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[00:00:01]

This is the documentary, I'm One for Marty in Ireland. This week's documentary is about an Irish woman who left Dublin to travel to the other side of the world there she made a name for herself as a troublemaker and champion for those in distress. Her leaving Ireland was prompted by two men, both German, one she loves deeply and one she feared and despised a word of warning. There are scenes being described in this documentary which one important to the story are also upsetting to listen to.

[00:00:35]

This is the documentary on one substantial Helen. Helen Oxenham is around the same age as the queen of England. I was born 25th of December, 1930 in Cork now.

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Helen lives in Australia, but she's not a citizen because if she wanted to be one, she'd have to swear allegiance to the same queen.

[00:01:01]

I would rather die than do that, my friend. Despite that, the Queen of England has awarded Helen a medal for the work she's done with victims of domestic violence.

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I don't know how it happened, to tell you the truth, because I know nothing about the legal way at all. I opened a women's shelter. I brought them into the house and I brought them around the back. It's a long story.

[00:01:26]

It's a long story that takes place in Dublin and in the city of Adelaide, Australia, where Helen is still campaigning, even though she's almost 90, are with David Bevan.

[00:01:38]

Here she is on ABC Radio Australia's version of Archie, One Woman a week dying at the hands of domestic violence.

[00:01:46]

Taylor, it breaks my heart to read the papers. One woman a week. If there were falling out of aeroplanes, we'd be doing something about it. So why did an Irishwoman get so involved in campaigning against domestic violence in a city on the south coast of Australia? Well, one reason is a tree.

[00:02:09]

The tree is here in a suburb of Adelaide called Christies Beach. And at the base of it is a plaque with Helen Occidental's name on it. The plaque honors Helen's work over six decades to protect women and children who've been affected by domestic violence. The reason the tree is significant is because it's right outside the shop where Helen and her family lived and where her husband worked in the early 1970s. Though the local council decided it would be a good idea to cut down the tree, and we went to the council, three of us went to the council and said we didn't want them to knock the trees down.

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We got a petition up and we got everybody to sign a petition and they were just building Woolworth's across the road.

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And we stood there every day and we put leaflets on their cars.

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Helen got her daughter Heather involved. I remember I was 12 and I was going out handing out leaflets to save the trees on the road that my dad had his little shop and so they didn't cut him down.

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And I learned through that that you could do something about your life. You didn't have to sit at home and bare it all and keep your mouth shut and say nothing.

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Helen was never one to keep her mouth shut and say nothing, but the success of the community action prompted her to make another move from her home out into the world.

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Her daughter Heather remembers that time Flinders University advertised to start a women's studies course.

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And it was the first time, of course, that you could do at a university without prior qualifications.

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So this group of housewives thought that they could go and study and they did just that. And Helen, who had left school at 14, was blown away by it all.

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It's like being blind for many years. And then somebody takes away a bandage and you read those books about women's lives and all of a sudden the bandage is gone from your eyes and you think, no, I see it for the first time.

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And this is where it gets painful, because what Helen saw for the first time at the women's studies course was the broader reality of her childhood and living with her father.

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Mum started to realize that it wasn't just her dad, it actually was happening to a lot of families.

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Her dad, Helen's father, William, had come from Germany to Ireland in the 1920s to work on the Ardern across a hydroelectric scheme. On the Shannon, he met and married her mother, Delia, who was from nearby Limerick City. They moved to Cork for Helen's father, worked for Fords on where Helen was born, and then they moved to Dublin, where her father worked in the E.S.P. What Helen was a toddler, the family lived in a flask here in Rathmines.

[00:05:04]

And this is where Helen has one of the earliest memories of her father. Standing at a window, watching him beaten my mother and I remember I couldn't bear to look at it anymore and I started looking out the window and I thought maybe I should jump out the window. I wanted to get out of there so much I couldn't be any more than about three or four. Then the family managed to get a corporation house on Sondre Road and Crumlin in Dublin on some of the neighbors there, would have known of Helen Start as a charmer.

[00:05:37]

My father was a hail fellow, well met. He was a house divil and a street angel. That's who we used to call them. He was so nice to everybody else and so terrible to us, and he would be so sweet to them. And once the door was closed, he was dreadful. My mother was a very beautiful woman and she was a very kind mother, and she turned herself inside out and upside down for to keep us safe.

