Community honours murdered sex worker

Issue 
Hundreds farewelled murdered sex worker Tracy Connelly.

Several hundred people gathered in Greeves Street, St Kilda, on August 8 for a candlelit vigil for local street sex worker Tracy Connelly, who was murdered in the street on July 21.

The vigil was a chance for her family, friends and, importantly, her community to honour her as well as protest against violence against women.

The vigil was held outside the St Kilda Gatehouse, a drop-in centre and community resource for street sex workers. 

St Kilda Gatehouse CEO Sally Tonkin said: “We want to spread the message that violence towards anyone, especially women, has no place in our community. I’d like to invite and encourage all Melburnians to come together and help us reclaim Greeves Street as a place of strength and hope.”

The St Kilda Sings Choir and Solstice Singers provided music. Tonkin and other speakers representing Connelly’s family and friends movingly painted a picture of an outgoing person who, while economically and socially marginalised, was a popular and visible member of her community, including the community of sex workers operating on the streets — which, unlike working in brothels, is illegal in Victoria — and the broader St Kilda community, which has historically prided itself on an inclusive attitude towards them.

“She belonged to this community, and it’s wonderful that you are here tonight to claim her as your own,” her brother, Les Toft, said.

Also speaking at the vigil were local and state politicians and anti-violence campaigner Phil Cleary, who condemned attitudes trivialising violence against women, particularly in the judiciary, and drew the link between moralistic stigmatising of marginalised sectors, these attitudes in authority and lack of safety.

The politicians, representing both major parties, also condemned the stigmatisation of street sex workers. However, both Labor and Liberal governments have maintained the criminalisation of street prostitution, despite the safety risks.

Police have reassured the community that the investigation was a high priority and the victim’s occupation would in no way distort it and expressed confidence they would catch the murderer, whose identity is so far unknown.

Police have called for Connelly’s clients to come forward and promised confidentiality.