Domestic/Family…No, Male.

* trigger warning of male violence and homicide

It is with a mix of rage and grief that I sit here to write about this, again. Yesterday in Brisbane, Australia a husband and father murdered his wife and children by dousing them in petrol and burning them all alive in their car. This monster chose to horrifically murder 3-year-old Trey, 4 -year-old Laianah, 6 year-old Aaliyah and 31 year-old Hannah. They were his family.

We are only in the 7th week of this year and yet already, 8 women and children have been murdered by the men in their life. The most dangerous place for a woman to be in Australia is in a relationship with a man. This is a notoriously horrid statistic and indicates a national epidemic of male violence against women and children. It is also misnamed and misreported in both the commercial and public media.

The following are the headlines of this event:

• “Brisbane Car Fire” – The Australian, The Guardian,
• “Children dead in Brisbane car fire: NRL star Rowan Baxter, New Zealand Warriors” – Fox sports news
• “Car Fire Killings” – ABC
• “Family Violence” – ABC

Murdoch’s Fox sports news has stooped to an ever-lower low by naming him and calling him a ‘star’. And, as I am writing this, Channel 7 midday news has just said that after the break they will return live to the Brisbane memorial site of the “car fire tragedy”.

The word murder does not appear in any of the headlines. In fact, the word killing only appears in one. By reading these headlines, we are led to believe that it was an accident, a malfunction of some sort, a car fire and not a premeditated and planned act of a madman against the woman and three children he supposedly loved.

This is sickening. I am sickened by these men continuing to perpetrate these murders while leaving a long and lengthy pattern of bad behaviour preceding their final act of violence. This man was called a ‘control freak’. He kidnapped one of his daughters for 4 days last year until police returned her to her family. His in-laws had sold everything to protect their daughter and grandchildren from him. He already had a prevention order against him. None of this mattered. He murdered them all anyway. Why? Because there was nothing to stop him.

The police, a ‘brotherhood’, have been notoriously ineffectual at stopping male violence against women. The legal system, a ‘boys club’, has been historically created by men for men’s protection. The government, dominated by men, feel no pressure to change any legislation which is not directly affecting them.
This man had a history of bad behaviour, which is why his family were in hiding from him. Yet, he was allowed to continue his life as a free man while his family were terrorised and lived in fear. Why? Because nothing is in place to stop him.

This needs to change. Men need to take responsibility for their behaviour, be held accountable for their actions and be punished suitably for their crimes.
• Men like this need mandatory re-education and training while under full or house arrest.
• An issue of an AVO includes an ankle cuff with gps tracking which is linked to police and the victims’ communication devices so they can be monitored and the police and the victims are aware of their whereabouts at all times.
• Primary and high schools need to have training on acceptable behaviour for boys.
• Our police force needs to be properly trained on what is unacceptable behaviour.
• Our lawyers and judges need to review their biases and be given re-education training.
• First offence of any threatening behaviour should require them to be placed in a mandatory men’s behaviour re-training group.
• Any man transitioning out of a relationship needs to attend mandatory behaviour re-training group.

These men’s freedoms need to be taken from them until they can prove they can take responsibility for their own beliefs and behaviour. Instead, women and children lose their freedom by living in fear of them until they inevitably lose their lives to them.

This was not an accident or a tragedy. It was not domestic violence or family violence. Domestic violence makes it sound as if the roof suddenly caved in on them or a door suddenly slammed on their fingers. It makes it sound like a domicile is malevolent instead of the man living in it. Family violence makes it sound as if families are out roaming the streets in gangs inflicting violence on unsuspecting lone members of society. It is neither of these things. It is time to call it by its real name. Male Violence. It is male violence against women and children. Say it out loud: male violence. Male violence.

We need lawyers to undertake much needed research into the comparative sentencing rates of men’s violence against women compared to violence against men to fully expose the leniency of sentencing when women are the victims. There is evidence of this and it needs to be exposed in a clearly transparent way to show how the legal system is biased against women and in favour of the men who commit the crimes. Just imagine if the situation was flipped and women were killing men and children at an average of more than one per week. Do you think they would be allowed to continue without the police, the legal system and the government enforcing legislation to stop them? Do you think the media would be allowed to call them ‘good sheilas’, ‘victims of their circumstances’, “women who were pushed too far’, ‘women who need help and support’? If you answered yes, you are not thinking very honestly about the question. These men are choosing to behave this way, they are not broken, the system that protects them is.