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And he would like to have Brouse with her, but he couldn't because she was too nice and so he would pick on us so that she would then come to our rescue and then he could hit out and he usually hit her. So my memory as a young child is standing between my mother and father knocking his legs with my fists because he was beating my mother.

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And then he would pick us up by the scruff of the neck and just throw us somewhere and we would get up again and go back and hit him again, because it's terrifying to see your mother getting beaten.

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Her father's violence continued right into Helen's teenage years, but and she didn't know it then, that was also when Helen took her first steps away from the family and off to Adelaide in Australia.

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It happened on Christmas Day, 1949, Helen's 19th birthday, when she offered a young man a lift to mass on a bicycle down on the bicycle.

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I had a place at the back for him to sit there and I sat in high.

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Helen's passenger on the bike was German. His name was August.

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She had met him at a friend's house. He had come to Ireland as a child refugee from post-war Germany.

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Though Helen wasn't just going to warn us that Christmas morning, she was singing all of them. I was up in the choir and I was there and he waited all that time to Benediction was over. Yeah, and that was about 1:00 and he was still waiting there since six o'clock in the morning. We had the first mass. And then I brought him home with me and he had his dinner. And I thought he'd be very good for me, Father, the two of them could talk to each other and whatever, and then he never left the house.

[00:07:55]

I don't know. He just became part of the family being part of them. He just would come down very often. Yeah. She never said anything to August about her father beating them. After all, it was the family secret, but I knew there was Helen's mother's appearance, for example. She wore sunglasses in the middle of winter, put, you know, she would go around with sunglasses in the middle of winter. He broke her nose twice, twice, he broke her nose and she was really beautiful and she had this nose that came out with the nose that was crooked.

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And er and I remember the blood running. And eventually she had to go and get her notes. Something happened to her nose and the next time he broke it, it just gets crooked. It stayed a funny nose yet, and so she couldn't breathe to one side of her nose because something happened. So, yeah, she was a wreck before she was 60.

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That poor woman died. An old woman. She was. His constant visits to the house led Augustin Helen to going out and eventually marrying in 1952, they went to live and work in stone and August worked as a watch repairer.

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But he was always sick or as Helen says, now in German, ever in my conc. The problem was his ears while he was living as a child on the streets in wartime Germany, August got measles.

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He wasn't treated properly and he was left with constant ear infections. And we went from one doctor to the next and they told him, you can't stay in Ireland because they won't heal, you won't heal.

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And then you're you know, it's worse for you and you'll die early because you'll get blah, blah, blah. It'll go to your brain.

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So we went back to Germany looking for a decent doctor. We thought maybe the German doctors are better than the Irish doctors. You know, they always seem to better somewhere else.

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And we went from North Germany to South Germany and they said exactly the same. And exactly the same was that I just needed to move away from the damp climate of Ireland if his ears were ever going to heal. So he and Helen got out a map. And then we looked with the driest place in the driest continent of the Andes, Suzu South Australia. So that's how come we came here.

[00:10:23]

Yeah, and his ears started to heal. They dried out when his ears started.

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And he came in and got all excited and said, today I could hear the birds.

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I have never heard of Bird. You had never heard a bird since he was a child and he could hear barking. We got all excited about this.

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Helen and August stayed on in South Australia from the late 1950s. They had three children, two boys and a girl.

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They opened a watch repair shop and Christies Beach and the family lived behind it, as well as looking after the children and the home, Helen occasionally helped out behind the counter in the shop. And one day when she was in the shop, a woman who worked in a nearby local social welfare office walked in and she and Helen got chatting.

[00:11:15]

And she would tell me about the women that went to the Department of Community Welfare with problems in their marriage. She was the typist in the office. She wasn't a social worker. She would see them come out of the social work department and she would be typing away. And the women were crying and upset.

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And I'd say, doesn't anybody ever do anything about that? And she said, I don't know. But nothing seems to happen. I said, I would really like to do something to help those women and the children.

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And one day she was talking to somebody, a woman that was in distress.

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And she talked to the woman, said, go to 73 Beach Road and that woman was docked to you. There will be came.

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She talked to me for a while and she lifted up her jumper and showed me her body.

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And it was all full of black and blue. And I got goose bumps and I felt very sorry for her. That was the beginning. Someone has to do something. I know what it's like to sit there and watch your mother go through that and go to people and nobody wants to hear you and nobody wants to believe you and nobody wants to do something.

