In Australia, today’s May 2 vigils are the only national public commemoration of those lost to violence.
As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time digging deep into our violent history, it saddens me that this is the best we can do as a nation for murdered Aussies.
It is also sad that our Federal Government is considering spending $50 million to erect another statue of Captain Cook — a man who will always be linked to the white persons’ slaughter of our indigenous people — but it has never given one dollar to fund a national memorial to recognise all murder victims.
Ask anyone who has lost a loved one to violence and they will tell you their biggest fear is knowing their son, daughter, sister, brother, niece, nephew, mother, father, friend, neighbour or colleague will be forgotten once the headlines about that person fade from our conscience.
Janet Mills Clarke has spent the past 28 years mourning her daughter Stacey-Ann Tracy.
Stacey-Ann was just nine years old when heinous child killer Barry Gordon Hadlow raped and murdered her.
Janet and I are tied together by this tragedy in a strange way — Hadlow was married to my mother when he killed the young Roma schoolgirl.
Despite the fact a person connected so strongly to me killed someone connected so strongly to Janet, we speak from the same page about the impact of murder.
“I would like for there to be a national memorial for all victims of violence,” Janet tells me.
“It would make me feel that all victims would never be forgotten.”
Now based in Victoria, Janet says a national day of mourning and remembrance would mean so much for her, Stacey-Ann’s sister Elizabeth and Stacey’s grandparents who live in Bundaberg.
“I don’t think the victims of violence should ever be forgotten — I feel it’s important for them to always be remembered,” she says, revealing she will soon move to Queensland so she can be closer to Stacey-Ann’s grave in Roma.
“It would make me feel great to know Stacey was not just another statistic.”
In Northern NSW, Robyn Summers-Shelley has spent the past two decades waiting to find out who murdered her son.
Paul Louis Summers was sleeping on a couch in a biker clubhouse at Gosford when someone sprayed the building — and his body — with bullets.
The 31-year-old’s killer has never been found despite NSW Police offering a $100,000 reward to solve the crime.
A national memorial would mean so much for Robyn, who fears she will die without knowing the truth about Paul’s death.
“To have my son Paul honoured this way would exceed all of my wildest dreams,” Robyn says, suggesting a memorial wall listing the names of all victims would suffice.
“Murder often is put in the too-hard basket, but to have his name inscribed there, everyone would know he lived and that his young life was cut short at the hands of unknown persons.
“Apart from family, people forget unless it directly affects them.”
Peter Rolfe is the president of Support After Murder Australia, which he began about 11 years ago to provide a network to help people who have lost a loved one to murder.
Peter’s partner Stephen Dempsey was murdered in 1994 by Richard Leonard.
The 22-year-old abattoir worker shot Stephen to death with a bow and arrow at Narrabeen in NSW.
The psychopath then carved up the 34-year-old’s body and took it home where he placed it in a freezer.
Over the past 24 years, Peter has turned his grief into supporting others who have walked in his shoes.
He has long advocated for a national day to commemorate Australians lost to violence.
He says the money the Federal Government plans to spend on the new Captain Cook statue could be used in a much more meaningful way.
“It would be marvellous for me and for others to have a memorial because it would highlight the injustices done to us,” he says.
Peter is close friends with Ebony Jane Simpson’s mother Christine.
Ebony was murdered in Bargo, NSW, during 1992 by Andrew Peter Garforth.
Peter says he would love for a national day of remembrance to be held on August 19 — the day Garforth abducted the nine-year-old as she walked home from school.
Garforth forced Ebony into the boot of his car driving her into the bush where he bound her tiny body with wire, raped her and then threw her into a dam.
Like my stepfather Hadlow, Garforth had the hide to join the hundreds of community members and emergency services personnel as they searched for his victim.
Garforth was sentenced to life in prison and is unlikely to be released.
Some 26 years later, Peter says Ebony’s death paved the way for a national help service for families bereaved by murder.
He says setting aside August 19 for would be a fitting tribute to Ebony’s parents who played a fundamental part in the formation of the national Homicide Victims’ Support Group.
When Ebony died, two strangers stepped up to help the Christine and Peter navigate the rough road they were suddenly forced to travel.
Garry and Grace Lynch knew exactly what the Simpsons were going through — their daughter Anita Cobby was raped and murdered by a group of men in Sydney.
At the time of Ebony and Anita’s murders there were no support services for people who had lost a loved one to violence.
The Simpsons and the Lynch family decided to change this and thanks to them Australia now has the Homicide Victims’ Support Group.
Garry and Grace have both passed away but Christine says her dear friends would have loved to see Anita’s name alongside Ebony’s on a national memorial.
“There needs to be more of a public conversation about murder and violence and a memorial would help that,” Christine says.
“The government, corrective services and most people do not understand what your life is like after murder.
“You can’t function. It destroys your family.”
Commemorating these victims is the least we can do.
It would be so easy for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to declare a national day of mourning that honours all Australian victims lost to all forms of violence.
A small annual grant fund could be set aside for local communities to commemorate these victims while commissioning a special sculpture or adding a garden of peace and reflection in our nation’s capital would ensure their loved ones know they matter.
While the pleas of Janet, Peter, Christine and Robyn will likely never reach the ears of our nation’s politicians, it’s up to the rest of us to let these special Aussies know their voices have been heard.
If you light a candle today for the Aussies lost to domestic and family violence, please do one a small favour for all the other families who are grieving a loved one.
Look into that flame and spare a thought for all the Aussies lost to violence — it’s the least we can do for the men, women and children who lost their lives because of someone else’s violence.
This article was written by News Corp journalist Sherele Moody who is the recipient of 2017 Clarion and Walkley Our Watch journalism excellence awards for her coverage of domestic violence issues and has been copied from here.
Sherele is also the founder of The RED HEART Campaign and a member of the Femicide Australia Project.