INTERVIEW: Vanessa Fowler - turning the tide on domestic violence

11 February 2019

Celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March, Venue 114 is hosting the first of four In Conversation events, with guest speakers Seven Network presenter Jillian Whiting and Vanessa Fowler from the Allison Baden-Clay Foundation.

Vanessa is the sister of the late Allison Baden-Clay who was a victim of domestic violence, tragically murdered by her husband in 2012.

We sat down to chat with Vanessa recently, to find out more about her story and the steps we can all take to reduce domestic violence cases in Queensland.

Can you tell us Allison’s story?

In late April 2012, my sister Allison went missing. Her husband reported her missing, saying she went for a walk and had not returned. My family endured many days of not knowing, and finally after 10 days of searching and investigating they found her body. Her husband was charged with her murder in June 2012. Heartbroken, my retired parents took on the responsibility of raising their three granddaughters who now have no mother.

Since then we have focused on trying to ensure the girls have as normal life as possible. And we are very committed to continuing a positive legacy for Allison, so her death is not in vain.

Why did you set up the foundation?

As a family, we wanted to ensure that people were aware of Allison’s kindness and generosity, and we want to educate people around the signs of domestic violence. Our main event is our Strive to be Kind day, where we ask the community to show a random act of kindness. We feel the basis of humanity is kindness and respect, and if there was more of that in the world there wouldn’t be so many cases of domestic violence.

What are you hoping to share with guests at the In Conversation event on International Women’s Day?

That domestic violence doesn’t discriminate; it can affect people from all walks of life.

And that we are all bystanders, we can all make the change. We need a change in culture, a change in mindset. We need to start thinking differently to use language differently. Parents can ensure that derogatory terms like ‘cry like a girl’ aren’t part of a child’s culture – as these phrases immediately say to kids that girls are inferior.

Men can call out their mates when they hear a derogatory comment too, and together we can change the mindset and language we use.

What are the signs of domestic violence that friends and family can watch out for?

Domestic violence manifests itself in many ways. People might look for bruised eye or a broken arm, but it doesn’t always show itself physically – it’s often verbal and emotional.

In our experience – looking back – it’s mostly about control. The first sign was the isolation. She was isolated from us, we weren’t able to call and she couldn’t call us as her numbers were blocked.

Secondly, financial control – the monitoring and restriction of spending. And thirdly technology control – monitoring of phone calls, texts and emails.

In the workplace, it might be a colleague who becomes withdrawn but stays late after work, or regularly doesn’t have any money at all.

What action do you advise concerned family members or friends to take?

It would all depend on the situation and relationship you have. But you can begin by approaching the person and starting a conversation, not directly asking a question but just making them aware you are available and are a friend. Step beyond the fence and reach out.

Of course, if it’s a violent situation then contacting the police is your first port of call, it’s not your place to step in and stop a fight, but instead to intervene effectively.


To hear more from Vanessa and reserve your place at the first In Conversation event at Venue 114, head to sit down lunch will be a day to celebrate, empower and inspire. Food, drinks and entertainment will be provided. $110 per person for a table of 8 or $120 – Seniors $80

Written by

Angela Sutherland

After spending over 20 years on the editorial desks of some the leading magazine publishing houses of London and Sydney, Angela swapped the city frenzy for a Queensland sea change. Now owner and editor of Kids on the Coast and Kids in the City, she loves spending her days documenting and travelling the crazy road of family life alongside every mum and dad. 

When she’s not at her desk buried in magazine stories, you’ll often find her entrenched in a heated game of beach cricket, or being utterly outrun by her inventive seven-year-old and rambunctious threenager.

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