Warning: This post mentions domestic violence and may be triggering for some people.

When a horrific domestic violence incident like that of Brisbane mother, Hannah Clarke, who with her 3 young children was murdered on Wednesday morning by her former husband hits the news, the issue of Australia’s response to domestic violence again becomes widely debated. What more could be done?

That is a question we ask ourselves every single day.

Hannah was the 8th woman to die in Australia from Domestic Violence this year* – Sadly, upholding the commonly quoted statistic that 1 woman in Australia dies every week from domestic violence. Last year, 61 women lost their lives in domestic violence incidents.  

Here in the Sutherland Shire, we see hundreds of “Hannah’s” each year – women who are living an unimaginable nightmare, experiencing many forms of domestic violence, trying to leave their violent partners, who fear for their and their children’s lives. Women who come to us for help.  Last month, our Southern Sydney Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service received 427 referrals from Police from the Sutherland Shire and St.George commands, with 32 of those being identified as “At Serious Threat”.  To be assigned that status, Police believe, for whatever reasons, that the perpetrator represents a potential real threat of harm to the woman and we assign additional protective resources to them – just to keep them alive. 

It’s important to know what help is available. Sutherland Shire Family Services provides a comprehensive wrap-around service that does both short and long term work with women, families, young people and children in the Sutherland Shire and St.George areas who have experienced trauma or violence. We focus on capacity, need and connecting people with help that not only provides a safety net, financially and emotionally, but helps people heal from trauma and rebuild their lives. SSFS’ team of qualified professionals such as social workers, family therapists, educators and welfare workers deliver real and practical support to uplift family outcomes. For further information about our Domestic Violence Support Services, please explore our website.

We know that in the wake of the extensive media attention being given to Hannah’s case, many women in similar relationship situations are feeling unsettled and also worried about their own safety and that of their children. This heightened anxiety is important to recognise, but we want to reassure them that there are safe options.  Working with experienced professionals is the best way to work towards safe outcomes.

Safety Planning is the first thing we do with all our clients. We make sure they know the warning signs, know what help is available to them and have support networks in place. It’s a critical first step before any kind of long term healing can begin. If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence, thinking of leaving an unhealthy relationship or just wants more information about support options available, please encourage them to reach out and contact us. Our service operates Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm. If urgent assistance is required, please call 000, or the DV Hotline on 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 (for 24/7 counselling). Here is a list of other Useful Resources.

Or, if you’d like to support SSFS further so we can continue reaching out and supporting women and children impacted by domestic violence and helping to keep them safe, please visit our website here.

Photo Credit: Instagram