BLOG: Why We Need To Remember Anita Cobby, 30 Years After Her Murder

02/02/2016 9:07 AM AEDT | Updated 16/08/2016 3:02 PM AEST

It's a name we all remember. Anita Cobby -- a young Australian nurse who was abducted, assaulted and brutally murdered on February 2, 1986. She was described as a free spirit before her life was so terribly cut short.

Video by Emily Verdouw & Emma Brancatisano

It is remembered as one of the most heinous and calculated homicide cases in Australia's history that left an angered community reeling.

Anita Cobby's murder brought the issue of violence against women into the public arena.

It also turned a family's life upside-down. Left to somehow deal with what had happened were a grieving sister, a husband and parents with nowhere to turn. And with no support.

On the 30-year anniversary of her murder, we are commemorating a legacy that has been forged by those loved ones who were left behind. And through this, we are able to remember her.

We are also commemorating other murder victims. Sadly, they are many. In New South Wales, one murder is committed every three days. Take a moment to consider that. Let it sink in. Then, consider the ripples that each murder leaves behind.

In 1995, just days before Christmas, Angelo Cusumano was shot in his family-run video games store. His eldest son was working in the store as the tragedy unfolded. It's a memory that runs deep. This year, the Cusumano family will reflect on 20 years without that husband and father.

How can we as a community understand and support these people who have experienced such numbing trauma? Sadly, we are inundated with headlines of these tragedies, yet rarely do we take a moment to go beyond the surface -- simply because we do not know how.

But that all changes when you meet, or have known, someone who has lived and breathed it.

For me, that person is my second cousin, Mary Cusumano, Angelo's wife. She is a dedicated business woman, a community spirit and a loving mother to four children. She is also a widow.

Both part of a large yet close-knit Italian family, our connection has been one forged at family get-togethers over plates of lasagna and deep-fried eggplant. I have grown up knowing Mary's story. Yet it has always been her strength of character that has stood out to me most.

Today, Mary is Vice President of the Homicide Victims' Support Group, co-founded in 1993 by the parents of Anita Cobby and those of nine-year-old schoolgirl, Ebony Simpson, who was murdered on her way from school in Bargo in 1992.

Mary organises and attends countless events and meetings held by the group to look after their growing community of affected families. And, together with her children, she continues to run the video games store where she lost her husband.

In the 20 years since that fateful day, Mary has championed reform -- from gun laws to victims' rights -- managed a hardworking team of supporters and inspired grieving families as they face the ongoing battle that is life after homicide.

Mary is not alone in her endeavours. Standing either side of her are equally inspiring individuals and members of the support group who have embraced each other in their grief.

Now they are moving forward. Grace's Place will be a residential trauma centre for children and young people affected by homicide, and it deserves ongoing support. For those who are building it, Grace's Place symbolises hope and celebration of life in the face of tragedy.

The first conversation Mary and I had about Grace's Place was a quiet one, in my nonna's lounge room as the rest of our extended family proceeded to debate whose voice was the loudest. She described to me how a counsellor at the trauma centre would use art to work with a child.

"It is hard to explain, but somehow, when you start to draw, all of a sudden the thoughts in your head start to appear on the paper and your story is laid out in front of you," Mary said.

Tonight, at a memorial dinner, together with the Homicide Victims' Support Group and Anita Cobby's sister Kathryn Szyszka, we will remember the young, free-spirited nurse and her legacy. In doing so, we will honour all victims and their families who have come together after homicide.

For they are unsung heroes. Amidst their own tragic loss, they are continuing to live their lives while honoring their loved ones and trying to fill the void they have somehow managed to battle. They are there for their own needs and for those of the relatives of victims, past and -- sadly -- future.

To me, Mary is a hero. Her compassion will never go unnoticed. Her darling husband will never be forgotten.