Melbourne: As Melbourne reels from the fourth death of a woman in a public space in the past 12 months, police have received some praise over a shift in language away from perceptions of victim-blaming and a focus on women’s personal safety.
The battered body of Courtney Herron, 25, of no fixed address, was found by dog walkers in Royal Park in the inner Melbourne suburb of Parkville on Saturday morning. Police said she had suffered extreme violence.
A group called We Keep Vigil is expected to hold a ceremony for Herron on Friday.
The assistant police commissioner, Luke Cornelius, on the weekend reflected on community concern over the spate of women being killed on Melbourne streets.
“Certainly there have been instances in our recent past where women have been attacked and they have been attacked by men,” Cornelius said. “The key point is [that] this is about men’s behaviour, it’s not about women’s behaviour.
“Women, and men, are absolutely entitled [to] and should feel safe to go about their normal day-to-day activities.”
The criminologist and psychologist Michelle Noon said the shift in police tone was significant.
“We’ve moved from a discussion about what women should do to keep themselves safe, which is old-school thinking, to new-school thinking about what the community can do to keep all of us safe ... and what men can do to participate in that process,” the RMIT academic said.
“We know it’s not appropriate, effective or ethical to tell women to lock themselves up and not engage with their communities and be responsible for the violence other people commit against them.”
The No to Violence chief executive officer, Jacqui Watt, also noted the language change.
“I thought it was very welcome and refreshing and there needs to be more of it,” she said.
She lamented that it might take a long time to change community attitudes when it came to male violence and insisted early intervention work was needed to stamp out red flag behaviours such as coercion and control, jealousy and misogynistic beliefs.
The anti-violence campaigner Phil Cleary is pushing for a judicial inquiry to look at the past decade of cases of women murdered at the hands of men in Victoria.
Cleary, who lost his sister Vicki in a 1987 domestic violence attack, argues society has not put enough thought into addressing the factors driving men to hurt and kill women and which lessons authorities must learn.
“We have a generalised campaign around violence towards women but why haven’t we done research into the killing of women?” Cleary said. “You have an underbelly of men who act violently with the complicity of too many institutions, even if the complicity is unwitting. It’s this idea that women are fair game.”
Cleary doesn’t think the spate of killings is specifically about Melbourne.
“It might just be an aberration,” he said.
Members of the public have started to lay floral tributes at the site where Herron’s body was found at Royal Park in Parkville, which is a short distance from Princes Park, where Eurydice Dixon’s body was found in June last year.
Aiia Maasarwe, 21, was killed on her walk home near La Trobe University in January.
In April, Natalina Angok’s body was found in Melbourne’s Chinatown.
The incoming new federal minister for women, Marise Payne, said the safety of women would be a top priority for the Morrison government.
“The safety of women is something that must concern us all,” Payne told ABC radio on Monday.
Her colleague Jason Wood, who has been appointed assistant minister for community safety, faced some criticism on Monday for the timing of a Facebook post about what he claims is Victorian premier Daniel Andrews’s denial of a violent youth gang crisis in Victoria.