Hundreds of people crowded onto the steps of Parliament House in Melbourne on Friday night in a vigil for 21-year-old Aiia Maasarwe.
- Police have arrested a man over Ms Maasarwe’s death
- The 21-year-old victim was in Melbourne to study business at La Trobe University
- Her death comes seven months after a similar vigil for 22-year-old Eurydice Dixon, who was raped and murdered while on her way home from a performance
Ms Maasarwe was an Arab-Israeli exchange student who had come to Melbourne to study at La Trobe University as part of a study abroad program.
She was found dead early on Wednesday morning, behind a hedge near the entrance to the Polaris shopping centre in Bundoora, in Melbourne’s north.
Ms Maasarwe was on her way home from a comedy gig, and police believe she was attacked after getting off a Route 86 tram nearby.
Dressed mainly in black, the crowd filled the steps and spread out onto the driveway below.
Ms Maasarwe’s father was present at the vigil, and thanked the Melbourne community for their support.
“When I see people here like this, huge people support us, gives us a good feeling about Australia and about the community here in Australia,” he said.
Organiser Megan Bridger-Darling said she was heartened by the turnout to the event.
“It pleases us to see that there is this many people that want to stand with us and to stand against violence and against the horrific death of Aiia,” she said.
“We’re devastated that we have to do this, but we’ve found that the outpouring of grief that comes after an attack such as this is too big to ignore.
“It’s heart-wrenching and terrifying that this continues to happen.
“We are moved beyond grief now.”
Another of the attendees, Aina Raahman, said she lived on the 86 tram line.
“I just felt like I needed to be here,” she said.
“I feel like I need to do something and this is the best I can do.”
Geoff Fickling said it was important that men took a stand for women’s safety.Ms
“I’m just appalled at what’s been happening to women overall,” he said.
“Women should be able to walk around just like we do, in complete safety without fearing for their lives.
“And there should be at least 50 per cent men here, not just a few.”
At the end of the vigil, many who attended boarded a route 86 tram for Bundoora.
Some made the trip as part of a tribute, taking flowers and candles onboard, while others placed bouquets on the train.
The vigil for Ms Maasarwe came seven months after a vigil for another young woman who died in similar circumstances.
Eurydice Dixon, 22, was an aspiring comedian who was raped and murdered while walking home through the inner-city after a performance.
In June last year, 10,000 people turned out in Carlton’s Princes Park, the site where she was raped and killed and her body left to be discovered by strangers.
A vigil of similar size was held in 2012 in the neighbouring suburb of Brunswick, after Jill Meagher — an Irish expat who worked for the ABC — was raped and murdered after walking home from a Sydney Road bar.
‘So thoroughly sick to my stomach of men murdering women’
Ms Maasarwe’s death has reignited a passionate conversation in Melbourne about women’s right to walk home safely.
Ms Meagher’s widower, Tom, tweeted that he was “so thoroughly sick to my stomach of men murdering women”.
“The human cost of male violence is staggering, the incalculable social trauma and human misery it engenders is soul-destroying. Its weight is intolerable. RIP Aiia and love to her family.”
One of the organisers of Friday night’s vigil, Jessamy Gleeson, said there was a lot of anger in the community that such an event was needed again.
“We don’t want to be here,” Ms Gleeson said before the event.
“It’s not something we want to keep doing.
“It’s a power thing and it’s a case of people not seeing these things visibly happening all the time, and that’s part of the point of the vigil is for us, to make visible what often goes unacknowledged.”
“It’s devastating that this young woman coming home from a gig wasn’t able to make that journey,” said Tegan Leeder, one of organisers of community movement Slutwalk Melbourne.