July 2024

49 women in 190 days

More lives tragically taken, so why have we stopped talking about it?



31 women in 114 days. These were the words that reverberated around the country a few months ago following a string of violent attacks on women. One woman killed every four days. Fourteen in April alone. The phrases dominated headlines and monopolised conversations, the gravity of the statistics and the human stories behind them too gut-wrenching not to talk, or think, about. Anger, heartbreak and disbelief hung in the air, a shared sense of helplessness but also an urge to stand up and do something. We mobilised and we marched. We raised placards and pushed our government to take decisive action on the epidemic of gendered violence. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese declared it a national crisis and pledged nearly $1 billion in practical measures to stop the scourge.

And then, silence.

Ten weeks since those national rallies, the tally of Australian women murdered in 2024 stands at 49 according to Australian Femicide Watch. In truth, this story has nearly been published four times in that period. Each iteration needed significant revisions as the death count rose gravely and rapidly and we raced to keep up. 38 women in 145 days. 43 women in 167 days. Even yesterday we were ready to go live with a count of 48, before a woman, currently unnamed, was stabbed to death in NSW. She and the 17 other women killed since late April went quietly, their wrongful deaths buried deep in newspapers and feeds. There was Erica Hay; Joan Mary Drane; Lily Galbraith; Jennifer and Gretl Petelczyc; Tash Raven; Wanda Dorothy Uhle; Evette Verney; Lois Witt; Natalie Jane Frahm; Annette Kiss; Sarah Miles; Carolyn McCarthy; and four unnamed women. Each so much more than a number or statistic.

Australia’s response to gendered violence and abuse tends to come in waves: big, thrashing and all-consuming. A rush of action and an outpouring of emotion that feels painfully familiar following every high-profile case, or spate of cases. We felt it in 2020, when Hannah Clarke and her three children were brutally killed by her former partner. We felt it in 2014, when Rosie Batty’s son was murdered by his father at cricket practice, after she’d suffered years of abuse at his hands. We felt it in 2021 when Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins, survivors of sexual abuse and assault, bravely shared their stories and inspired others to do the same. And we felt it in April 2024, following the Bondi stabbings and a number of intimate partner murders.

Sustained outrage is, well, usually unsustainable, which is why the mass furore fades, the headlines shrink and the marching stops. But what if our response resembled less a crashing wave and more a river rapid, constantly rippling and rolling? Always on the agenda, like the weather and sport.

Violence against women can be painful to talk and hear about, but victim-survivors and their families don’t get to switch off from that pain. In fact, they’re often the ones working tirelessly to fight this epidemic, organising rallies like Sarah Williams of What Were You Wearing? Australia, or voluntarily documenting women’s deaths like Sherele Moody of Australian Femicide Watch. (Australian Femicide Watch documents every unlawful death of Australian women, and of the 49 women killed this year, 47 were allegedly by men, one was overseas, and one remains under investigation – after a woman’s body was found in a bin last week. Counting Dead Women Australia, run by the researchers at Destroy The Joint, uses different parameters and has registered 40 deaths due to violence against women in 2024. Last week the Australian government launched its own intimate partner homicide counter with a stringent set of measures, which will be updated quarterly.)

If this stream of stats and stories sounds a bit like Groundhog Day, it’s probably because it is. Over the last 50 years, government-funded reports and action plans have set out to eradicate gendered violence, while in the last decade in particular, awareness campaigns have sought to shift social norms and stop the behaviour before it starts. And yet the numbers continue to rise, with nearly two Australian women killed every week in 2024, up from the one-per-week average of recent years. Does the issue slide down the agenda because we’re fighting an unsolvable fight?

