The message that domestic and family violence is unacceptable was loud and clear in Cessnock's town centre on Wednesday.
About 600 people took part in the inaugural Cessnock Walks Kawuma, marching in solidarity from Cessnock Performing Arts Centre to the TAFE grounds.
An initiative of the Cessnock Domestic and Family Violence Network, the walk was named after the Aboriginal word for 'together'.
Organising committee member Sonia Sharpe was thrilled with the turnout, especially with the large number of school children in attendance.
Ms Sharpe, a Department of Education Aboriginal community liaison officer, said many children in the local area are often absent from school because of domestic violence.
"It was great to see such a turnout of students take the oath, and say no to domestic and family violence, so they can go to school, get an education, be safe, and become what they want to in life - not be dictated by violence," she said.
Ms Sharpe joined Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent to lead the White Ribbon oath - asking the crowd to never commit or stay silent about domestic and family violence in all of its forms.
"By speaking out and not remaining silent, we are giving the message to the rest of the community that we will not tolerate domestic and family violence," Cr Pynsent said.
- Read more: Community invited to unite and walk against domestic violence
- Read more: A cause that impacts us all
Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon said while Cessnock has many things to be proud of, its high rate of domestic violence is not one of them.
"Sadly, we have the third-highest rate of domestic violence in the state," he said.
"We should not accept it; we should reject it.
"We need to work together, and all of you who have come together today should look upon yourselves with pride - it's a very important matter for our city."
Cessnock Police Station officer-in-charge, Chief Inspector Michael Gorman said it was exceptional to see so many people supporting the event.
He said police are taking a proactive approach towards domestic violence, with dedicated liaison officers, training for operational officers, support for victims and by targeting people who are at a high risk of reoffending.
He also urged the community to report domestic violence incidents.
"There are no innocent bystanders when it comes to domestic and family violence," he said.
"Everyone in the community can speak up - by calling triple-zero, Crimestoppers or your local police station.
"There's no excuse for domestic violence."
The event featured performances by the Mount View High School drama group, Cessnock High's Kirawa Aboriginal dance group and the police band.
A Cessnock Domestic and Family Violence Network event, representatives of a number of local agencies banded together to organise the walk, including Cessnock Family Support Service, Hunter New England Health, the Department of Education, the Cessnock Community and Youth Development Officer, Koe-Nara Schools as Communities, Samaritans Information and Neighbourhood Centre, the Anglican Church and TAFE NSW.
The event was supported by the Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network and the Department of Communities and Justice's Cessnock Place Plan Project.
- Domestic Violence Line: 1800 656 463
- 1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732
- If you are in immediate danger, call 000