Flat White

The Hannah Clarke tragedy: even more reason for the family law inquiry to proceed

24 February 2020

5:00 AM

24 February 2020

5:00 AM

Australia is still reeling, utterly horrified, after the unspeakable murder of Hannah Clarke and three young children at the evil hands of her ex husband, Rowan Baxter.

Hannah, 31, Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3, all died in the inferno after he ambushed her car as she set off to take them to school.  

Baxter himself died at the scene from self-inflicted stab wounds. 

On Friday night, Hannah’s incredibly brave family spoke to Channel Nine’s A Current Affair. Her parents Lloyd and Suzanne Clarke and brother Nathaniel spoke of the timeline of events that lead to her estranged husband setting fire to her car with her and her three children inside. They shared gut-wrenching details about the spiralling breakdown of their relationship and his escalating controlling behaviour. 

The Clarke family said domestic violence “needs to stop”.  

And they are right. 

There are no excuses for the choices Rowan Baxter made. 


There is no justification for how he chose to end the lives of his former partner and children. 

Unsurprisingly, calls for policy changes have been swift.

There have also been calls for Pauline Hanson to be removed from the Family Law inquiry, saying she “victim-blamed” women and accused some women of making false allegations. 

These calls have come from a corner, which never wanted her anywhere near this inquiry – they are just noise 

On Saturday, Julia Baird wrote an analysis piece asserting that family violence shouldn’t be a culture war.

She too is right.

At the end of the piece Baird floated a string of issues: 

There are so many crucial questions. Why weren’t Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey better protected? Why are there so many holes in the family court system? What do we do about the backlog of cases? Why didn’t the AVO work? What could have been done better? Why did the family’s myriad interactions with the police in the months before three tiny children and their mother were doused in petrol and set alight on Wednesday morning on their way to school not save them?

These are all absolutely critical.

And Baird’s also right that we shouldn’t politicise this issue; which is precisely why calls to have Hanson removed are a low play for control over an issue which desperately needs cool heads, thorough investigation, zero ideology and true diversity of real-life stories to be heard. 

Not politicising an issue doesn’t mean selecting only one side of the equation that supports the ideology you endorse.  

Illustration: Facebook.

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