Report due on ‘failings’ for fatal family
Women’s safety advocates hope a report into the murder of teenage Sydney siblings, at the hands of their estranged and abusive father, will amplify the voices of young domestic violence victims.
NSW Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan is due to release her findings and recommendations on Wednesday into the deaths of Jack and Jennifer Edwards in July 2018.
The teenagers, aged 15 and 13 respectively, were shot dead while cowering under a bedroom desk after their father John Edwards stalked Jennifer on her way home from school.
After using a recently-purchased semi-automatic pistol, the retired financial planner “half-skipped” down the home’s front stairs and drove home to take his own life.
The children’s devastated mother, Olga, slept in her son’s bed after his death before taking her life in late 2018.
A September 2020 inquest was told that despite Edwards’ 40-year history of violence and abuse towards his six former partners and 10 estranged children, police had not charged him with any offence since 1998 and approved his gun licence in 2017.
The experience of the children and Olga in the Family Court was heavily scrutinised after a lawyer tasked with representing the children’s best interests initially advocated for Edwards to see his children weekly.
Women’s Safety NSW chief executive Hayley Foster said independent children’s lawyers too often had no demonstrated knowledge of the impact of family violence on children.
Some lawyers in the family law system, the courts themselves and police need to listen to the voices of children, she said.
“In so many cases, children are forced into situations where they’re not safe because adults around them have made a determination that they know better,” Ms Foster said.
She also hopes the recommendations address the “contact at all costs” culture in family law proceedings and the “massive problem with inconsistent police response” to people reporting domestic violence.