I knew listening to Rosie Batty's A Mother's Story would be tough, but I didn't expect to start crying during the dedication. Rosie Batty was catapulted to "fame" in early 2014 when her ex-partner killed their 11 year old son in the practice nets at Tyabb Cricket Club.
Rosie starts her story as she became Australian of the Year in January 2015 in Canberra less than a year after Luke was killed.
It's an honour beyond my wildest imaginings. I am overwhelmed and truly humbled. And yet it's also bittersweet -12 months ago I was a single mum from Tyabb, a tiny dot on the map of the Mornington Peninsula, but in 18 days time it will be the one year anniversary of the death of my only son, killed by his father at cricket training. And then the sadness hits me, the only reason I'm in this position, the only reason I'm standing here holding this trophy and receiving this ovation is because I've endured the kind of tragedy that makes people recoil. I've become Australian of the Year because I'm the person noone wants to be, the mother who has suffered the insufferable.
Rosie and I actually had some similarities in our young lives including the bad frizzy perms popular at the time, and we both struck off at 20 for international adventures as a nanny- Rosie to Austria, me to Canada. Thankfully our paths were to diverge after these early experiences.
A Mother's Story is just that- Rosie's life and the major turning points around which our worlds turn. For Rosie these are two major events- the private death of her own mother when she was a 6 year old girl, and then her son Luke's very public death decades later. Rosie had learnt not to cry in grief as a 6 year old girl when her mother died and she wan't told until after her mother's funeral. Luke's death did not happen out of the blue, Rosie had endured years and years of abuse at the hands of Luke's father. Rosie chronicles this abuse and her many and repeated attempts to get help and protection from those systems which are supposed to protect us- particularly the police and the courts.
The multiple failings of Victorian police computer systems is beyond unbelievable, the convoluted processes, so far from being streamlined. I hope that these processes have improved now, even though Rosie's experiences are not that remote, just a few years ago. It also quite boggles the mind how an abused woman and mother trying to protect herself and her child from a violent, mentally ill man has no right to know when he incurs other charges- when he accesses child porn, or threatens to kill other people with a knife. How is his right to privacy more important than her right to safety?
The final disc, disc 7, includes an impassioned plea for change in our society to help reduce family violence. There is an extensive list of resources for those affected by family violence in Australia and New Zealand. Rosie also talks of how she has found her purpose in Luke's death, how her tireless work in family violence, has given meaning to her life, and the strength to go on.
... I will not let my grief limit or define me. For reasons that are beyond me I am the one that people seem to want to hear from, and I know, people tell me, that I inspire them and give them courage. But what people don't know is that speaking out also empowers and inspires me. It's bittersweet knowing that this has happened because of Luke's death, but I feel I am making a difference, that gives me the impetus to keep going which is important, because my sense is that if I keep doing this and keep the public spotlight on the issue of Family Violence things will change because they have to change.
It is completely unacceptable that one woman is murdered each and every week in Australia by her current or former partner. One of my high school friends was shot and killed in the street by her expartner. It touches all of us. It does have to change.
I do wonder that Rosie Batty chose to champion family violence particularly rather than mental health services. In fact she doesn't really mention mental illness all that much in A Mother's Story even though Greg Anderson clearly had a major mental illness which may or may not have been adequately treated. Her story is obviously tragic, and moving and I'm glad that I've finished the audiobook in a way so that I won't have to drive to and from work largely in tears, but I do wonder about Greg's story too - his life had it's own tragedies too I believe, and I wonder if he too was failed by the systems- police, judicial and health, that should have been there to help him. Rosie says repeatedly how much he loved Luke, would Greg have wanted it to end this way? I can't imagine so.
A Mother's Story is an important story for us all, no matter how hard it is to listen to.