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So to make a long story short, I decided that we could have a drop in centre. I said to my husband, we lived at the back of the shop and I said, I don't like living back here anymore. I think we should move out and I think we should get a real house someplace else.

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And he said, all right, then we can do that.

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I immediately took over the two rooms at the back. And I knocked down a window, I went and got a hammer and knocked on the window, made it a door, terrible job, done a dreadful job.

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I thought it was going to break nice and even and it broke all around that way.

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I plastered it all with my hands. And I had said to every woman that came there, this is a women's drop in centre, I will leave the key under the water tank if ever you need to come here to get away. This is where you can come and you can talk to other women. And I put the key under the thing. And then every morning when I would go out there, there would be a family.

[00:13:40]

There had slept. They used to walk down the beach road at night time with their little kids and they'd sleep on the beach or they'd sleep in them big Dempster's. They used to have big things where they put clothes in, you know, the clothes you don't need. They would sleep in there. It was a.

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So I was quite happy. But others in Christie's speech were not so happy with Holland's venture. The police didn't like us at all.

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The police would say if the customers would come and say, our wives are missing, the police have said, did you go down to Beach Road, Christies Beach, this mad Irish woman down there? And she's definitely got something to do with it.

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What was happening in Christies Beach in the mid 1970s with the women's movement has been researched by a radio producer from Adelaide. Her name is Tiana Cooke. So I'm 29 years old, and I guess for me, coming across Helen and her story, it's an amazing history that I wish we all knew a little bit more about, because, you know, that time of the 70s where things are really changing and I guess, you know, women didn't have a voice.

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I did a bit of research and found that there were some interviews with Helen and that Helen had done with other women and there in the State Library of South Australia. So you can actually remove these pieces of audio that were very interesting to hear of what was happening, how women were coming together and they were having these meetings and they were really kind of leaning on each other and kind of gaining inspiration from each other to kind of start to stand up.

[00:15:21]

And I guess these were the kinds of conversations that were being had around Helen at the time. And, you know, they would all get together and kind of comfort each other when they were doing these quite difficult things, confronting men in quite scary situations. Really, anyone else looking at it would have backed down a bit, but not Helen, like she eyeballed people down. Basically, I think there's one story in the tapes that were man was, you know, running at her and she grabbed him around the neck and pinned him down with her knee and held him down until the police got there.

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And, you know, the man kind of had said to the police, that's that's not a woman. That's a man. That's a man in women's clothing. Like because she was so strong. And I guess, you know, when I was speaking to her the other day, she just said, well, you know, you've got to do what you've got to do and you just get that strength. When you're in that moment and the adrenaline's running, you just get that strength.

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Helen's daughter, Heather, was a teenager at this time.

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We often had upset husbands coming to the house looking for wives. Yeah, it was scary. I remember hiding under the bed and there would be, you know, revving their cars and screaming and banging on the doors outside the shop.

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Yeah, the shelter had a no man policy, which Helen and forced.

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I just I just put on my best shirt and swore, like you wouldn't believe, and it just stood up to them all.

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That was at the back. Meanwhile, at the front in the shop, Helen's husband was also being confronted when people came to give them and their parents, they the men would say to them, what's happening at the back of this shop?

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Do you know what your wife is doing? And he'd say, no, I know she's just happy doing it. And then said, don't allow her to do that.

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You know, check on her. What are they doing it?

[00:17:10]

They have Norgay's or something. That's what they thought we were having to do in the back of this year.

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As well as leaving out a key for women and children to let themselves into the shelter, Helen and her friends also went out and rescued people from domestic violence. All right, great.

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So this is Sharon. That's how you want to be ready? Yes, Sharon. All right. Great.

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Radio producer and Cook interviewed a woman who as a child was helped like this.

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My father used to beat my mother with a saucepan on her head and she would play it, you know, and I was about five. And to observe this, you know, you think it's normal. You think it's happening in everybody's house, so you never talk about it. And then my father took his life in 1976. We were only 14 years old and my mother had mental health issues and she wasn't able to function or feed the children or anything.

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So my brother took the mantle of running the house and everything, and he used to beat my mum and I all the time. He wanted me to clean the house. He wanted me to do the cooking. I was only 14. He was my twin brother.

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And do you think that's where your brother learnt it because he'd seen your father doing.

