Get Real: Talking mental health & disability

Family Violence: When fathers kill their children - with journalist and author Megan Norris

November 15, 2023 The team at ermha365 Season 4 Episode 90
Get Real: Talking mental health & disability
Family Violence: When fathers kill their children - with journalist and author Megan Norris
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Our special guest, veteran court reporter and author, Megan Norris talks about her book 'Look What You Made Me Do' which examines revenge killings by estranged fathers during marital breakdowns.

This episode of Get Real comes with a strong content warning. Topics discussed include family violence, suicide and the murders of children. Listener. Discretion is advised.

Domestic Violence and Family Court Lawyer Kathleen Simpson, who was named the Queensland Solicitor of the Year in 2022 said Megan's book is "A must read for all domestic and family violence professionals, DFV frontline workers, educators, judiciary, police, lawyers and students, as an important resource to guide in what could be done, or should be done, to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future".

Find out more about Megan at her website megannorrisauthor.com
 
FURTHER READING/LISTENING
When Parents Kill (ABC News)
Fathers who kill (ABC Radio Local)

If you need help phone 1800 RESPECT - Australia's national domestic, family and sexual violence counselling, information and support service on 1800 737 732.

If you or someone else is in immediate danger phone Triple Zero 000 in Australia or the emergency number in the country you are listening from.

ermha365 provides mental health and disability support for people in Victoria and the Northern Territory. Find out more about our services at our website.

If you have been affected by anything discussed in this episode you can contact:
Lifeline on 13 11 14
13 YARN on 13 92 76 (24/7 crisis support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples)

ermha365 acknowledges that our work in the community takes place on the Traditional Lands of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and therefore respectfully recognise their Elders, past and present, and the ongoing Custodianship of the Land and Water by all Members of these Communities.

We recognise people with lived experience who contribute to GET REAL podcast, and those who love, support and care for them. We recognise their strength, courage and unique perspective as a vital contribution so that we can learn, grow and achieve better outcomes together.

Speaker 1:

Get Real is recorded on the unseeded lands of the Boonarong and Warungery peoples of the Kulin Nation. We acknowledge and pay our respects to their elders, past and present. We also acknowledge that the first peoples of Australia are the first storytellers, the first artists and the first creators of culture, and we celebrate their enduring connections to country, knowledge and stories.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to Get Real talking. Mental health and disability brought to you by the team at EARNA 365.

Speaker 1:

Join our hosts, emily Webb and Karenza Louise Smith, as we have frank and fearless conversations with special guests about all things mental health and complexity.

Speaker 3:

We recognise people with lived experience of mental health and disability, as well as their families and carers. We recognise their strength, courage and unique perspective as a vital contribution to this podcast so we can learn, grow and achieve better outcomes together.

Speaker 4:

This episode of Get Real comes with a strong content warning. Topics discussed include family violence, suicide and the murders of children. Listener discretion is advised. If you need help, phone 1-800-RESPECT. Australia's National Domestic, family and Sexual Violence Counselling Information and Support Service on 1-800-737-732. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, phone 000 in Australia or the emergency number in the country you are listening from.

Speaker 5:

And so I wanted to give these women a collective voice that would be so loud and so powerful that nobody could possibly ignore what they had to say and we might learn lessons from them. At chapter 8, that's one of the new chapters, the two new chapters I've written I spent nights of not being able to sleep. It's just the case of Robert Edwards, who executed his two teenage children who were carrying under a desk. I never slept for nights after I wrote that case and I couldn't figure out what it was about that particular case, because they were all absolutely terrible cases. What was it about that case that made me unable to sleep or eat? And I realised after it was because I was really angry. I was really angry that every single agency failed that family, and I think that's what kept me awake.

Speaker 4:

Megan Norris is a journalist and author of More Than 40 Years who specialises in court reporting and working with victims' survivors of crime. Megan recently updated and re-released her book Look what you Made Me Do, originally published in 2016. It is the exploration of revenge killings by fathers of their children during marital or relationship breakdown, and it won the 2017 David Award from Australian Sisters in Crime for best true crime-bob, domestic violence and family court lawyer. Kathleen Simpson, who was named the Queensland Solicitor of the Year in 2022, said Megan's book is Megan. Thank you so much for joining us on Get Real Talking Mental Health and Disability, and we are going to be talking about some very difficult topics today. You face them fearlessly and you've been reporting on them for many years decades in fact, haven't you?

Speaker 5:

I have more than 40 years. I'm long in the twos.

Speaker 4:

You've been a reporter for a really long time and an orator.

Speaker 5:

Yes, I started in the 70s in a big newsroom in the UK and graduated to courts and then I moved from courts to covering the untold stories behind the court case and it's those cases that really interested me more. You know you can cover the court case for people to hear to know what happened in court with the offender, but the real stories were the people who were living with the impact of violent crime.

Speaker 4:

And you've been very busy in the past few years. You're always busy, but you've released three books, award-winning books, in fact. The book we're going to talk about today is a re-release of a book that you published in 2016, and it was about a topic that really wasn't being spoken about a lot, but you have been reporting on this since the 1980s at least haven't you?

Speaker 5:

I have and for me I cover all court cases and I often covered the cases that other media didn't choose to cover because they don't have the staff. You know they've got maybe five people on a court team and they're told which stories to go and cover, and so I would sit in on the ones that nobody really knew much about, that no one was told to cover. And I also sat in on intervention breaches. I had a big beef about intervention breaches, so women who'd taken out an AVO against a violent partner and that offender would break the AVO again and again and again, and I could not get my head around that why the court would, or the police would, serve a piece of paper and ordering this person to stay away and not to follow, stalk, harm, threaten, all those sorts of things, and within hours of that order being served, they go and break it and then the police would tell them off and they'd serve another breach and then they'd break that too. And one of the cases I covered in the book that I've just written look what you made me do that offender breached his intervention order 28 times on the day he turned up for the last time and murdered their little girl 28 times. What was everybody thinking of and what was everybody doing about that? So I used to cover those cases and make a noise. How come this guy was allowed to break in and hide behind the door and take the handle off so that when she came home and entered the bedroom there was no door handle for her to escape from him and he got told off?

Speaker 5:

And that happened in one of the cases in my book, michelle Stack, one of the mothers she'd left her husband, who was very violent. She'd gone to live in a country town in the Darling Rangers in WA with her two little babies. He had sneaked into the house and installed himself in the ceiling space. His name was Kevin East. He was hiding in her ceiling space watching her and she left the house one day with the two little kids and forgot something. And she returned to the house in time to hear the toilet flushing.

