Victoria’s Commissioner for Children, Bernie Geary, hopes the ‘inspiring’ words of Tyabb mother Rosie Batty, whose 11-year-old son Luke was killed at a cricket training session this week, will change the way the community views mental illness.
Mr Geary said a review would be conducted into the services provided to the Batty family. He confirmed that Luke’s 54-year-old father, Gregory Anderson, who killed the 11-year-old on Wednesday before he was shot after threatening police with a knife, was wanted on outstanding warrants for domestic violence matters.
Chief Commissioner Ken Lay revealed there were five warrants out for 54-year-old Anderson’s arrest at the time he killed Luke.
Yesterday, Ms Batty told reporters of her “shock” and “disbelief”, explaining that her estranged partner was a man who loved his son, but a man who had suffered from an undiagnosed mental illness for two decades (read the full story here).
“Our sympathies go out to this unbelievably brave woman and to hear her speak is just actually inspiring,” Mr Geary told ABC radio.
“It’s a sad story of the anguish and incomprehensible actions that happen sometimes that travel with mental illness. The intention of the review is to look at how we can enhance services, look at what works best and in this case what maybe hasn’t worked.”
Mr Geary said he did not want people with mental illness to always be tarred with the brush of violence. “There are so many people in the community who suffer bravely with mental illness issues [who] are certainly not violent,” he said.
Victoria Police Commissioner Ken Lay also described the incident as the “very, very worst kind of family violence”, and said Rosie Batty has “been living in fear, tormented by a person who loved her”.
“Young Luke died in horrific circumstances” said Commissioner Lay. “We know there are thousands of Lukes out there at risk. We know there are thousands of Rosies out there at risk … We need to get better at this.”
Rosie ‘living in fear’: Lay
Speaking to media today, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay described Rosie Batty as a woman ‘living in fear’.
“This is not about Rosie’s decision making. It not about what she did or didn’t do. It’s far broader than this,” Mr Lay said. “Rosie has for the past decade been living in fear, tormented by a person who loved her. She is not alone.”
Commissioner Lay said there had been procedural failures which left Greg Anderson free. Anderson had warrants out for his arrest, but they were not visible to Tyabb police.
“Should we have been better able to predict? We’ve known there’ve been shortcomings in the Victoria Police IT system for a decade,” Commissioner Lay said. “It needs to be brought into the modern times.
Commissioner Lay said that while the system had been neglected for 10 or 15 years, he did not blame the IT system exclusively for the Tyabb tragedy.
“That’s one part of a very broad investigation. I want to be absolutely clear. I am not saying the IT system was the overall issue here. It was one part of it. This is one piece of it.”
On January 27, police attended an address in Chelsea to talk with Anderson. At that time, there were five outstanding warrants for his arrest, but officers were unaware of them because of “shortcomings in the IT system”.
Prime Minister ‘horrified’
Also this morning, Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Fairfax Radio about his shock over what he described as ‘an absolute unspeakable tragedy and just horrific beyond words’.
He said every Australian needed to do their bit to stamp out domestic violence, but questioned whether every tragedy should force a change in government policy or programs.
“If we hear of anything untoward, we should take appropriate action and if it’s police or judicial officials, we’ve got to act very swiftly on the basis of any credible evidence,” he said. Mr Abbott said the government had a national plan to deal with domestic violence.
“I am sure that everyone in this field will be galvanised to be even more vigilant as a result of this, but I’m not sure every tragedy requires a change of policy or every tragedy requires a new program,” he said.
“What we need to ensure is that everyone does his or her job as well as we humanly can. The awful tragedy of life is that sometimes terrible things happen.”