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It's absolutely. Domestic violence is not born with young children. He saw my dad beat Mum all the time here with a saucepan in the kitchen. That's just absolutely terrible. And, you know, he just thought, well, that's what you do with women, you know, and I couldn't bear to live there anymore. So we had a friend. Her name was Maria. And Maria asked me, please ring Helen and talk to her. So I went to the public telephone box and rang Helen.

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I said, please, could you come can you please rescue me? And my brother's beating me up. You threw me on the ground. I nearly strangled me. I need to run away. My mother doesn't know she's got mental health problems. She doesn't know how to help. And Helen came with a white van and she had this energy. We both grabbed my stuff from my bedroom, put it all in the bed and off we went. Christie speech.

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She was like an angel. I just thought, oh, my goodness, oh, let's do it. But we had to do it quickly because if my brother caught us, he would have beaten us and and God knows what would have happened. You know that when you when you're in such fear and you need to get away, you know, you just need someone to say, come on, let's go now. And because the fear is so strong, you just use this phrase, you know, so that's how it was.

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In some ways, none of this this courage in the face of threat was new to Helen, even though her father terrorized the family, she always tried to talk back and sometimes with humor. My brothers used to get cranky with me and they would say, please keep your mouth shut. Don't say anything. If you didn't answer back, you wouldn't get as much beaten as you did.

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One day, her father was getting dressed in the kitchen and all his five children were lined up on a bench, holding their breath, waiting for him to lose his temper. Helen's father kept sending her upstairs for various items of clothing. And I would bring down his chances, we were glad to get rid of him. You see, we were sitting there waiting for him to go so that we become normal and I bring down his trousers and he'd put them on and then he'd say to me, what about my shirt?

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And I would go back up and get the shirt and bring it down. And what about the tie? He said. And I said to him and I wanted him to laugh about it. And I said to him, You wouldn't like me to bring down the wardrobe on my back, would you?

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And he went crazy. He went crazy and he chased me up the stairs and the only room in the house that had a lock on it was the it was the bathroom. But that was the way I couldn't keep quiet. When trying to be funny, it didn't work. Helen tried shame by revealing her family's secrets to outsiders.

[00:21:04]

He had his friend Patty teeth was his name, and Patty teeth always got brought into the parlor. We had a little parlor at the front, so when it came to visit, he went into the parlor and the rest of that things in the kitchen. And one day he was fighting with my mother and he threw the dinner up against the wall and there was spaghetti and a whole load of thing on the wall going down. And the doorbell rang and I brought Patty teeth into the kitchen so that he would see what was happening in the kitchen, so that it became obvious.

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And my father nearly died. He nearly died. He never forgot he had to be exposed, you know, so is your dad's lovely man.

[00:21:49]

He was lovely to everybody else. He was terrible to us. In Adelaide, Sharon, who had been rescued by Helen under friends, was now going out herself on rescue runs. I used to go with them in the van to the sea and help them take things from people's homes and save people from domestic violence. That would like superwomen, I would go in there, grab the women, put them in the back, put the things in the van and then take them to the women's shelter, and then Helen would cook them a lovely meal.

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While this work was invaluable to families in crisis, it did have an impact on Helen's own family.

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I forgot about the home front and my husband, who was very quiet and gentle and very good, and he would do anything for you.

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Yet August may have been quiet and gentle, but Heather recalls that her late father had his own approach to helping victims of domestic violence.

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You know, he cared about the community as well. So but he did it through supporting mum.

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She said to him, you have to cook now because I'm going out and, you know, starting I'm doing this community, setting out this setting up this refuge because women run away from home at all hours and they're always away.

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Christmas, Easter, that's the time they go. And I said to my husband, I can't cook anymore.

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And he said, but I have never cooked. I don't know how to cook. And I said, I will teach you. So I showed him how to do chicken casserole.

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And I think we had chicken casserole for six months because that's all he could cook and she never gave in. She never gave in. Eventually they said, we're not doing this.

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Got the work was so heavy, it was start from morning till night, I was never I didn't get time to sleep, I was never home. I couldn't be home.

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And so, you know, my youngest son didn't know who I was. Sometimes I waited till he was seven, until I'd done it. I thought at seven. Now he should be all right. Yeah. He grew up with a chip on his shoulder about that he felt and he was quite rightly to do that to.

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Helen soon became a go to woman for many crises affecting women and children in Adelaide. On one occasion, she got a call at three o'clock in the morning, a 14 year old girl had been gang raped when the police came across her sitting on the street. She was in deep distress.

