St Leonards says ‘enough’ to gendered violence with candlelight vigil

May 25, 2024 BY

About 120 people gathered for the vigil last Friday along the St Leonards foreshore. Photo: MARCIA RIEDERER

THE St Leonards community gathered on Friday last week with flowers and candles to honour those who have lost their lives to gendered violence.

The vigil, held at Harvey Park, was organised by four local women, and attended by about 120 community members including Bellarine MP Alison Marchant.

Representatives from the Salty Bitches swimming group walked into the ocean together, forming a circle, while attendees sang “Hallelujah” together on shore. Photo: FACEBOOK/RUSSELL CHARTERS


Co-organiser Jenny Knox said the vigil was an opportunity for the community to come together to reflect and process complex feelings of grief.

“As community, we have an opportunity to unite and ask for real social change, speak up and lift the veil of silence that surrounds gender violence.

“Let us reflect on the victims, not as statistics, but as loved, valued women who are sadly missed.”



Reverend Karen Eller from Drysdale Uniting Church led attendees on a reflection and local registered nurse Phillipa Utting, speaking for those “who can no longer speak for themselves”, read aloud the names of the 28 women who have been killed this year.

Representatives from the Bellarine Peninsula swimming group the Salty Bitches then joined hands and walked into the ocean together, forming a circle, in honour of the lives that have been lost.

On the beach, many of the attendees sang “Hallelujah” together before bowing their heads for a minute’s silence.



Ms Marchant said she hoped the vigil would start a conversation and a movement of unity because “significant collective effort” was needed to “shift the crisis”.

“In a perfect world, we’d have respectful relationships and care for each other. Instead, we have a wicked problem.

“Women are being senselessly killed by men. A man or a young boy is suiciding around every four hours in Australia. One in four women, one in eight men in Australia, have experienced violence from an intimate partner or a family member since the age of 15. There is something happening in our society that is not healthy.

“The fact that local police tell me that the bulk of their work is domestic and family violence on here in the Bellarine shocks me to the core.

“I think we all care deeply about our community, so we stand together… with a profound sense of duty. A duty for a future, a duty for our women, our children and our collective wellbeing.

“The end of our silence… will be the beginning of our hope.”

After a minute’s silence, attendees were invited to add flowers and candles to a large sea grass heart. Photo: RUSSELL CHARTERS


A moonah tree will be planted in Harvey Park in the coming weeks to serve as a reminder of those who have lost their lives to violence and provide a place for quiet contemplation and reflection.