Sunday Herald Sun - - Opinion -

AS A young re­porter in the early 1980s, one of the key parts of the job was to lis­ten to the po­lice ra­dio so when a crime oc­curred, you could get straight on to it. Of­ten, you’d hear po­lice talk­ing about an as­sault, even a stab­bing, in­volv­ing a man and woman. When you called, in­vari­ably they’d say it was “just a do­mes­tic in­ci­dent’’.

“It’s a do­mes­tic,’’ the news­desk would be told. With that, the story’s cur­rency would be de­val­ued. It might make a brief on page 34 but mostly it wouldn’t run at all. It was as if re­port­ing on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, like sui­cide, was taboo.

Decades on, thank­fully, re­port­ing has changed for the bet­ter on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and sui­cide. By talk­ing about it, we’ve given our­selves per­mis­sion to help al­le­vi­ate, to some ex­tent, its per­ni­cious and de­struc­tive con­se­quences. In Queens­land, the ex­traor­di­nary out­pour­ing of grief and con­dem­na­tion of the Al­i­son Baden-Clay mur­der and con­vic­tion of her hus­band Ger­ard Baden-Clay showed why re­port­ing on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is now not only nec­es­sary but im­por­tant.

Baden-Clay’s con­trol­ling be­hav­iour on fi­nances and the emo­tional roller­coaster of vi­o­lence and in­fi­delity cap­ti­vated the Aus­tralian pub­lic. It was as if just about ev­ery­body knew a nar­cis­sist like Ger­ard Baden-Clay.

At the start of 2014, Rosie Batty was like any other Vic­to­rian mother try­ing to nur­ture and pro­tect her son Luke dur­ing his formative teenage years. Her world changed for­ever when her trou­bled for­mer part­ner, Greg An­der­son, killed Luke in a hor­ren­dous at­tack at a lo­cal cricket ground. It was An­der­son’s fi­nal act of con­trol and vengeance af­ter years of vi­o­lence.

The Teacher’s Pet pod­cast se­ries by The Aus­tralian’s Hed­ley Thomas has shone a light on the 1982 dis­ap­pear­ance of Lyn Daw­son. Her then hus­band Chris Daw­son has been charged with her mur­der.

What these cases show is across this coun­try, ev­ery day, ev­ery hour, a vic­tim is suf­fer­ing in si­lence un­til, of course, the com­bustible na­ture of the re­la­tion­ship ex­plodes and tragedy fol­lows.

Thomas has al­ways main­tained that the Teacher’s Pet se­ries was more than a miss­ing per­son case. It was about ex­pos­ing the silent scourge of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and a case that sym­bol­ised a much big­ger prob­lem in mod­ern society. To their credit, both Com­mon­wealth and state gov­ern­ments have con­fronted the is­sue in re­cent years. Laws be­fore the Aus­tralian par­lia­ment pro­pose an amend­ment to Fair Work leg­is­la­tion that would give all Aus­tralian women up to five days a year of un­paid do­mes­tic vi­o­lence leave. La­bor wants to pro­pose up to 10 days of paid do­mes­tic vi­o­lence leave.

La­bor says that would make it eas­ier for women to es­cape abu­sive sit­u­a­tions. Some of Aus­tralia’s big­gest em­ploy­ers, such as Qan­tas, West­pac, NAB, Wool­worths and Tel­stra al­ready pay do­mes­tic vi­o­lence leave. Queens­land and Western Aus­tralia pay 10 days paid do­mes­tic vi­o­lence leave to pub­lic sec­tor em­ploy­ees, South Aus­tralia of­fers 15 days and Vic­to­ria and the ACT of­fer 20 days.

As we ap­proach the fes­tive sea­son, when fi­nances come un­der pres­sure and peo­ple tend to drink too much, it’s im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge we all have a duty to call out this scourge.

When it comes to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, the stan­dard you walk past is the stan­dard you ac­cept. PETER GLEESON IS A SUN­DAY HER­ALD SUN COLUM­NIST

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