opinion

The 'Chinatown murder victim' has a name. It's Natalina Angok. Let's all speak it.

The news headlines were unusually banal. Some referred to the news only as a “Chinatown Murder Case”, with very little emotional connection to the victim’s story. Perhaps a portent to something far more nuanced and ominous that serves as an indictment on our very own communal ethos.

As the news of the woman’s murder broke, I remembered that sinking feeling, that incredible realisation that another woman on a night out in Melbourne had not made it home that night. Her life cut short. As the day progressed, I couldn’t get the story out of my mind and frequently checked online news coverage to read an update of what happened, who was she? That silent grief that I had become so accustomed to for every woman’s life lost in our streets or in their homes due to men’s violence. I have become accustomed to this grief because it happens so often, every week and each time it happens I find myself feeling a sense of anger, a silent scream of ENOUGH is ENOUGH.

“I was expecting a candlelit vigil…”

I was expecting the Melbourne community to gather at the site where her body was found. I was expecting the candlelit vigil honouring her life, just like the community has done for those other women before her who have died in the streets of Melbourne due to men’s violence. Who could forget the overwhelming but necessary public outpouring of grief for Eurydice Dixon and Jill Meagher? Then, we witnessed complete strangers coming together – united in their collective heartache.

As the hours passed, I was becoming progressively more anxious as I continued to see the story dropping off from the media coverage. No additional details, no names, no back story……seemingly dispatched from the 24-hour news cycle with no further depth, analysis, editorial platform or public commentary. I asked myself, are we becoming so accustomed to the news of women dying from men’s violence that we have lost ability to empathise. Where was the outrage for this victim? Who was she?

Her name – Natalina Angok – a 32-year-old South Sudanese Australian killed on the streets on Melbourne’s CBD. Her body found by strangers on Wednesday (24 April 2019) morning.

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When the media did begin again to pick up the story yesterday evening Natalina Angok was simply referred to as the “Chinatown murder victim”, which somehow dehumanised her, further removing our collective empathy towards her murder. The mental health of her killer began to dominate the narrative of the coverage, usurping the very essence of the story – the taking of Natalina’s young life when she had everything ahead of her. Even as her face was splashed on online media platforms, there was an undeniable absence of the outpouring community grief about this murder. Something was different.

I can’t help but think that the recent media onslaught on African Australians especially for those from South Sudanese background living in Melbourne – by default, it seems – referred to as “African Gangs” has somehow skewed our perception of Natalina’s murder. This has left the community feeling detached, incapable to feeling empathy when the script has been flipped. A woman of South Sudanese background killed in Melbourne CBD is not the narrative that the community is accustomed to. The perception that they (African Australians) are not the victims of violence but rather the perpetrators of violence, so how do we collectively express outrage about this murder? – the danger of single narrative.

As the hours turn to days and the story of Natalina’s murder diffuses from the collective conscious as it has already, as a community we must reflect on our individual and shared response to the issue of violence against women. Violence against women thrives when there is silence. Only united voices will unmute the silence and show women of all backgrounds that here, in Australia, in our communities – your communities – you matter and we will all stand for you and with you. Let us say her name – Natalina Angok and she matters!

Sharon Orapeleng is a Community Advocate and Mental Health Policy Professional.

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