I chuckled at the slogan on his T-shirt – ''nothing can scare me, I've got daughters''.
As a mother of daughters, I sympathised. The question is: how do our beautiful, argumentative, eye-rolling and door-slamming daughters grow into women who keep domestic violence to themselves as a shameful secret? How do they become women who don't report assault or rape?
Rosie Batty transformed her tragedy into an immeasurable service, not only by enabling society to understand the prevalence of violence against women, but also creating a wider conversation so the person on the street can say categorically ''this is wrong''.
It is wrong that 1 in 3 Australian women have experienced physical violence, 1 in 4 emotional abuse and 1 in 5 sexual violence. It is wrong that 89 women were killed by their current or former partner in just two years in Australia.
Canberrans expressed their concern last year, holding a candlelit vigil to honour those who have died, those still suffering silently and the children affected by violence in the home.
As an educationalist, I tend to go back to first principles, to look at prevention rather than cure. I believe that if we can equip our sons and daughters for the future we may be able to prevent some of these sad situations.
JoAnn Deak, an American psychologist who researches brain development, believes boys and girls process, and react to, strong emotion differently. In a serious, but amusing study, she asked a number of adolescent boys and girls what they were thinking when they had their first kiss. The girls reported thoughts like, ''Does this mean he likes me? Does my breath smell? Am I doing this right?'' The boys said simply, ''Think?''
Many psychologists say that boys' sudden bursts of emotion can prevent them thinking or analysing what is happening.
How many times have we said to our daughters, ''Are you going out wearing that?'' or, ''Your skirt is way too short'' or, ''Don't you understand the impression you are giving people if you wear that?'' Are we unwittingly encouraging them to think that they can provoke or attract bad things happening to them? Of course we want to protect our daughters from harm but do we want them to think it's always their fault?
On the other hand, do we talk to our sons about how to control their sudden bursts of emotion, or about the influence alcohol can play in lowering their ability and that of girls to think clearly? Do we talk to them about respectful relationships? How do we teach them to pause in that moment before emotion turns to action?
In my experience as a teacher, boys tend to blame circumstances for their actions. They may say they were provoked or hassled, that the other boy hit them first, and that the other team weren't playing fair. We tend to excuse boys' energy and aggression; ''boys will be boys''. We encourage our daughters to adjust accordingly.
Girls learn to hide their true capability if they gain better results at school than boys.
I remember a senior physics class I was teaching that had three girls to 15 boys. One girl, we'll call her Suzanne, set up her experiment investigating thermal conduction and then flapped her eyelashes at John, asking him to come and help her as she wasn't sure she'd got it right. John obligingly went to help as I said, ''No, do it yourself Suzanne''. Suzanne was a very intelligent girl who went on to read natural sciences as a prestigious university. She fancied John, who was not as academically capable as she was. She knew the way to build a relationship was to ask for his help, to pretend that she didn't know as much as she did. How often does this happen in our classrooms?
Last November the federal government released research into family violence that surveyed children and adults. The results were disturbing.
Former Victorian Police Commissioner Ken Lay says that he cried when he read that girls as young as 10 years were diminishing the seriousness of the abuse they received from boys. The girls were reported as saying, ''it wasn't that bad, it wasn't as though he punched her''.
The research showed that while 96 per cent of Australians condemn domestic violence, underlying attitudes seemed to be entrenched. It found that blaming the victim was so automatic, many did not realise that they were doing it. Those interviewed would say ''it takes two to tango'' or ''she must have done something wrong''. Young men excused violence with phrases like ''he was having a bad day'' or ''he just doesn't know when he goes too far''.
Malcolm Turnbull said of the research: ''All disrespect for women does not end up with violence against women but let's be clear, all violence against women begins with disrespecting women''. Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the research confirms concerns he had as a crown prosecutor before entering politics. He says ''there is a strange masculine passivity towards violence and it sort of pervades all levels of society''.
So, can we begin to change these embedded attitudes by thinking about how we deal with our children as they grow up? As a mother and a teacher, I hope so.
Anne Coutts is principal of Canberra Girls Grammar School.