opinion

"To the family of 21-year-old Aiia Masarwe, we are so sorry."

Since the publication of this article a 20-year-old man has been arrested over the murder of Aiia Masarwe. 

Aiia Masarwe, a 21-year-old international student, was on the phone to her sister as she walked home from The Comics Lounge on Tuesday evening.

It was a warm night, right in the middle of the Australian summer.

Friends dropped her at the 86 tram, police understand, after attending the show in North Melbourne.

She got off on the corner of Plenty Road and Main Drive, and began the short walk home.

The familiar voice of her sister likely made her feel safer, navigating the dark streets in a foreign country.

But as they spoke, suddenly their conversation was interrupted by another voice. Or voices. The phone fell, and Aiia was gone.

Her sister tried to call back. There was no answer.

We know that the student of La Trobe University, who had been in the country for six months, was likely murdered in the moments that followed. Her sister sat powerlessly, more than 13,000 kilometres away.

Neighbours reported screaming in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

But it wasn’t the voice of Aiia.

It was the sound of the woman who found her.

The student, who was less than a kilometre from her home, was partially dressed, with her sandals, phone, a book and her water bottle, scattered around her.

Aiia came to Australia, a country that believes itself safe, and never returned home.

Following the murder of Grace Millane, a 21-year-old English backpacker who was killed on New Zealand soil, allegedly by a 26-year-old-man, the Prime Minister issued a public apology.

Jacinda Ardern said, “There is this overwhelming sense of hurt and shame that this has happened in our country, a place that prides itself on our hospitality.

“Your daughter should have been safe here, and she wasn’t,” the Prime Minister continued. “And I’m sorry for that.”

Aiia, too, should have been safe. Her family believed it was safe.

Her uncle told The Guardian, “We never thought something like this would happen in Australia.”

Though it means little now, to a family who will never see their curly-haired, driven, and impossibly smart, daughter and sister again; we are so sorry.

We are sorry to Aiia, who we failed.

On Friday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted: “My heart goes out to Aiia’s family and friends and everyone whose life she touched. An incredibly shocking, despicable and tragic attack.”

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The words, “We are sorry,” are notably missing – as though the attack itself had nothing to do with the country she happened to be in.

But Aiia’s death took place almost seven months to the day after 22-year-old Eurydice Dixon – a woman who was also murdered, by someone she did not know, walking home from a comedy show in Melbourne.

On the same Saturday in July, a 76-year-old woman named Jan Garrett was murdered inside her home. A man believed to be her live-in carer has been charged with her murder. Then Amanda Harris, a childcare worker and mother of three, was set alight inside her home. Her partner was the perpetrator.

In October, 2018, 24-year-old Toyah Cordingley’s lifeless body was found at a beach near her home. She had been murdered while walking her dog.

In the same month, Gayle Potter, a 46-year-old mother-of-three was killed on her own property, when a local man ran her over with his car.

In the same month, Kristie Powell, 39, was murdered in her own home, a few metres away from her baby boy.

This week, the body of Pilbara woman, 36-year-old Felicity Shadbolt was found in Tom Price, Western Australia. She had gone missing after a bush walk.

Perhaps the saddest part of this whole story is that Aiia’s family so strongly believed that things like this do not happen in Australia. But they do.

All the time.

Sorry means this tragedy never should have occurred. It means a commitment, to ensuring it never happens again.

And following the murder of so many women, in such horrific circumstances, saying sorry, is surely the least we can do.

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