Sun. Jul 3rd, 2022

WARNING: This article contains content that some readers may find disturbing.

Northern Territory’s top police officer has spoken of a “sense of failure” following a horrific homicide, in which the victim texted his daughter to say, “Your father will kill me.”

NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said the woman sought shelter in a separate room when her partner “poured accelerator over the door and under the door and turned it on”.

He said that in the hours before she died, the victim sent a text message to his young daughter to say goodbye.

Commissioner Chalker spoke at an event against domestic violence in Darwin, where he said police needed to “make things much better”.

The woman’s 36-year-old partner – who also died of fire injuries – was arrested three days before the fire for violating an ordinance on domestic violence.

He was given bail by police before killing the 34-year-old woman in a city camp in Alice Springs last month.

The worst has been

Commissioner Chalker said he felt “a sense of failure” over worsening rates of domestic violence in the territory.

A middle-aged police officer in uniform and glasses
Jamie Chalker says police need to make things better when it comes to preventing domestic violence.(ABC: Hamish Harty)

He said the past year was the “worst it has been,” and in the past decade, NT police had responded to about 10,000 incidents of domestic violence a year.

Larissa Ellis of the Women’s Safety Services Central Australia (WOSSCA) said the woman’s death, like all deaths due to domestic violence, was “completely prevented”.

She was the second in Alice Springs to die in an alleged violence-related homicide this year after the death in January of R Rubuntja, a prominent fighter for domestic violence, and the third to die in the NT.

The organization is reviewing its processes to determine if any improvements to its service could have prevented the woman’s death.

A bed bug attack on the organization’s specialized crisis housing meant it was closed the week the woman was killed.

The shelter is still taking on referrals and placing women in alternative housing, but Ms Ellis says the temporary closure of the housing will be part of their review.

The murdered woman was also known to Tennant Creek’s woman.

A winding road in the community, surrounded by houses and electricity pylons.
The woman was killed in this city camp last month.(ABC Alice Springs: Samantha Jonscher )

Financing is welcomed

Indigenous women in the Northern Territory experience the highest rate of violence in the world and are hospitalized for assault on 40 times as many as non-indigenous women in Australia.

Recognizing this, the sector recently received a 50 percent boost in funding from the NT government, adding $ 15 million to the $ 26 million a year spent on tackling domestic violence in the NT.

On the front line, Ms Ellis said she welcomed the extra funding but had questions about how and where it would be rolled out.

Woman with short hair wearing black t-shirt in front of green tree
Larissa Ellis says that any death resulting from domestic violence is “completely preventable”.(Delivered by: Larissa Ellis)

Ellis said the current level of funding resulted in overworked caseworkers, high levels of burnout, possible gaps in service, and poor capacity to prevent violence before it happened.

A recent report from the Equality Institute found that primarily prevention work that stops violence before it happens almost always falls on frontline crisis personnel.

Federal investigation

Funding for domestic violence is allocated on a per capita basis, but Mrs Ellis – like others in the Northern Territory – has called on the government to allocate funding on a “needs basis” given the territory’s small population.

A woman is standing in front of a tree.
NT Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy was part of a push for a parliamentary inquiry into how resources are allocated to dealing with First Nations domestic violence. (ABC News: Matt Garrick)

These gaps in service will be considered in a new parliamentary inquiry that will assess the difference in resources allocated to homicide investigations and missing persons involving First Nations women and children.

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy of the Northern Territory was part of the push for the inquiry, saying she wanted to make sure it heard from territories on the front lines of domestic violence work.

“It means families, caregivers, police, the organizations that look after families in these situations.

Coronial investigation

NT Police said an ongoing investigation would address “all aspects” surrounding the death of the woman and the man, and that a case was being prepared for the forensic pathologist.

Acting Alice Springs Police Chief Kirsten Engels separately described the incident as “about as horrific as it can get”.

Tennant Creeks Women’s Refuge did not respond to requests for comment.

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