Image: General manager of the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre Ali Anderson speaking to the crowd on Saturday. Picture by Anna Warr

'Terrifying numbers': Calls for end to gendered violence ring through Lang Park

A crowd gathered by a vibrant flower display at Lang Park calling for an end to domestic and sexual violence amid intensified grief and anger at the “terrifying number” of women being killed across the country.

The 225 flowers represented a life taken too soon, each laid to remember the 150 women and 75 children who died at the hands of a man known to them in Australia over the last three years.

“The number of deaths we’ve had this year has been really horrifying,” general manager of the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre Ali Anderson said.

“We’re up to 36 women and children this year alone.”

Last month, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described it as a “crisis”, noting that one woman a week dies at the hands of someone they know or someone they are in a relationship with.

This year, that number is two women every nine days.

Speakers took to the crowd on Saturday to express their horror, grief, and anger. Some called for an end to violence, while others shared ways the community can change their behaviours.

A former police officer and current general manager of Women Illawarra, Michelle Glasgow has been on the frontline of the nation’s domestic violence crisis for 18 years.

“For decades, women have been marching, protesting, advocating, and pleading for the end of domestic and sexual violence,” she told the crowd.

“And still, women are dying. Children are traumatised. Families and friends are shattered.”

People wiped away tears as Ms Anderson recited the names whose lives have been “brutally and violently stolen” in 2024.

“Thirty-six mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, aunts, cousins, friends, colleagues, wives, girlfriends, partners, humans – from 10 years old to 81,” Ms Anderson said.

Deputy chair of Healthier Men Illawarra Toby Dawson urged men to step up and reflect on their own actions.

“One young young man a number of years ago lost his life in Kings Cross from a coward punch when he was out drinking,” he said.

“This led to the closure of Kings Cross’ nighttime economy and a whole heap of education around what we should or could be doing differently.

He compared this to the rates of women dying and said, “We’re not seeing any change”.

“The time to sit back and think, ‘She’ll be right’, is no more.”

Ms Anderson said it can be easy to become consumed by feelings of hopelessness and overwhelm amid this crisis.

But she encouraged the crowd to transform pain into purpose.

“I know from my own experience the actions of one can have on many,” Ms Anderson said.

“One act of kindness, one referral, one call out of your neighbour or mate who was acting inappropriately.

“One intervention as an active bystander, one phone call to police.

“One letter to your MP demanding policy change and legal reforms that address gendered violence and protect the rights of victim survivors is all it takes to get the ball rolling.”

Mr Dawson shared how men can change their behaviour.

“Go home, sit in front of a mirror and think, ‘Have I been perfect in my attitudes, actions and behaviour when it comes to women and children?’,” he said.

“If you answer yes, you’re either a unicorn or you’re lying to yourself.

“If you are honest, think about what you can have done differently and apply those lessons in your life.

“If you’re at the pub, if you’re at the footy, if you’re in the workplace and you hear people doing things that aren’t appropriate … objectifying women in a manner that would diminish their self worth … call them out.

“If you don’t have the courage to do it, then grab them aside later and say, ‘We can’t accept that’.”

Acknowledgement of Country

The Illawarra Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre is situated on the land of the Dharawal Nation. We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and we pay our respects to Elders past and present for they hold the memories, traditions and hopes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia. 

This land is, was, and always will be traditional Aboriginal land. We acknowledge that we work in the context of generations of resilient, strengths-based, holistic resistance to violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

We commit to actively supporting and promoting the voices of Aboriginal people and organisations in our work. We fully support the Uluru Statement from the Heart.