Wrong city, wrong country

Before all the others to come, there were some unexceptional flowers hand-wrapped in white tissue paper. A breeze whispered up Albert Street. The steps leading up to the blood stains were steep and had a left hand turn. The position of the blood stains at the top of the blue-stone stairs suggested that the death was not as a result of a fall. Someone had written Stop Violence Against Women’s Day on the outside of the wrapper. On the wrapper were written the letters ‘23-11-13 RIP’.

Across the river outside the Australian Services Union building I saw a banner with the same sentiment, only this banner referred to white ribbon day. An officer manager of the Together union explained to me that the banner was about domestic violence. Wikipedia says that White Ribbon Day was created by a handful of Canadian men in 1991 on the second anniversary of one man’s massacre of fourteen women in Montreal. The media and politicians stress this was the work of a lone deranged assailant, they make it sound like an accident.

Police say that Eunji Ban, a young Korean worker, was walking in the early hours of the morning through Wickham Park on her way to a cleaning job. The attack occurred as the early light shone on the Brisbane City Hall clock only 100 metres away. As with similar acts against women in Melbourne and Delhi the male attacker(s) were caught within days.

Only metres from the scene of the murder Nicole*, a aboriginal policewoman liaison officer (PLO), accompanied by two African born PLOs told me that the CIB were handling it and would not say anything. An aboriginal aunty had told me she was worried the murdered woman may have been a murri (because of the proximity to the Roma Street forum where aboriginal people hang out). Channel 9 had been interviewing a woman at the bottom of the steps where Eunji was killed. A by-passer told me the park was full of ‘undesirables’. I said that people may have been taking refuge because they were homeless. He did not look convinced. Police say the killer lived ‘a normal life’ in an apartment nearby.

“Eunji, as she came down this street, was just in that moment in time in the wrong place,” Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk told mourners.

Next year Brisbane will host the G20 summit which is supposed to be a meeting of the 20 most advanced countries on earth.

Yet according to the 2013 gender gap report it is better to be a woman in Lesotho, Burundi, South Africa, and Cuba (23 other countries in total) than it is to be a woman in Australia. The criteria were health, education, economics and politics. Australia ranks 24, so why are we in the G20?

Australia ranks high in the number of sexual assaults on women. Only 15% of these assaults are reported. Much is made of Australia’s high rank as the Lucky Country.

I had a barber once who told me that she felt completely safe walking around the streets of Seoul, the capital of Korea. Not so Brisbane.

What Alderman Quirk should have said was Eunji was in the wrong city at the wrong time.

Last Word: Don’t forget the employer … Eunji Ban was on her way to work … there was a time when it was a condition of employment that people going to and from work after hours got a taxi paid by the employer … this was in our Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) as recent as the 1990s. Worker conditions have got worse … not better! [See also Eunji Ban: what about workers health & safety?]

Ian Curr
28 November 2013

* Not her real name



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