Action against domestic violence doesn’t stop at 16 days

This article discusses domestic and family violence, abuse, and trauma. Information about support and resources is provided at the end of the article.

Every year since 1991, people around the world have campaigned for 16 days to raise awareness about domestic and family violence. 

Running from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, through to Human Rights Day on December 10, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign has brought attention to a problem that continues to take the lives of women and children across the globe. 

It’s a critically important movement, however according to Associate Professor in Forensic Science Dr Paola Magni, action should not stop after 16 days. 

“We need to keep the momentum going, 16 days is great, but it’s not enough,” the Murdoch University researcher said at the launch of the Red Shoes Australia art installation in Kalgoorlie-Boulder on day one of the 16 days. 

“Everyone is here today as a memory of their beloved, or as a survivor - and we are all together here to say ‘stop’ to gender-based violence,” she said. 

But stop is not a signal, stop is a mission.” 

Los Zapatos Rojos (The Red Shoes) is a collaborative art installation designed by Mexican artist Elina Chauvet that involves laying out pairs of red shoes to represent the women, children and others that have lost their lives to gender-based violence.    

Dr Magni brought The Red Shoes to Australia in 2022, with the inaugural activation at the WA Museum Boola Bardip counting 392 shoes representing the total number of women murdered in Australia between 2015 and 2020 (Australian Criminal Intelligence National Homicide Monitoring Program – 2015 to 2020). 

This year, 61 pairs of red shoes were laid in the grounds of the WA Museum of the Goldfields – each a body length apart – representing the 61 Australian women and children that had lost their lives to domestic violence (to date) in 2023. 

The shoes on display featured pairs with significant memories, including some from the 2022 exhibit: a pair of runners painted in red donated by the family of Hannah Clarke, a Queensland woman tragically burned, along with her three children, in a petrol fire by her estranged husband; and a stiletto with a butterfly, once owned by Jessica Bairnsfather-Scott of Perth, a First Nations woman who lost her life to spousal violence in 2019.  

This year, a pair of red Christian Louboutins from former Spice Girl and domestic violence survivor Mel B were also present. The project resonated with the singer and TV personality and upon learning about its profound significance, she was compelled to make a personal contribution.  

First hosted in Mexico in 2009, The Red Shoes has been replicated across the world. When Dr Magni stumbled across it in her Italian hometown of Turin she was so moved that she began wearing a pair of red stilettos at public speaking engagements.   

“It is more than 20 years that I am a forensic scientist, and it is my experience in the majority of the cases I investigated, the victim was a woman,” she said. 

“This project should not exist because domestic and gender-based violence should not exist. 
“But we can’t live in denial, and we cannot forget that this is a real issue.” 

The week previous, Dr Magni had presented the Red Shoes Australia project at an international conference in Sydney, where more than a thousand experts converged to talk about current practice and the future of forensic investigation and science, with a special session focusing on gender-based violence.  
“It was great to be there, but after a couple of days I found myself in an awkward position: there was a lot of science, but not a lot of strategic action,” she said. 
“There were lists of great projects, but to see them translated and applied to real case investigations will take many years.   

“As a scientist I know the importance of the progression of science, and as a teaching academic this is what I teach to my students.  

“However, as an expert and especially as a woman and mother who reads and listens to the news, I couldn’t help myself from thinking that we have to switch gears and get back to real life, real cases, real problems. 

“We have to stop reading about other people’s research and trying to beat them by doing something cooler and bigger and better - we have to start listening. Listening to the people and their issues, their open cases, their cold cases, and take action to address the need for justice and closure.” 

Critically, Dr Magni said the listening must happen across the country, not just in major cities, which is why she wanted the project to take place in the Goldfields this year and is in discussions to bring it to WA’s Great Southern region in 2024.    

The reception the Red Shoes Australia project received from victims’ families, survivors, and the wider WA Goldfields community was clear evidence of the need for action in regional Australia.

“I knew we had to bring this project to the Goldfields to elevate awareness of the of the murders of women occurring around the country – as it is growing at an alarming rate, Goldfields Women’s Health Care Centre Chief Executive Officer Gloria Moyle said, “enough is enough.”  

“This project was brought to Kalgoorlie-Boulder to raise awareness that domestic and family violence occurs in all communities and in all cultures, to people of all ages. It occurs to people in all socio-economic groups, and people of all education levels and professions,” Ms Moyle said.   

Perpetrating domestic and family violence is always a choice, it is never the fault of victim-survivors.”  

Dr Magni sat with every pair of red shoes on display in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, read the stories that came with some of them, held them, and felt what they represented. 

“It is my intention to really listen to every pair of these shoes, and I will go back to my lab and try to address the problems with my science,” she said. 
“I’m here today to take the challenge and be the driving force for change.” 

If you need support or if this article has caused distress, help is available: 


Call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) 
Text (SMS) ‘Hello’ to 0458 737 732
Chat online at 


If you, a child, or another person is in immediate danger, call 000. 


Murdoch University staff and students can access free, confidential counselling and other support through the Employee Assistance Program and University counselling service respectively. Information and resources are also available on a range of health issues, including disclosing assaulthelping others, and support services available on and off campus. University Security is available 24/7 by calling 08 9360 6262, and the MurdochSafe app has tools to help keep you safe.  


Staff experiencing family and domestic violence are able to access paid leave and other supports. Information and support is available through the University’s wellbeing teams. 


Murdoch University does not tolerate sexual harm and takes a trauma-informed approach to sexual harm, which is reflected in our Sexual Harm Policy. The University has welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback toconsult the Federal Education Department on the draft action plan to address gender-based violence in higher education. 

Posted on:

14 Dec 2023

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