Yesterday marked three months since one of the most devastating and horrific mass murders in this country’s history was carried out in broad daylight in suburban Brisbane. It’s been three months since Hannah Clarke and her three beautiful children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4, and Trey, 3, were killed.
Three months since photos of Hannah, a young, vibrant woman with an infectious broad smile, and her three adorable, cheeky, perfectly innocent children, all deeply beloved, broke the heart of this country.
Three months since we learned that an abusive relationship had claimed four victims in the most unfathomably violent circumstances.
Hannah’s brother Nathaniel Clark paid tribute to his sister and nieces in a video on Tuesday.
Their brutal murder was to be a turning point. It had to be. How could it not? It should not have taken loss of life on this scale to jolt us into action but that abhorrent loss of life could not be in vain. Surely, not?
In the days after their deaths, in late February, a Senate Committee was established to conduct an inquiry into domestic violence with particular regard to violence against women and their children. It was due to report in August.
But yesterday the committee wrapped up three months ahead of schedule. It did not seek a single submission or hold a single hearing. It is hard to imagine a more insulting and inadequate response to a national crisis.
“The Committee failed itself, the Australian public, Hannah Clarke and her three beautiful children, Aaliyah, Laianah, and Trey and all victims of domestic violence, past, present and future,” Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick, who championed the inquiry in February, said. “The Committee is reporting three months ahead of time and doing so without seeking a single submission and without holding a single hearing. This is extraordinary, and somewhat unprecedented for a Senate inquiry.”
That this was announced on the three month anniversary of Hannah and her children being killed defies humanity.
Senator Patrick issued an unequivocal and fiery dissenting report.
“The committee was charged through its clear terms of reference to inform itself of past reviews and then examine where domestic violence policies, programs and services needed improving. The terms of reference called for a full appraisal of the current environment, successes and failures, services provided and services in need, with a view of recommending both immediate and longer term measures to reduce the incidence of and death toll from domestic violence.
“The committee was not required to ‘reinvent the wheel’. The committee did not do that. It did not discharge its responsibility to the Senate and, more importantly, the public. It failed in its duty in the shadow of the most horrific recent incidence of domestic violence, the death of Hannah Clarke and her three children.”
Senator Patrick also noted the failure in relation to the increase in occurrence of domestic violence as a result of COVID-19 and that the United Nations is urging all governments to ‘make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19’.
In the last twenty days, six women in Australia were killed violently. Their deaths have barely made a ripple in the news. Six women dying in just 18 days is a national emergency.
Because of the difficult and heartbreaking work of the Counting Dead Women Australia researchers of Destroy The Joint we know that 20 women have been killed violently in Australia this year.
But far from prompting a sense of urgency and co-ordinated emergency response that 20 deaths in any other circumstances would almost certainly attract, there is nothing.
Rather, a Senate Inquiry into the scourge that is claiming lives, six in the last 20 days alone, wraps early. Without a single submission. Without a single hearing.
It is a damning indictment on the values of every politician involved. If the murder of a young woman and her three children under six in broad daylight is not enough to warrant an unequivocal commitment to addressing domestic violence what is?
If you would like to show support for Hannah and her children, her family have a website called SmallSteps4Hannah.
If you or someone you know is in need of help due to family and domestic violence contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732
In an emergency call 000.