More than 1000 people gathered in Sunshine in Melbourne’s west on April 22, to pay their respects to Fiona Warzywoda, a mother of four who was murdered in public after she attended a court hearing in relation to family violence matters.
Local resident Sophie Dutertre organised a silent candlelight vigil to show support. Dutertre did nott know the victim but wanted to take a public stand against yet another domestic violence-related murder and also demonstrate that Sunshine has a strong and caring community.
Dutertre told Green Left Weekly that she was "sick of men who think that women are their property. I want to make it loud and clear that as a local community we do not support this”.
Dutertre believes that much more needs to be done to prevent domestic violence, such as education about respectful and healthy relationships, and that it needs to be the responsibility of society as a whole.
Dutertre also questioned the lack of choice available to many women. “Women who are caught in violent relationships need to have options that will help them get out, such as refuges, support services, counselling ... and a community who opens their door," she said.
Warzywoda’s family attended the vigil and released a statement thanking the community for its support as well as criticising the justice system for consistently failing women and children in relation to domestic violence.
Last year in Victoria alone, 29 domestic violence-related deaths were recorded and a woman dies at the hands of a violent partner or ex-partner every week Australia-wide.
In an interview on the ABC's 7.30, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria Fiona McCormack spoke about the prevalence of domestic violence and called the high profile murders in the media only the “tip of the iceberg from something that's rife in our community”.
McCormack suggested that because the deaths occur through intimate partner violence and not at the hands of strangers, there is a lack of political will to address the issue. She also said more men need to speak out about domestic violence and that a change in community attitudes away from sexist stereotyping was critical.
Many women at the vigil were survivors of domestic violence themselves. They didn't know the victim but they wanted to pay their respects and protest against the prevalence of domestic violence.
One women told GLW, “Enough is enough, how many more have to die before something is done?”
Another person held a placard that read “silenced by the courts – how many more”. Other placards said “Domestic violence, not in my name” and “We need a Royal Commission into violence against women not the unions”.
Many people brought flowers, lit candles and wrote condolence messages on red hearts. Clothes, toys and a few thousand dollars were also collected on the night for the children and their carers.
While the mood was very somber, there was also a strong feeling of solidarity and a determination to take public action to stop violence against women.