The brutal murder of Lilie James, allegedly at the hands of a man she dated for a mere five weeks, has prompted an outpouring of grief and sadness across the nation. But it’s also struck at another sore point – serving as a cruel reminder of a societal stain that isn’t fading.

The young Sydney water polo coach is the 55th woman to be killed in Australia this year, according to journalist Sherele Moody’s Red Heart Campaign. All but four of these women had a prior connection to the accused – be it an intimate or familial relationship, friendship, workplace connection, neighbour or housemate.

With just eight weeks left of 2023, Australia is on track to surpass the annual average of one woman per week being killed by a current or former male partner.

It is proof, Director of Monash University’s Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre, Professor Kate Fitz-Gibbon told news.com.au, that “violence against women is a national crisis”.

“This year, like every year, too many women and children have been killed, allegedly by men’s violence.”

The tragic circumstances of this week have left many to wonder at what point we, as a country, will draw a line in the sand and finally say “enough is enough”.

“We are having the same conversation over and over again,” Leneen Forde Chair in Child & Family Research at Griffith University, Professor Silke Meyer, told news.com.au.

“And we see a temporary outcry and political statements that suggest commitment to change when we have ‘spikes’ of deaths. By this, I mean every year we usually have a period where multiple independent deaths occur in a matter of a few weeks. For example, earlier this year, 10 women were killed by male violence within a 20-day period.

“And sometimes even then, our political leaders remain silent around this issue.”

“We have certainly increased awareness,” Professor Meyer, also an Adjunct Professor at Monash University’s Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre, added.

“But I don’t think we’re taking it seriously enough as a nation.”

The latest National Community Attitudes Survey (NCAS) toward violence against women, conducted by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety Limited (ANROWS) and released in March, found that 91 per cent of Australians believe domestic and family violence is a “major problem”.

Yet only 47 per cent – less than half – believe it to be one in their town, community or suburb.

“I genuinely believe that until we shift community attitudes to make domestic and family violence and intimate partner violence everyone’s business, we won’t shift the prevalence of this issue,” Prof Meyer said.

“I think many people have come to understand [it] is a serious national issue, or even a crisis, but many equally still believe it’s not a crisis that affects them … This ‘Not my neighbourhood, not my family, not me’ attitude is creating a perception that domestic and family violence is an issue of others.

“If we don’t create community ownership of it as something that can affect anyone – either immediately or because it affects someone close to us – we won’t see the necessary community commitment to call it out, hold people accountable, and identify risk to survivors and related support needs early on.”

Full Stop Australia CEO Karen Bevan echoed the sentiment. She told news.com.au the NCAS findings demonstrate that “the issue of gender-based violence is not taken seriously enough”.

“Prevention and response services are also profoundly under-resourced. If we expected to end sexual, domestic and family violence in a generation (as per the National Plan), then more needs to be done,” Ms Bevan said.

“We need a whole-of-community response to support women and children’s safety. That means listening to one another, offering support, having conversations with our family and friends and in our workplaces, getting our laws and policies right, and having adequate and funded support services and police responses.

“We need this to be a genuine and sustained priority throughout all our systems – it means changing attitudes, directing resources and educating everyone about gender equality.”

There does not have to be another death like Lilie’s – who has been remembered by her father, Jamie, as “vibrant, outgoing and very much loved by her friends and family”. This does not have to continue to be our national source of shame.

“This violence is preventable,” Prof Fitz-Gibbon said.

“We need a critical increase in funding to stop this … before it starts by tackling the underlying drivers of violence against women.

“If we do not invest fully in prevention, we will continue to see the horrific impacts of this violence for generations to come.”


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By Rahul

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