A female police officer to be assigned to the sexual violence support service is a welcome move, victims and families say

The family of murdered mother Tara Brown says an initiative by the Gold Coast Police will help rebuild trust between officers and victims of sexual and domestic violence who need their help.

Under the initiative, a Gold Coast policewoman will be stationed at the Gold Coast Center Against Sexual Violence each week, in an attempt to break down barriers and increase access to justice for survivors.

The service provides counseling and support to women fleeing sexual, domestic and family violence and has advocated for years for police to improve responses to reports of sexual and domestic violence.

In April, a review of the Gold Coast police response to the alleged murder of Kelly Wilkinson, a mother of three, was ordered after it was revealed that she had repeatedly sought help from the police before her death.

Black and white wedding photo of murder victim Kelly Wilkinson smiling.
The burned body of alleged murder victim Kelly Wilkinson was found in an Arundel backyard in April 2021.(

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Officers were also criticized for handling complaints from murdered Gold Coast mother Tara Brown, who was pulled off the road and beaten to death by her ex-partner in 2015.

Fabiana Palhares, Lordy Ramadan and Karina Lock are three other Gold Coast women who have been killed by their partners or ex-partners in recent years, while Doreen Langham and Hannah Clarke were killed further north in Logan and Brisbane.

Breaking barriers

The barriers that victims of domestic and family violence face when seeking support and justice also exist for survivors of sexual violence, many of whom are often victims of both crimes.

Di McLeod, founder and director of the Gold Coast Center Against Sexual Violence, said she hoped the introduction of a female police officer into the service would help address the problem.

“We thought, why not take them to the police where they feel comfortable and can talk to the police officer in that environment?

“It is a really important access to justice issue, we really thank the Gold Coast Police District for being flexible enough to accommodate the issues that we have been discussing for some time.”

A woman holding a sign that read "Believe the survivors"
Di Macleod of the Gold Coast Center Against Sexual Violence supporting survivors at a rally.(

Supplied: Gold Coast Center Against Sexual Violence

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Improving trust between victims, police

Jonathan Gardner, stepfather of Tara Brown, a murdered Gold Coast woman, says these initiatives are important to ensure victims feel supported and believed.

“I think anything that puts more police officers on the front lines of preventing and supporting domestic and sexual violence has to be good,” Gardner said.

“Through our foundation [The Tara Brown Foundation] We still hear stories of women showing up at police stations, seeking help to protect themselves from domestic and sexual violence and not taking it seriously, sometimes feeling like they are wasting the time of the police.

“It is not uncommon and I think there is some trust that needs to be fixed and this is a great step, because it shows commitment and shows that [Queensland Police] I want to fix this and get it right. “

A man and a woman in sunglasses look sad.
Natalie Hinton and Jonathan Gardner, mother and stepfather of murdered woman Tara Brown.(

AAP: Dan Peled

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Female victims prefer female officers

Ms McLeod said the introduction of an official at the center would allow the women-only service to “continue to honor that space.”

He said that women who were sexually assaulted were generally attacked by men, and some women did not feel comfortable talking to a male officer “in such detail about what happened to them.”

“For others, gender is not an issue, but since it is a service for women, we wanted to start with … as much security as we could afford.”

Ms. McLeod said she was confident the initiative would help survivors move forward and hoped that other services would adopt a similar idea.

A police officer and a woman in red glasses gilding a piece of paper
Acting Chief Superintendent Rhys Wildman and Gold Coast Center Against Sexual Violence founder Di McLeod sign a memorandum of understanding to introduce the initiative.(

ABC Gold Coast: Tara Cassidy

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Detective Inspector Chris Ahern said officers wanted survivors to know they were being heard.

“We know that well supported victims find it easier to get through the investigation and the judicial process and … the criminal justice system,” he said.

“So this opportunity for us to bring one of our detectives into the center, to be accessible to those seeking counseling services at the center, is a really good initiative.

According to the Queensland Police, all female detectives in the Gold Coast district will participate in the project and will be assigned to the support agency in a rotating role.

The project will be launched in the coming weeks of October, which is Sexual Violence Awareness Month.

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