Betty Taylor from the Domestic Violence Death Review Action Group. Photo Sherele Moody / APN NewsDesk
Betty Taylor from the Domestic Violence Death Review Action Group. Photo Sherele Moody / APN NewsDesk Sherele Moody

How the dead can save the living from terror at home

THOSE who die at the hands of a loved one could be the key to a domestic violence-free future.

Betty Taylor, a frontline domestic violence worker for almost 30 years, believes society can learn a valuable lesson by examining every detail of a domestic homicide.

In 2004, Ms Taylor, Diane Mangan, now the head of the state's only 24-hour DV help line, and sexual assault specialist Di Macleod decided to put the ideal "the dead can better protect the living" into action.

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They set up the Domestic Violence Death Review Action Group, which began lobbying for a high-level independent expert-based panel that would have the job of investigating every domestic murder in the state and using its findings to influence the way governments and our society approach the problem.

"Overall in Australia, homicide rates are decreasing but homicide between intimate partners isn't," Ms Taylor told APN Newsdesk.

"Queensland is above the national average for intimate partner homicides.

"We know there are well over 20,000 applications going through the courts for protection orders and often many of those are breached with impunity.

"Police go back to the same residence, often multiple times, that shelters are filled to capacity."

In May, Ms Taylor and Ms Macleod circulated a petition lobbying the State Government to appoint such a panel.

By the end of June, 10,000 people, including countless domestic violence victims, had signed the document.

The petition was handed to the State Government.

This week, those voices were heard and answered as Attorney General Yvette D'Ath announced the State Government would appoint Queensland's first Domestic and Family Violence Death Review Board.

Ms Taylor was over the moon to hear the news - not because the fight was won but because she fervently believed this board would save lives.

"There's so much that we know but it's about how we start to look at what the homicides are telling us that's not working," she said.

"We know that when women die they've often reached out to multiple services. They may have protection orders, they may have tried to leave, their partner may have dealt with police and courts, there's no one holding them accountable for the violence.

"The review would look at all of these patterns to see where the system is letting victims down.

"In the end it will reduce the deaths."

A spokeswoman for Ms D'Ath said experts in forensic medicine, criminal investigation and policing, domestic and family violence victim support services and the justice system would sit on the board.

She said they would show how services worked for and failed victims.

"It would make recommendations for tangible improvements to systems, policies, procedures and strategies to try to prevent further domestic and family-violence-related deaths," the spokeswoman said.

Ms Taylor's colleague, Di Mangan, said the concept could make the future safer for countless women and children across the state.

"In America where they have these high-level boards there was a reduction in the number of homicides," the CEO of DV Connect said.

"After campaigning for 11 years, the domestic violence sector is delighted to hear there will now also be the introduction of the death review board within the coroner's office."

Domestic violence groups and frontline workers say more than 45 Australian women have been killed by partners or other family members this year.

If you or someone you know needs help, phone DV Connect on 1800 811 811, DV Line on 1800 656 463 or 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.


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