On February 20, just before COVID-19 became virtually the world’s sole focus, Australia witnessed one of the most horrifying family violence murders in recent history. Thirty-one-year-old Hannah Clarke and her three children, Aaliyah, six, Laianah, four, and Trey, three, were burned to death by the children’s father and Hannah’s estranged partner, Rowan Baxter. He ambushed them as Hannah was putting the kids in the car to take them to school, dousing the vehicle in petrol and setting it alight in broad daylight outside Hannah’s parents’ home on a suburban Brisbane street. The three children were killed inside the car. Hannah was on fire as she stumbled from the burning vehicle and died in hospital later that day, after suffering burns to 97 per cent of her body.
Since then, Google reports a 75 per cent surge in searches for domestic violence.
And while the murder of Hannah and her three children was meant to be the catalyst for change in Australia, to finally see coercive control and partner violence taken more seriously, as Jaeneen Cunningham, the chief executive officer of Safe Haven Community, previously told marie claire Australia: "We've done nothing."
In a period of four weeks, Australia has seen five women lose their lives to violence.
Emerald Wardle, an 18-year-old woman, was found dead inside her home near Maitland on June 20. Her boyfriend, 20, has been charged with murder.
Karen Gilliland, a mother-of-three from Rockhampton, died on June 23 after being stabbed by her estranged husband in front of two of their children.
Liqun Pan, a 19-year-old student, was found dead in her Wolli Creek apartment on June 28. Her boyfriend is alleged to have attempted a murder-suicide, and he was later found with serious injuries and remains in an induced coma unable to speak to police.
Roselyn Staggard's husband found the "doting grandmother" in their home in Caversham, WA, on July 1 after allegedly being killed at the hands of her own son.
Elaine Pandilovski, an education support staffer, was found murdered in her Melbourne home on July 14. Her estranged husband Zoran Pandilovski has since been taken into custody.
It's five lives too many.
The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line – 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) – is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any Australian who’s experienced, or is at risk of domestic violence and/or sexual assault.