Janine Little

'Not available on the evidence': Australian narratives of violence against women in legal and media texts

The murders of Allison Baden-Clay and Jill Meagher and the drug-related death of Dianne Brimble proved to be three of Australia's biggest news events, offering more than their value as sensational 'true crime' stories. Key texts that report and interpret criminal procedures following the women's deaths reflect some of the cultural conditions for public interest in violence against women. This paper discusses some of those texts, referring to examples of journalism advocating for justice for the three victims, up to the day in 2016 when the High Court of Australia reinstated a murder conviction against wife-killer Gerard Baden-Clay.[1] The cruise ship death of Dianne Brimble occurred a decade before the 2012 domestic violence murder of Allison Baden-Clay, and rape and murder of Jill Meagher by a predatory stranger that same year. Brimble's death did not itself, or specifically, bring legal punishment to a perpetrator but is still a compelling presence at the edge of a media cultural space that expands across the Baden-Clay and Meagher cases into the Australian cultural narrative of violence against women.
Considering Dianne Brimble's posthumous media-legal persona alongside those of Allison Baden-Clay and Jill Meagher enables a view of violence against women, a complex problem of gender and power, through an ethical lens. It positions journalism as a navigator of meaning for this perspective, especially when what is 'not available on the evidence' in legal terms is hypothesised in public conversations about individual perpetrators and victims that rely on media texts for the extension of such discussions towards violence against women as a matter of relational ethics.

Keywords: violence against women, journalism, Allison Baden-Clay, Jill Meagher, Dianne Brimble, legal narrative