This is a stance (or cop-out) that Jess Hill, leading gendered violence reporter and coercive control educator, refutes. “We are a nation famed worldwide for our effective responses to other public health issues – from thwarting the tobacco industry to reducing road deaths and preventing HIV,” Hill wrote in a paper with Professor Michael Salter (read it in full here). “These monumental achievements did not come easy; they required courage and innovation. A decade ago, framing violence against women as primarily a problem of gender inequality was also innovative. Much good work has been done in this area, and should continue, but it’s our opinion that our central prevention strategy has become too ideological, exclusive, and sometimes contrary to evidence. If we are to even reduce the rates of violence against women and children in a single generation – let alone end gendered violence altogether – we need to fundamentally rethink our approach to primary prevention.”

Right now, we need more than slow societal change. We need accountability and (properly funded) action from our leaders, and consistent concern from the public. We need to listen to victim-survivors and advocates, some of whom share their thoughts below. We can’t wait for the ‘perfect’ victim or the next, more shocking death to recapture our attention.

An earlier version of this story, written while the nation mourned and marched back in April, mused on what would come after the heartbreak and outrage. Now, it seems foretelling…

So what happens next? Once the storm calms and the furore dies down, does attention shift and wane? Do we shelve our feelings, and put this in the too-hard basket? Do we return to our lives, oblivious – if lucky – to the horrifying realities? Until numbers rise again.

If you or anyone you know has experienced gendered violence and needs support, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732). You can also contact Lifeline (13 11 14).

Artist statement from advocate, author and illustrator Grace Tame, who created the art for this cover:

When I was first asked to illustrate this subject, my reaction was visceral.

Vivid, jarring visions from a past life resurfaced in quick succession. Dinner plates smashing against the wall. Knuckles breaking plaster. Plywood door panels splintering. Spit flying. Bloody teeth. Clenched fists. Raised voices. Shaking in the bathtub. Screaming for help.

Such was the backdrop of my early 20s working as an artist in Los Angeles. I haven’t drawn much since then. Many of the relationships I had during that period were dysfunctional, founded on shared pain. I watched the mother of one of my partners slap him in the face. Her own flesh and blood. He would later hit me too. This pipeline isn’t always so obvious, and it’s never straightforward.

Part of the problem is that unless we have seen it up close, we readily ignore violence because it’s too confronting. Even some of us with lived experience unconsciously downplay or deny it. For all its desperate sensationalism, the mainstream media never gets to the heart of it. The darkest, most vital and marginalised stories rarely make it to print. Individuals are dissolved into statistics by the 24-hour news cycle.

But I think the real burning issue is that, generally speaking, we don’t view the epidemic through the lens of biology; of intergenerational trauma, or as a whole-system failure. Instead we tend to view it as a social problem affecting certain individuals or groups, and not all of us as a community of complex human creatures who are capable of causing harm. We speak of victims and perpetrators as abstract, distinct cohorts and not people we know and love.

Incidents rarely happen in a vacuum, they typically form part of a wider pattern of abuse, enabled by a culture of normalised violence.

We’ve been conned by the pernicious illusion that we can heal primarily through prevention education and discussion. As a consequence, many of the popular solutions promoted by governments are superficial, simplistic and ineffective. Idealistic notions of respectful relationships miss the main point, although they are important.

Our brains are not separate from our bodies. Trauma infects our whole being at the cellular level and is passed down through bloodlines.

We need a holistic suite of solutions that engage every industry and demographic.

This is a crisis of public health.

GRACE TAME, sexual assault activist, advocate and survivor.

Right now, I’m feeling angry and exhausted, but passionate. We have these huge issues of domestic, family and sexual violence, and we need people to be fighting against them. But so often it’s not safe for the people fighting. We’ve seen so much stuff happen to Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins. I remember watching anytime there was hate towards them and thinking it was really sad. But you don’t realise the depth of how messed up it is until you’re in it yourself. That’s what I experienced when I organised the No More rallies in April. It gave me a whole other perspective: not only do we have these crimes and a national emergency, but it’s also dangerous to advocate in this space. It’s really scary because when you go through something, you want to be a part of the change and use your stories to help make society better. And we need that. But it can be pretty brutal.

