Senator Barry O'Sullivan Photo: Howard Moffat/AUSPIC
Senator Barry O'Sullivan Photo: Howard Moffat/AUSPIC

Former cop: witnessing violence 'physically tortured me'

AUSTRALIA - You should be ashamed.

Ashamed that 17 women have died this year at the hands of the men they love.

Ashamed that your children are growing up in homes rife with violence.

Ashamed that some of you are not willing to intervene when men take their frustrations out on their families.

That's the no holds barred message from out-spoken anti-domestic violence advocate and federal senator, Barry O'Sullivan.


The Toowoomba politician delivered his blunt warning yesterday as APN Regional Media's Terror at Home campaign gained momentum across Queensland and New South Wales.

"We as Australians ought to be ashamed of this cultural glitch," the former detective said.

"We ought to be ashamed to our bootstraps.

"If all Australians thought about this for five minutes, if all Australian men who see themselves as sun-bronzed Aussies they thought ... we're murdering up to two women each week and there are thousands of victims, they should be so ashamed."

Mr O'Sullivan grew up in Rockhampton and joined the police in 1976.

He had a stellar career with the force, earning bravery, good conduct and long service medals and commendations before retiring in 1991.

Mr O'Sullivan was shocked by the harsh reality of family violence he saw while serving on the blue line.

His frustration boiled over as assaults on women and children became part of his daily routine.

"Many people don't think about it during their day because it's not within the scope of their lives," said the widowed father of four who entered the Federal Senate last year.

"Many of my colleagues haven't stood in the kitchen of the home of a battered wife and felt the frustration of wondering what one can do about it.

"I had daily experience of it.

"I'm feeling now what I felt then, an absolute frustration."

Mr O'Sullivan is a big bloke with a tough attitude but he has been pushed to the edge by the tragedy that is gripping the nation.

"I did a presentation to the Senate (on violence) and I became emotional, I couldn't get through it and I'm built of granite," he said.

"It does deeply affect you - it will never leave you.

"It is the sense of helplessness, the same sense as when I was standing in the kitchen of a woman resisting the police intervention because she's petrified of what will happen.

"We need to dig deep; we need to do something soon."


In the 1980s, he spent time with the FBI researching serial killers and what he saw there strengthened his resolve to take action.

"I had four months looking at a diet of photographs and slides and videos of crime scenes where women and children were killed," he said.

"It physically tortured me - that has never left me.

"I don't make a distinction about how we end up with a victim.

"I know the pain in those lives."

More than 27,000 domestic assaults were reported to NSW police last year and in 2013-14 Queensland police responded to 60,000 incidents.

Mr O'Sullivan said Australian governments needed to treat domestic terrorism in the same vein as threats against this country.

"The Senate, of which I'm a part, late last year approved an additional $1.5 billion in the fight against terrorism to protect our citizens," he said.

"This is important, I get it, I supported the legislative changes, but at the same time we're having two women every week killed in this nation from domestic violence or violence that occurs from someone who is in their close family arrangement as opposed to stranger violence.

"This doesn't take into account the very serious physical assaults that happen on thousands of women in our community every week.

"This will have a longer much more far-reaching effect on our national identity than any event of terrorism."

All the experts agree there is no simple solution to domestic violence.

It cannot be stopped in a day, week, month or year.

It will take legislative change, a massive gender-based cultural shift and educating children about respect for others and making the right choices.

But Mr O'Sullivan said there were some things we could do now to turn the tide.

"Domestic violence orders are ineffective in most instances," he said.

"We need to fund and resource police services to make these priorities when they get complaints of domestic violence.

"Where the victim is killed by their near and dear, these things in some instances are at the very least foreseeable and in some instances they are probable."

He said focusing on perpetrators was vital.

"We've got to take these perpetrators and put a bracelet around their hand and track them by GPS and the minute they get anywhere within the vicinity (of their partner) we should lock them up for a long period of time," he said.

"And each time they offend and breach the order of the court we should lock them up for a longer period of time."

Australia's youngest citizens are the most vulnerable of victims and they are at the heart of Mr O'Sullivan's dream to eradicate family violence.

"The future is in our children," he said.

"For some, their lives are buggered from the day they are born because of the circumstances they are born into.

"Some of these children - this is the whole scope of their environment - it is only the thing they see... it's money see, monkey do." - APN NEWSDESK


YOU can join the fight to end family violence.

APN's Hands Off campaign is shining the light on domestic terrorism.

Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, former governor-general Quentin Bryce, Queensland Chief Justice Tim Carmody and retired league legend Steve Renouf have thrown their support behind the campaign.

The campaign is pushing for the introduction of specialist family violence courts and respectful relationships education in all schools.

So far this year 17 Australian women are believed to have died at the hands of their current or former partners and police across NSW and Qld deal with hundreds of family violence incidents every day.

Do your bit to bring an end to this scourge by signing our online petition - just as 899 other people have done.

Help us crack the 1000-signature mark and make a difference.