This post deals with domestic violence and might be triggering for some readers.
Last night, on my phone, I saw a little girl’s face. You saw her, too.
The same baby’s face, everywhere you look today.
One girl’s name. One girl’s gummy smile.
Nine-month-old Kobi Shepherdson lived in South Australia. Her parents were separated. Reportedly, they shared custody. The police say there was a “history of domestic violence” in the family. Little Kobi’s father had been before the courts in relation to family violence and breached intervention orders.
On Wednesday, hours after one of these court appearances, Kobi’s father strapped her to his chest in a baby carrier and jumped off a dam.
Kobi’s family have asked for privacy, beyond releasing a few photographs of her to the police to be shared in her memory.
WATCH: The "new face" of domestic violence in Australia. Post continues after video.
They are the kind of photographs loving parents have of their children. Kobi is smiling. She has a tiny bow in her hair in some. In others, she’s lying on a photogenic blanket, eyes to the camera, her face wide and open and clear, the way that baby’s faces are. She is, of course, so beautiful. The way that babies are.
The enormity of this tragedy isn’t easy to grasp. Kobi’s mother’s unfathomable loss. The trauma of the bystanders who saw what happened. The bravery of those who tried to intervene, and those who tried to save Kobi.
And now Kobi’s mother is without her daughter. And that’s a scale of loss whose summit can’t be seen from where I’m sitting, looking at my phone.
And then, thousands of kilometres away, in another Australian city, three small children are without their mother.
On Tuesday, Kelly Wilkinson was murdered in her own home on the Gold Coast in Queensland. Her children were in that home too, when, allegedly, a man who had breached an AVO set fire to Kelly. She died in her backyard, and the man was arrested nearby soon afterwards, with burns to his hands and a scorched throat. The fire he’d allegedly set had harmed him, too, but he’d still tried to escape.
A man who had been ordered to stay away. Because he was dangerous.
Just like Kobi’s dad.
The relentless roll-call of family violence deaths in Australia is overwhelming. Too many new names and photos added every month. Too many near-identical stories of orders breached and warnings dismissed.
In the space of just a few days, two more families rendered unrecognisable, devastated, razed, by the issue that won’t go away. That just won’t budge.
Furious men who believe they have the right and have demonstrated they have the ability to crush and destroy whom ever they want. To remove, in furious anger, the people in their lives who will not bend to them. To destroy what is most precious.
No-one wants to read these stories any more. The fury at having to write them is palpable among journalists.
Nothing is working. Nothing is changing.
I was planning to write a different story today. One about my own daughter, and social media filters, and how she’s getting older, and every choice and decision seems loaded, seems momentous.
My privilege is beyond reckoning that I get to watch her pouting at a phone screen and sampling digital whiskers. I am wealthy beyond measure to have been shouting at my boy last night, to have his faulty internal volume control fraying my nerves.
I am here with them. They are here with me.
I have not been abandoned by the system designed to protect me and mine. A vengeful, deadly man I know too well is not forcing me to live in mortal fear.
For Kobi, for Kelly, for all that matters, I am so sorry that we could not keep you safe.
The story of their remembrance is the only story to be written today.
We are just so unimaginably, endlessly sorry.
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.