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She said, Don't touch me, don't touch me. Your pigs don't touch me, you know? And so what did they do? They brought it to the police station and put her in jail. And I went down at three o'clock in the morning and I said to me to tell me that you have.

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Do you mean to tell me that you have that child behind bars? How dare you?

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And then she and her friends made an official complaint to the police over their treatment of the girl. And they secured a meeting with senior officers.

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They were talking about the woman, you see. And then I thought that's how they're getting out of it. They're saying she's a woman. But there was a man down the end who had grey hair. And I looked at him and I just said to him, and they were flabbergasted. I said to him, Do you have children? And he said, no. What's that got to do with what was happening? Yeah. And he said, of course, I said, Do you have a daughter?

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He said, yes. And I said, Would you say you're 14 year old daughter was a woman. Would you say that she was a woman? And he said, Well, no, not really. So why are we talking about a woman? We're talking about a child here. That's what she is. She's a child. And would you put your daughter in prison as a child if she'd been raped and then changed? It wasn't this highfalutin talk about it anymore.

[00:26:11]

We brought it down to the level that it was then. And we got women police. Again, here are echoes of Helen's earlier life, she herself, when she was 14, got involved with the police. She turned up at Crumlin Garda Station one day to report her father.

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He beat me with the hand brush and I had four stitches in my head and I was 14 and I had to get my hair cut and I had to wear pixie four to hide it.

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And it was so awful awkward yet. And I went I just decided I would go to the detectives know used to the police, we went to the police was didn't work. So I went to the detective and he was sitting in a chair and I remember the sun was shining on his face. He had red hair. And I said to him, look at my hair, look at my head. He beat me with the hand brush and this is what happened to my head.

[00:27:10]

And he said, OK, OK, what do you want me to do? He said, I want him deported. I want you to send him back to Germany. I don't want him to be in Ireland. That's what I want you to do. And he said, All right, OK, OK, nothing happened.

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And I took it for granted. Well, nothing's going to happen. And I was out playing with all my friends in the car and the front, and I saw the men riding on the bicycle. And it was the detective. This was this was months later. And he goes into our house. And I thought, oh, my father's going to kill me. My father's going to kill me now. So they were all playing and I was standing there thinking, Oh, are you stayed there a long time?

[00:27:49]

And then he went and then my father opened the door and he looked and he said. Oh, it was awful. I knew I was going to get battered and I went in and there's my mother standing in the hallway and she's crying and my father is shouting. And he didn't touch me. He didn't touch me. And I said to my mother, Why are you crying? I wondered why she would. I said, Why are you crying?

[00:28:18]

She said he was saying about you that he had to beat you because you were promiscuous. And I didn't even know where babies came from at the time. I was so stupid. In Adelaide, it became clear after a few years that the drop in shelter at the back of the watch repair shop was inadequate.

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So Helen and her friend Peggy asked for a meeting with the local housing association, a government body, to see if they could rent a proper house as a women's refuge. The meeting with the manager of the Housing Association did not go well, and he said, What kind of women are you?

[00:29:00]

Well, I knew what he meant. You know, doctors wives are somebody. I said, What do you mean? And he said, substantial women. And I stood up and I said, because I'm a fat woman. I stood up and I said, and so did she. I think we're substantial enough. And then we started to giggle.

[00:29:16]

He said, Go home to your mothers. But he practically threw us out. But they actually got their house and they furnished it with furniture from the dump and donations and to pay the rent, they held regular fundraisers like cake sales of small Australian bonds called lamingtons. We sold them outside my husband's shop.

[00:29:38]

I never want to see another lamington as long as I did. I actually cooking also helped improve things with the police.

[00:29:47]

It began years before when Helen first moved to South Australia. She was cooking a meal at home and the man next door shouted over the fence, Oh, that smells lovely.

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And I said, Are you hungry? And he said, Yes. And I said, Well, there's plenty here. You can come over and have a day share. So he came over and he had it. And then eventually he brought his wife out and we were very good neighbours.

[00:30:10]

The man's name was Bill Lowney. And years later, when Helen had the shelter, that same Bellone was transferred to the local police station and Christies Beach as a sergeant.

