edna Ryan Awards logo, with Rosie said is suggestive of the middle finger "salute", to her.
"Who needs a trophy when you can have a snicker?" Rosie said.
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