Speaker 5:

So he had come down to use the bathroom. She realized it was him, bolted out of the house, drove straight to the police station and alerted them. And they turn up, get up in the roof space, finding up there he's got wrappers and empty drink cartons God knows what been up there for ages months and they allowed him to take a shower before they arrested him. Her shower, they allowed him to use her bathroom because they felt sorry for the poor, desperate guy. Now, if that had been a stranger, you know, he'd have been charged with breaking and entering and all sorts. But this was a violent ex-partner she had fled from. This is months and months after they were separated and he was taken down to the police station after he was allowed to use her shower, where he got off with the telling off.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, and you know that case was quite a while ago and you were reporting on this long before there was the real publicity, the community advocacy and the government backing for preventing violence against women. I mean, a lot of groups have been doing a lot of work, but can you tell me about, look, what you made me do? Because you first wrote it in 2016 and now you've updated it and re-released it and, sadly, things have not improved. In fact, I'm sure that you'd probably agree they've got worse. So can you tell us about the book and the inspiration for why you wrote it in the first place?

Speaker 5:

Yes, I originally because I was covering court. I was asked by a mother called Cindy Gambino who was the surviving parent in a revenge killing case, and this is where her former partner, very disgruntled man, robert Farquherson in Victoria, decided he was going to kill the kids to pay her back big time. His words, I'm going to pay her back big time. He told a friend that three months before and on Father's Day 2005, he had the children for access, for an access visit, and he deliberately plunged his car, drove it off the road on the approaches to Winchill Sea, which is a rural community towards the Great Ocean Road. He drove the car into a dam and he swam away and left the kids to drown. He claimed he'd had a freak coughing fit. That was later disproved and it was revealed that it was a deliberately planned murder to pay her back for leaving him.

Speaker 5:

In doing that book, I wanted people to understand the lasting nature, the lasting nature of the punishment that these crimes are meant to be. So you know people don't get it. They'd say how could a loving dad possibly kill his own flesh and blood? He must be mentally ill, he must be depressed. No, these are crimes that are motivated by spite and revenge. They are deliberate, purposeful crimes designed to inflict the worst possible punishment on the surviving parent. So the kids aren't actually the targets. The kids become collateral damage in crimes that are aimed at the surviving parent. So in writing Cindy's book I wanted to give her suffering some perspective so people would understand how it's meant to be a forever punishment. And in Cindy's case it was. It was a punishment that she took to her grave and she said she would. She said she did not envisage that she would live a long life. She was what? 35 when this happened. She couldn't imagine she would live a long life with that kind of pain. The burden of the pain was so great and she was just 15 when she passed away of a cardiac episode. So you know she did. She died of a broken heart.

Speaker 5:

So to give that book some perspective, I revisited some of the other cases and trust me, there were lots. You know I chose at that time for the original book. I wrote about seven cases and I thought I would write a concluding chapter to Cindy's book where the other mothers who were further along the journey could talk about the mental anguish that these crimes are meant to be. The crimes are meant to cause the guilt, the shame, the depression, the post-traumatic stress. I wanted people to understand that and just how it is a forever pain. But in doing that chapter I realised the stories that I'd revisited were equally as bad as Cindy's. They were all dreadful cases and they were all textbook revenge cases. So I pulled the chapter out and decided not to do it. That way it was. They were too powerful to lose in a single chapter altogether.

Speaker 5:

So I decided to write a completely new book called Look what you Made Me Do, and that title is taken from the words of one of the offenders and he said these are self-entitled, self-righteous men. They feel completely entitled to do this and they're quite justified. They can justify it. They blame their wives for the violence they've perpetrated during the relationship, they blame them for the failure of the marriage when women have had enough, and they blame them for the crimes themselves. And each one of those men had said something like look what you made me do. Now look what you've made me do. Others had said I'm going to get you big time. No one does that to me and gets away with it. So in each case, each of the men had said that and I revisited the book and I wrote seven cases looking at the whole domestic violence climate, the breaching of intervention orders that had led up to the crime, and there were many and there were many red flags and they were all missed.

Speaker 4:

Megan, I was at the launch of your book on Father's Day I can't remember what year that was, but what really struck me was Cindy was there and you had three very powerful speakers to launch that book, including Steve Fontana, who was then high up in Victoria Police and had worked on Cindy's on the case and getting Farquhs and jailed, and also Deb Kirkwood, who is very influential in the family violence space in Victoria, and Danny Blay, who was then the CEO of Mensay Nota Violence, which I believe has changed name now to Nota Violence. I was really struck because it was the first time I can remember and certainly these people said it as well that the crimes that you were writing about and what happened to Cindy and her sons was really actually the ultimate form of family violence. So can you talk a bit about that? I don't think anyone had really connected dots before then, had they?

Speaker 5:

No, I think in doing my research and when I looked at these cases, what they all had in common was that none of these women had ever been heard. So these women, all of them without exception, had warned either doctors or lawyers or friends or someone, people in authority, dv workers, social workers. They'd all, at different stages, said this guy is unraveling, he's dangerous, he poses a risk to my children. I don't think he's safe to have them unsupervised or at all, and not one of them were hurt until the children were dead. So to me there were lots of red flags Breaching an intervention order is an immediate red flag and all of those guys had got examples of stalking, breaching avios, all doing similar things. They felt completely entitled, and so when I was doing the launch and I was writing the book, I noticed that in all of those cases there were predictors and they were missed or dismissed or minimized. No one listened, and that was my point in doing the book.

Speaker 5:

Initially I thought all of these women had a voice that was ignored or not heard. I want to give them a voice and I think by putting them all together so you read case after case, you see the themes in the men's behavior, in that the relationship collapse you see, the animosity after the relationship collapse and all of these things, I thought if I put them all together, the red flags would be unmissable and they are and that the warnings that went unheeded. Well, they were loud and clear but they weren't listened to. And so I wanted to give these women a collective voice that would be so loud and so powerful that nobody could possibly ignore what they had to say and we might learn lessons from them. So that was my motivation for the book.

Speaker 5:

But it became very clear to me in writing the book that this was actually the ultimate act of domestic violence that a man could commit against his partner or former partner. It was the absolute ultimate. And I spoke to criminologist Dr Judy Wright. I spoke to Dr Debbie Kirkwood, who's the international expert in retaliatory philicide, which is the murder of a child by a biological parent to punish the other parent. She offered to do the forward to the book for me because she said you know you're right, it is the ultimate act of DV and you know how could it not have been seen?