[00:30:21]

They must have been talking in the station, they said, is this Irish woman and she's down the road and we can't even get in to get the wives. They're just holding the wives in there. And the husband is supporting her. Her husband is supporting her. Like that was a terrible sin for August. And so he said she said Irishwoman, what's her name? They said, Oh, Nazem. Where told that she's a great woman, he came down to the shelter and of course, I said to him, do you want to come in?

[00:30:49]

And he said, yes. I said, do you want to see what happens to women? And he said, yes. And there was one woman that we had there, and she was married to a mafia Italian man that was in the Mafia here in Adelaide, and he would put his cigarettes out on her face. So I said to him, Do you want to see what happens to women? Do you want to see how women look, Bill?

[00:31:12]

So he came and he took a look at her and he nearly died. And he went back to the service and my whole life changed. They would come with me to help me with the women. It became no go for man. Our whole life changed.

[00:31:28]

Occasionally, Helen and those working with her helps the women to get out of their violent situations entirely.

[00:31:33]

They would go with them to the family court so dangerous because they had to face that man again and it was so biased.

[00:31:42]

The court's in favor of men and if necessary, they would help the women to get out of Adelaide altogether. They did this with the help of volunteers from a variety of backgrounds, from Legion of Mary to local lesbians.

[00:31:55]

I'd never even heard of lesbian women before. When somebody said to me she's a lesbian, I thought, well, could that be? And in Ireland, there was so many religions. I thought it must be another religion. In those days, they used to have a uniform.

[00:32:07]

They'd wear overalls with boots and their hair be cut short.

[00:32:12]

But they were great girls, just the same, because sometimes we had to move women very fast when we got them to the shelter and we had to send them interstate or somewhere else, and we would ring them and say, can you get tickets for women for to catch the train? Because we had to wait till the husbands went to work so that we could take the women and clean the house out and put them on that train.

[00:32:32]

There were also occasions, though, that the women didn't necessarily want to leave their husbands, but before they went back to them, they would make them come and talk to Helen.

[00:32:40]

They'd say, we have to ask Helen, can we go back? And the husband coming out said, if you touch her again, if you just touch her again or put a finger on her are the children, she will come here and you won't see her.

[00:32:54]

That burst their balloon. And they thought I was a bully, but I took a great delight when they came to me. I took all my my frustration out that I had on my dad, on them. I thought, you're going to hear this.

[00:33:11]

You guys are going to hear this, what you do to women. This idea of the women staying at the shelter and then returning to their husbands didn't bother Helen because a lot of them just used it for it to make a point.

[00:33:26]

And that was quite good, too.

[00:33:28]

She understood these kinds of nuance situations and she even displayed some contradictions herself. For example, her father beat her mother and his children and by rights, she should have hated him more. And we loved our father.

[00:33:41]

I mean, he was my father. And I, you know, I loved him, but I didn't know why he was the way he was.

[00:33:48]

And the fact that her mother regularly took a beating to protect her children, Helen should have sympathized with her more, but she didn't.

[00:33:56]

I blamed her as a child. I said to her, it's your fault you married him. You brought him into the house. Now you get him out here. She was saving us. Yeah. And and there was me turning against her as well. Now, you know, I never lived that time. I went back to Ireland years later and I told her, mum, I'm so sorry I said that. I didn't really mean that. And she said, it's OK.

[00:34:20]

It's OK.

[00:34:25]

Helen Oxenham worked with the shelter and the women and children until the early 1980s, but then exhaustion and ill health forced her to stop. Then about five years ago. Helen was invited to a presentation in her honor. A building in a women's refuge had been named after her, and she was asked to make a speech. But as she was listening to the speaker before her, she became overcome with emotion. The speaker mentioned the statistic that one woman a week is killed in Australia by a partner or former partner, Helen was so upset at hearing this that she couldn't deliver her own speech.

[00:35:01]

All she could do was stand up and sing. And I started to sing a very old feminist song, Don't be too polite, girls, don't be too polite. Show a little fight, girls show a little fight. Don't be fearful of offending in case you get the sack. Just recognize your value and you won't look back. We sang it and then I wanted to cry. And then I said, if one woman a week is dying, this is terrible.

[00:35:28]

This is shocking. We shouldn't be standing here.

[00:35:30]

Do our young women have to go through this spill still? Are we going through what is happening to the laws? Why can't we keep our women safe? Why are we burying one woman? Or what about those children? What how are they going to be brought up? What are we doing? This isn't good enough. She then decided there should be proper recognition of the issue of domestic violence, that the story shouldn't be controlled by NGOs or government agencies, that it should be publicly prominent.

