The horrific death of Ms Clarke and her three children after her estranged husband Rowan Baxter set fire to their car, has already marked itself on the nation’s consciousness but it will take years for their deaths to be acknowledged in official statistics, or to be classified as filicide.
It’s a situation that some believe may put lives at risk and misses the opportunity to act as a deterrent for acts of domestic violence.
Greens Senator Larissa Waters has been pushing for a national, real-time toll of women killed by violence, similar to the national roll toll.
“We have a national road toll to keep public attention on the issue and encourage people to be more careful on the road,” she told news.com.au.
“We think the same awareness and deterrence could occur if we have a national toll on women killed by violence.”
Counting Dead Women, run by Destroy The Joint, monitors the death toll — and has updated this year’s figures to eight women killed after Ms Clarke’s murder this week — but Senator Waters says it shouldn’t be left up to volunteers to keep track of the numbers.
The latest report from the Australian Institute of Criminology’s National Homicide Monitoring Program contains data on victims and offenders dating back to 2015/16.
A motion for a regularly updated national toll was passed in the Senate last year and Ms Waters said she had written to Minister for Women Marise Payne in July to push her to take action but had not received any response.
“This government needs to treat the epidemic of violence against women and their children as a national crisis and urgently take meaningful action to keep it citizens safe,” Ms Waters said.
When asked whether the Federal Government would consider a real-time toll, a spokesman for Minister Payne said it was important the data the government used was robust and reliable.
“This can take time to verify. Information must be accurate as well as timely,” he said.
Last year the shocking statistic that one child was killed by their parent almost every fortnight in Australia was revealed but this was due to the work of Monash University researchers.
RELATED: Family reveals extent of Baxter’s controlling behaviour
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Monash Deakin Filicide Research and Education Professor Thea Brown said they published the statistic after analysing data from National Homicide Monitoring Program over 12 years from 2000 to 2012.
“(The National Homicide Monitoring Program) collect the data regularly from the police and the coroner’s offices from around Australia but they don’t report or publish the data every year, so you’ve got to do a special study to find out the actual numbers,” she told ABC last year.
Prior to their study there were only estimates of the children killed by their parent or guardian.
The report showed 52 per cent of perpetrators were male and 48 per cent were female. Mothers killed 133 children, fathers killed 109 and stepfathers killed 41 children.
Prof Brown said by not monitoring or acknowledging the problem, this makes it less likely that services will recognise the signs.
“When they are confronted with people (who) say something about feeling like killing their children, they don’t recognise the severity of the problem, that it’s likely to happen, and they don’t really know what to do about it either,” she said.
The rates of filicide in Australia are actually higher than in England and Canada, Prof Brown said, and there wasn’t a good explanation for why.
However, she said rates in both countries were dropping and there had been strong recognition in England in particular that there was an issue, which they are monitoring, studying and taking action on.
This week the Federal Government announced $2.4 million in funding for men’s behaviour change programs to address domestic violence but Senator Waters believes this is not enough.
“This pitiful and belated amount shows the government continuing to ignore women and experts on the scale of action needed to address domestic violence – instead they give (Senator) Pauline Hanson an inquiry platform to call women liars,” Ms Waters said.
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Senator Waters said an urgent investment of $5.3 billion was needed for a new 10-year National Partnership Agreement on Domestic Violence and Violence Against Women between state and federal governments.
The Greens proposal includes providing $128 million over four years to men’s behaviour change programs and early intervention programs; and boosting funding to frontline services by $2.2 billion.
About 1000 domestic violence survivors per month would be given direct grants to help them rebuild their lives, and $100 million would be spent on building more crisis accommodation over two years.
“We must treat the number of Australians who survive or are killed by domestic violence as the national emergency that it is. No survivor should be turned away when they need help,” Senator Waters said.
“There have now been eight women killed by violence in 2020, after 61 were murdered last year.
“This can be the decade where we ensure women and children are safe in their homes, on our streets or wherever they are. But it won’t happen unless we lift our ambition now and resource a comprehensive domestic violence plan.”
Hannah Clarke, 31, and her three children aged 6, 4 and 3, were killed on Wednesday after estranged husband Rowan Baxter set their car on fire.
RELATED: Rowan Baxter ‘threatened to kill child from previous relationship’
RELATED: Killer dad was a ‘master manipulator’, victim’s parents say
RELATED: Hannah Clarke told relatives she was ‘so glad she got out’
Rosie Batty, who led the discussion on domestic violence in 2014 after her 11-year-old son Luke Batty was murdered by his father Greg Anderson, has urged Australia’s leaders to think deeply about their leadership.
“I am overwhelmed and, like so many, full of despair. This unspeakable act of violence should give pause for all our elected leaders to think deeply about their leadership on this epidemic,” Ms Batty said.
“This is the most pressing issue of terrorism our society faces – where at least one woman each week is murdered.
“A critical challenge we must now address, as a nation, is the family law court system and the significant part that it plays in keeping children safe.
• On average, one woman is killed every week by a current or former intimate partner. In recent years, more than one woman a week has been killed.
• 74 Australian women and 27 children died in 2019, most at the hands of someone they loved.
• Every day, eight women are hospitalised with critical injuries inflicted by an intimate partner.
• One in six women and one in 16 men have experienced physical or sexual violence.
• One in four Australian children are exposed to family violence.
• Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of death, disability and illness in Australian women aged 15 to 44.
• Australian police attend a ‘serious domestic dispute’ every two minutes around the clock, equal to 720 incidents a day.
• Four out of 10 women continue to experience abuse after they have separated from their partner.
Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s report Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia: Continuing the national story 2019