opinion

One year ago today, Eurydice Dixon was raped and murdered. Here's what Australia did about it.

There’s that joke about the failed shoe bomb.

It was Jim Jeffries who said we had one failed shoe bomb 18 years ago and now every single person who goes through security has to take their shoes off.

Imagine if the shoe bomb principle had been extended to the rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon, I wondered this morning, which took place one year ago today.

It took me a few hours to discover that it had. The Australia that Dixon died in just 12 months ago, is a different place to the one we’re in today.

More than 5000 Australians attended Eurydice Dixon’s vigil. Post continues below. 

Dixon, 22, was walking home after performing a comedy set at Highlander Bar in Melbourne’s CBD when she was attacked by a man she did not know, only a few hundred metres from where she lived.

Jaymes Todd, 19, raped and murdered Dixon, leaving her dead body in Melbourne’s Princes Park.

She was found just before 3am. Her family later discovered her last words were sent to a friend in a text message: “I’m almost home safe.”

Her death was met with an outpouring of grief from all over the country, prompting a vigil in the park where she was found.

More than 5000 men and women attended.

Then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said we need to “change the hearts of men.” Then Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said we ought to “change the attitudes of men.” Greens MP Adam Bandt called on men to “change the way we act.”

But 12 months later, you’d be forgiven for feeling like nothing at all has changed.

Since Dixon’s June murder, 54 women – that we know of – have been murdered by men in Australia, according to Destroy the Joint.

It was just over a month later that 19-year-old Laa Chol was killed a short drive from where Dixon was found.

Last year, six women lost their lives in five days during a particularly shocking October, some at the hands of men who were supposed to love them.

In the same city as Dixon, 21-year-old Aiia Maasarwe was murdered in eerily similar circumstances just seven months later. Then there was Courtney Herron, 25, who was killed walking distance from the park where Dixon was attacked.

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There have been countless conversations. Think pieces. Speeches. Donations. Pledges.

Outraged by the statistics, I asked: Where’s the funding? Why isn’t more being done?

The 2019-2020 budget included a record investment in women’s safety. $328 million to combat violence against women and children, in a real effort to keep Australians safe.

“The Government is proud to be making the single largest ever Commonwealth investment in prevention measures and frontline services…” reads a statement.

But how about a cultural shift? I asked. Are we seriously making changes to how men view women in Australia, a proven precursor to gendered violence?

Yes. We are.

From the incredible work of Our Watch, to White Ribbon, to Respect, a joint Australian, state and territory government initiative.

“We can help stop it at the start,” reads the current tagline, which accompanies their comprehensive campaign rolled out over commercial television and radio.

You’d be hard pressed to have not come across a piece of advertising addressing violence against women in the last year or so.

Then there’s the NRL. Imperfect. Flawed. But making some really important changes – and fast.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg described this year’s off season as one ‘from hell’, with allegations of assault, domestic violence and rape directed at several players.

He announced early in 2019 that the NRL would no longer tolerate violence against women of any kind.

It might be overdue. And there is unequivocally a lot of work to be done, but it’s the first stand of its kind in rugby league history. And that means something.

Was Eurydice Dixon, any more than the other 54 women who were murdered in the last 12 months, the direct catalyst for all these changes? No.

But it is worth remembering, a year down the track, that Dixon did not die in vain.

Her death mattered.

The crime perpetrated against her is nothing like the attempted shoe bomb. It cannot be prevented with one piece of legislation. If only.

The tide doesn’t come in with one wave. It washes up, an inch at a time, almost imperceptibly, until suddenly you notice how different it looked to before.

Our national shame cannot be undone overnight.

But we’re going in the right direction.

Let’s just hope the numbers begin to reflect that.

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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