opinion

Australia failed 25-year-old Courtney Herron. In too many ways to count.

Courtney Herron’s body, bearing the signs of a “horrendous beating”, was found by dog walkers in Royal Park, Victoria, at 9:15am on Saturday morning.

She was hard to identify at first.

With no fixed address, there had been no one waiting up for her. No one who noticed she hadn’t come home that night.

The 25-year-old likely spent her last night alive sleeping in a park, as the season edged closer to winter. It would have been freezing and it would have been dark.

But before long, police identified the woman as Herron, a former government worker known to the community.

Video by Seven

Her friends described her as “funny”, “friendly” and “generous”. She had family that loved her. In the past she had stayed with her mother, her ex-boyfriend and friends. But it became increasingly difficult, because at the time of her death, Herron was also a woman struggling.

An ex-boyfriend, Terrick Norris, told The New Daily, that Herron was “addicted to drugs and sometimes it got a bit too much.”

Her life, according to friends, changed when she became addicted to heroin and ice. It was there she found herself stuck.

Speaking to The Project on Monday night, friend Jessica Bateman said she had been “worried immensely” that something would happen to Herron.

“Absolutely the system failed her,” she said.

“She was trying to get into public housing, she was trying to get onto methadone or something that would stop the withdrawal symptoms that she was going to face — and the fear of withdrawal is what really kept her using.”

“Failed” was a word reiterated by Detective Inspector Andrew Stamper.

“This was a young woman who had challenges in life and we as a community should be protecting these people and we didn’t,” he said.

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“We failed.”

Herron was failed by the public housing system, which allegedly placed her on a “really long” list. According to her friend Bateman, she was “really frustrated about that and when she told me, she was crying”.

She was failed by a housing crisis that means homelessness is rising, with the biggest demographic being young people between 19 and 24. The trend is especially prevalent in Sydney and Melbourne.

She was failed by not being given access to the medication she needed in order to combat her drug addiction.

She was failed by a complete lack of funding, facilities and support for people who are overcoming drug-related withdrawals, and can’t do it on their own.

She was failed by the absence of emergency mental health facilities, as well as the structural problems that make it impossible for a woman like Herron to access quality and timely mental health care.

She was failed by a lack of action regarding violence against women in Australia. Herron became the fourth woman in Melbourne, in less than 12 months, who was killed alone and in public.

She was failed by a social and cultural crisis in Australia, where every three hours a woman is hospitalised as a result of violence from a partner, carer or family member. Herron was the 20th woman to be killed violently in 2019.

She was failed, most of all, by the person who killed her, and believed her life was theirs to take.

A man has been charged with the murder of Herron – a welcome step towards justice.

But the ways in which we failed the 25-year-old woman from Victoria, who once worked a full time job, and was adored by those around her, cannot be addressed by a single conviction.

Herron’s story goes far beyond what happened on Friday night.

How did a 25-year-old end up with nowhere to sleep?

And how many bodies, that belonged to living, breathing human beings, have to turn up in public parks before something, finally, changes?

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

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