TRUE OPINION: About 70 women in total are believed to have been murdered by men, largely by their male partners or former partners in domestic violence incidents, in Australia during all of last year. It’s time we call out family violence against women as the national security problem it is, writes Tim Kent.
This article contains discussion of family violence, trauma, murder and suicide. If you need assistance or help with mental health issues, contact:
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636
Blue Knot Foundation – 02 8920 3611
I never knew Olga Edwards. Obviously not many people would have except for her family, close friends and colleagues, and perhaps a few neighbours, a shopkeeper or cafe proprietor, and one or two others, here and there. Just like all of us really. What I do know is that I could never, ever come close to even imagining the sheer depth of catastrophic grief and despair she must have felt following the planned, vicious, callous and cold blooded shooting of her teenage children in July last year.
The murders of 15-year-old Jack and 13-year-old Jennifer were at the hands of a vengeful and vindictive man – Olga’s estranged husband and father of her two children.
It is not just grief this would have been incapacitating grief of the most horrific kind. Approaching her first Christmas since the senseless slaughter of her precious, much-loved children would have been more than she could possibly bear, more than any mere mortal could possibly bear. In addition, the manner in which her children lived their last moments – terrified and cowering – would have inflicted emotional pain on Olga of the kind that is incomprehensible to anyone.
This is a human tragedy that no one could ever fully comprehend or remotely make sense of in any lifetime. John Edwards planned to visit his two children with the sole purpose in mind and that was to get even, make Olga pay the ultimate price and that was to murder the children. The fact that these were his own children was irrelevant to a man consumed with narcissism and a single-minded pursuit of making Olga the victim of the ultimate punishment by stalking and shooting his two defenceless children; they did not stand a chance.
He then returned to his residence and turned the gun on himself preferring not to face the judicial accountability for his actions. The coward’s way out. The question of how John Edwards came into the possession of not one but two powerful handguns given his history is a bureaucratic nightmare of oversights and bungling that I will attempt to address separately at a future date.
For Olga she was left in an imposed torture chamber of insurmountable grief, guilt and anger – her only children taken from her in the most cruel fashion possible. A loving mother who could not save her children. The thoughts of this unspeakable act of violence must have been going over and over and over in her head like an emotional hell she saw no escape nor comfort from.
Mid-last month, on the morning of Wednesday, December 12, police in western Sydney were called to check on the welfare of a woman said to be in her late thirties. Just a little after 10am, there they found Olga deceased in her West Pennant Hills home. It was less than a fortnight before Christmas Day. A police statement indicated there were no suspicious circumstances. They are currently preparing a report for the coroner.
It is a life tragedy of epic proportions that the only means by which any of us will ever know anything about Olga is via media reports describing the sequence of events that ultimately led to an entire family wiped out by what can be described as a diabolical horror story of intractable grief. A grief that not many previously well-balanced individuals on this planet would or could ever get out of.
The spate of family murder suicides across Australia cries out for a continuing raising of the bar for all support services, including mental health where we should be pushing further for an intuitive broad-based approach to the care and monitoring of these people.
With a coronial inquiry pending into Olga’s death, I am not attempting to proportion blame, nor, am I attempting to second guess the findings of the inquest. However, risk assessment forms, and verbal and written guarantees of safety do not save lives alone despite the potential to cover actions of clinicians and support workers.
More must be done in terms of education, even getting into schools and providing that education on healthy relationship choices, early warning signs of potential for domestic violence and other forms of familial abuse. Men and boys in particular need to be educated that their partners and children – other human beings – are not simply objects to be owned and possessed.
A clinical and otherwise intuitive approach would take into account the horrific sequence of events this poor woman was subjected to. With her first Christmas approaching following the senseless murder of her children, well-trained clinical and support staff would have likely been aware the holiday period was likely to be the most difficult period for Olga, despite any assurances that may have been issued by the individual that harming themselves was out of the question.
Olga’s mother and her family as are all the relatives affected by her children’s murders are deep in my thoughts. Community help, support and concerns should never, ever stop for them or the devastation inflicted on all affected by the family murders and suicides that capped off a nightmare year for women and their families throughout Australia in 2018.
Our federal government again has been largely conspicuously absent from any conversations related to domestic and family violence, preferring to ring the fear and loathing bell for national security, all that despite the horrific death toll during 2018 for women and families. ‘
Astonishingly, they are now concocting a baseless argument in regards for religious protections, unsubstantiated protections for those of faith. We do have a national security problem and it comes from within from our own kind and that is white Anglo-Saxon Australian males.
Meanwhile, Olga’s tragic death should also be included in the figures* for the almost 70 women who were reportedly killed throughout 2018 at the hands of men; usually their current, or, estranged partners. Because the moment her two children were taken so cruelly from her, Olga’s soul and being were also killed and she is as much of a victim of domestic violence irrespective of how she died in the end.
*Statistics compiled by the Counting Dead Women Australia researchers of Destroy the Joint.