Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist



Talullah Gardiner

Year 8, Lisarow High School

It sickened her to know that no matter what, she wasn't always safe.

She knew that anything could happen to her, anywhere and anytime,

Walking home, band practice, empty hallways, even her own front lawn.

It sickened her to know that her beloved siblings weren't always safe either.

They are so small and naive. And any day could be her last with them.

So, she always told them “I love you”

It sickened her to know that not all victims survived.

Last breaths were taken at the hands of the violator.

And some victims may still be behind closed doors.

It sickened her to be catcalled.

It's not a compliment. It's not a competition of who gets more, and it's not a game.

It sickened her to be seen small.

Small and vulnerable.

Seen as prey and looked at like food.

It sickened her to even try to imagine.

Imagine being used. To be a toy. To be abused and violated at will.

Left beaten, confused, ridiculed.

The only person you could reach out to, is your abuser.

Imagine that happening every day.

It shook her to the core.

It left her paranoid.

Do not trust anyone. Anyone?

Ringing in her ears left her dizzy.

“I'm not safe”

Clammy hands massaged her swelling stomach.

“I never will be”

Red rings around her eyes from restless worry.

“This could happen to my sister”

“even my brother”

That would destroy her.

She found it sickening to imagine the brutal torture.

Being stripped of innocence. Being all alone.

Being taken over and over.

Feeling dirty.

Hungry for freedom.

Starved of basic human needs. Ripped away from normal life.

That's the worst way to be.

She found herself rocking back and forth.

Telling herself that she will be okay. But will she?

She doesn't understand why people can do such cruel things.

How can you bring yourself to hurt a human being?

How sick can you be to do that?

So, every day she is vigilant.

Looking both ways to cross not just the street.

Be friendly, but not too friendly, or you might get taken advantage of.

She is told that she can't even take a walk down the street.

She is told that she must be home before the sun sets.

She is told to keep her skirt down

“What's wrong with my legs?”

She is told to keep her buttons done up

“What's wrong with my neck?”

She is told to have some modesty,

But how would having modesty stop her from getting assaulted?

She wants to be sure that she is safe.

She wants to be able to live happily without the black cloud of assault following her around.

It sickened her to have to ask,

But How long will she have to wait?