News National ‘Seek help earlier’: Brisbane car fire tragedy prompts urgent advice for violent men

‘Seek help earlier’: Brisbane car fire tragedy prompts urgent advice for violent men

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As the nation reels from the murder of another woman and her children, family violence experts are warning the “horrific” deaths inside a car inferno must be a wake-up call to other violence-prone men.

Partners who are displaying the warning signs they could turn to violence are being urged to “seek help earlier” – before it’s too late.

Hannah Clarke, 31, died on Wednesday night, after her children, Aaliyah, 6, Lainah, 4 and Trey, 3 were burned alive when their father Rowan Baxter ambushed the family with a knife and poured petrol on them as they headed off to school.

It has emerged Mr Baxter, 42, had a history of family violence and had been ordered by police not to come within 20 metres of his estranged wife.

Police are probing the deaths and it’s expected a future coroner’s investigation will consider if there were any systemic failures by authorities before the murders.

Hannah Clarke died in hospital on Wednesday evening, hours after her children and estranged husband were killed. Photo: Facebook

Ms Clarke, a fitness trainer who used to run a gym with her former NRL player husband, described herself on Instagram as a “proud mumma” who was “in love” with her “two little princesses and little prince”, referring to her three children aged under 10.

The devoted mother is the eighth woman to die by violence in Australia this year.

Statistics show that by this time next week at least one other woman will be killed.

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The Baxter children: Aaliyah, 6, Trey, 3, and Lainah, 4. Photo: Facebook

Last year, 59 women died by male violence – more than one woman a week on average, according to Destroy the Joint’s Counting Dead Women tally.

Australian police attend a ‘serious domestic dispute’ every two minutes around the clock, which is equal to 720 incidents a day.

Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of death, disability and illness in Australian women aged 15 to 44.

Less than three weeks ago, another woman died in Melbourne after she was stabbed to death in front of her three children by her ex-partner.

Just leave? Here’s why it’s not that simple

The most dangerous times for women in abusive relationships are when they are making the decision to leave their partner, actually leaving, or having just left.

Other high-risk times are when a woman becomes pregnant or has just given birth, said Jacqui Watt, CEO of No to Violence men’s referral service.

“It’s about a man’s attempt to exercise power and control,” Ms Watt said, adding the “horrific” mass murder in Brisbane was not an isolated incident.

“Family violence isn’t a poverty disease – it’s everywhere – and it’s to do with the relationship between men and women, and the value we place on human life,” Ms Watt said.

“The (Brisbane incident) in particular is making more news because it’s got the celebrity status attached with the husband’s sporting career, and the physical horror of it is catching attention.”

Ms Watt said the only way we are going to stop the source of family violence in Australia is if violent men take more responsibility for their behaviour.

“Men need to seek help earlier and we are here to help,” Ms Watt said.

“They need to take responsibility for regulating their own reactions and responses, and to stop blaming their partners.”

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Hannah Clarke died from her injuries just hours after her estranged husband burned his family alive. Photo: Facebook

CQ University domestic violence expert Dr Marika Guggisberg said some women chose to stay in an abusive and violent relationship so they could protect their children.

“Children can be used as effective weapons during separation and family court negotiations,” Dr Guggisberg told The New Daily. 

As a society, we need to get better about talking about family violence more openly if we are going to help prevent shocking murders like the Baxter family car fire, she said.

“Anything that happens in the privacy of the family home seems to make us uncomfortable,” Dr Guggisberg said.

“If men recognise that things are not right, they need to be able to obtain help – not just the women and children.”

Lifeline: 131 114
Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978
beyondblue: 1300 224 636
No To Violence men’s referral service: 1300 766 491

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