Australia

The silent protesters holding a vigil for every woman murdered in Australia

0:00

Two Australian women have been publicly holding an hour of silence every time a woman or child is murdered "at the hands of men" in the country. And they will do so again on Friday.

Thousands of people are expected to gather in Melbourne on Friday evening to mourn Courtney Herron - the young Australian woman who was murdered in what police called a "horrendous bashing".

For one small group of people, this will be their 20th such vigil this year.

We Keep Vigil is an organisation that publicly gathers in silence every time a woman or child is murdered "at the hands of men" in Australia.

Those who can't attend the vigils in person are encouraged to hold their own private silent protest or change their Facebook profile photos to black during the hours of the vigil. 

The group has organised dozens of vigils.
The group has organised dozens of vigils.
AAP

"The group started in June last year when a few of us got together and organised the vigil for Eurydice Dixon in Melbourne," co-organiser Jessamy Gleeson told SBS News.

"Since that point in time we have been consistently organising vigils for women and children who have been lost at the hands of male violence and, as a result, we've done 20 vigils this year alone," she said.

Ms Gleeson, who organises the events with her friend Karen Pickering, said the organisation hoped to "individualise and personalise" each victim and to also call attention to the "epidemic" of male violence in this country.

Jessamy Gleeson
Jessamy Gleeson co-founded We Keep Vigil with her friend Karen Pickering.
Supplied

The group organised vigils for Aiia Maasarwe, who was killed after being attacked while walking home near La Trobe University, and Natalina Angok, whose body was found dumped in Melbourne's Chinatown.

While some of the more high-profile murders attracted hundreds, if not thousands, of people to the vigils, Ms Gleeson said often there are just one or two people from the organisation.

"There was one stage early on when there were three vigils in a week, three nights in a row," she said.

She said silence was an important part of their events, calling it a "powerful tool".

"It's a way to really respect and take some time to reflect on the life of the person that has been lost, and for people to consider what individually and collectively we can do to change this," she said.

The vigil for Eurydice Dixon last year.
The vigil for Eurydice Dixon last year.
Getty

Mourning Courtney Herron

Twenty-five-year-old Courtney Herron's body was found in a Melbourne park on Saturday.

A 27-year-old man has been charged with her murder.

We Keep Vigil is co-organising a large-scale vigil for Ms Herron on Friday with 17-year-old school student Asha-Mae Chapman.

"We will honour Courtney's life and reflect on why we're out there," Ms Gleeson said.

Courtney Herron
Courtney Herron.
Supplied

Ms Chapman did not know the victim but told the ABC, "I did not want Courtney Herron to be lost to the news cycle".

"[Ms Herron] represents the issues surrounding how we as a society treat women, as well as other vulnerable people."

It's a point Ms Gleeson agreed with.

"We believe that male violence is a structural problem and it requires a range of solutions. It's not as straightforward as installing more lighting or CCTV cameras or funding alone," she said.

Police have said the crime showed attitudes toward women need to change in Australia.

"What is it in our community that allows some men to think that it's still OK to attack women or take from women what they want? ... Violence against women is absolutely about men's behaviour," Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said on Saturday.

A mourner is seen laying flowers for Courtney Herron.
A mourner is seen laying flowers for Courtney Herron.
AAP

On Monday, anti-violence against women campaigner Jenna Price told SBS News that Ms Herron's murder was part of a much bigger crisis Australian women are facing.

"We have to recognise that this violence is not unusual - this happens to women every day in their homes," she said.

"We know that every three hours a woman in Australia is hospitalised as a result of violence from a partner, a carer or a family member."

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800respect.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25). More information about mental health is available at Beyond Blue.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch