Legislative Council: Thursday, March 23, 2023


Coercive Control

The Hon. T.T. NGO (15:00): My question is to the Attorney-General. Will the Attorney tell the council about the Clarke family, parents of the late Hannah Clarke, who visited South Australia to continue discussions in consultation on criminalising coercive control?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:01): I thank the honourable member very much for his question. There would be members of this chamber who would be familiar with the truly horrific story in 2020 that the Clarke family endured. In 2020, on the Gold Coast, a woman, Hannah Clarke, along with her three children, Aaliyah, who was six years old, Laianah, who was four, and Trey, who was three, were brutally murdered by her ex-partner. Hannah was taking her children to school one day when her estranged husband jumped in the car, doused them all in petrol and set them alight at Brisbane's Camp Hill.

During a coronial inquest into their deaths it became evident that during the years leading up to the atrocity Hannah was being subjected to coercive and controlling behaviours from her ex-partner. Since that tragedy that turned their lives upside down, Hannah's parents, Sue and Lloyd Clarke, have been fierce and tireless advocates for domestic violence and coercive control awareness and reform, having set up the anti-domestic violence strategy Small Steps 4 Hannah as part of their action and call for change.

The foundation Small Steps 4 Hannah exists to halt the cycle of domestic violence so that everyone can feel respected, informed, confident to act and safe. The anti-domestic violence charity seeks to educate, advocate, support and fund projects that deliver these objectives in eradicating domestic violence. The Clarkes were formally recognised for the impact of their work in reforming coercive control laws when they were named joint recipients of the 2022 Queensland Australian of the Year award.

Earlier this month, it was a privilege for South Australia that the Clarke family were able to come to our state to help continue the difficult but important conversation about coercive control and how we can progress change here in SA to try to prevent such tragic circumstances as they experienced from recurring.

I had a very sobering but exceptionally motivating meeting with Sue and Lloyd during their visit here and was quite frankly staggered with their strength and courage to speak of their own tragic story in losing their daughter and three grandchildren to coercive control. Sue and Lloyd also offered some insightful personal perspectives about what changes they feel are needed to mitigate the chances of such tragedies recurring.

One of the key points they continued to raise was the importance of education and awareness raising about these types of behaviours that are coercive and controlling and the integral role of talking and sharing concerns with others when someone you know is displaying or is on the receiving end of concerning behaviours in a current or former intimate relationship.

On 15 March, the Minister for Women and the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, the Hon. Katrine Hildyard, hosted a public forum on coercive control called 'See the signs', where the Clarkes spoke to a sold out public event. The forum, at which there were, I am informed, somewhere around 400 registered participants, was chaired by social commentator Jane Caro AM and facilitated by a panel of expert speakers across the domestic and family violence service sector, including the CEO of the Zhara Foundation, Kelly-Ann Tansley; the CEO of the Women's Legal Services in SA; and Craig Rigney, the CEO of the Aboriginal Domestic Violence Service, KWY.

This expert panel, along with a powerful address from the Clarkes and also the Minister for Women, helped facilitate some robust discussion involving the audience around the complexities we have to grapple with when talking about coercive control and how to end it. The forum comes amidst the consultation round tables the Minister for Women has been facilitating in the lead-up to the drafting of the legislation on a bill to criminalise coercive control, as was a commitment by the government.

I wish to sincerely thank the Clarke family for making the journey to South Australia and for being so brave in sharing their story for us to ensure that we have the most robust protections we can in implementing change around coercive control to try to prevent as much as possible these tragic circumstances from recurring.