ROSIE BATTY: 'My son was murdered by his father 10 years ago. I'm still trolled over it.'

This is an edited extract from Rosie Batty’s new memoir Hope available from 3 April.

Self-doubt and feelings of insecurity have always shadowed me. I've never been someone who oozes self-confidence and I’ve always tended to second-guess or question myself, which any therapist will tell you probably stems from losing my mother when I was six years old. The earth shifted under my feet when my mum died, and never fully settled. 

The emotional baggage you carry from childhood doesn't just magically disappear because you become an adult, and in my case, those feelings are deeply layered into my DNA. I'll always be that country girl growing up in a small village in England, who pushed herself a long way out of her comfort zone to put on a backpack and go to Australia.

So, rather than being the life-affirming moment that people perhaps assume becoming Australian of the Year is, standing on the podium with the bright spotlight of the nation upon me only lured the moths of imposter syndrome and self-doubt out of the darkness. 

In the years since Luke's death, I have addressed the nation's media, delivered keynote speeches to the most powerful leaders of corporate Australia, advised politician and prime ministers, and helped the most vulnerable in our community, but underneath that battle armour is a woman with human frailties and deep insecurities who is often overcome by crippling anxiety. 

Image: Supplied.

Even today, despite all that I’ve achieved in Luke's honour, I sometimes feel like I don't fit in to a particular camp, which means I can very easily succumb to feelings of doubt and isolation. I struggle with my place in the world. I'm not an academic, but people seek me out for my expertise and knowledge. I'm not a family violence worker, but I'm the first person some people call when they need help and support. I’m not a celebrity, but everywhere I go, people know me. 


It's a strange and unique path I'm walking and my feelings oscillate with the ever-shifting tide of my life.

Those familiar ghosts of doubt and insecurity shadowed me as I was welcomed to the lectern at a special joint sitting of the Victorian parliament in November 2015. Joint sittings of parliament are rare in Victoria, and even more unusual was the houses of parliament suspending their regular debate to devote a whole day to a single issue — in this case, family violence. 

The coronial report into Luke's death, which was the catalyst for this special sitting of parliament, had been handed down a few months earlier, exposing the deep cracks and significant failings of the systems that were supposed to protect women and children. 


Judge Ian Gray's final report stretched well beyond 100 pages and offered 29 recommendations for how to fix the system. I hoped that we could get bipartisan support to implement every one of them. 

Glancing up from my notes at the lectern, I could see politicians from every political party and both the lower and upper houses jostling for elbow room in the century-old chamber. I was focused on the task at hand but couldn't help taking in my surroundings: the elaborate Waterford crystal chandeliers dripping from the roof, the glint of goldleaf embossing on the walls and ceiling, the rich leather furnishings. It was a beautiful place and I felt the weight and solemnity of the moment. I'd worn my favourite orange scarf. Orange was the colour chosen by the United Nations to represent a brighter future free of violence against women and girls, and it seemed perfect for the theme of the day. The splash of colour lifted my spirits. 

Watch: Responding to Domestic Violence presented by Rosie Batty. Post continues after video.

Video via 1800RESPECT.

With a tissue clenched in one hand just in case I lost control of my emotions, I began by acknowledging the dignitaries that had gathered before me — then promptly dispensed of my formal notes. "That's the last time I’m going to read from these," I said, smiling. "I think the reason people have listened to me is because I speak authentically, I speak from the heart; I speak as I see it, the truth. People want to hear the truth. People want to hear feelings.


"The reason Luke's story had an impact is because it touched the heart of the premier, who has a son of a similar age to Luke. It touched your hearts, as fathers, as grandfathers, as uncles, as aunties and as mothers, because no-one loves our children more than we do. We would do anything to protect them. That was Greg. That was Luke's father. Yet, he was able to murder his son, the son he loved, in spite of how much he loved him. 

"It is something I cannot understand. It is something I do not think any of us will truly get. The need for power and control at any cost is beyond our comprehension, but that is how women are living right now, today."

My lip quivered as I clenched the fragments of tissue in my hand, now damp with sweat from my palm, and I took a deep breath, eyeballing the room while I settled myself. Most of the politicians had their heads bowed and I hoped they were quietly contemplating my words, not staring at their laps to avoid my gaze. 

I spoke about how far and wide I'd travelled in my time as Australian of the Year, and the people I'd met along the way. I wanted them to know that when I called them to account, I was doing so on behalf of the thousands and thousands of people I had connected with. I called for them to be accountable as leaders, as politicians and as human beings. I reminded them of their role, that it's up to them to look at their behaviour and their colleagues' behaviour, and I asked them to have a true and honest look at the culture within every organisation and department that sat under their control. 


For the fifteen minutes I spoke, you could have heard a pin drop as the familiar fractious and often juvenile debate of the lower and upper houses was paused. Maybe I was being heard.

"What I would like to see is no more of the question, 'Why doesn't she just leave?"' I said. "I want us to be asking the question, "Why doesn't he stop being violent?" And indeed, "Why doesn't he leave?" As we switch from victim blaming to perpetrator accountability, I look forward to our systems and processes and our organisations working collaboratively to make men accountable, to offer them the support and direction and opportunity for change, because without us working together we will never achieve what we can. Thank you."

Feature Image: Supplied.

