Federal Politics

Rosie Batty's year of grief and opportunity: 'I have been genuinely astounded'

A year ago, when Rosie Batty was named the 2015 Australian of the Year, she was still reeling with "raw grief" and feared she had only won because of her son's murder. 

"I'd made it to this point because of a traumatic and horrific event that was beyond my control." 

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Rosie Batty reflects

Rosie Batty reflects on the past 12 months and her achievements as Australian of the Year. Courtesy ABC News24.

But Ms Batty soon realised she was selected "because of the way that I had responded and reacted to [Luke's death]". 

Over the past 12 months, she has been busier than she ever thought possible. 

Great leader: Former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty.
Great leader: Former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty.  Photo: Graham Tidy

With more than 250 speeches and more interviews and meetings than she can count, "I was completely swamped". 

Spurred on by the chance to make a difference, Ms Batty told an audience at the National Gallery on Monday that she wanted to say "Yes" to everything. 

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"I couldn't wait for change. I had to make it happen within my year ... before I ran out of time." 

Luke Batty was killed by his father in February 2014, immediately casting Ms Batty into the public spotlight, where she began to make the case for change in the way Australia talks about and deals with domestic violence. 

Rosie Batty, giving her final interviews before delivering a final speech, as Australian of the Year.
Rosie Batty, giving her final interviews before delivering a final speech, as Australian of the Year. Photo: Graham Tidy

Reflecting on her time as Australian of the Year in a valedictory speech, Ms Batty said she had been aware that the second year of grief "is often the hardest, because everyone gets on with their life while you are still adjusting to the loss". 

"But [this year] I have been genuinely astounded by the response that I have received. 

Rosie Batty and Luke Batty
Rosie Batty and Luke Batty 

"Every day, people will say positive and encouraging things out of compassion and out of respect ... I have grown in a way that I never thought possible." 

But it has been a year of highs and lows. 

Rosie Batty: Luke did not die in vain

FULL STATEMENT: The death of schoolboy Luke Batty at the hands of his father "could have been prevented, says his mother, but lessons learned will mean he did not die in vain. (Vision courtesy ABC News24)

"This journey has been conflicting, too, as I juggled grief and loss, suppressing my sadness whilst enjoying the most amazing opportunities of my life." 

As she prepares to hand over the Australian of the Year reins to the 2016 winner on Monday evening, Ms Batty says she will not stop working to end domestic violence. 

"Together was have created an awareness of an issue that has always been there and there is so much more to do," she said.

One in six Australian women has experienced physical violence at the hands of a current or former partner. 

"Whilst family violence is still happening behind closed doors, the conversations aren't," Ms Batty said. 

On Monday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the government would grant $500,000 over two years to the Luke Batty Foundation to enable Ms Batty to continue her work. 

"Rosie's voice will continue to be there," he said. 

"A powerful, persuasive, compelling advocate to tell all of us, to remind all of us, that there has to be a cultural change." 

The 2016 Australian of the Year will be announced in Canberra on Monday evening. 

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. In an emergency, call 000.

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