More than 10,000 people have gathered in Melbourne at a candlelit vigil to honour 22-year-old Eurydice Dixon, with organisers plunging the crowd into darkness in tribute to the night she was raped and killed.
On Monday evening, hordes of people spilled off packed trams and trudged in silence across the muddy Princes Park fields to the soccer pitch where Ms Dixon’s body was found last week.
Thousands stood together on the centre of the suburban soccer pitch, with many more lining the surrounding footpath.
Those who attended the ‘Reclaim Princes Park’ vigil in Melbourne included women, men, and children of all ages, with parents pushing prams and carrying kids on shoulders. Many young women huddled together in groups, embracing and consoling each other.
“Look around, it’s men and women together, all classes of people, and all ages of people,” one attendee said.
No speeches were made. Organisers of the event said it was intended as a simple vigil, “a showing of love and respect, holding space, and gentle resistance”.
Shortly after 6pm, the lights of the pitch were turned off and darkness enveloped the ground, as it would have been the night Ms Dixon made her way towards home for the last time. Only the distant beams of floodlights from a tennis court pierced the night air.
After nearly 30 minutes of silence, a choir sang a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, as mourners left flowers and written tributes.
“We all should be able to walk home, whenever we want, wherever we want, and assume we will make it home safe. Our bodies are not there for taking. It is not up to us to keep ourselves safe when we know it’s up to men to choose not to inflict violence upon us,” the organisers wrote on Facebook.
Other vigils were held around the state and the nation, with further events scheduled to take place in Queensland and Canberra on Thursday.
At a vigil in Sydney, attendees said the names of 30 women killed in the past year were read out over a microphone, with 30 seconds of silence for each of them.
Crowds also gathered in the regional Victorian towns of Ballarat, Bendigo, Warrnambool, Albury/Wodonga and Geelong.
Earlier in the evening, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and his wife Catherine came to pay their respects.
Melbourne’s Town Hall was bathed in orange light as the vigil got underway. It’s a colour used by the United Nations to represent the fight to end violence against women and girls.
Mr Andrews last week took to Facebook to condemn male violence against women and issue an impassioned defence of women’s right to feel safe in public.
“Go about your day exactly as you intend, on your terms. Because women don’t need to change their behaviour. Men do,” the Premier wrote in the widely shared statement.
The couple laid flowers on a public memorial that has amassed in recent days, before a brief Welcome to Country speech that called on ancestors to walk beside Eurydice.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also lent their voices to the condemnation of violence against women at a vigil in Canberra.
“My own boys played soccer on the very oval where some of these scenes have taken place … I have a teenager daughter who is attending the vigil in Melbourne tonight,” Mr Shorten said.
“This vigil to me is a commitment to every other Australian woman, that you ought to be safe, and nothing less than that is acceptable.”
Public anger had mounted earlier in the day, after the floral memorial to Ms Dixon in Princes Park was found vandalised and defaced with lewd graffiti.
“You’re not a brave man if you assault a woman. You’re not a strong man if you assault a woman. You’re not a smart man if you assault a woman,” Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane told reporters on Monday.
And “if you engage in that sort of graffiti”, you’re none of those things either, he added.
“It’ll be my joy to see those people charged and put before the courts,” he said.
A Broadmeadows man, 19, has been charged with the rape and murder of Ms Dixon.