A silent scourge no more

Re­porters now play a vi­tal role in re­veal­ing ap­palling in­stances of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - OPINION - PETER GLEE­SON PETER.GLEE­[email protected]

WHEN I was a young re­porter in the early 1980s, one of the key parts of the job was to lis­ten to the po­lice ra­dio so that if 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. Af­ter check­ing with the cops, 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 to the ex­tent that it might make a brief on Page 34. Mostly, it wouldn’t run at all. It was al­most as if re­port­ing on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence – like sui­cide – was taboo.

“We’ve got an­other jumper,’’ the po­lice ra­dio would crackle as a per­son leapt from the Story Bridge, their spring­board to the here­after.

Decades on, thank­fully, re­port­ing has changed sig­nif­i­cantly 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 Al­li­son Baden-Clay mur­der and con­vic­tion of her hus­band Ger­ard showed why re­port­ing on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is now not only nec­es­sary but im­por­tant. BadenClay’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. There but for the Grace of God go I, some peo­ple mused.

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

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

While it will now be up the courts to de­ter­mine whether Daw­son is guilty of mur­der­ing Lyn, what th­ese high-pro­file cases demon­strate is that through­out this coun­try – ev­ery day, ev­ery hour – a vic­tim is suf­fer­ing in si­lence, un­til, of course, the com­bustible na­ture of the re­la­tion­ship ex­plodes, and tragedy strikes.

Thomas has al­ways main­tained that The Teacher’s Pet pod­cast se­ries was more than a miss­ing per­son’s case. It was very much about ex­pos­ing the silent scourge of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, a case that sym­bol­ised a much larger prob­lem in mod­ern so­ci­ety.

To their credit, the Com­mon­wealth and State gov­ern­ments have at­tacked the is­sue with gusto 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 go fur­ther, propos­ing up to 10 days of paid do­mes­tic vi­o­lence leave.

La­bor says this would make it eas­ier for women to es­cape abu­sive sit­u­a­tions.

Some of Aus­tralia’s big­gest em­ploy­ers like Qan­tas, West­pac, NAB, Wool­worths and Tel­stra, al­ready pay do­mes­tic vi­o­lence leave. Queens­land and West­ern Aus­tralia have 10 days of paid do­mes­tic vi­o­lence leave for pub­lic sec­tor em­ploy­ees, South Aus­tralia of­fers 15 days and Vic­to­ria and the ACT 20 days.

As we ap­proach the fes­tive sea­son, where fi­nances come un­der pres­sure and peo­ple tend to over-in­dulge in al­co­hol, it’s im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge that every­body has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to call out do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Re­mem­ber, when it comes to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, the stan­dard you walk past is the stan­dard you ac­cept. PETER GLEE­SON HOSTS HEADS UP FRI­DAY TO SUN­DAY AT 10PM

Re­mem­ber, when it comes to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, the stan­dard you walk past is the stan­dard you ac­cept.

HAP­PIER DAYS: Chris and Lyn Daw­son on their wed­ding day in 1976. Chris Daw­son has been charged with Lyn’s mur­der af­ter she dis­ap­peared in 1982. Pic­ture: Justin Lloyd

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