[00:35:59]

So while the rest of the world is talking about pulling down statues and memorials, Helen wants to put some up. So this is they're doing it in Granat, we're asking people to donate. The men have statues and they can mourn the dead that they went out to fight, but they joined the army, darling. Yeah. Who do we have behind us?

[00:36:17]

Nobody herself and her daughter Heather have set up a charity to lobby the local authorities in Adelaide to build two memorials where people can come and grieve for those women and children who've suffered and died because of domestic violence. They're calling them places of courage.

[00:36:36]

And there are enough seating so people can sit and share their stories. Mr. Speaker, our community has been horrified by the recent murders of women by partners or former partners.

[00:36:48]

One prominent supporter is a local MP, Catherine Hillyard, who's active in supporting those affected by domestic violence.

[00:36:55]

We were devastated when a woman was violently killed in her unit in Morphettville, leaving her children to grieve the beautiful mother may she rest in peace. I offer my condolences and love to her children who will never again be held in their mother's arms to her whole family and her friends as they contemplate.

[00:37:16]

Tim Cook, the radio producer, went with Katrine to the proposed location of one of the memorials in a public park in Adelaide.

[00:37:25]

The site here at Old Milonga was chosen because we wanted a place where there is an opportunity for quiet reflection. I mean, this is a beautiful park, you know, looking around. There's these beautiful trees. You've got the river over here. And if you look behind us, there's stunning, absolutely stunning. Everybody who meets Helen is struck by her kindness, her compassion, her spirit. I know from my own experiences as a child, domestic violence, when it was occurring in my home, it wasn't something like we went out and and spoke about.

[00:38:01]

And this place was definitely envisaged as somewhere where people can sit, have conversations with the people they love about either their experiences, their thoughts, I guess the road ahead to preventing and ending domestic violence. But we wanted this really contemplative, beautiful space for people to have the opportunity to reflect. And because you said that domestic violence is something that was apparent in your life at a young age, what would it have meant for you to have a place like this to come to that was kind of dedicated to sharing?

[00:38:37]

What would that have meant?

[00:38:38]

Yeah, so as I said, I did experience significant violence in my household from my father towards my mother. And as I said, it wasn't something that was particularly talked about. We just got on with things. I think if there were more places that engendered conversation, it would have helped to know that, you know, our family wasn't alone, that it was okay to talk about it and to raise these issues and to shine a light and to bring those things out into the open.

[00:39:13]

Good morning, Helen. How are you? Good thing. That's good. Thank you. Back in our flat, Helen is still campaigning. She's been on Facebook urging people not to forget those exposed to domestic violence during the pandemic. And this week, she's taken a clipping from the local paper which reports that the chief justice of the family court in Australia says that the prevalence of domestic violence in the country is now higher than he's ever seen in three decades working in law.

[00:39:39]

Helen also knows that domestic violence is not a problem exclusive to Australia. If you could get somebody in Ireland to start something like I did and help the Irish women and that domestic violence would become an issue because it is an issue and bring it forward. But all of our thoughts of Ireland don't relate to the sadness of domestic violence just a few months before her 90th birthday. Helen Oxenham is quite sentimental about Ireland and recalls happier times here.

[00:40:11]

Audrey Little Landward St. Limerick.

[00:40:14]

I know that address, particularly her summer holidays with her granny and uncle in Limerick.

[00:40:22]

I would get out at the train at Limerick. My grandmother had somebody waiting there for me, a man with a horse, and I step up on a horse and cart. And then the cow would go the horse would go to my grandmother's house. And I spent all of my holidays there. It was great fun in my grandmother's house.

[00:40:43]

And Uncle Tommy was a waiter and he was so funny. They laughed. And it was lovely being there. The two of them together was great fun. Yeah. He'd say that shit Arab that your mother married.

[00:40:59]

She called him an Arab, and I never knew what the Arabs don't know. You've been listening to substantial Helen from the documentary on one The Producers were taken, Cook and Ronan Kelly, you can look at photos from the documentary if you go to our Web page or to EdTech forward slash Dockum one. If you've been affected by issues covered in this documentary, you can get contact details for sports organizations. If you go to or to EdTech forward slash helplines, that's RTG forward slash helplines until next time.

[00:41:40]

Thanks for listening.