Enough is enough. Australia is in a crisis of violence against women

23 Apr 2024

Readers please be advised that this article contains mentions of violence against women and ongoing violence and discrimination against a First Nations person.
As we have not seen prosecution of the alleged perpetrators, we must refer to deaths in these articles as alleged murders. We understand this may cause distress, and we too share that feeling, and will continue following in the hopes that the alleged perpetrators are brought to justice.

We are four months into 2024 in Australia, and already this year, according to lawyer and advocate Tarang Chawla, 30 women have been killed at the hands of men’s violence. Of those alleged murders, three have occurred in my home town of Ballarat, Wadawurrung country.

In the space of just 64 days three women in Ballarat were allegedly murdered by men in 2024. Rebecca Young, Samantha Murphy and Hannah McGuire, leaving our town in a state of shock, grief and fear. It is a terrifying place to live at this current time as a woman.

I am a Gunditjmara Keerreey Woorroong Djab Wurrung woman. I’ve lived on Wadawurrung Country and Dja Dja Wurrung Country my whole life. 

In 2023 on February 11th, I was attacked whilst running in a forest in Ballarat. It was deeply traumatic and continues to impact me every single day of my life.

The individual who attacked me has never been found. Around the time of the attack I was told by Ballarat police detectives that I probably won’t have closure, as the only way the person who attacked me could be found is if he attacks again, if he comes forward, or if someone he knows, knows something and speaks up. Police have recently reopened the investigation into finding my attacker, but I’m yet to hear of any updates on this.

On the 4th of February 2024, Samantha Murphy went for her regular run in the Ballarat forest, and she never came home. When I heard of her suspicious disappearance, I was feeling re-traumatised and triggered, because it was only 4 days before the 1 year anniversary of my attack. For the next month, myself and community members searched for Samantha throughout various bushlands in and around Ballarat. On the 7th of March, police advised the public that a 22 year old male was charged with Samantha’s murder, leaving the community in shock. Samantha’s body is yet to be found.

I’m not staying silent

I’ve always been raised to lead and live with love and I feel strongly that I survived my attack for a reason and that reason was to rise and fight, not just for Aboriginal women, but all women who experience and/or die from men’s violence.

After three months of despair in our community, I decided enough was enough and organised a rally which occurred on Friday 12th April. In two days, myself and City of Ballarat Councillor and long-time friend Belinda Coates managed to bring together over 4000 community members, to march down the streets of Ballarat screaming “Enough is Enough”, with family members and friends of the victims marching also.

As I led the march of thousands down the streets of Ballarat, I couldn’t escape the thought… would they be marching if it were Aboriginal women murdered? If that man killed me when I was attacked running? 

The term ‘Missing White Woman Syndrome’, not commonly talked about in so called Australia, refers to the disproportionate response to missing white women as compared to other racial groups. This term talks specifically about the elevated media coverage and importance placed on missing white women and the stark contrast of response or lack of, for missing and murdered Blak women. It is this, and the questioning of the validity of my assault and so many Blak women experiencing violence that rings the alarm bells that this country is sick with ‘Missing White Woman Syndrome’.  

The rally and gathering last week was a huge success. It brought people together, it sent a clear message to the country that enough is enough, and the community were able to wrap their arms around the grieving family and friends of the victims.

I feel it also necessary to bring to light the comments section on Ballarat Community Forums which were made at the time of Samantha’s disappearance. Comments that rang loudly in my heart and mind as I organised and facilitated this powerful rally and gathering in our community.

Comments included:

To which another community member replied:

I would be lying if I said these comments didn’t hurt me deeply. I was feeling heartbroken that another runner had experienced violence in Ballarat, all while the validity of my attack as an Aboriginal woman was being debated on public community forums.

Despite this, I am so proud of the community spirit and fight that was displayed at the Enough is Enough Ballarat rally.

I am glad I chose not to let the comments above cripple me with anger and sadness, I chose instead to rise and fight. If a stubborn, First Nations, outspoken, lesbian can call on a regional town to rally to end violence against women and over 4500 regional communities members take to the streets, I now believe anything is possible if we choose to stand together.

I challenge those who didn’t believe I was attacked in Ballarat, based on my Aboriginality to reflect deeply. I hope you find a place where you believe all women who fall victim to men’s violence, not just white women. I am sure by now I have shown that I will stand and fight when white women are murdered in our town and I expect you would do the same if it were Blak women murdered in our town. 

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