Comments attributable to Susanne Legena, Plan International Australia CEO

Once again we are today mourning the tragic loss of a young woman cruelly taken from her family and friends. Our deepest sympathies go out to Courtney’s loved ones. We stand with you and so many of us feel personally saddened and angered by her death.

Each of us must consider what we can do to honour Courtney’s memory by helping young women like her feel safe in our city. These tragedies must not be seen as inevitable, just as no girl or woman should accept that abuse is just a part of life.

Enough is enough. It’s time for a fundamental change in our culture. For too long, the toxic attitudes that excuse or trivialise violence against women have gone unchallenged and have been allowed to thrive.

We commend the Victoria Police for comments made to media that this is an issue of men’s behaviour. This is an important message and we cannot stress enough how significant it is that the authorities have changed the way they talk about these tragedies. The root cause of violence against women is now widely acknowledged, and that is: a deeply entrenched belief that women are not equal to men.

All of us need to make an effort to call out unacceptable behaviour, and listen to and support young women when they tell us how they feel and what action they want taken. We must stop focussing on the behaviour and circumstances of the victims of these crimes and instead talk about the perpetrators. We need to talk about how to challenge those attitudes that ultimately lead to violence and murder from forming in the first place. How can work towards a society where it is absolutely unacceptable to denigrate or disrespect women and girls in any way?

Our leaders, whether in local councils, state or federal government, our city planners, police and transport authorities must listen to the girls and young women who move around our cities in fear. They must take all forms of street harassment and violence seriously.

We owe it to Courtney. We owe it to Aiia. To Eurydice and Natalina. And to each of our daughters, friends, and sisters.

Plan International recently asked young women in Sydney and Melbourne about their experiences of harassment. That research show fear on the streets is common:

  • 90% of young women (aged 18-25) in Sydney don’t feel safe after dark.
  • Of those who have experienced street harassment in Sydney, more than a third were first harassed between the ages of 11 and 15.
  • Over two-thirds (72%) of reported incidents in Sydney included sexual harassment of some kind. 14% recorded sexual assaults.
  • In Sydney, fewer than one in 10 incidences of harassment and abuse were reported to authorities. In more than two-thirds of these cases, girls and young women reported that the authorities didn’t take action.
  • Nearly half of those recording bad incidents in Sydney now avoid that area if they are alone and 12% have never gone back to that location.
  • One in four (23%) young women surveyed in Melbourne believed it was unsafe to travel alone on public transport after dark.

Media please note: Given the sensitive and potentially triggering nature of this content, please include details for crisis support lines in your reports: Lifeline 13 11 14 or 1800RESPECT 1800 737 732.

About Plan International 

Plan International is a leading girls’ rights agency. We champion girls’ rights because we know that there is nowhere in the world where girls are treated as equals. We work alongside children, young people, supporters and partners to tackle the root causes of injustices facing girls and the most marginalised children.

Plan International works in more than 75 countries to help create a just world that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. Our local office, Plan International Australia funds programs to support children in more than 25 countries, as well as sponsorship programs across the federation.