Why I started the Red Heart campaign

The very personal motivation behind a social media campaign to memorialise women and children lost to violence.

Sherele Moody
The Walkley Magazine
6 min readDec 7, 2017


In 1963, a man abducted and murdered a gap-toothed, freckle-faced five-year-old girl, wrapped her body in a corn sack and left her to rot in the boot of a car in Townsville.

Twenty-seven years later and some 1,000 kilometres away in Roma, the same man abducted, raped and murdered a sandy-haired blue-eyed nine-year-old girl, wrapped her body in a garbage bag and dumped her by a creek.

I did not know these little girls, but their murders have haunted me for more than a quarter of a century.

Their names were Sandra Dorothy Bacon and Stacy-Ann Tracy.

The man who killed them was my stepfather, Barry Gordon Hadlow.

As time goes by, I fear Sandra and Stacey-Ann — and countless other children and women murdered in our country — will become little more than footnotes in Australian history.

Stacey-Ann Tracy

That’s why I’m building an online memorial to women and children lost to violence. The memorial is hosted on The Red Heart Campaign Facebook page.

Sandra Dorothy Bacon

When I started The Red Heart Campaign in September 2015, I had no idea I would spend much of my free time building Australia’s saddest catalogue of violence.

Why I started The Red Heart Campaign

I started my journalism career about 25 years ago when the Toowoomba Chronicle offered me a cadetship. Since then I have worked for APN, News Corp and Fairfax as a journalist, subeditor and page designer.

In October of 2014, while reporting on regional issues for APN, I was tasked with working on a special campaign examining domestic and family violence. Over the following months I filed about 50 stories on the topic. The more I wrote, the more I came to realise that the violence and abuse I experienced as a child still shadowed me like a rabid dog.

I decided to write my story of survival. Putting pen to paper was as terrifying as it was cathartic, as exposing as it was liberating.

It also opened my eyes to the incredible healing power of words. I wanted to give other survivors the same opportunity to share their experiences.

The Red Heart Campaign started in September 2015 with just one goal — providing a platform for domestic and family violence survivors to share their stories of trauma, hope and inspiration.

Each contributor would write their story and send me a photo of a red heart drawn on their skin to publish alongside their words.

The Hearts of Courage stories flowed. And then I discovered a group of women who wanted to go one step further.

Sick of hiding in the shadows they, decided to let me photograph them and share their stories under the “Why I Stayed” banner.

Since kicking off The Red Heart Campaign, I have shared about 200 stories via the Hearts of Courage project and about 45 stories and survivor portraits via Why I Stayed.

While every survivor’s experience is unique, their stories are bound together by deep personal loss, incredible strength, steely determination and extreme bravery in the face of the worst kind of cruelty any human can inflict on another.

What else does The Red Heart Campaign do?

Red Heart has more than 41,000 followers across Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram and it continues to grow daily.

While story sharing is a vital component of the campaign, it is also a great platform to lobby for change.

Last year, for example, I used the campaign’s social media accounts, a Change.org petition and mainstream media engagement to force Facebook to shut down the Blokes Advice page for recklessly allowing followers to post material that encouraged the physical and sexual violence against women.

Behind the scenes, the campaign provides ongoing emotional, social and court support for almost 500 survivors and for women who have lost a loved one to violence.

The Campaign’s Kids in Crisis project collects and distributes care packs for babies and children who have been made homeless as a result of domestic violence. It also provides a pro bono legal service for financial abuse victims.

I have also partnered with a mental health support agency to provide free writing workshops for domestic and violence survivors.

The campaign recently gained not-for-profit status in Queensland but everything is done on the smell of an oily rag — in other words, I fund it entirely by myself.

Sherele Moody

Why does Australia need a memorial to women and children lost to violence?

Creating Australia’s only online memorial to murdered women and children is the best — and most important — journalism of my career.

I’ve spent more than 600 hours researching victims, tracking down their photos and writing their stories.

Victims are added to the page regardless of the context in which they died or the perpetrators’ gender. That said, statistically the killers are overwhelmingly male and most of the deaths involve partners, former partners or other family members.

Where criminal proceedings are current, I take great care to ensure stories do not breach court reporting rules. I add the voices of family and friends so readers understand what the victim was like in life. I also list the killer’s name and their sentencing outcomes.

It often amazes me how little time some killers spend behind bars and it’s not unusual to find killers who have murdered more than once.

Thanks to media outlets going digital, finding victims murdered since the turn of the century requires a lot less research

But the older the murder, the harder it is to add a victim to the site. I often find myself trawling through print archives and reaching out to family members in the hopes of finding photos and filling in the gaps of the person’s life and death.

I have managed to document murders from as early as 1949 and I hope to find victims from the early 1900s and the 1800s.

When will the killings stop?

Reputable data sources reveal that one in three Australian females will experience physical violence, one in five will be raped and one in four will be emotionally abused in her lifetime.

Violence against women remains one of our country’s biggest problems, with more than 300,000 female victims reporting assaults every year.

Most of those women and girls will not be killed, but they will deal with the physical and psychological repercussions for the rest of their lives.

For those who do lose their lives to this preventable epidemic, it’s likely their faces and their names will eventually fade from the public’s consciousness — that’s why Australia needs this memorial.

I cannot find the words to describe how devastating and terrifying the memorial is, but I can tell you that its sheer scale is a grim reminder of the toll domestic, sexual and family violence is having on our country.

Sherele Moody is a News Corp journalist and this year won a Queensland Clarion Award and the Our Watch award for best use of social media.