Hannah Clarke sanctuary one step closer to providing refuge for coercive control victims

From monitoring your phone and movements to controlling what you wear, coercive control is an insidious, pervasive and dangerous form of abuse. Watch ‘Coercive Control’ on Insight from 8:30 pm on SBS or SBS On Demand.
Warning: some readers may find this article distressing.
The murder of Brisbane mother, Hannah Clarke and her three children, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey shocked the nation. Now her parents, Sue and Lloyd Clarke, have revealed they are one step closer to helping create safe housing for domestic violence victims.
An anonymous Brisbane philanthropist has partnered with charities and to build Hannah’s Sanctuary. The anonymous donor has donated land and is funding the build of the townhouse complex.

The accommodation will have space for nine families who will be able to use the property as a refuge for up to 18 months.

Lloyd and Sue Clarke AAP Supplied Source: AAP / JONO SEARLE/AAPIMAGE

“It’s always been a dream of our two foundations that one day, we could afford to do some safe housing,” Hannah’s mother Sue said.

Small Steps 4 Hannah, a foundation created by Mr and and Ms Clarke to ‘halt’ domestic violence, will be responsible for funding a social worker and furnishing the property once it has been built. Beyond DV will run the refuge once it’s in operation.

“It’s amazing,” Ms Clarke said.

It’s lovely to see that everyone’s working together on this. It’s really great.

Lloyd Clarke

“We’ve been lucky. A lot of people have come onboard. I think the engineers [and] people are giving things at a good price and donating stuff to build, which is fantastic.”

The two foundations hope the sanctuary will be ready to house victims of coercive control and domestic violence by early next year.

The inquest

Hannah Clarke, 31, and her three children aged six, four, and three were murdered on the morning school run in suburban Brisbane in February 2020, by Hannah’s estranged husband.

Earlier this year Queensland’s Deputy State Coroner, Jane Bentley, who investigated the murders, recognised the mother’s bravery but said it was unlikely anyone could have stopped Rowan Baxter from carrying out his premeditated plan.

“I find it unlikely that any further actions taken by police officers, service providers, friends or family members could have stopped Baxter from ultimately executing his murderous plans,” she said.

There’s a lot of men out there who probably will do the same thing.

Lloyd Clarke

Hannah’s parents said they feel more could have been done.
“I’d like to think he would be stopped, he could have been stopped,” Ms Clarke said.

“I like to think that the police could have done something, but unfortunately the way the laws were, their hands were tied.”

Hannah Clarke’s parents, Lloyd and Sue Clarke, arrive at the inquest into the death of their daughter at the Brisbane Magistrates Court, on Wednesday, 29 June, 2022. Source: AAP / Jono Searle

Lloyd Clarke, Hannah’s father, said more funding needs to be directed toward preventative measures.

“We need to have more support for the perpetrators,” Mr Clarke said.
“I think they need to have counselling, must have counselling.
“There’s a lot of men out there who probably will do the same thing.
“If they get a bit more professional help, they might be able to change because it’s all about choices.

“We’re adults, you’ve got to have a choice. And you can choose not to follow that path.”

Ms Bentley also found police and child safety officers failed to assess the safety of Ms Clarkes children.
Ms Clarke said this is an area that requires reform.
“I think it needs to be assessed.
“The children are never considered at all. It’s always father’s rights that are considered.
“Quite often the children are just a tool by perpetrators, to threaten and hold over their partners.”

Hannah Clarke with her children Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey on the first day of school 2020. Source: Supplied / Sue and Lloyd Clarke

Ms Bentley recommended all 89 recommendations made in the Hear her voice report from The Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce [an independent body established by the Queensland Government] should be implemented to protect victims of coercive control.

“All her findings coincided with everything we thought and knew. And we’re happy with her recommendations that she’s made with the police for education and things like that,” Ms Clarke said.

Change to laws

In May, Queensland announced new laws to criminalise coercive control, as part of implementing the recommendations.
In 2021, a report of a federal parliamentary inquiry into family, domestic and sexual assault discussed possible approaches to criminalising coercive control at a national level.
“The federal government is now stepping up,” said Mr Clarke.

“The rest of the states and territories should follow through.”

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. Source: AAP / Mick Tsikas

NSW has since taken action, publishing a for public comment ahead of an introduction to parliament.

The draft bill details “repeated abusive behaviours to a current or former intimate partner, and will carry a sentence of up to seven years in jail.”

Mr Clarke said their next project is to ensure the laws become nationalised to protect victims across Australia.
He says he is pleased with the uptake from states and thanks advocates for collaborating to raise awareness.
“Collaboration of organisation has actually helped get the law across because it became a bigger talking point,” he said.
“It’s lovely to see that everyone’s working together on this. It’s really great.”
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit . In an emergency, call 000.

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