Speaker 5:

So I wrote the book and Steve Fontana, who was deputy chief commissioner of Victoria Police at the time. I invited him to the launch and he offered to launch it for me, to launch the book for me, because he felt there were warning signs that community police were seeing, that there were signs that were being missed and when the police acted on those warning signs, maybe the court didn't follow through. So they arrest someone for breaking an aviator but the court doesn't do anything about it or they're ineffective. So he thought it was a very important message and he offered to launch the book and I'd invited Danny Blay because domestic violence Victoria helped me organize the launch. They wanted to be part of it too and Danny Blay actually rang me and said would you like me to be your emcee? Because this is a very important message we need to be spreading at grassroots, to men, to young men, to angry men, and we need to be supporting men better during the marital breakdown process.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, it was. I just found it really interesting and I know, look, as a younger journalist myself, I think you'd read and write about these cases in isolation and looking at it now there's so much more awareness and for you, I mean, you were writing about these cases for newspapers, magazines and in particular, there were women you've known for a long time and written about their cases and told their stories. This happened to like in the 1990s, but no one was really connecting the dots, were they?

Speaker 5:

They were not. And look, michelle, I deliberately, when I wrote the book, went back three decades, because what I wanted to show is the pattern these things were happening. We didn't have a name for some of these behaviors. Then we didn't have a term coercive control. I called it when I wrote about it in the early 90s. I called it mental cruelty, mental abuse, emotional manipulation, sexual abuse, financial abuse. Now they all come under the umbrella of coercive controlling behaviors, which are actually about to become law in Queensland any day.

Speaker 2:

You've been listening to Get Real talking mental health and disability brought to you by the team at Irma 365. I'm not sure what's happening in the area Get Real is produced and presented by Emily Webb, with Carinza Louise Smith and special guest. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.

Speaker 5:

It's in the right direction and so, having written the book, I had seven cases in the original book in 2015 and that won the David Award in 2016 from Sisters in Crime, australia. The landscape has changed a lot in the eight years since I wrote the original book and I kept getting requests from people saying I can't get that book, where can I get that book? And by now, my publisher that published that book had gone and the book had been taken on by a different publisher and they were not really doing any more with it. So I'm with a new publisher, big Sky Publishing, and they said would you like us to re-release some of your back titles, especially look what you made me do? I get a lot of requests from DV workers and I said I think that would be great, but the landscape in DV has changed significantly in eight years and I think it would be dated. I would have to.

Speaker 5:

The cases have not changed, the crimes have not changed, but I think I would have to do some more recent cases and I particularly wanted to choose cases where coercive control was a strong feature, because coercive control is potentially just as deadly as physical violence and people underestimate that. You know it's really potentially deadly, and I chose two textbook cases where coercive control turned fatal for a number of children, for five Australian children. So I said I'd have to redo, I'd have to do to write and research two new chapters to give it currency. And also, cindy Gambino had passed away of a broken heart and you know she said it was a suffering she would take to her grave, and she did. She passed away.

Speaker 5:

Last year, another warrior called Rebecca Paulson, who'd become a very prominent ambassador for white ribbon, and her nephew and niece and her elderly father were murdered by her former brother-in-law in a crime of revenge. She passed away. And also new things had happened. You know police now wear body cams. The Royal Commission in Victoria in 2015 released hundreds of recommendations, which many have since been implemented, like designated domestic violence, police stations and, you know, special officers, trained officers.

Speaker 5:

So I needed to revisit all the research and the results were shocking. So, while people see that and most people now know, I think most people are now aware that one Australian woman will die every week at the hands of a former partner or a current intimate partner, and we all know those figures. And we also know that 10 Australian women are admitted to hospitals around the country every single day with injuries inflicted by a former or current partner. So we all know that. All we don't know many people don't know is that one Australian child dies every fortnight at the hands of a biological parent in an act of domestic violence it's hard to believe, isn't it because we see these reports and people go, oh no, he was such a good bloke, or we never saw this coming.

Speaker 4:

But over your years of reporting and going to court, you, you could see the pattern, couldn't you? And, in particular, you saw things set in court, say by the judges. Can you talk about that and how that kept this particular crime? It's philicide, isn't it? It's family violence, philicide that Deb Kirkwood is a specialist in and has been writing about, and you are a specialist in it too in terms of your work. What was it that?

Speaker 5:

you were noticing in court and you, you were thinking, no, this isn't right well, very few of the cases actually get to court because in general the offender will kill themselves also. So they kill the children. They make sure the wife knows the surviving parent knows the kids have gone, he's taken her kids and then he'll kill himself. He may or may not have been flirting with the idea of suicide, but in Eversbury there is no court case, there's an inquest. In Robert Fakus's case there was an inquest, there was a court case. Because he wanted, not only was he going to kill the kids, he wanted to stick around and see the destruction that it did, that his crime had caused on their surviving mother. And so he dragged her through, he used the system and I thought at the time not only has he punished her by killing those children, he has milked it. So having driven into the dam and she's one of the cases in the book, look what you may be doing having driven the kids into the dam, he swims to the highway on a freezing, cold September night and he flanks down a couple of young guys and asked them to take him for a lift, to give him a lift to winchalcy, and they say he's saying my kids are dead, they're drunk, you know they're dead, they're gone, they're in the water. And they say we're in the water. What can we do to help? What? What do you mean? Your kids are dead. Shall we call the police? Shall we call triple O? And he says no, I want to lift into winch to tell my ex-wife that the kids are dead. Now that in itself is astonishing. And they said what do you mean? You want to lift? You know your kids. It just said your kids are dead. But that's what he wanted. And so they drove him into winchalcy where he turns up, drip him wet on the doorstep to deliver the bad news himself. More to the point, to see the shock on Cindy's face when that news registers which he did she then panics and makes him get in the car. She says well, why where are they? He said they're in the water. What water? So she drives him back to the scene of the crime where she's running up and down in the dark on her own mobile phone ringing triple O.

Speaker 5:

And that tape recording was played at Robert Farkas's trial. It was the most harrowing, single, most chilling piece of evidence I've ever heard ever heard in a court case, because Cindy's anguish at the scene of the crime as she's running up and down the paddock near this dam in the middle of nowhere, saying my kids are in the water. She's telling the emergency services operator, my kids, my kids are in the water, they're in the water. And there's a moment where you hear us say, oh, my god, the kids are in the water, they've gone. And it's that moment of realization that her kids are dead.

Speaker 5:

And the whole time that was going on, her new partner was diving in and out of the freezing water desperately trying to find the car with the kids inside.

Speaker 5:

And Robert Farkas was standing on the side, away from the dam, on the side of the paddock, smoking a cigarette, watching, absolutely telling. That that's not enough for him, is it so? He plays the distraught father at the funeral, propping Cindy up while she could hardly walk to the funeral, watching her suffering some more. And then he pleads not guilty and says it was an accident, he had a coughing fit black town. So he drags it in and out of court over and over through two trials. So he was found guilty by two separate trials, jailed for life the first time, got out on a technicality, drags her back to court a second time to a new trial where he pleads guilty again, watches her listening to that tape. You know, reliving her worst, worst nightmare. She was reliving her worst nightmare and she had to sit in the witness box and listen to that tape being played. She was an absolute mess, absolute mess.

Speaker 4:

And I think the public saw that, didn't they? Because at first Cindy believed and supported Robert that he said it was an accident, because who could believe that a parent would do that to children?

Speaker 5:

It was just so far-reaching. People couldn't understand and she actually asked me when the process was all over two trials, a committal hearing, two separate trials where she's, by the time the second trial came around, in 2009, 2010, her denial, which was really a defense mechanism that allowed her to keep going, and people she became victimized for that. She was victimized at the second trial In the doc. Well, didn't you say at his first trial that he was an innocent man who'd never harm a hair on their heads? And she said, well, yes, but I was in denial then and now I can see it clearly. He's tricked me all along. So he'd emotionally continued to emotionally manipulate her and he'd manipulated the system, forced her in and out of court to relive the horror over and over again. She could not recover. She suffered from PTSD, she was depressed, she was addicted to painkillers. She did have a lot of physical ailments, but really the root cause of all of that was extreme mental distress and he continued to play that card. He dragged all the way to the appeal courts. He went through several appeals before he was finally told no, you're not having this appeal Basically go away. He milked the system till he couldn't use it anymore.

Speaker 5:

In the meantime, she has two new children, two new babies. She couldn't bond with those children. She was too depressed. She never bonded with the two sons she had, with Stephen Mools. Her joy at their birth was completely overshadowed by grief and she said to me you know, I think this is what he intended. It's like a living death. You know he gets a life sentence, but I've got a life sentence too. It's like a living death. It was really agonizing to watch, and one very prominent writer described her as having histrionics and hysterics in court and collapsing and having to be taken to hospital by ambulance. I thought that was the ultimate victimization. It's like revictimizing the victim. She wasn't having histrionics because she was a drama queen. She was absolutely, utterly distraught.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, and I think we understand more about you know, victimizing further victims and survivors of crime and, unfortunately, these women who go through this. It's horrendous and you know, at the inquest and some of the court cases you went to, you note that there's often comments made that, oh, no one could have predicted these crimes. But what do you know about this from all your time covering it and also a lot of your contact with people who work in family violence?

Speaker 5:

I think, on the whole, most of them could have been predicted. At the inquest. You know where coroners say no one could have possibly seen this would happen. You couldn't possibly have predicted. Oh yes, you would. He was breaching intervention orders 28 times. He breached his intervention order 28 times. I think anyone who breaches an intervention order at all is saying I don't care about the law. No one tells me when I can see my family and a lot of the men said that. No one gets to tell me when I can see my kids. Jason Dalton said that when he killed his two little babies on Anzac Day in 2004. No one tells me I'm not having a court telling me what to do. So you know, you've got these self-entitled men, I think have breached intervention orders. The biggest red flag, the single most biggest red flag In the Hannah Clark case there was an intervention order breach from her former partner, owen Baxter, but there was also in that case manual strangulation.

Speaker 5:

So he'd been. It was non-consensual strangulation during sex and I think people need to recognize. A number of people have said to me oh, you know, people agree to that sort of thing. No, this was non-consensual. He was strangling her to the point that she had to bite him to fight him off. She was gasping for air, she was terrified and he was saying menacing things like I could just kill you now. I could just kill you and she felt he could. She always thought that he might hurt her. This is Hannah Clark. She didn't imagine he'd hurt the kids, but he was already using the kids as tools. So you know, once they were both very, they had a gym. They were both personal trainers, hannah and her former husband and they ran a gym and they were both keen crossfit competitors. She got through to a big final that he didn't get through to. He was so furious that on the morning of the competition that Hannah was in, he made sure she took the early gym session, you know, took the class at six o'clock to make her tired so she would have a reduced chance of winning the competition that he didn't make it to. And then, when she went anyway, when she arrived home at 7 o'clock he'd gone and taken the children. So he still had a practice run. He just disappeared with the kids and she was so bothered by that that she was making calls to her mom, panicking because she didn't know what he was going to do where he'd gone, who takes the kids? At 7 in the morning she was freaking out. What she didn't know was he'd bug the house, he'd bug the phone and he was sitting listening to that anguished phone call. He knew exactly what kind of upset he'd caused. She was vomiting with anxiety and he knew that he could hear that conversation so he knew how to punish her the worst. He knew if he wanted to hurt her he would do it through the children. So I think in some ways that was a red flag.

Speaker 5:

But the manual strangulation, the non-consensual strangulation during sex, is a massive red flag. It's now known that men who strangle their wives are much more likely to kill them, and Hannah reported that to several DV workers. Social workers, the police, the police were very concerned about it but no one really knew what to do about that. When the inquest was heard, one of the main DV social workers was asked why, when Hannah told you about that non-consensual strangulation, why didn't you not report that immediately to the police? And you know what her answer was. Her answer was well, nearly every woman I see reports that Gosh Well. It causes lack of oxygen to the brain. It can cause permanent damage, brain damage as well as people being hit on the head. A lot of women that turn up at the refuge that I go to visit here in Queensland. They've been whacked. The last thing that happens is they're whacked on the head with their phones or they've had something smashed on the head when they've been trying to ring for help or escape. But yeah, it is a real red flag and yet no one acted on it because everyone was reporting it.

Speaker 5:

And there is an organization called Australian Doctors Against Violence Towards Women and Children and that organization is based in Canberra. That organization, doctors Against Violence Towards Women. They're training GPs to look for the signs that women they minimize. So there's a lot of shame attached to it. So women will go to the doctors maybe, or they won't go to the doctors at all. But some will go to the doctors with injuries consistent with DV. But they won't say that. They'll say I've got a black eye, I've broken my cheek socket, I walked into a door or I fell down the stairs or I had an accident and I slipped. They'll come up with another reason and they'll wear long sleeves and things around the neck to hide strangle marks around the neck. So those doctors now are having a big drive to make other doctors, especially emergency doctors. But there's often a lot of young doctors in emergency casualty departments at hospitals. They're encouraging people, they're professionals, nurses, doctors to look for those signs, the signs that women aren't explaining.

Speaker 4:

It's really important work and there's so much that intersects with these crimes. They're the worst crimes and you mentioned earlier that because they are so unbelievable, people say, oh, he must have been mentally unwell or must have just momentarily lost their minds. But what do you say to that? Get real. We talk about mental health and disability.

Speaker 4:

I think there's a lot of really important information that people who work in the mental health field can learn from reading this book, because they will often work with people women who are victim, survivors of family violence or even perpetrators of family violence. But what do you say to those comments? And often in the media they'll be backlash because people will say, oh, we wouldn't have known, he seemed like such a good bloke, or they'll have the beautiful family picture. Well, as we saw with Hannah Clarke's case there was a recent one you know, what you see is not what goes on behind closed doors. So what do you say in terms of mental health and these crimes? Because it can be controversial to minimise mental health, but in these cases, with these men, these perpetrators, if you've written about what are your thoughts about that?

Speaker 5:

These are specific crimes. These are crimes of retaliatory filicide, so they're payback crimes and they differ from other kinds of filicide. So women also kill their children, but not commonly. Where women kill their children, their motivations are different and often they are depressed. They are depressed and nearly always being victims of family violence, whereas where male perpetrators kill their kids, they have been the perpetrators of family violence, not the victims of family violence as the women have. You know, women sometimes kill the kids to neglect accident. Sometimes it is deliberate, but it's caused by mental illness or substance abuse or alcohol abuse. There's other factors.

Speaker 4:

And that's backed up by research, isn't it, megan? Because you know, invariably and you get this a lot on your Facebook and whenever people talk about this, there will be the inevitable from men and women. Well, what about women who do this? And not all men are bad, and that kind of thing.

Speaker 5:

And that's true. Not all men are bad and not all men deliberately kill their children. But the crimes I looked at were different. They were purposeful crimes. They were planned, they were premeditated, they were carried out meticulously and they were not just a spur of the moment. Crimes of passion committed by desperately unhappy, depressed men. That's not what they were. I spoke with a number of psychiatrists about this and one forensic psychologist said to me depressed people don't kill people. Depressed people don't do anything. They're depressed. They haven't the energy or the motivation to get out of bed. Sometimes, where people have been on medication for a time and the depression is starting to lift, they are angry. And it's when the sun starts to shine and those medications begin to work and the depression begins to lift that you might get that revenge, the anger, that spite coming in. I'll show her, if I can't have those kids, neither can she. No one else is gonna raise my kids. And they're men taking back power and control. These are crimes of driven by spite and they're crimes of power and control. It's the ultimate control that a violent man can have over a former partner who's left him. So they were different. I saw a difference At my book launch, I asked people to put their hand up.

Speaker 5:

How many people in this room believe that any parent that kills their child must be mentally ill? And nearly everyone put their hands up. Well, would it surprise you to know, then, that the nine cases in this book and believe me, I could have written nine more, the nine cases in this book none of them were mentally ill. None of them were mentally ill. They were angry. I asked this of Rebecca Paulson, who was the White Ribbon Ambassador, after her niece and nephew were murdered by their father. I said how do you explain that? Why would an apparently loving father kill his own children? And she said because his hatred for his former wife, for leaving him, his anger, is greater than any love he might feel for his kids. And that's it in a nutshell. It is driven by anger. And these men also had something else in common these are not the fathers who were hands on dads. They're not the ones who bathed the babies, minded the babies, they went to work. They had different roles. They're not men who had a particular bond with their children.

Speaker 5:

In Arthur Freeman's case, this was the father who threw his little girl, darcy, off the West Gate Bridge. In that case it was slightly different. He had they'd returned from England with three little children because she wanted to come home and be with her family and she wanted them to be educated in Australia. He did not want to come home from London. He loved living in London. He felt resentful they come back. She got a job and she became the working parent and he was at home caring for the kids. But he was unraveling and he was really angry.

Speaker 5:

Before he threw Darcy off the West Gate Bridge he had rung and all of these men had done this. They had been warnings. They'd told their friends no one does this to me and gets away with it. I'm going to pay her back big time. In Arthur Freeman's case he told a colleague some time before that if he didn't get shared care, if he didn't get what he wanted and shared the care of the kids, she would look out. So that warning was there, that thought was there. All the others said you don't get to leave me and get away with it. You're going to pay for this for a very long time. So they'd all said those things. So the intent was there, the thought was there and the warnings were there because women had raised them and had been dismissed or ignored. In Arthur Freeman's case he threw the little girl off the West Gate Bridge but he had the presence of mind before he did to ring and say say goodbye to your children. He rung his former wife say goodbye to your children, you're never going to see them again. And he was referring to the children three children, not just Darcy say goodbye to them. So I think he was intending to kill them all.

Speaker 5:

He then pulls over on the highest point on the West Gate Bridge not just anywhere, the highest point, deliberate. He puts the hazard lights on his car. So he's got the presence of mind to not cause an accident. He puts the hazard lights on his car, gets Darcy out and throws her over the edge in full view of all the morning traffic. Different motorists described him as being in a sort of trance-like state. And then he drives through rush hour traffic, gets back in the car through rush hour traffic into the CBD in Melbourne, which we know is very busy, early in the morning where he parked the car and handed the kids over at the court precinct and someone said to him by then he's dishevelled, he's got his drooling, his sweating, his sobbing, his mess. And someone says to him it'll be OK and he says no, it won't, it'll never be OK. So he knew what he was doing. He knew what he was going to do. He told his wife what he was going to do. He did it. He then drives away from the scene of the crime calmly through rush hour traffic. He didn't cause an accident. He hands the kids over I think he handed the kids over because he didn't trust himself not to do something to them and he says he acknowledges no, it will never be OK again. He knew exactly what he'd done.

Speaker 5:

When that case came to court, the question before the jury was was he bad or was he mad? And they were asked to consider that he wasn't in his right mind. And that was rejected after listening to all the evidence. That was rejected because, even though he did what he did, he knew what he was doing and he did it.

Speaker 5:

So, even though he was found catatonic, curled up in a fetal position on the floor of his cell after being arrested and he was not fit for interview, I think the effect of his own rage shocked him into that state, because people know that victims of terrible crimes and survivors have PTSD, but so do offenders. People do overlook that People who commit terrible atrocities shocked them. I think he was absolutely shocked at the effect of his own rage and what he'd done and I think that's why the other kids survived, because he went into this state of shock. But I think that was after the crime. That was after the crime had been committed as a result of what he'd done. But he knew what he was doing and he did it anyway. But Farquh was the new exactly what he was doing when he swam away and hitched a lift to tell Cindy the news himself.

Speaker 4:

In particular with Darcy Freeman's case. I mean, that shocked Victoria, it shocked Australia. I think everyone has a thought when they drive across the Westgate Bridge and see the safety barriers which were put in post what happened? Let's talk about vicarious trauma, because you've got people who witness these crimes. You know, like in the case of poor Darcy, people saw that.

Speaker 4:

You know, you've spoken to people who are on the periphery, or family friends, cindy's partner, stephen, the other people who tried to help, and also I'm going to ask you after we talk a bit more about this but also about the impact on people like yourself reporting on these that vicarious trauma, post-traumatic stress, it's real, it is debilitating. Can you talk a little bit about some of the people you've met who may have pulled over on the side, people who even have vicarious trauma or real regret, because maybe one of these meds said something or maybe they saw something, but they're like, oh, I wish I'd said something. We heard that quite strongly in the teachers pet podcast with the disappearance and murder of Lynn Dawson. There were people who worked with her who sort of you know, back then you didn't. You know, you didn't really want to interfere, you didn't want to say anything, or maybe you just didn't believe that these things could happen.

Speaker 5:

Well, you know, in Darcy's case in the trial of Arthur Freeman the judge commented on that. The judge was the grandfather himself, you know, and when Arthur Freeman's parents gave read a witness statement or gave evidence, arthur Freeman's father was distraught, you know. He said I lost my grandchildren. And the judge said I know, I'm a grandfather too. You know, it touched so many lives that crime did. It touched so many lives. And they, you know the motorists on the bridge that saw him do it and didn't do anything because they didn't know what he was doing. One woman said she thought he was perhaps had got an errand child out of the car and was trying to frighten her, even if it wasn't appropriate. Another thought it was a statue or a mannequin, because who would throw a real live child off a bridge? You know who would do that? Those people suffered.

Speaker 5:

The first responders to the scene, two police officers. It was the first day of the school term this was supposed to be Darcy's first day at school and these two police constables had been wandering around the shops nearby when they got the radio called that someone had thrown something like a toy or child or something. They were off the Westgate Bridge and they thought, well, it wouldn't be a child who would do that, and they got in the car. But as they were driving to the Westgate Bridge they were the nearest, they were getting updated reports and it was becoming clear it might be a child. One constable said she was filled with dread. She just was filled with dread. She's a mother. She was filled with dread. By the time she got there they could see the water. Police were out there and they brought Darcy's body to the shore. They were working on it. They all worked on it, including the police, and then the paramedics arrived. One of those was a mother. It should have been her birthday that day. Her birthday has never been the same since because that's the day she was called to the worst thing that had ever happened in her career. She kept her own children off school the next day. She couldn't bear to let them go. One of the police officers had to relocate because she couldn't even see the Westgate Bridge, never mind go over it. Every time she saw it it took her back to that time. Those people were affected. She'd had to change where she worked and could never go there.

Speaker 5:

I was driving over the Westgate Bridge almost every week at that time from my home in Melbourne to Cindy Gambino's because I was doing work with Cindy Gambino and I was going down to check on her. I was also visiting a young woman who was the worst burn survivor to survive the Bali bombings, who also lived near Cindy, the other side of Jalong. So I was going to and fro and every time I went over that bridge I felt physically sick. I felt like I could hardly get over that bridge. If I could have found another way, I'd have gone another way. It affected a lot of people and then, years later, when I was writing Cindy's book, they were putting up the barriers each time I went over. They were workmen putting up barriers. It was a crime that had that. It sort of etched in your psyche really.

Speaker 4:

What you're talking about is extremely distressing. Some people they have said oh, I can't read your books, they're too sad because you cover stories of really big crimes, in particular these. But why is it important that people know about this? And yes, people have the choice I don't wanna know about it, I can't read about it, or, in the case of listening to this podcast, people can not listen. But why is it important for people to understand exactly what these family violence perpetrators do and these crimes against children, the murders of children and the punishment of these women?

Speaker 5:

It's important, because how do we learn lessons if we pretend not to know, if we bury our heads in the sand and say we don't want to know about it? How do we deal with it if we don't want to know? Women are still blamed for their own victimization. Cindy Gambino was blamed when she was seen out and about with her new baby in a complete like a zombie, in a complete state of disengagement with this new baby that she couldn't bond with. And some woman said to her well, what did you do to him then to make him so angry that he did that? Another woman saw her pushing with the baby around the supermarket. Well, she blamed her. She said it was where Cindy believed that he was innocent early in the piece. And she stopped her in the supermarket and said what a stupid woman you are that you couldn't see that coming. How stupid are you for believing a word, he said. You must be really dumb. So she was blamed and blamed.

Speaker 5:

Another woman had her leg shot off by a violent ex before he murdered both the children and then he said to her you're gonna survive. And he just shot her leg off. But she survived with one leg and she was seen around a shopping center in WA on crutches with her new prosthetic leg and a woman said well, what did you do to him to make him do that in the first place? So they blamed. You know that adds to that distress and shame and guilt that they already feel. It's a terrible thing.

Speaker 5:

It's important that people hear what happened, that they know exactly what went wrong, what red flags were missed, what could we have done sooner? What should we have done? Well, in every case we should have acted on intervention orders. If a man says to a friend, as Robert Farquherson said to his friend three months before the crime nobody does that to me and gets away with it, she's gonna pay for this big time. I think that professionals involved with the family ought to be asking what do you mean by that? What do you actually mean? How are you gonna pay her back big time?

Speaker 5:

You know that psychiatrist or psychologist that saw Robert Farquherson early in the piece said he was suicidal and referred him immediately for more intense counseling. It was when he was feeling better and taking his antidepressants and feeling better. That's when he killed the kids. That's when that anger kicked in. When you look at all of these signs together, they're terribly confronting stories. I'm not for a minute saying they're not. I saw people weeping at my book launch. I don't know whether people are aware, but at the inquest of Hannah Clark and her children it was revealed that that's by dousing, that's chucking petrol on people and setting them on fire. They've doubled in the two years since Hannah Clark's and her children's murders doubled. That should worry everybody.

Speaker 4:

Do you think that's because it was report Like? This is the tension, because you need to report these things responsibly, but are people getting ideas? This is the constant conversation.

Speaker 5:

It is, and when I covered court, I was always very mindful. You have to. When you're covering court. You have to cover the case so that any man in the street who wasn't there would have a sound, fair and accurate understanding of what happened in that crime. So that's your job, and there's a fine line between reporting accurately and fairly and reasonably and being gratuitous in your reporting or giving terrible ideas. But I think that it's something that violent men have latched onto.

Speaker 4:

Every time it happens. I mean Cheryl Moody. She has a map of the murders of women and children and every time she updates it's like heartbreaking and it's weekly. And when we hear about these stories and there was a recent one and the family photo used in the reports showed a lovely family photo Now we all know that you don't know what goes on behind the scenes, but there's criticism don't use those photos. But then people are so shocked I think they're like they want to know. Well, why would this man do this? Do you understand that kind of that tension where people go oh, but he looked like such a nice guy. I mean, we hear it a lot. What are your thoughts on that?

Speaker 5:

Well, it's living the lie. You know, I look at that and that's very common. Karen Bell, whose three little children were murdered by her ex-husband on the day she was leaving him. She had to leave, he was gonna kill her and she was told she had to leave the house or he would kill her. But he wouldn't let her take the kids. But she knew, as she stayed, he'd kill her and he'd never hurt the kids.

Speaker 5:

Well, she says that they had witnessed him beating her senseless. You know they'd been around to see all that. So I would say he was hurting the kids. But, as she said afterwards, he left a tape recorded message for her to find, saying I can't live without my kids and they can't live without me. But she said she found an old camera and her friend took the camera to a developer's to try and get these photos off it for the funeral to put on the big screen at the funeral. And she said there were these photos of them like the happy family. But they weren't. They weren't a happy family. She was a really abused and beaten woman. He was constantly throwing her out in the dark. They lived in the middle of nowhere in the bush and he would throw her out of the car late at night and make a walk home, take her all night. You know she was always sleeping outside shivering, where he wouldn't let her back in the house in the cold. So you know she said I looked at it and there we were, the happy family. But we weren't. It was all a lie. And Hannah Kark has got a. There was a photo that was doing the rounds of Hannah and her ex with the children, the three children. And it was all a lie. She was a prisoner, she wasn't allowed to do anything. He alienated her from her family, from her friends. He bugged the house, he bugged the car. It was all a lie. So when I hear people say, but he was such a top bloke, you know no one would have thought he would do that. Top blokes don't murder their children, simple, it's as simple as that. They do not murder their children and they are confronting cases.

Speaker 5:

You know this book look what you made me do has gone to audio and I didn't ask if it was going to go to audio because I had a sense it probably wouldn't, because it's very sad, it's not glamorous reading. So I didn't think it would go to audio and so I didn't ask the publisher. And then the publisher rang me and said this isn't going to audio. And I was genuinely shocked and I said did they not find it too confronting? He said oh yes, he said. The head of the audio studio said it is a very confronting story and very harrowing, but it's so important that I feel I have a moral obligation to make sure we get this to the widest possible audience. So for that reason it will be going to audio book.

Speaker 5:

And then I had a call from Los Angeles from the voiceover woman who's narrating the book, and she rang me just to check spellings and pronunciations. How do I say your name? Is it Megan or Megan? How do I say the names of some of these children in the book? And I said to her have you read the book yet? She said twice and I said I'm sorry, it is a very confronting and heavy read. She said do not apologize, I put my hands up for this book. She said her agent in Los Angeles sent her several books to look at and she said I put my hand up for this book and I said please, I don't want the others, I want this book. And he said oh, the timing's not right. They need someone who can do the read-through sooner. And she said just ask the publisher if they'll wait a week. I really, really want to do this book, it is so important. And she actually sent me a message the other day to say that she'd got to chapter eight and that had really got to her and I thought isn't that funny. At chapter eight that's one of the new chapters, the two new chapters I've written.

Speaker 5:

I spent nights of not being able to sleep after chapter eight. It's the case of Robert Edwards, who executed his two teenage children who were carrying under a desk. He'd stalked them. I never slept for nights after I wrote that case and I couldn't figure out what it was about that particular case, because they're all absolutely terrible cases. What was it about that case that made me unable to sleep or eat? And I realized after it was because I was really angry.

Speaker 5:

I was really angry that so many agencies the police, social workers, the court, court lawyers, social workers, everybody the gun clubs who let a man with six failed marriages and a history of aviose and violence towards previous wives and children, how did the gun club give that man a license in the first place? And how did gun clubs then let him go for shooting practice? Why didn't the police raise a flag? Why were they not talking to each other? Every single agency failed that family. There wasn't one, and I think that's what kept me awake.

Speaker 5:

If just one of those people had done their job, if the police had keyed his name into their system, his aviose would have come up. His history would have come up. His history of stalking, his history of violent threats and assault would have come up. They didn't.

Speaker 5:

The rifle registry when he applied to the New South Wales firearms registry, they didn't do a check. If they'd have done a check, they would have found he had had a history going back a long way and shouldn't have been a fit and proper person to have a gun. And the gun clubs two gun clubs refused him entry because he turned up there and he was aggressive, and both of those gun clubs independently thought this is not the sort of guy we need being allowed to have a gun. So they refused to let him train there. Unfortunately, he went to a third club that let him go in there, but those clubs didn't talk to each other. If they talked to each other and told that third club that they refused him. Maybe no one would have let him do his training there, and without training he couldn't get his license.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, and it just relies so much on a person or organisations raising the issue, the red flags, and there's just so many failings. And look, you came to Australia in the 1980s, didn't you? Or the 90s 1990., yeah, and you also.

Speaker 4:

You know so. You've covered a lot of court, done a lot of media here, You've lived in Victoria for a long time and now you're in Queensland From your work and you know keeping up with the Royal Commissions. What do you feel are the big things that need to change? We do know that there is a lot of money and a lot of work and a lot of hope for improving these situations, but what, for you, are the things that really have to be done or change?

Speaker 5:

I think I spoke with a DV lawyer called Kathleen Simpson she's Queensland's DV lawyer of the year and we both agreed. I said tough response to intervention order breaches. That would be a real step in the direction, right direction. If you break your intervention order, you are showing a disregard for the law. You are above the law. You should be immediately locked up. Now I know that sounds like a tall order, but I think you should. You've given a chance, you've got an intervention order there to protect your family and you break it. You should be arrested and locked up. I also think what's really important is better or mandatory, and that's starting to happen now. It's happening in New South Wales and it's happening in Queensland, I'm not sure about the other states.

Speaker 5:

Mandatory training in domestic violence for all frontline workers and I'm talking police. Mandatory training for all general duties officers. Since the Robert Edwards case that was a recommendation of the coroner in the Edwards Inquest. Mandatory training for all general duties officers, because one of the officers dealing with Olga Edwards had never done anything but bike education. She oversaw bike education, so you know that's a real concern, so she didn't have a clue. I think. Absolute across the board. Mandatory training for all DVB, you mentioned the young constable that dealt with Hannah Clark. He used to fresh out of the academy. He used to young. What is a 22-year-old? What sort of life experience has a 22-year-old got to deal with marital dysfunction and threats and violence? Really, it's not their fault. It was a lack of frontline training and all of these things lead to systemic failings in the system, which fail and continue to fail vulnerable women and children.

