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Canberrans light candles for domestic violence victims

Some had survived it, many lost a loved one because of it, others still experienced it. 

Every person among the crowd that gathered for a sombre vigil in Commonwealth Park on Wednesday night had been touched in some way by family violence. 

More than 100 Canberrans braved the cold and clutched candles to honour dozens of men, women and children who lost their lives due to domestic or family abuse to mark the National Day of Remembrance.

This year's ceremony was especially poignant after the deaths of four Canberrans - Tara Costigan, Neal Wilkinson, Sabah Al-Mdwali and Daniela D'Addario​ - due to alleged domestic and family violence this year. 

Domestic Violence Crisis Service chairwoman Di Lucas said candles lit on Stage 88 represented 64 women, 11 men and two children whose deaths were linked to family violence in the ACT since 1988.

Another 134 candles were for the Canberra children who now lived without a mother because of those deaths.


The candles were lit as Amazing Grace was played on the bagpipes. Crisis workers read poems about domestic violence before a minute's silence.

Ms Costigan's uncle Michael Costigan was among several of her family members and friends at the ceremony and said it was a positive show of support from the community.

"It makes you feel that you're not alone.

"As a community we come together, we remember, we celebrate, we can't stop doing these things.

"We just have to keep doing more and more and more."

Erin Regan was at the vigil to pay tribute to her sister Leanne Regan, who was murdered by her husband when she was 29. 

"For the first time in 20 years it's somewhere to go to feel normal I suppose," she said.

"To be able to connect with other people who may or may not know exactly what you're going through. 

"Because having your sister murdered is not a normal thing to happen."

Ms Lucas said Canberrans had been stunned, socked and outraged by this year's violent deaths, but the ceremony didn't only pay tribute to victims of domestic homicide. 

"It's internationally recognised that the greatest danger to a woman's health is domestic violence.

"So we remember all the women who have lived with domestic violence and whose lives have been cut short from the toll of that violence, be it through mental illness, suicide, drug and alcohol addiction and overdoses and other complex health issues."

ACT Women's Minister Yvette Berry acknowledged before the crowd that the territory government needed to do more to improve its response to family violence across prevention, crisis services and long term support.

"We need to do this together, to undertake the reform to the cultures and the attitudes that support and condone this violence."