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Mental health experts have called for increased domestic and family violence training for counsellors and therapists, with a focus on trauma-informed care, to avoid future DFV related tragedies.

The calls come as new podcast, Hannah’s Story, addresses the systemic failings leading to the murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children.

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During the coronial inquest, it emerged that the family’s murderer, Clarke’s estranged husband, Rohan Baxter, sought counselling just weeks before burning his family alive. 

At the time, the psychologist said she had no concerns about Baxter’s mental health, and that he was coping “remarkably well”.  Having seen the killer for six sessions, she believed restarting contact with his children would be “ideal”.

“I have no concerns with his mental health. Contact with his children would be ideal and after reviewing his parenting strategy, all seems in order for him to regain contact,” she wrote in her report.


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Hannah and her children were murdered less than a month later.

Psychotherapist and domestic violence counsellor Julie Sweet said it was imperative therapists, counsellors and social workers were trained and educated in providing trauma informed care.

“These principles and frameworks are unknown to some support services and first responders, and as a result often the term is misunderstood.”

“It’s critical therapists are trained specifically in DFV to assess, establish, evaluate and put into place a care and safety plan.

“It’s also beneficial to identify red flags and indicators in the space of DFV. That is to know when to explore strategies to prevent a negative or fatal outcome with an individual, and importantly, when not to.”

Ms Sweet said crucial work around perpetrators of DFV is an imminent requirement, however there was some reluctance within the field to work with this cohort.

Psychotherapist Dr Karen Phillip said DVF training was not a standard part of most counselling courses but she encouraged therapists to take advantage of the “considerable training offered for all therapists on personality and relationship

“Providing the counsellor learns these techniques and skills, they can become more aware and able to support the individuals.

“We see many issues between couples in the counselling room and many of these have one narcissistic partner who intimidates, bullies, and controls the other.

“All counsellors need more training within their course to recognise and manage these presenting behaviours.”

Dr Phillip said therapists should be trained in recognising red flags through body and verbal language.

“Body language in each partner can give away a lot of information. Language used between the partners. Blame and where this is laid.

“Fear is often seen and heard in clients either when in the room individually or as a couple.”

Without additional training, experts believe perpetrators will continue manipulating the system, leading to potentially deadly outcomes.

“If therapists haven’t been trained, educated, or upskilled around trauma informed care, it makes sense that it wouldn’t be delivered nor demonstrated within sessions or when treating FV and DV affected persons.”


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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications ( and a children's author.