Rosie Batty: I was reeling with raw grief while Australian of the year

Campaigner says Australia has made great progress over the past 12 months but domestic violence still at epidemic levels

The outgoing Australian of the year, Rosie Batty, has described how, at times, she felt overwhelmed over the past 12 months as she fought for reforms to prevent family violence and was inundated with stories from victims and their families.

Giving her valedictory speech in Canberra on Monday, Batty said that, when she was announced as the 2015 Australian of the year, she was still grieving the death of her 11-year-old son, Luke. She was granted the honour less than a year after Luke was killed by her former partner on a cricket field in Victoria.

“I was still reeling in the very raw grief of losing him and adjusting to a world without him,” Batty said.

“I had no idea what was about to hit me and no idea what a huge year it was going to be. I felt that I had been given this award because of Luke’s death. I’d made it to this point because of of a traumatic and horrific event that was beyond my control but I was reassured very quickly that it was not because of Luke’s death, it was because of the way that I had responded and reacted to it.

“As I juggled grief and loss, suppressing my sadness whilst enjoying the most amazing opportunities of my life, along my journey I became mindful that I was becoming some sort of public figure, perhaps even a tragic type of celebrity, and that I was still fragile and vulnerable.”

But Batty said she felt incredibly supported throughout the past year, which had helped her to advocate for increased support for family violence services and to highlight the attitudes towards women that underpin the violence against them.

Over the past year she has given more than 250 speeches, reaching more than 70,000 people, and has given countless interviews about family violence.

“I have met many people who have been affected by family violence in their lifetime and this did not exclude men, who also shared their experiences as powerless little boys, unable to intervene or protect their mothers, sisters, or even themselves,” Batty said.

“Victims, both young and old, women from our communities, women with disabilities. Women hiding and living in disguise, no longer recognising who they are because they cannot be known for who they once were. And children pulled from their schools and communities because they cannot be kept safe.”

Batty said she felt pressure to achieve change before her time as Australian of the year ended. She said she would continue to advocate against family violence and work with the Never Alone campaign, which was launched in Luke’s memory by the Luke Batty Foundation to provide support for women and children affected by family violence. The campaign now has 50,000 members.

“I believe we, as a nation, have made great progress over the last 12 months,” she said.

“The conversation has not only started, it is now well under way. Family violence is still epidemic and it will be for some time. It is a serious abuse of human rights in our advanced and privileged culture and must continue to be addressed as an absolute priority by both our federal and state governments and by our current leaders as they also recognise the impact family violence has on their workplace.”

Batty highlighted the need for an increased focus on violence against Aboriginal women in 2016, saying Aboriginal women were 35 times more likely to be hospitalised.

She urged the nominees for the 2016 Australian of the year to recognise the opportunity they had to draw attention to causes close to their hearts. She told them that at times they would feel overwhelmed by the opportunity but encouraged them “to be big, to be bold and to be brave”.

“You can make this opportunity as big as you’d like it to be and do amazing things,” she told them.

“But, at the same time, remember the award was given to you, not to your cause, and not for the experiences and achievements that may have defined your past. It was given to you for the potential you have to make Australia a better place.”

In a press conference prior to her speech, Batty responded to a podcast from the former Labor politician Mark Latham uploaded to the radio station, Triple M, in which he attacked her for running “a generalised campaign against all Australian men” and described her as a “spokeswoman for the feminist left”.

“I really hope that someone like Mark is able to become more informed and [is] not stuck in the, I guess, ignorant position because that type of thinking went out several decades ago,” Batty told reporters.

“But, as I said, there are still some people unfortunately very influenced and stuck in those [times].”

Contributor

Melissa Davey

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Rosie Batty’s legacy: more women leaving abusive relationships
Statistics from service providers show spike in the number of women seeking help but funding has not kept up with demand

Shalailah Medhora

23, Jan, 2016 @9:31 PM

Article image
Domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty named Australian of the Year
Mother of Luke Batty takes top honour as women win in every category for the first time in the awards’ 55-year history

Shalailah Medhora

25, Jan, 2015 @7:52 AM

Article image
Queen's birthday honours list recognises trailblazers Rosie Batty and Ita Buttrose
Natasha Stott Despoja, TV chef Elizabeth Chong and Johnathan Thurston also feature in list with highest percentage of female recipients yet

Naaman Zhou

09, Jun, 2019 @8:04 PM

Article image
Domestic violence: Rosie Batty launches Australian election campaign push
Former Australian of the year calls for family court reform to be part of major parties’ election pledges

Melissa Davey

05, May, 2016 @5:27 AM

Article image
Rosie Batty 'dismayed' by decision to give Bettina Arndt an Australia Day honour
The 2015 Australian of the Year can’t understand why someone ‘has been rewarded for work that pits men against women’

Luke Henriques-Gomes

26, Jan, 2020 @4:30 PM

Article image
Children pay highest price for inaction on alcohol-fuelled violence – report
National study finds more than a million children are currently harmed by other people’s drinking in Australia

Melissa Davey

23, Feb, 2015 @1:01 PM

Article image
Bill Shorten praises Rosie Batty and pledges action on domestic violence
Labor leader says outgoing Australian of the Year ‘inspired change’ as he urges action to work towards ‘elimination of family violence, once and for all’

Katharine Murphy Deputy political editor

24, Jan, 2016 @1:01 PM

Article image
Rosie Batty: courts' aim for shared custody leaves children at risk
Domestic violence campaigner says legal system ‘often fails to recognise the impact of family violence’

Paul Karp

15, Jun, 2016 @6:18 AM

Article image
Rosie Batty: I'd like to see a government campaign to stop domestic violence
Australian of the Year hopes to use her new status to persuade Tony Abbott to back a nationwide push against violence

Melissa Davey

27, Jan, 2015 @4:47 AM

Article image
Rosie Batty shares experience of domestic violence with WA Indigenous community
Former Australian of the year tells women’s shelter at the Dampier Peninsula that women ‘feel the same pain’ regardless of race

Melissa Davey

19, Mar, 2017 @1:24 AM