a woman was brutally murdered in melbourne, but you probably don’t even know her name
‘In loving memory of Tracy. The world will miss your sparkly eyes and smile.’
Those are the words written in black texta on pink paper that were taped to a wrought iron fence over the weekend at the site of Tracy Connelly’s murder in Melbourne.
Described as gorgeous, funny, intelligent, and articulate, forty year old Tracy was murdered on 22 July in the van she lived in with her partner of 19 years while it was parked in Greeves St, St Kilda. Tracy had worked as a sex worker for over a decade in the St Kilda area and was highly respected by her colleagues.
Her death came just days after protests were held in all major Australian cities to mark the International Day of Protest against the Violent Abuse and Murder of Sex Workers.
The immediate news of her murder flashed only briefly in the media.
In a fit of rage, Jane Gilmour wrote a piece for the King’s Tribune where she accused the The Age, The Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph, The Border Mail, The Australian, The Courier Mail, Perth Now and other news outlets that ran the story of using a combination of “St Kilda” “Prostitute”, and “homicide/murder” in a way that removed Tracy’s personhood, and relegated her story off the front page in a mere 24 hours.
Gilmour argued that naming Tracy Connelly as a St Kilda prostitute was an unjust distraction to the reporting of her death, and failed to solicit the outpouring of grief that occurred after Jill Meagher’s murder.
‘Remember Jill Meagher? Of course we do, how could we forget her? So young, so beautiful, so beloved, so normal. The way she died was grotesquely evil, what that knowledge must do to the people who loved her is unimaginable. It hurts those of us who didn’t know her. Because she became a person to us. That gorgeous photo of her, her poor heartbroken husband, the shocked and trembling voices of her colleagues at the ABC, the barrage of media coverage of those things was unavoidable and gave her personhood to all of us who didn’t know her as a person.’
What Gilmour’s article serves to do is make the very real case that Tracy’s death was treated differently in the media in comparison to the breadth and depth of reporting on Jill Meagher’s murder. She does this by describing Tracy’s death without certain details, such as her occupation and place of work.
But I don’t think for a second that Gilmour is arguing we should permanently look at news stories with a magic eye, disclosing fewer details about the occupation of the victim or other attributes if we deem that the “real” version might be poorly received by the public or the news cycle.
The fact of the matter is that Tracy Connelly was a sex worker. The real question is why did her murder not generate the same outpouring of grief and protest against violence towards women that we saw when Jill Meagher was murdered? Is it a lack of respect for Tracy’s profession? Or was it Jill who was the special case?
Aside from news reports, police requests for information about Tracy’s murder do not list her occupation until the third or fourth point about her life. Their requests implore people who knew her in her “professional capacity” to come forward if they know anything about the case.
After Gilmour’s piece, more recent reports have included comment about the ongoing debate on legal frameworks for sex work. Sue White, who is the general manager of the Inner South Community Health Service, came out to say that legalising street sex work was the only way to ensure workers were safe.
This will now be part of an ongoing police investigation, and it will form part of the discourse on the legalisation of sex work. But it also appeals to the broader agenda to prevent violence towards women.
Thoughts go out to Tracy Connelly’s partner, Tony Melissovas, who has spoken for the first time on the weekend since Ms Connelly’s death:
‘I’ve never loved anyone the way I loved her, and I never will. She was my soul mate. We fell in love from the moment we met each other.
‘And I miss her so much.’