news

"I breathed. I think that's the part he didn't like." The dark truth killing Australian women.

‘It might take a few days, 5 or 6 if we’re lucky, but it will happen again.’

That is a line I wrote yesterday about the tragic death of Tara Brown and I was wrong. We didn’t have to wait a day before it happened again. We barely had to wait a few hours. At 9.15am on the Gold Coast Karina Lock was shot by her former husband at McDonalds.

Karina Lock is the 62nd woman killed by violence this year.

The same morning a 51 year old man rammed his partner’s car in suburban Brisbane and chased her along a street with a machete. The fact she’s still alive doesn’t lessen the brutality of what she endured.

Another woman is in a critical condition in Victoria after being stabbed earlier today. It is suspected to be another instance of domestic violence.

Australia is in crisis. This week 5 women have been killed by people known to them in Australia. In their homes. In their cars. In a McDonalds store. Two young children have also died at the hands of people known to them. In their own homes. In this country. This week.

It is sickening.

These are the 62 women who have died through acts of violence this year.

Last night the inaugural Our Watch Walkley Awards were held in Sydney. They were held to recognise and celebrate exemplary reporting of violence against women, in particular reporting that highlights the causes of violence and what we can do to ‘stop it before it starts’. The media has enormous power in its ability to shift perceptions of and change attitudes towards family violence. The media can give Australians a glimpse of the reality that is life with domestic violence.

Rewarding media reporting that helps do that is worthy. It wasn’t that long ago that family violence was dismissed, as a matter of course, as a ‘non-story’ by the press. That change alone is worth celebrating.

But the privilege of being able to report on this violence as a bystander, as opposed to a person who has, or is, living with it, was particularly stark and poignant last night.

Survivor advocate Dr Ann O’Neill with Our Watch Chair Natasha Stott-Despoja.

When survivor advocate Dr Ann O’Neill took the stage after the Minister Assisting the Minister for Women, Senator Michaelia Cash, she said that would be a tough act to follow. With a single line she proved that completely untrue.

Twenty-one years ago Ann explained how her estranged husband killed their two children Kyle and Latisha, before killing himself. Dr O’Neill woke up in hospital with half her right leg amputated and her children murdered. And do you know the worst bit? That she woke up to media reports saying ‘what a nice guy’ he was. That she was asked, often, what she had done to ‘make him do it’.

The answer that she eventually settled on was simple. “I breathed. I think that’s the part he didn’t like.”

ADVERTISEMENT

It was the most powerful personal speech I have ever heard. On any topic. I doubt there was a person among the 200 journalists, survivors, politicians, domestic violence warriors and business leaders gathered in that room who didn’t feel the same. And it was delivered during a 24 hour period where the urgency of tackling domestic violence couldn’t be clearer.

Senator Michaelia Cash thanked everyone in the room, on behalf of the Federal government, for their work to address domestic violence. Imagine if the Federal Government did more?

We are in the middle of a horrifying spate of violence. 62 women have been killed this year. These deaths did not take place in a war zone. Not in a faraway land. Not because the victims were tied up in a tribal feud or a dangerous criminal ring. They happened in these women’s homes. In their cars. In public places. And in every case they shared the same risk factor: being a woman.

And it is time – long overdue in fact – that this crisis is treated like the unpalatable national emergency that it is. The discrepancy in action was highlighted by several speakers in Sydney last night.

Upon accepting an award given to ‘Destroy The Joint’ for best use of social media Jenna Price was frank and addressed Senator Cash directly. “The government needs to take responsibility and start funding it appropriately or we are going to have more and more women dying and more children dying,” Price said.

Before presenting the Our Watch Gold Walkley to Jess Hill last night, Lisa Wilkinson made the same point.

“I know that everyone in this room is searching for answers, scratching their head, wondering how we have got to this point. And while how we got here is very very complex and multi-pronged, and the answers are very complex and multi-pronged, I do know that while we have billions put aside to fight terrorism on foreign shores but just $30 million a year for the terrorism that is happening right here in our homes, on our streets, in our backyards, in our carparks, in situations where women should be safe I think we get an idea.”

Almost two women have died every week this year in Australia through acts of violence. That is almost double the average of one woman a week last year. That is absolutely unacceptable.

‘Are we doing enough? I say not.’

And what’s more unacceptable is the response. There hasn’t been one. Where is the emergency summit? Where are the press conferences denouncing this violence and announcing immediate action? Where is Australia’s Minister for Women? Seriously? If five women being killed in a week doesn’t warrant a comment, at the very least, from the Minister for Women, what exactly might?

Last month the former army chief David Morrison put the lack of action into context.

“If we were seeing two soldiers killed every single week in Afghanistan or an area of military operations, commanders would be held to account and be asked to explain.”

So why don’t two Australian women being killed each week deserve action?

These women and children are dying against a backdrop of women’s refuges being closed, of support services being defunded, of the national crisis assistance line 1800 RESPECT not being able to answer every call it receives, of women like Tara Brown being turned away when they seek help.

Are we doing enough? I say not. How many more women need to die before we do more?

00:00 / ???