Speaker 4:

For people. They work in the mental health field. They might be mental health support workers, you know, social workers there is mandatory reporting and people who work with people or even in community groups where they have interactions with people who may be experiencing family violence or those red flags. What would you say to them? What do you think would help? I mean, reading the book is, I think, important, and there's many books and information resources. What would you say to people who maybe don't feel confident to deal with the kind of things or disclosures that people tell them that they work with?

Speaker 5:

Well then they need to call someone more senior. I think the frontline workers in the Hannah Clark case were overwhelmed the number of inquiries they were dealing with and the number of women that were at risk. Her risk was underestimated and I think that's a major failing too. There needs to be more effective risk assessment in these cases. Kathleen Simpson, who's the DV lawyer of the year in Queensland.

Speaker 5:

I went to see her the other day and she produced this checklist that she's done of her own volition. She's got this checklist she gives to people during marital separation, where she's dealing with divorce. She said in her checklist she'll say to them is there abuse in the relationship? No, there isn't. No, no, it's not an abusive relationship, it's just over. So she gives them this checklist and they inevitably come back and where they've checked, yes to everything.

Speaker 5:

Do you have your own money? Are you independent? Does he make all the decisions? Does he dominate the conversation? Does he tell you what you can and can't talk about? She's got all these things. Do you keep the short of cash? Does he take the car keys? Does he change the password on your phone so you can't use it? She's got this big, long checklist and I said to her you haven't got driving points. On there, some guys will make you take the speeding points. And you take the speeding points because he will say I have to go to work, I need the car. You take the speeding points till you don't have a license. Then you're grounded. It's subtle and she said yes, you fill all these things in. You get a very different understanding of the kind of relationship you've been in.

Speaker 4:

How do you take care of yourself? Because I know you're passionate about this work and you are an incredible writer. Journalism is your, this is your job. But how do you take care of yourself? You mentioned that, working on certain things, you do have things like you can't eat, you can't sleep and I've heard that from other journalists before, and we know that war reporting journalists or journalists who have covered big traumatic incidents can get post-traumatic stress, vicarious trauma. So how do you look after yourself?

Speaker 5:

Well, I don't think I ever thought about it really until COVID. Covid was a sort of grounding experience for a lot of people. It gave you time to reflect. It was quite a scary time really, wasn't it? I know there are a lot of mental health issues in the community broadly because of it and depression. It grounded me because all my magazine work dried up.

Speaker 5:

So I was working on a different book, which was a young girl who'd grown up in doomsday cult and she'd been repeatedly sexually abused for years and years by the cult leader, william Cam, because she was one of his 84 mystical brides. And when I was working on that I started having these funny turns where I started getting anxious in the middle of the night for no reason and getting anxious about what the day was going to bring. And then I was a bit worried about driving the car and I stopped driving the car for six months. I wouldn't drive the car, I'd steal myself to drive the car and then I'd open the door and I'd almost have a panic attack and couldn't drive it and I didn't know why all this was happening. And I thought it was because I was worried about my elderly parents in the UK because suddenly I could not get on a plane and go and see them if I wanted to, and they both had had COVID before the rollout of the COVID vaccine in the UK and were terribly, terribly ill and my dad nearly died. So it's a very serious scene. So I put it down to that, but I wasn't getting better. I was starting to panic about my work and then I'd write things and it wasn't good enough, so I'd write it again and that wasn't good enough Stuff I never thought about. I just I write instinctively but I couldn't.

Speaker 5:

So I was referred to see a counsellor and the counsellor asked me what I did for a living and I said, well, I write, I write books and I write stories on this. For this I'm a voice for the survivors of violent crime. She said what kind of crime? And I said murder, rape, long-term historical sexual abuse, the gamut, really all of it. And she said who are you dealing with? I said well, the parents of murdered children and rape survivors and all of this sort of thing. And she said how long have you been doing that for? And I said, oh, 40 years. She said 40 years. So how do you debrief? Do you see someone? Do you talk to someone. I said no, and she said what do you do when you're not writing? And I said well, I'm reading other people's amazingly confronting books, or I'm watching it on Netflix, or I'm watching reruns of Dirty John. Because I did not get comment. And she said we're actually not doing anything for yourself or you need to.

Speaker 5:

So I do play my flute badly and I find that's quite relaxing because it stops you, it stops me hyperventilating, it makes you breathe. To play the flute, you've got to breathe properly. I'm a terrible flute player but I do play the flute and Irish whistle and I listen to music and I walk my dog on the beach and I go out with my friends for lunch and we talk about other things. And I think that's something I have to make myself do, because wherever I go I find another story. I went somewhere the other day for lunch and this woman told me this awful story about her daughter's death. It's an awful story and it was clear to me that woman is suffering from PTSD and I said how long is it since your daughter died? And she said four months. And these are the stories I do all the time I get them.

Speaker 5:

You know my son. My son was being treated for leukemia at the age of 14. He spent two years on the oncology ward in Monash and my husband had a break. And when that happened and things were very hard when that happened we were living in a place where children died all the time. It was a terrible, terrible time. But you know what it's taught me? I remember when I was doing that, going through that thinking, at least I know it's small comfort but it's a terrible journey. But at least we are here to hold him and love him and say goodbye.

Speaker 5:

A lot of the parents I work with they don't get that chance. You know, when you're dealing with sudden violent death, a child goes out of the house and does not come back, whether that's through accident or whether that's through some horrible murder. They never got that chance. They torment themselves, not knowing whether they could have protected the child. They're guilty that they weren't there to do so and they don't get the chance to say goodbye. But I get grief and I get pain. I've seen a lot of it. I've seen a lot of death in my job and I've spoken with a lot of people over a lot of years and every journey is different but in many cases there's features that are the same, and I think it's that that makes me able to do what I keep on doing, because I want to.

Speaker 4:

Thank you to Megan Norris. Megan's book Look what you Made Me Do is available online and in bookstores. Find out more about Megan at her website, megannorrisauthorcom. Details are in the show notes for this episode If you've been affected by anything discussed in this podcast you can phone Lifeline on 131114 or go to lifelineorgau.

Speaker 2:

You've been listening to Get Real talking mental health and disability, brought to you by the team at Irma365. Get Real is produced and presented by Emily Webb, with Karenza Louis Smith and special guests. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.

Talking Mental Health and Disability
The Ultimate Act
The Changing Landscape of Domestic Violence
The Devastating Impact of Domestic Violence
Retaliatory Filicide
Understanding the Impact of Family Violence
Failures in Protecting Domestic Violence Victims
Training and Self-Care for Frontline Workers
Megan Norris and Her Book