Sally Tonkin

St Kilda Gatehouse


On July 21, 2013, Tracy Connelly was found brutally murdered in her home – a van in Greeves Street in St Kilda. Initially few media stories appeared, and those that did focused on Tracy’s involvement in street based sex work.

As the community at St Kilda Gatehouse reeled in shock and grief in the aftermath of the murder, they realised they had a duty to represent Tracy as the clever, funny, warm-hearted woman that she was. They believed the lack of respect and interest from the media was because they considered this attack normal and that in some way she ‘deserved’ it. Gatehouse wanted the community to know that Tracy was important and she was loved, and that her murder was part of the broader issue of violence against women.

This talk will explore the power of perception and what can happen to a community that experiences a shift in perception.


Sally Tonkin has been CEO of St Kilda Gatehouse for seven years. During this time she has significantly led the organisation through a sustained period of growth. Sally’s great passion is working with women who are facing hardship, assisting them to create hope and opportunity. Sally’s background is Occupational Therapy. Sally moved to Melbourne to undertake her Masters in International Development but instead of heading off to Afghanistan she ended up working with a group of women not too far from her own backyard.

St Kilda Gatehouse has been operating for over twenty years, providing support to those involved in street sex work as a result of hardship. It works to address the issues that lead to and keep individuals involved in street based sex work. These issues include family violence, drug addiction, homelessness, poverty, mental health and social isolation. In response to reports of an alarming number of girls and young women being commercially sexually exploited, St Kilda Gatehouse has also established the Young Women’s Project in Dandenong. This Project aims to have an early intervention approach working alongside girls and women as young as 12 years old who are affected by commercial sexual exploitation. The Project seeks to address the specific needs of these vulnerable young women to begin their recovery and avoid the trajectory to street based sex work.