Media, police and policy makers have to stop painting these men as victims who are somehow sick and need help. They need training and boundaries and clearly enforced rules to hold them accountable for their own misogynistic belief systems. These men are not victims of ANYTHING, they are perpetrators of terror, violence and homicide.

This mother and her three children deserved much more. The institutions of this country have failed them because no institutions were in place to protect them and stop him. These men need to be stopped. They need to be stopped now.

I am heartbroken for the extended family and my condolences are with them.
Their names were Tre, Laianah, Aaliyah and Hannah. Remember them and never forget why they died. They died because everything was in place to allow them to be killed and nothing was in place to stop him.


10 Years On

The last photo of my Dad and I together is a beauty.  We are at my brother and sister-in-law’s cottage in Lake Louisa, Quebec.  We are in a place we both loved, a body of water, swimming in the lake, talking, unaware of being photographed. It was August 2009.   It was our last weekend together as a family.  The week after, he entered a hospital for a bladder reconstruction and he never came out.  And, that last beautiful summer we all seemed to know, silently, that this was it for him and that we would never be all together like this again.  We each carried it around silently like the extra couple of pounds after a weekend of his great cooking.  The photos of that last week show a looming energy.  There is happiness and joy and goofiness but there is also melancholy behind it all.

The kitchen was his domain – the place where he created delicious meals for us.  He was a master in the heart of the house and nothing gave him more pleasure than being able to care for people – usually with delicious food he made but also through his inherent kindness of giving his arthritic mother’s feet a pedicure, teaching his kids and grandkids about nature, opening his home to a niece and a nephew and building a cottage for his family.  I will always be grateful to him for everything he did for us all and for showing us how to have fun and how to laugh. The last photo taken of my Dad is of him in a frilly apron hamming it up in front of the stove, an empty frying pan on the burner foreshadowing his absence.

It was here that he created his last act of love for his family.  The night before he returned to the city, in the tiny kitchen of his son’s cottage, he made a chicken pie for us all for dinner.  It was huge so that we wouldn’t have to worry about feeding ourselves during the difficult time to come – there would be leftovers for the next day.  That’s the kind of guy he was; ‘a peach of a guy’ was what his palliative care doctor called him 6 months later in the last week of his life.  And she was right.

This delicious chicken pie was laced with vegetables including red peppers.  The peppers were aggressively red, almost an impossible red set against the white flesh of the chicken just like the impossible parts the surgeons would put into his abdomen to create an impossible organ.  We packed up the cottage and set back to the city, the leftover pie was pushed into the fridge in the city as we made our way to the hospital.  It got jostled around over the next couple of days and got pushed back behind the mayonnaise and milk.  My father started to deteriorate not long after.

The fridge was cleaned out and that leftover pie, forgotten and well- spoiled by then, was dumped into the garbage.  Its slick contents slid out into the bin with those impossibly red strips of pepper, a bright shock to my eye.  It was gone, the last meal that in our despair we had all forgotten to enjoy.

He died on this day 10 years ago. He was 68 years old. The shell of his body was still emitting a faint warmth as we walked out of the hospital into a frigid Canadian February.  I looked at other people in the parking lot going about their lives as if it were business as usual while my world felt irreparably different.

Over the past ten years I have kept myself busy. I fled to China to teach for 10 weeks, my grandmother and oldest friend in Australia died, I adopted and then lost a cat, I moved into a tiny apartment of my own, I started and quit a PhD, I started and continued a volunteer teaching project in Solomon Islands, I quit smoking, I have given educational talks about sharks to young kids and I have read and written more than I ever have in the other 40 years of my life. But, what I have done mostly behind all of that was form a deep connection to grief.

This doesn’t mean that I have been inconsolably sad for a decade. Sometimes the connection is active and involves tears, sometimes passive with dull aches, sometimes I erupt into laughter or a smile slowly forms thinking of a great memory.  This connection has changed over the decade but it is still there.  It has become more contained and manageable.  It is now like the security blanket I had as a child that my mother wisely and kindly cut into a smaller and smaller square until it could fit into my pocket.  Grief is still with me like that.  It is a comfort.  It reminds me that I know what love is and that my grief is just all the Dad-shaped love I still have for him that does not quite seem to fit into the shapes of the others I love.  I hope he knows this love is endless and still exists for him.  I am glad to know it does.


February 10, 2020



Dad and I