Yesterday Kyle Zandipour was sentenced to a minimum of 16 years in prison for murdering Joshua Hardy outside a St Kilda Road McDonald’s in October 2014. This is a landmark sentence and judgement on the seriousness of social violence that demonstrates the indisputable consequences of violent behaviour. If you kill someone in an act of social violence you could go to jail for up to 20 years.
Josh was by all accounts a remarkable young man on the cusp of a bright future, certain to bring joy and pride to the communities to which he belonged.
The actions of Zandipour, which ended Josh’s life, were described by Justice Karin Emerton as ‘utterly senseless’ and a ‘moment of madness.’
I refuse to accept that there is no sense that can be gained from Josh’s murder.
If we say that violent behaviour is madness, we do away with the sense-making such acts require. “Madness” gives us permission to look away, to shield our eyes and not to challenge and confront. Madness is without meaning and sense, but violence is not madness. It has real and meaningful causes and consequences.
Domestic violence is not perpetrated in senseless moments of madness, it is perpetrated in a context of power and control. Social violence is not random, senseless madness. There are explanations for social violence and we need to understand them better, because unless we try to make sense of violence, we have little hope of preventing it.
I always try to be guided in my work by Step Back Think’s vision: a society free from social violence. But what does that actually look like?
It would mean that a vulnerable person, such as Josh was that night, would be helped and not harmed by the strangers around him. In that society, the care and protection individuals offer those they love would also be extended to strangers. In that future, our regard for the rights and safety of others would be unquestionable.
We contribute to violence supportive attitudes when we ‘other’ strangers by seeing them as different from ourselves. When those ‘others’ are perceived as less deserving of respect and dignity.
There have been ten social violence deaths in Australia this year. These are more than just numbers. They are family members, friends, neighbours and futures full of promise. Each death has devastating consequences.
The pain experienced by Josh’s family is evidence of this. Justice Emerton described in her sentencing remarks how throughout the trial the ‘cloud of pain was palpable.’ For the few days that I was present in court, this cloud engulfed me. The depth and ferocity of pain was unrelenting. That day in court, hearing victim impact statements, will stay with me for the rest of my life.
October 13th 2016 is the ten-year anniversary of James Macready-Bryan’s assault, for whom Step Back Think was started. Just a few days later will be the two-year anniversary of Josh’s murder. With the death toll for 2016 already at ten lives taken, the need for our work is clearer than ever.
We will not falter in our resolve to achieve a society free from social violence, but we need support. We need schools to help us transform the way their students view violence, by delivering our program. We need communities to hear our message and begin to take stock. We need Governments and Partners who will support us to continue our work.
As Josh’s father David said outside the court yesterday, the Hardy’s are not the first family to go through this and they will not be the last. The difference we can make however is to ensure that more young people are reached by our education program. To ensure more people feel they have our support to begin to question these acts and to make sense of the seemingly senseless. To ensure that there is always going to be someone willing to unpick the madness and find the lesson.
We’re willing if you are.
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