As the year draws to a close, our ARTD team have been reflecting on what we’ve learnt and achieved. In this blog, Emily Yorkston writes about ARTD’s evaluation of the Southport Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Court Justice Response, which concluded in mid-2022.
In the afternoon of 19 February 2020, I sat in the glass office tower high above the Brisbane Magistrates Court, speaking with a Magistrate as part of our evaluation of the Southport Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Court Justice Response. While we talked, sirens sang a macabre chorus throughout the city. As we finished our conversation, my phone flashed with an update, describing the death of Hannah Clarke and her children. As we now know, Hannah was murdered by her estranged husband just days after bravely giving evidence about the extent of the coercive controlling behaviour she experienced at his hands.
Hannah’s death brought coercion and control into the forefront of public debate.
That conversation continued in parallel with our evaluation. We finalised the evaluation in February 2022, and our final report was cited by the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce’s Hear Her Voice report. Hear Her Voice made 89 recommendations to further reform the domestic and family violence specialist service systems to ensure they keep victim survivors safe and hold perpetrators accountable.
In a landmark decision, the Queensland Government announced its in principle support for all the recommendations. This means the government is using the evidence presented in our final evaluation to continue to roll out specialist domestic and family violence courts across Queensland.
This is really important to me.
At the same time as we were finalising our report, I supported a family member who was ending a violent relationship. Her matter was heard in a non-specialist court and, although every effort was made to ensure the experience was the least painful for her, she found it difficult to navigate the legal pathways. She was fortunate to be educated about the civil and criminal jurisdictions, she was personally and professionally well supported and, perhaps most importantly, when she told her story she was believed. Others are not so lucky.
Since the evaluation was finalised, it has continued to be used to support change.
Recently, I joined cyclists from across Brisbane to raise awareness of domestic and family violence. In opening the event, Jonty Bush MP, spoke about the Queensland Government’s ongoing efforts to reduce DFV, including the expansion of specialist domestic and family violence courts.
It was an incredibly proud moment to stand on the sidelines and understand that our work is contributing to necessary public policy changes.
Hannah Clarke’s legacy is that coercive control is better understood, better recognised, and better responded to. It’s my hope that the legacy of our evaluation is that it underscores the importance of this type of response to ensuring victim survivors are supported, and perpetrators are held accountable and continues to be used to develop practice.