I'm very big on victim-survivors being at the forefront of everything. They need to be at all panels, all the meetings, through all the consultations. But it’s very rarely the case. We also need to include voices from First Nations people and those living with disabilities. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are really disproportionately affected by domestic, family and sexual violence in Australia, so not seeing more included is pretty disappointing. They need to be there, but they need to be supported. When you share your lived experience you have to relive it, the majority of the time for free. And as an advocate at the forefront, you deal with racism, homophobia and ableism.

When the rallies happened in April, I received a million messages from politicians from all over the country saying, “Hey, I'd love to speak with you. Tag us in stuff.” And I was like, I've never heard of you in my life. It's been interesting to watch which politicians have continued to talk about the issue, and which ones have stopped because it’s no longer a ‘hot topic’.

We have another round of rallies planned for the end of July. We had 17 locations last time; this time there’ll be close to 30, so it will be even bigger. There are a few state and local elections coming up this year and a lot of politicians will attend the rallies. We need to show them that we really care about this issue, and that they need to do more. Some people will think, oh, what comes from attending a rally? But they can make noise and change, especially when they’re on a national scale. Because of the last rallies, Albanese finally called this a national crisis.

— SARAH WILLIAMS, proud Awabakal woman, founder and CEO of What Were You Wearing? Australia and survivor-victim

One of the central issues we are facing is that our leaders and the media repeatedly fail to call this what it is: men's violence. When we only describe this epidemic as 'violence against women' we focus on the victim, and make the perpetrators invisible. This is not a women's issue, but it is one we have been expected to solve. Men's violence against all people has been so normalised within our culture that we continue to treat it like a hazard to be avoided, not a crime committed against us.

The Prime Minister continues to say that we must come together as a nation and that this violence is an issue for all of society, but this applies accountability equally. Yet again, placing responsibility on women, on children and on future generations as we consistently skirt around the M word.

I am sick of the media and many men's advocates telling us to be more gentle with our language to avoid 'shaming' men. We are constantly told not to use the language of 'toxic masculinity', but how else are we supposed to describe domestic violence, sexual violence and murder? If men are unable to recognise and acknowledge the risk that women face each and every day in our own homes, in our workplaces and in public at the hands of men we do and don't know – how can we make tangible, systemic change? Until we can name the problem, until the problem feels ashamed of their criminal behaviour, what hope do we have of radically reducing men's violence?

The government wants to reduce the number of women killed by their male partners by 25 per cent annually, but last year that number increased by almost a third. I know this change isn't possible overnight, but every minute our elected leaders spend tip-toeing around the feelings of male voters risks another woman losing her life in the place she is supposed to feel safest.

So many women will be reading this, exhausted. The fatigue of screaming, of using your voice to advocate for your right to live, and to feel safe is immeasurable. Remember that it is not our problem to solve, but that every time we do talk about this we provide a space for women to confide in us, to seek safety in our presence and to hopefully leave an abusive relationship. There is always hope. Our advocacy will ensure that the future for our daughters is different.

— HANNAH FERGUSON, Cheek Media Co. founder

I wrote the poem Tidal at the end of COVID, around the time that Brittany Higgins was first bringing her own experience to light and the media was responding appallingly, which now just seems so ridiculous given what we understand in hindsight. Tidal draws correlation between gendered violence and climate violence and the reality that these two are intertwined, and calls for collective action in both areas. It is a matter of urgency; it’s heartbreaking witnessing the atrocities that are happening against women in our nation, and women and children around the world. Systemic gendered violence is one of the most damaging things we’re coming up against and I ache for change for our mob, and for all women.


Oscillating between channels –
we watch them
victim-blame La Niña
and her trade winds
which surge east
drawing cool water
from the D E E P to surface Earth’s heat.

On screen, pollies are indiscreet with euphemism, casting Climate
Change as hot flush,
Assault as allegation.
We change the station
understanding denial and
gendered violence are
everywhere –

here, they gaslight the sky –
silence the cries and rain
that flow heavy
over our Mother
while another mum
wades waters
to rescue
her own.

soon the torrent will subside

but nothing could hide the line of a tide
from the moontime memory
of a Woman.

