Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Home : Literature : Brereton Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

 

 

 

Real men stand up

MELBOURNE HERALD SUN 2005

Ask a football lover about 1989 and they'll tell you it was the year Dermott Brereton was shirt-fronted at the opening bounce of the grand final only to drag himself to his feet and inspire the Hawks to the premiership. Some will recall that a week earlier I'd coached Coburg to consecutive VFA premierships at Windy Hill. But how many could recite the name of the judge who that year sentenced Peter Keogh to three years and eleven months gaol for stabbing my 25-year-old sister, Vicki, to death? Despite widespread revulsion at the manslaughter verdict and the leniency of the sentence, no one in authority expressed a single word of sympathy to my parents.

On 26 October 2005 at the Lexus Centre, home of the Collingwood Football Club, Dermott Brereton, big tough Aussie Rules footballer, and robust union leader Dean Mighell uttered the words no politician or legal luminary has been prepared to say. 'I've never known a man of real courage who's raised a hand to a woman,' said Brereton in launching my latest book, Getting away with murder. 'There should be zero tolerance,' added Mighell, secretary of the predominantly male Electrical Trades Union.

Getting away with murder tells the real story of the killing of Julie Ramage by her businessman husband, James Ramage, in Balwyn in 2003. Like my sister, Julie Ramage was accused of provoking her estranged husband to lose control and kill her. It cut no ice with Brereton, who in describing the book as confronting said he 'despaired of men hiding under the shadow of provocation' and that such violence was 'cowardly'.

Although Dermott Brereton isn't known for publicly discussing violence towards women, his words were profound. For Julie Ramage's twin sister, Jane Ashton, and my mother, Lorna, they were the heartfelt words of a man who other men admire. Finally, someone, albeit a celebrity sportsman, had said 'sorry'. For mum it was a moving moment.

Unlike many men who inhabit the macho culture of this town, Brereton is no apologist for male violence. 'Why do we need to educate footballers about violence towards women?' he asked. 'Don't they know right from wrong?' Sometimes the mother or sister of a murdered woman needs a man like Dermott Brereton to say these things. As Jane Ashton noted, 'Maybe if my sister had a friend like Dermott she'd still be alive'.

Sixteen years have passed since my family watched in disbelief as Justice George Hampel granted a provocation defence to Peter Keogh after he'd stabbed my sister more than a dozen times outside the kindergarten in Coburg where she worked. I still say the gaol term handed down by the judge made a mockery of her human rights. Had I not been a football identity and later a politician, and had I not spent these years campaigning against the law of provocation the real story of Vicki's brutal murder and the humiliating manslaughter verdict might never have been told. Keogh hated me writing or speaking publicly about the murder.

James Ramage is said to be depressed about the publication of Getting away with murder. Incapable of saying sorry for bashing and strangling his wife and dumping her in a bush grave, he wants his children to believe the book is full of lies and that it was their mother's fault. There are no lies. Hiding behind what Dermott Brereton called the 'shadow of provocation' the cowardly Ramage allowed his wife's character to be savaged in court and as a result received a paltry eight years gaol. He'll be out in six.

The Bracks government's decision to abolish provocation isn't the end of the matter. The challenge is for other 'real' men to join Brereton and Mighell in the struggle against family violence and the myth that women lie about rape and violence. Just as he did in that courageous football career, Dermie has grabbed the hard ball. Who'll be next? That's the question.

Phil Cleary


 

 


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