“I promise you she has done that walk a million times.” White, who first met Dixon in 2013 and has performed gigs with her on a weekly basis since then, says that as aspiring artists who get between three and five gigs a week “to catch a cab home would make us broke.”
Dixon, 22, had left Melbourne’s Highlander Bar some time after 10.30 PM on June 12 after she and White had participated in a comedy night. Her body was found in the early hours of June 13 in the middle of a soccer pitch in Princes Park in the city’s inner north, about 900m from her Carlton North home.
Less than 24 hours later, 19-year-old Melbourne man Jaymes Todd handed himself in to Broadmeadows police station and was later charged with the sexual assault and murder of the comedian.
“The last couple of days have been a blur,” says White, 25. “From Tuesday night hugging her goodbye and saying ‘See you next Tuesday’ to this.”
Dixon’s senseless murder has provoked an outpouring of grief and anger from within the comedy community and beyond. Calls for greater action to keep Australian women safe from violence came, from the Prime Minister to Dixon’s class of 2013, friends from Princes Hill Secondary College. “This park was more than just a park to us,” Dixon’s classmate Alex McNamara told The Australian newspaper during the peaceful vigil in Princes Park on June 18. “You walk through this park and remember all the great times you had here. Now, when I was walking through with a couple of mates, it is haunted.” Addressing parliament on June 18,
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: “Women must be safe everywhere. On the street, walking through a park, in their homes, at work.” Offering prayers and sympathies to Dixon’s family, Turnbull called for a change in “the hearts of men to respect women. We start with the youngest men, the little boys, our sons and grandsons, and make sure that they respect their mothers and sisters and all the women in their lives.”
Reflecting on Dixon’s all-too-short life, White described the budding entertainer as an intelligent, independent woman who was mature beyond her years. “You
would never think she was 22,” he says. “She did what she
wanted. She could be in a lovely floral dress one day and head to feet in black commando gear the next.” Dixon had recently finished her sell-out shows as part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival. “It was just such great stand-up, unique stand-up that you don’t see often. It was fresh,” says White. “The potential she had.”
But behind Dixon’s fearless sense of humour was a backstory of tragedy and bullying. In an interview with
The Australian newspaper, comedian and mentor Kieran Butler said that Dixon, by her own admission, was “a strange sort of unit. She got bullied and she had a tough life at home. There’s tragedy in her past.” Heartbreak struck early for the young girl. When she was 7 years old her mother, Karen Walters, a political activist and recovering heroin addict, was found dead at a Brunswick shopping centre. “We were aware she lost her mother at a young age but she didn’t make a focal point of it,” says
White. “Her family life and her comedy life were very separate.”
At the time of Walters’s death in 2003, the 43-year-old mother of four had fought a 10-year addiction to heroin, finally getting off a methadone program the year before she died. According to Walters’s friend
Joe Toscano, who wrote an obituary in the Anarchist Age Weekly Review in May 2003, she was “a troubled soul battling her own internal demons while extending a helping hand to those around her.”
Inheriting her mother’s desire to reach out for others, Dixon’s social conscience and willingness to support her local community was ever present.
“She always was held by her beliefs,” friend Raka Supriatna, tells WHO. “About five months ago she started volunteering at Lentil as
Anything (a not-for-profit cafe in the northern suburb of Thornbury) and we have been working together ever since.”
Supriatna, 23, who has known Dixon since they were teenagers, says she visited the cafe as a customer but soon signed up as a volunteer. “I remember when she started volunteering she was a bit quiet,” he says.
“And then as the shift went on she would open up and by the end of it she was a force to be reckoned with.”
Dixon’s failure to turn up at the cafe on June 19 was noticed by the staff. “It was pretty heartbreaking to hear the news and the news spread quickly,” says Supriatna, choking back tears as he describes the
sombre mood at the eatery. “We still have her name tag sitting up on the wall.”
Joining the chorus of voices calling for greater efforts to provide a safer environment for Australian women, Supriatna shares his hope that his friend’s death will not be in vain. “I hope
women don’t have to walk at night in fear anymore. I hope this is a wake-up call to the systems in place that have women living in fear,” he tells WHO. “For her to die this way is f--king horrible. She was such a strong woman but I know she would want us to fight for it and against it and stand up and actually do something.”
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