No to Violence and family violence advocates have today called for greater commitment to systemic and structural change, as long-awaited findings from the NSW State Inquest into the murders of teenagers Jack and Jennifer Edwards reveal serious systemic failures to protect women and children.
No to Violence is the operator of the Men’s Referral Service and represents organisations across Australia that work to monitor risk and safely address behaviours of men who use family violence.
Following the deaths of Jack Edwards, 15, and his sister Jennifer, aged 13, at the hands of their father John Edwards in July 2018, NSW Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan held an inquest that found broader systemic problems across the justice system including the family court system, policing and court system.
No to Violence Chief Executive Jacqui Watt said that greater commitment needs to be made towards early interventions that immediately turn the attention towards male perpetrators following the first reported incident of violent behaviour.
“The horrific loss of this family and the findings from this inquest should serve as catalyst of change and we need to ask what would be possible if we turn our attention to men like John Edwards when they first use violence”, said Ms Watt.
“The fact that this man was able to perpetrate violence and abuse against seven different partners and ten different children demonstrates systemic failure.”
Ms. Watt said there needs to be greater investment towards putting protections in place for victim-survivors, including information sharing and technology to monitor the movements of those with a history of repeated family violence offences.
“If we are to keep women and children safe, there needs an overhaul of the current systems and services to improving information sharing, interagency collaboration, and risk assessment across the entire network to work together in better identifying users of violence and effectively respond
“There is everyday technology to track deliveries and ride-sharing transport, yet this system is not yet considered as a way to monitor the movements of known users of family violence.
“We receive notifications when a food delivery driver is five minutes from our houses but do not have technology that set off an alarm when an offender comes near women and children who they have been ordered to stay away from.”
Key findings from the inquest highlighted how a lack of clarity around the interrelationship between family law questions and firearms applications contributed to Edwards’s ability to obtain firearms as registry staff were unable to even consider the very obvious pattern of decades of domestic violence and abuse in Edwards’ profile.
No to Violence Deputy Chair Stefan Grun said the role of firearms in family violence is well-known across the family violence sector and the inquest’s findings demonstrate the systemic failure of the NSW Firearms Registry.
“As a member of the Australian Gun Safety Alliance, No to Violence welcomes Teresa O’Sullivan’s recommendations that would see the NSW Firearms Regulation include personal and domestic violence offences and increased training to appropriately consider the applications of demonstrably abusive and violent men.
“Edward’s ability to access firearms on multiple occasions speaks to the urgency of establishing a national firearms registry and implementing specific training for police and registry staff who process firearms applications”, said Mr Grun.
“While steps have been taken to fill the procedural gaps that allowed Edwards to obtain firearm licences, these procedural changes must be supported with cultural change and increased awareness about domestic and family violence.”
Ultimately, the recommendations in this inquest point to the fundamental need to believe women and children when they report their experiences of violence and that their safety needs to underpin all of the work that is done in the family violence sector.
“We should have listened to Olga, Jack and Jennifer when they reported the violence and abuse perpetrated by Edwards. The system failed them. If any of the incidents in Edwards’ recorded history of domestic violence were taken seriously, these tragic deaths would have been prevented”, said Mr Grun.
If you are concerned about how your behaviour is affecting your family, please call the Men’s Referral Service (1300 766 491 or mrs.org.au).
If you are experiencing family violence, help is available at 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or 1800RESPECT.org.au.