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Hundreds join push for national domestic violence memorial in Adelaide


More than 700 people, including the representatives of several prominent South Australian institutions, are calling for a national domestic violence memorial to be built in Adelaide’s CBD.

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Helen Oxenham survived regular beatings as a child and worked to protect Adelaide women from their abusers in adulthood, at a shelter in Christies Beach.

She spoke to InDaily about her experience of domestic violence, at the hands of her father, in June last year.

The octogenarian campaigner is behind a petition, to be formally presented to the Adelaide City Council tonight, calling on the council to contribute funds for a memorial to victims of domestic violence, and to recognise its national significance.

The petition has 720 signatories, while several prominent South Australians have also written to the council independently, backing the memorial push.

They include SA Equal Opportunity Commissioner Dr Niki Vincent, Federal Circuit Court Justice Will Alstergren, RSPCA SA CEO Paul Stevenson, Liberal MLC Michelle Lensink, SA Minister for Disabilities Katrine Hildyard and the mayors of the City of Salisbury, the City of Port Adelaide Enfield and the City of Charles Sturt.

Domestic violence survivor Helen Oxenham, in a photo for the Red Heart campaign against domestic violence. Image supplied.

Oxenham told InDaily this afternoon she and other victims of domestic violence needed a place to go – to mourn, and to share their stories.

“We have to have somewhere to go, where we can mourn our dead … to talk about (our) ordeals,” she said.

Last Saturday was the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, also known as White Ribbon Day.

White Ribbon Ambassador and 2016 Young South Australian of the Year Arman Abrahimzadeh told InDaily building a public memorial for the victims of domestic violence would help challenge a view among some, that violence in the home is a private matter.

Abrahimzadeh’s mother, Zahra, was murdered at the Adelaide Convention Centre by her estranged husband seven years ago.

He said he sometimes heard the view, expressed in schools and workplaces at which he has been asked to speak, that domestic violence should be kept hidden.

“A lot of people do think domestic violence is a personal matter,” he said.

“When you create a memorial, the memorial becomes a public (monument) … automatically, that conversation is being taken into the public domain.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to change those minds.”

He said the memorial would encourage people to take the issue seriously. He said it could be used as a gathering point during White Ribbon day, and other significant international days that express opposition to family violence.

“If we, as a society, decide to gather (at a memorial) it adds more value to the day, in terms of the people recognising that it’s a serious issue,” he said.

Abrahimzadeh argued a public memorial would help put “a human face” on the issue, which he said was often spoken about in statistical terms.

“We always talk about those numbers,” he said.

“(But people should not) look at it as something that affects a certain percentage of people – look at is as affecting a mother, or a neighbour or a cousin.”

He added that domestic violence affects all people of every socioeconomic status, every race and every class of people, including women and men, and members of the LGBTIQ community.

“(Whether) you live in a good suburb or a rough neighbourhood, it affects everyone,” he said.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data indicates that two out of every five assaults reported to police in Australia are domestic violence-related, and that women are four times more likely than men to be victims of domestic violence.

The Spirit of Women Committee – formed to advocate for the memorial – had applied for a $95,000 grant from the State Government’s Fund My Neighbourhood program to build the memorial, but was unsuccessful.

The National Capital Authority has advised Adelaide City Council staff that national memorials are generally located in Canberra, and approved by the Canberra National Memorials Committee, which is chaired by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

But the Spirit of Women Committee has written to Minister for Women Michaelia Cash requesting Federal Government support for a ‘national’ memorial in Adelaide.

Arts South Australia has already provided the committee with a $6000 grant to fund community consultation, involving victims and survivors of domestic violence, and to prepare an artist’s brief for the memorial’s design.

If funding is secured for the memorial, the proposal will have to pass through the Adelaide Public Art Round Table and the Adelaide Park Lands Authority before being presented at the city council – a move expected before the middle of next year.

Correction: A previous version of this story said the Spirit of Women Committee applied for a $150,000 grant through the Fund My Neighbourhood program, and results were due to be revealed next month – as stated in the council report. In fact, the winners have been announced, and the application – for a $95,000 grant – received 46 votes, and was unsuccessful.

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