I have often found it interesting to see what grabs media attention and what doesn’t. All sorts of “trivia” can be elevated to the status of “current affairs” while other more serious issues hit the cutting floor. In recent times, we have seen the role media has played in our recent federal election, promoting one party over another, promoting fear of “boat people” which has translated into an increase in racism in Australia. (http://www.humanrights.gov.au ) and now singing along to the “nothing to report” song sheet of government.
Similarly we are now seeing a heightened media focus on bikies with Premier Newman informing that Criminal Motorcycle Gangs pose the greatest threat to Queensland today. http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/opinion-strong-antigang-laws-vital-to-shield-the-innocent-in-bikie-battle-says-cmc-boss/story-fnihsr9v-1226750041912
The hurriedly passed VLAD Laws have divided the community, receiving widespread criticism from many within the Judiciary and beyond. Media have almost become consumed with bikies and the government’s response to them.
Now I am no fan of bikies and I don’t like to see guns in my favourite shopping centre. However, I don’t agree bikies pose the “greatest threat” to Queensland. For thousands of Queensland women, the threat is so much closer to home. Family violence is still the silent ‘crime’ that steals the security, health and social well being of those who live with the reality of such violence. Tragically at times it ultimately ‘steals’ their life.
The “get tough on crime” paradigm promotes the notion that we are all at serious risk on the streets. I am not down playing community safety, but we also need a reality check. Between 2008 and 2010 there were 520 homicides in Australia: 36% of these were classified as family violence and a further 37% were classified as acquaintance homicides. Only 13% were homicides committed by strangers against someone unknown to them. In Queensland the scene is even grimmer where 41% of homicides were classified as family violence…5% above the national average. This trend for Queensland is not new. In 2004, some of us who were concerned about this homicide trend formed the Queensland Domestic Violence Death Review Action Group. Our goal is to advocate for the establishment of a death review board to review each homicide in an attempt to form better responses and interventions.
In 2008 I wrote a discussion paper Dying To Be Heard. http://www.wdvcs.org.au/files/D315135830.pdf
A quote I used in Dying To Be Heard sums up the risks many women face.
“ I thought he would kill us. He threw my son into the back of the van and dragged
me into the front seat. He punched and punched me until I passed out. He bit my
face like a ravenous animal. ……….He said he would hunt us down and kill us
both if I tried to leave again. It was no idle threat.” (Beyond These Walls, p.17 1988)
This women’s frantic plea for help is mirrored in the thousands and thousands of calls made to domestic violence services across Queensland every year.
Each time there is a death, we hold a Red Rose Rally to highlight this travesty within our community.
Last Thursday, we gathered outside the Brisbane Supreme Court to remember 5 women, 1 man and 1 child who had died in recent months. At the same time, within courtroom 16 of the Supreme Court the murder trial continues for Noelene Beutel’s “alleged killer”. It is reported that Noelene was killed, stuffed into a wheelie bin, dumped in the boot of her car, driven to bushland and the car then set alight with Noelene’s body in the boot. http://www.news.com.au/national/queensland/wayne-mcclutchie-accused-of-punching-partner-noelene-beutel-to-death-before-dumping-her-in-the-boot-of-a-car-and-setting-her-body-alight-in-bushland-at-tanawha-sunshine-coast/story-fnii5v6w-1226750178703
On the day of her death, Noelene wrote on her Facebook page “time to leave”
This is the end result of family violence. Women die for loving the wrong person and then having the audacity to leave. For families shattered by homicide, it brings a lifetime of grief and agony.
There were several journalists outside the Supreme Court awaiting “news” on the outcome of an appeal application to revoke bail for a bikie. This court case is certainly seen as controversial given the government’s approach to judiciary regarding VLAD and media were gathering on the scent of a “story”.
Journalists gathered outside the Supreme Court were asked twice if they were interested in picking up a story of domestic violence deaths. On both occasions, we were told that we were too “passive”…not news worthy. Just a group of 30 people gathered to say we do not want women and children dying in our community.
One journalist who did pick up this issue of late has been Paul Weston of Gold Coast Bulletin who has written a comprehensive investigative special ‘Fatal Family Fisticuffs: Why the violence in Coast Backyards can be more threatening than bikies” Couldn’t agree more. It is not bikies that are posing a threat to women & children (unless they are partners of bikies who are violent towards them) Violence lurks in the homes of the rich & well to do as well as within homes of those of the lower end of the economic scale. It is widespread and pervasive. Access economics estimates it costs the Australian economy $13.5 billion every year.
Those who endure abuse, grow up with abuse and survive abuse carry scars for a lifetime.
But not to worry no story here…carry on.