On the news they justify worth with relation,
that for protection
a female needs
a title.

Ngurra responds with -T-I-D-A-L
overflow of her own she takes up [space],
evacuates h0mes,
raises dam walls,
and closes the coast.

Ngurra shows that she could never be too much
encouraging trust in the s\w\e\l\l or rage
that arrives in us
as charges pressed
our en-masse march,
allies by survivors,
and 100-year flood.

When Ngurra says enough is enough
the world stops to listen

and like her, our vision
for justice
will not
go unheard –

they cannot disregard
the waves of change
we make
when we rise like

*Ngurra – meaning home, camp and Country in many First Nations languages and dialects across the continent.

— KIRLI SAUNDERS, proud Gunai woman, artist and writer

On the night of an AFL grand final or a State of Origin game in Australia, rates of domestic violence (that are reported to police) go up by 40%. In contrast, the Premier of Victoria, Jacinta Allen, recently told me that over the three nights Taylor Swift performed in Melbourne, when over 330,000 people congregated inside and outside the stadium, there was not a single police request.

Of course, the problem is not that the game itself — where a certain number of men in matching uniforms are running around a field, for a set duration of time in isolation — promotes this level of violence. It is the fact that viewing this spectacle is often accompanied by alcohol and/or drug consumption, as well as gambling on the outcome.

Anyone genuinely attempting to prevent violence would cancel these events, until men learn to participate in these forms of entertainment safely. Should there be a consequence for this is one question… but can there be a consequence for this is the more important one.

Sport, gambling and alcohol are multi-billion dollar industries which form part of the backbone of our culture and society. Taxes from alcohol and gambling alone routinely provide the Australian Government with 12 billion dollars in annual revenue, so there is no incentive for governments to address the social issues that they drive. A complete reassessment of Australia’s economic make up, and how this feeds our values, is required to see the timely change we so desperately need.

So long as the trade off for women’s and children’s safety is money, the odds are not in our favour.

— CHANEL CONTOS, sexual consent activist

There’s so much to be angry about. The horror of it all. The rising statistics. The appalling journalism. The ineffective policy. The meaningless platitudes. I’ve been sitting in that anger for so long, and it’s only recently that it’s graduated to something more. Something hopeful. There are solutions. There are people working tirelessly to come up with those solutions. And they’re giving us the map and telling us how to read it.

We have Jess Hill and Mike Salter – two experts who are telling us we need to rethink the very foundations of how we approach men’s violence against women and start again. They’re handing us the toolkit, we just need to take it. We have Tarang Chawla telling us, through the voice of his experience, how the media can do better to protect those impacted by violence against women. He’s handing us the toolkit, we just need to take it. We have Chanel Contos doing the work to better equip our schools for conversations like these. She’s handing us the toolkit, we just need to take it.

This toolkit has empowerment, it has hope and most importantly, it has a future. The women of Australia need us to take it.

— ZARA SEIDLER, The Daily Aus co-founder


and stay consistently informed and engaged


Follow social media accounts like Counting Dead Woman Australia and Sherele Moody’s Australian Femicide Watch, which report in real-time on every femicide in the country, including some that don’t get mainstream coverage. What Were You Wearing?, an Indigenous-led not-for-profit working against sexual assault, is packed with educational resources and petitions. More broadly, check out Feminist and Teach Us Consent.


Subscribe to How Do You Smash a Ghost?, a newsletter by gendered violence journalist Jess Hill. This paper details the practical measures the Australian government could and should implement to reduce gendered violence.


If you haven’t already, watch the documentary See What You Made Me Do on SBS, and learn how to recognise the insidious behaviours in friends or family that could precede domestic violence.


Volunteer at a domestic violence shelter or donate to a women’s charity such as Women’s and Girl’s Emergency Shelter.


You know the drill; it’ll keep the issue at the top of the agenda.


After a big weekend in late April, the next round of No More national rallies are scheduled for the last weekend of July in about 30 Australian locations. Stay up to date on details here.

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