Prominent Melbourne anti-violence campaigner Tarang Chawla delivered the keynote address at the launch of a new campaign for an Australian-first Women's Trauma Recovery Centre to be established in the Illawarra.
Nikita Chawla was many things - a beloved daughter and sister, a talented performing artist and choreographer, a 'trailblazer' with a bright future.
But, says her brother Tarang, there was one thing she could never be - and that is "just a number".
Mr Chawla founded 'Not One More Niki' a movement to end violence against women and stop others from becoming 'statistics' after Niki was brutally murdered by her husband with a meat cleaver in 2015.
"I like to say that home should never be where the hurt is, and yet that's the painful and hollow reality of families all across the nation who are permanently shattered by men's choice to use violence," he said.
"So far this year 45 women have been killed across Australia, last year in 2019 60 plus women were killed, in 2018, 66 women were killed across Australia, in 2017 that number was over 70; in 2016 that number was over 80, in 2015 that number was 86.
"There are so many statistics when it comes to men's violence against women, but to families like mine they're not just a number.
"My little sister Niki was murdered in January 2015, she was the first domestic violence homicide that year. She was and always will be just 23."
The prominent Melbourne campaigner was in Wollongong on Wednesday to deliver the keynote address at the launch of a powerful exhibition by Mercury photographer Sylvia Liber featuring survivors of domestic violence.
The launch was also a call to action to join the #VoicesForChange campaign and help the Illawarra Women's Health Centre establish a Women's Trauma Recovery Centre.
"If we have a trauma recovery centre we have places for women to go, to be cared for, to heal, to make it through to the other side," Mr Chawla said. "If something like this existed for Niki, she'd still be here and she's just one of countless women taken.
"Together we have the power and the courage and the commitment to prevent this violence ever occurring in the first place. The establishment of Australia's first women's trauma recovery centre is a crucial step as part of our crusade."
Tarang and Niki came to Australia with their parents from India in 1988, with "two suitcases and $100". Tarang was a proud big brother, supporting Niki's achievements as a flourshing performing artist who started her own business at 18 while still at university.
"Men's violence against women changed things for me, changed things for us, my family, my extended family," he said, "but in the most final of ways it changed things for my baby sister Niki.
"It took away the opportunity for her to ever recover, to heal, to create and to give back, which is what she loved."
Mr Chawla will never forget the moment he and his parents lives changed forever, when the police came to the door to tell them Niki had been murdered.
"Niki's untimely and brutal death marked the end of an abusive and controlling relationship in which we know she suffered, she suffered needlessly at the hands of a violent and possessive individual," he said.
"It wasn't all physical, there was coercive control, financial abuse, technological abuse, so many escalations that led to that final act of control to take her life from her.
"... Niki died after being ambushed while sleeping by a man who was armed with a meat cleaver and far superior physical strength."
It was left to Mr Chawla to identify his sister's body, to read the autopsy report where the coroner confirmed that she'd sustained no fewer than 35 separate stab wounds.
"Niki's death was horrific, tragic and cruel ... but it was also illuminating and still, almost six years on after she died, it's an opportunity for all of us ... to understand the realities of domestic and family violence," he said.
"I thought that Niki being intelligent, driven, ambitious and achieving her career goals and the promise of a blossoming future would mean she was safe ... but violence doesn't discriminate."
Mr Chawla said for too long, domestic violence had been viewed as something to be handled "behind closed doors".
"What's worse is that those people who make it through to the other side do so not because we're there standing beside them to empower them," he said.
"They do so because they have the resilience to pick up the pieces while we ignore the power of hope and healing or self empowerment."
He urged everyone to take "collective responsibility" to address the issue - to keep the pressure on government to fund services, and to take action to stamp out gender inequality, misogyny and sexism.
"I want to see a centre for women and children and families to receive the support they need to heal and rebuild their lives, and I also want to see men taking accountability for their actions."
HOW TO HELP
We ask that you send an email to your local lower house MPs State and Federal, as well as upper house State and Federal Senators/MLCs asking them to support the establishment of a Women's Trauma Recovery Centre:
Once you've sent the email, let us know what response you get.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.