COMMENT: The Family Court and the "system" is far from perfect but the system did not fail Rowan Baxter. The killer dad is the only failure here, writes Alex Carlton of news.com.au.
Three beautiful children and their loving mother died in the most horrendous circumstances yesterday.
Aaliyah, 6, her sister Laianah, 4, and their baby brother Trey, 3, were burned alive in their car, set alight by their father as their mother, Hannah Baxter, tried to take them to school.
Hannah survived the inferno that erupted after her ex-husband, former Warrior Rowan Baxter, 42, poured petrol onto her car and set it alight, but died later in hospital from her terrible injuries.
Rowan Baxter is also alleged to have died at the scene from self-inflicted stab wounds.
Overwhelmingly, Australia and the world has been sickened with horror at this tragedy that happened in the quiet Brisbane suburb of Camp Hill.
The idea of a parent killing their own children, especially in such a calculated, violent way, is incomprehensible to almost anyone.
That is, except for a small and deeply warped subset of the community that believes "nasty custody battles", the Family Court and a "system" that favours mothers over fathers can drive men to "snap" and kill their kids.
Here are a few of the comments that appeared on news sites about the tragedy:
"This is what happens when women try to take children from men after divorce. The system failed this loving father."
"The system kills innocent lives yet again."
"He did what he had to do to be with his children. That's what separations produce – a desperate parent and a winning parent. He decided he couldn't live without his kids. That's a committed parent. Good for him."
The thinking behind these unhinged views is that custody battles inevitably favour mothers, ripping loving fathers away from their kids, which in turn drives the fathers to "snap" and commit unspeakable violence against their own children, rather than face a life without them.
"Parental alienation" – where a custodial parent deliberately poisons a child against the non-custodial parent – is often cited as a trigger, along with a Family Court that is said to favour mothers over fathers.
Until there's more fairness, and until the court system is overhauled, the argument goes, more children's lives will be held to ransom by fathers who feel unfairly treated.
Setting aside the fact that the "system" wasn't involved in this family's case in the first place – reports say that there were no parenting orders or proceedings before the Family Court at all – the fact that this man burned his babies to death is all the evidence in the world anyone needs to understand that this mother was right to do whatever she could to keep her children away from the danger he posed.
And anyone who tries to cite "parental alienation" as a factor that can drive a man to murder is simply wrong. And it does absolutely nothing to advance the idea that parental alienation is a real occurrence that needs to be addressed when it is being genuinely applied.
• Car-fire murders: Former Warrior Rowan Baxter's wife Hannah Baxter dies after fire that killed couple's three kids
• Car-fire murders: Former Warrior father Rowan Baxter had previously kidnapped child and fled interstate, family member says
• Car-fire murders: Hannah Baxter's last words after former Warrior Rowan Baxter set fire to car on quiet Brisbane street
As someone who has researched parental alienation extensively, and spoken to dozens of mothers and fathers who have been separated from their children by a vengeful or disordered ex-partner, I am one of the few mainstream voices who accepts it is a very real condition.
I have spoken to credible women who watch helplessly as dominating men turn their own children against them as a way to assert control post-separation.
I know of demonstrably loving fathers who have been falsely accused of the most atrocious crimes so a mother can move interstate or overseas with their children without hindrance.
I'm across the work of University of Tasmania psychology lecturer Dr Mandy Matthewson, one of the few academics conducting real research into this poorly understood dynamic.
I know that for a good and loving parent, being separated from a child forces you to live in a permanent nightmare state.
It's endless, numbing grief without resolution – a living hell. It's also unspeakably destructive for children, who are forced to shut off their love for a parent for reasons they don't understand.
Often all that keeps these mothers and fathers from giving in completely to their despair – and yes, the anecdotal data suggests parental alienation is non-gendered and happens just as much to mothers as fathers – is the desperate hope that one day they will reunite with their children.
But no good and loving mother or father would ever consider that harming their own children was a reasonable way to end their own or their kids' suffering – not ever, not even during their darkest moments of grief.
And anyone who tries to link the two is excusing the actions of a reprehensible, violent man and undermining the reality of the thousands of good mothers and fathers who have been genuinely alienated.
Men like Rowan Baxter kill non-custodial children as an act of spousal revenge and to further assert their control over an ex-partner. Nothing excuses it. Nothing pushes them. No one backs them into a corner. No one forces them to do what they do.
In the day since this despicable murder took place, family members have set up a fundraising page to raise money for a funeral for Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey. Hannah's sister-in-law Stacey Roberts, who is running the page, describes how Hannah's parents, the children's grandparents, had "exhausted themselves" doing all they could "to try and help Hannah escape this monster" in the days and weeks leading up to this final, terrible moment.
This was not a man who was desperate to be reunited with his children because a mother took them away without reason. This was a man who drove a woman to flee with her children in an effort to keep them safe.
The Family Court and the "system" is far from perfect but the "system" did not fail Rowan Baxter.
Rowan Baxter is the only failure here.
MENTAL HEALTH - WHERE TO GET HELP
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• CASPER Suicide Prevention
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE - DO YOU NEED HELP?
If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
If you're in danger now:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay
Where to go for help or more information:
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice:
• National Network of Stopping Violence:
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent.
How to hide your visit
If you are reading this information on the Herald website and you're worried that someone using the same computer will find out what you've been looking at, you can follow the steps at the link
to hide your visit. Each of the websites above also have a section that outlines this process.