Hannah Clarke’s mother and a domestic violence support organisation have an ambitious plan to teach teens about the warning signs of an abusive relationship.
Hannah Clarke’s mother and a domestic violence support organisation have an ambitious plan to teach teens about the warning signs of an abusive relationship.

Plan to teach domestic violence warning signs to youth

HANNAH Clarke's mother and a domestic violence support organisation have an ambitious plan to teach Queensland teens about the warning signs of an abusive relationship - and hope to eventually take their talks to schools.

Sue Clarke and Beyond DV founder Carolyn Robinson say they want to take their message to as many young people as possible so they can prevent a problem rather than fix one.

"I'd rather be educating than picking up the pieces," Carolyn said.

"We will always be there to help women rebuild but I'd rather not do that.

"I'd rather stop it before it starts."

Hannah and her children, Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3 were murdered one year ago yesterday when her estranged husband ambushed her as she was taking the children to school.

He doused them with fuel and set them on fire, shouting at people to stop when they rushed over to help.

He killed himself moments later, but Hannah, who had burns to her entire body, stayed conscious long enough to tell police what he had done.

Now, her mother is dedicating her time to helping other women and wants to be involved in educating young girls and boys about coercive control and other forms of abuse.

Sue and Carolyn have already held a "pilot" event with 35 people - mothers and daughters - where they spoke of different types of abuse before hearing from domestic violence survivors who spoke of their own experiences.

The seminar also involved representatives from Queensland Police and DV Connect who spoke about how women could seek help.

Less than 10 per cent of calls to DV Connect's Womensline are made by women under 25, with the organisation concerned young people are not reporting abuse.

"In the days after, we had several mums contact us to say their daughters had been greatly impacted by it and had seen those controlling behaviours in their own relationships and were not going to stay in those relationships," Carolyn said.

"Another girl had been talking to someone online and recognised those behaviours and blocked him."

Murder victims Hannah Clarke and her son Trey.
Murder victims Hannah Clarke and her son Trey.

Beyond DV is hoping to secure funding to hold seminars across Brisbane and even in regional areas, as well as visiting schools. They also plan to hold talks with boys and their parents.

Sue said it was important to "get the message out there" so people understand what coercive control is.

"We are going to have little wallet cards for the girls to keep in their wallets with different signs of unhealthy relationships, so they can say, this isn't good," she said.

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said teaching young people about domestic violence was "absolutely critical".

"We can have really great laws but if women themselves aren't empowered to come forward and recognise that what is happening to them is domestic violence, that it is coercive control, then we're not going to successfully prosecute anyone," she said.

"And I think it's also important for the wider community to understand so that they can talk to their friends and family and say look, I'm really concerned that your partner is controlling where you go, restricting your access to money, dictating what you wear."

Natalie Hinton, whose daughter Tara Brown was killed by her partner, said she was a big supporter of increasing domestic violence education.

Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3 were murdered by their father.
Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3 were murdered by their father.

"We need to stop domestic violence being generational," she said.

"There's probably kids at school who hide the fact that mum and dad have these massive big fights and mum is not allowed to do this and that and the kids are often thrown against walls.

"So we've got to let these kids know, let that next generation know that we can break that cycle, that it's not okay, what they're seeing and hearing and witnessing is not okay and they have help out there if they need it."

Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Council co-chair Kay McGrath OAM said a lot more traction was needed when it came to educating children about domestic violence.

"We need to teach and role model to our children, empathy equality and respect," she said.

Brisbane Domestic and Family Violence Service CEO Karen Walsh said education was one of the most important tools in tackling domestic violence.

"Community education and awareness in schools and workplaces is really critical," she said.

"Our workplaces, our schools, community organisations all have to take on that role."

LNP education spokesman Dr Christian Rowan said educational programs were critical to stopping domestic violence.

"Kindness, understanding, empathy and compassion, are the cornerstones of respectful relationships, and these qualities must be further instilled in our young Queenslanders, as a key component of school-based education programs," he said.

Originally published as Plan to teach DV warning signs


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