The politicians rose and offered a standing ovation, which was genuinely touching and very much appreciated. As I made my way from the lectern, a number of MPs came over to shake hands or speak with me. The opportunity to address all the members of the Victorian parliament wasn't lost on me and I felt very privileged. My speech was well received, as were those of the speakers who followed me that day. I went to bed that night feeling proud of what we'd all achieved. It was incredibly gratifying to know that the safety of women and children was front of mind among the people who made the policies and decisions that shaped the laws of the state. Little did I know that I'd wake to some unfortunate headlines.

In the heat of the moment after my speech, all 127 MPs present rose to their feet — except one. And that exception was noted by many in the chamber, including the press gallery. Liberal MP Graham Watt had remained seated. 

Word that he’d refused to stand rippled through the corridors of parliament and it was widely considered to be a 'snub' to me and incredibly disrespectful. 

People are entitled to behave however they like and this man's refusal to stand was inconsequential to me, but what did irritate me was that he was now the story. When the headlines should have been about this historic moment of parliament supporting vulnerable women and children, they were instead all about this man. He had sucked the oxygen out of our campaign. 


The next day, the opposition leader, Matthew Guy, was forced to defend his MP's 'utterly disgraceful' behaviour and Graham Watt issued an apology, saying that he chose not to stand for 'personal and private reasons', but by then the damage was done. On social media, so-called 'men's rights' groups seized the moment, offering their support for the MP, praising his 'courage' and promoting the widely refuted and discredited statistic that one in three men are the victims of family violence. 

Supporters of these groups had been trolling me quite viciously on social media for some time, most of which I ignored or deleted, but these headlines added fuel to their fire and gave them another voice. One charming group ran the headline Domestic Violence Beat Up on their blog, while comments on mainstream media pages took us right back into the space of victim blaming, the very dialogue I'd worked so hard to shift. 

Torquay: This woman should stop trying to make a career for herself out of her son's death. 

Candidly: This boy was a victim of his parents' toxic relationship. Shame on both of them.

Sheila: To pillory a man for having his own private thoughts is unacceptable and downright wrong! She is not Mother Theresa!!

Saray: Batty has been captured by the hard feminist Left… I am sick of the male bashing in our so-called enlightened society.

SJG210: Australian of the Year??? Is this the best we can do?


JackRM: Why we allow such an extremist to have such a high place in our society is beyond me.

Sid: I'm getting tired of seeing her poor-me face in the media.

Mammatothree: Rosie Batty would have to be the most over-sensationalised victim of DV…

AussieReg: Rosie Batty milking her family tragedy for all its worth.

And on they went… hundreds and hundreds of them. 

Image: Supplied.

I brushed off the comments. I didn't have time or headspace to let them bother me, because if I really absorbed what these people were saying and took it in, I'd have been heartbroken all over again. I certainly wasn't going to waste an ounce of energy on these kind of comments when there were too many things to do in the time I had left as Australian of the Year.


Sometime later, when I saw him in parliament, Graham Watt personally apologised to me and offered an explanation, which I accepted unreservedly and with good grace as it was heartfelt and well-intended.

As much as I have a thick skin (I mean, really, what is the worst thing that can happen to you after your child has been murdered?), I was still a little shocked by the venom some people had for me, especially people I'd never met and who didn't know me. If you know me and decide you don't like me, so be it! But it’s a very strange thing to hear and read the opinions of people who've had absolutely no connection to you.

Mark Latham was one of those who perplexed me. For some reason, he really had a bee in his bonnet about me. Writing for his column in the Australian Financial Review, he argued that my public advocacy in the aftermath of Luke's death was in fact putting women in danger, that I was being 'wheeled out' as a paid celebrity speaker. 

The article was a bizarre rant that began by citing Nazism and genocide, then moved on to me and domestic violence. Latham wrote of how surprised he was to learn that I was sometimes paid for my time as a guest speaker. I'm not sure how he thought I would support myself during my time as Australian of the Year, for which there is no salary. 

According to Mark Latham though, I was rolling in it, profiting from Luke's death:… wheeled out at business functions to retell the story of her son's murder… This is one of my pet gripes about modern society: the way in which serious issues and events are converted into bizarre forms of celebrity.


Seemingly, there's nothing left in the relationship between people that can't be commercialised and cashed out as 'entertainment'.

The article went on and his ramblings became more and more offensive with every sentence. 

There was a time, in the dignity of working-class life, when grieving was conducted in private. In the 1960s, nobody tried to enlist the parents of Adelaide's missing Beaumont children as celebrity speakers… the grieving genre has become a growth industry. 

It was just weird. He had another dig in January 2016, as I was preparing to hand over the Australian of the Year reins.

In a podcast for a radio station, Latham mused that I was 'causing more harm than good' and there was a 'demonisation of men' that had emerged in Australia.

A lot of Australians are asking how did that tragedy where a lunatic drugged-out father sadly maliciously killed his own son… how's that morphed into a generalised campaign against all Australian men? That's the thing that worries me about the domestic violence campaign.

Poor Mark. I’d obviously given him a lot to worry about. Perhaps he could’ve been a bit more worried about the 80 women who died in Australia in 2015 due to family violence, because that's what kept me up at night.

Feature Image: Supplied.

This is an edited extract from Rosie Batty’s new memoir Hope available from 3 April.