Tragedy lays foundation for change

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2015 Australian of the Year. Photo by Sean Davey

NEW Australian of the year Rosie Batty has vowed to use her award in her continuing fight against domestic violence.

The 52-year-old mother of slain son Luke received the honour from the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, at Parliament House, Canberra, on Sunday night.

The tragedy for Ms Batty is that events leading up to her award began on that fateful day in February last year when 11-year-old Luke was murdered by his father at Tyabb oval.

Since then her tireless campaign for family safety – and her eloquence in championing its cause – has made national headlines.

It has given new focus to statistics she read out showing that one in three women has experienced physical or sexual abuse by a current or former partner – “including some of those celebrating with us today” – and one in four children.

She said at least one woman a week was killed and that indigenous women experience even greater family violence.

Mr Abbott said Ms Batty “inspired all of us to be better Australians”.

“Australia honours you and we thank you for your courage, achievement and determination,” Mr Abbott said.

Ms Batty has called for stronger political leadership to change the awful statistics and drive money into services to help women and children living in fear.

Her pleas have had success, with Victorian premier Daniel Andrews honouring an election promise to call a royal commission into family violence.

Her drive also prompted former Police Commissioner Ken Lay to quote the “Rosie Batty factor” as being the catalyst for a community rethink on the non-acceptance of family violence – in any form.

In her acceptance speech, Ms Batty said she would use her time as Australian of the Year to continue her work highlighting the scourge of family violence – and would not be content to wait patiently for change.

“I am truly honoured and I would like to dedicate this award to my beautiful son Luke. He’s the reason that I found my voice and I’m able to be heard,” she said.

“While we celebrate the wonderful country that we live in today, there remains a serious epidemic across our nation.

“No matter where you live, family violence exists in every pocket of every neighbourhood.
“It does not discriminate and it is across all sections of our society.

“Family violence may happen behind closed doors, but it needs to be brought out from these shadows and into broad daylight.

“These statistics are unacceptable, indisputable, and if they did happen on our streets, there would be a public outcry.

“To our government, we need your strong leadership to change these rising statistics and your investment into both preventing the violence and providing long-term, secure funding to our specialist women’s services to deliver the intensive support so desperately needed.

“And to the Australian people, look around. Do not ignore what you see and what you know is wrong.

“Call out sexist attitudes and speak up when violence against women is trivialised.

“To men, we need you to challenge each other and become part of the solution.

Raise the conversation and don’t shy away from this uncomfortable topic. We cannot do this without you.

“To the women and children who are unsafe, in hiding, or living in fear, who have changed their names, left their extended families, and moved from their communities to find safety. You do not deserve to live a life that is dictated by violence. You are not to blame.

“Violence towards anyone: man, woman or child, is never acceptable, and never the right choice. It is simply not ok.

“As the Australian of the Year, I am committed to building greater campaigns, to educate and challenge community attitudes.

“I am on a path to expose family violence and to ensure that victims receive the respect, support and safety that they deserve.

“And to Luke, my ‘little man’, you did not die in vain, and will not be forgotten.
“You are beside me on this journey, and with me every step of the way.”

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