To my daughter


Words by: Xian Warner / 27.07.2021

A poem by our Research and Partnerships Manager, as a follow-on from her blog last year about being pregnant during the pandemic.

Content Note: this poem has themes of violence against women and girls. If you are feeling affected by this post, please reach out to your local helpline. For resources in Australia visit For support services in the NT visit Bush Support Line, NT Government, and/or WOSSCA. For support services in Timor-Leste visit

Words by: Xian Warner / 27.07.2021

A black and white photo of a woman holding her daughter to her chest.
Photo taken by Xian Warner

To my daughter.

Just over a year ago,
You rushed into the world,
Right into the middle of a global pandemic.
And while COVID-19 has brought me much anxiety,
It is that other pandemic,
From which no country has escaped,
And for which there’s no vaccine,
That truly scares me.

Working for more than a decade
On ending men’s violence against women, girls, and gender-diverse folk,
Boundaries have been key to my survival.
But becoming a mother of a daughter
Requires a whole new level of




How can I act like everything’s okay,
When I know the stats
Like the back of my hand
That now supports your head,
As you contentedly guzzle milk?

Somewhere, right now,
Another baby is guzzling milk
In his mother’s arms.
At this exact moment,
This baby is as
As you are.

But, at some point in his life,
He will make you feel

That is a painful thought.
And one borne out by statistics.

In just a few short years,
We – our society – will teach him
That he has a right to harm you.
He will learn, from:
The sexism in our movies,
The misogyny in our social media comments,
Our all-male panels,
Our gender wage gap,
That you are the lesser;
That he is justified in using his power over you;
That he should express himself through aggression.

He will also learn, from:
Our protecting of abusers,
Our promotion of harassers,
Our questions about

And, more than anything, from
Our silence,
That, whatever he may do to you,
The system will have his back.

Like all women, I, too,
Have experienced this discomfort, disrespect, and fear.
I still do.
But the different genes in your blood
And darker tones in your skin
Mean that the tapestry of your experience
Will be very different to mine.
The system’s threshold of acceptance
Of his behaviour towards you
Will be higher;
Its silence,
The boundaries of what it lets him do,
More malleable.

We will raise you to be:
But no matter how much
We instil in you,
It will never fully protect you
From his actions.

But, then, I have to remind myself:
It’s not about protecting you.
That’s a bandaid solution, at best
(With one of those silly bandaids
That fall off
As soon as people try
To wash their hands of the issue).
Isn’t this rhetoric,
Swirling around in my head
Just replaying the same, old picture
Of girls in need of saving?
Of you as the lesser?

How do I reconcile
My parental urge
To always keep you safe
And my principles
For you to live as his equal?

I’m trying to change the world for this aim,
But I fear I can’t change it fast enough
For you.

These are the thoughts
That keeps me up at night nowadays,
My daughter.