  1. ABC News Online (2013) Jill Meagher remembered as thousands march down Sydney Road in Melbourne, 30 September. Available online at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-29/thousands-march-to-remember-jill-meagher/4987756, accessed on 1 February 2017
  2. ABC News Online (2016) Gerard Baden-Clay: DPP files appeal against decision to downgrade murder conviction, 4 January. Available online at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-04/gerard-Baden-Clay-murder-conviction-downgrade-appealed-by-dpp/7066462, accessed on 2 February 2017
  3. Alat, Zeynep (2006) News coverage of violence against women, Feminist Media Studies, Vol. 6, No. 3 pp 295-314
  4. Australian Associated Press (AAP) (2009) I lied, admits Brimble witness Ryan Kucher, News.com.au, 17 August. Available online at http://www.news.com.au/news/i-lied-admits-brimble-witness-ryan-kuchel/news-story/c3b995c8abd75d773712d85fa316f99b, accessed on 6 March 2017
  5. Berns, Nancy (2004) Framing the victim: Domestic violence, media, and social problems, New York, Walter de Gruyter
  6. Biber, Katherine (2014) Inside Jill Meagher's handbag: Looking at open justice, Alternative Law Journal, Vol. 39, No. 2 pp 73-77
  7. Bourdieu, Pierre (2001) Masculine domination (trans. by Nice, Richard), Cambridge, Polity
  8. Brown, Tara (2014) The wife killer: Inside the police investigation of Gerard Bayden-Clay, 1TV Current Affairs, 60 Minutes, 15 July. Available online at http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/stories/8874980/the-wife-killer-inside-the-police-investigation-of-gerard-baden-clay, accessed on 3 February 2017
  9. Bucci, Nino (2012) Plaque installed where Jill Meagher's body found, The Age, 2 October. Available online at http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/plaque-installed-where-jill-meaghers-body-found-20121002-26wtd.html, accessed on 3 February 2017
  10. Bullock, Cathy Ferrand (2007) Framing domestic violence fatalities: Coverage by Utah vewspapers, Women's Studies in Communication, Vol. 30, No. 1 pp 34-63
  11. Carter, Cynthia (2012) Sex/gender and the media: From sex roles to social construction and beyond, Ross, Karen (ed.) The handbook of gender, sex and media, Hoboken, New Jersey, John Wiley and Sons pp 365-382
  12. Carter, Cynthia, Branston, Gill and Allan, Stuart (1998) News, gender and power, London, Routledge
  13. Carter, Cynthia and Weaver, C. Kay (2003) Violence and the media, Buckingham, UK, Open University Press
  14. Catanzariti, Katelyn and Dowdell, Andrew (2010) Nobody pays: Brimble death charge dismissed, Adelaide Advertiser, 22 April. Available online at Factiva Database Document ADVTSR0020100421e64m0002t
  15. Chamberlin, Thomas and Murray, David (2015) Brisbane rally to be held in wake of Gerard Baden-Clay appeal decision, Courier Mail, 14 December. Available online at http://www.couriermail.com.au/lifestyle/brisbane-rally-to-be-held-in-wake-of-gerard-badenclay-appeal-decision/news-story/2981fc70b93f0b4160f1b448c76d22e2, accessed on 3 February 2017
  16. Chancer, Lynn S. (1998) Playing gender against race in high profile crime cases: The Tyson/Thomas/Simpson Pattern of the 1990s, Violence Against Women, Vol. 4, No. 1 pp 100-113
  17. Connell, Raewyn (2016) Masculinities in global perspective: Hegemony, contestation, and changing structures of power, Theoretical Sociology, Vol. 45 pp 303-318
  18. Courier-Mail (2016) Gerard Baden-Clay appeal: High Court reinstates murder conviction, 31 August. Available online at http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/crime-and-justice/gerard-badenclay-appeal-high-court-reinstates-murder-conviction/news-story/dc16fcf3e59ce04dff67898939330417, accessed on 1 Febriuary 2017
  19. Cover, Rob (2014) Sexual ethics, masculinity and mutual vulnerability: Judith Butler's contribution to an ethics of non-violence, Australian Feminist Studies, Vol. 29, No. 82 pp 435-451
  20. Cuklanz, Lisa (2014) Mass media representations of gendered violence, Carter, Cynthia, Steiner, Linda and McLaughlin, Lisa (eds) The Routledge companion to media and gender, London and New York, Routledge pp 32-41
  21. Cuklanz, Lisa M. and Moorti, Sujata (2006) Television's 'new' feminism: Prime-time representations of women and victimisation, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Vol. 23, No. 4 pp 302-321
  22. Davies, Lisa (2009 Dianne Brimble accused Letterio Silvestri sentenced for lying, Daily Telegraph, 1 July. Available online at http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/diane-brimble-accused-letterio-silvestri-sentenced-for-lying/news-story/85cdaae345d04206a17c20ea6670d677, accessed on 6 March, 2017
  23. Fitz-Gibbon, Kate and Walklate, Sandra (eds) (2016) Homicide, gender and responsibility: An international perspective, Abingdon, Oxon and New York, Routledge
  24. Geddes, Vig (2012) Love no longer pulls the trigger: Media reporting of violence against women, DVRCV Quarterly, Vol. 3 Spring/Summer pp 23-25
  25. Gillespie, Lane Kirkland, Richards, Tara N., Givens, Eugena M. and Smith, M. Dwayne (2013) Framing deadly domestic violence: Why the media's spin matters in newspaper coverage of femicide, Violence Against Women, Vol. 19, No. 2 pp 222-245
  26. Hayner, Norman S. (1928) Hotel life and personality, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 33, No.5 pp 784-795
  27. Hobart Mercury (2006) Woman tells of Losic's laughter over Brimble, 1 November. Available online at Factiva Database Document MRCURY0020061117e2bh0000x
  28. Howe, Adrian (2014) Fatal love, Griffith Journal of Law and Human Dignity: Special Issue Women and Violence, Vol. 2. No. 1 pp 4-24
  29. Jacobsen, Geesche (2010a) Abandoned: The sad death of Dianne Brimble, Sydney, Allen and Unwin
  30. Jacobsen, Geesche (2010b) Inquest to re-open as Wilhelm walks, Sydney Morning Herald, 30 April. Available online at http://www.smh.com.au/national/inquest-to-reopen-as-wilhelm-walks-20100429-twmo.html, accessed on 27 February 2017
  31. Jacobsen, Geesche (2010c) 'She was a dog and she ruined my holiday', Brimble inquest told, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 June
  32. Jermyn, Deborah (2001) 'Death of the girl next door': Celebrity, femininity, and tragedy in the murder of Jill Dando, Feminist Media Studies, Vol. 1, No. 3 pp 343-359
  33. Johnson, K. (2015) 'We're #Doing It 4Allison': Stars line up with family and friends to rally for Baden-Clay appeal, Seven News Online, 16 December. Available online at https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/30376421/libby-trickett-teams-up-with-doing-it-for-allison-supporters/, accessed on 2 February 2017
  34. Johnston, Chris (2015) Jill Meagher tragedy disguises women's domestic violence struggle, The Age, 26 March. Available online at http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/jill-meagher-tragedy-disguises-womens-domestic-violence-struggle-20150326-1m85qa.html, accessed on 6 March, 2017
  35. Johnston, Chris (2013a) The death that made a city stop and think: The murder of Jill Meagher: Reaction, The Age, 12 June p. 8
  36. Johnston, Chris (2013b) Crimes at sea: The dark side of cruising, Sydney Morning Herald Online, 17 August. Available online at http://www.smh.com.au/national/crimes-at-sea-the-dark-side-of-cruise-ships-20130816-2s263.html, accessed on 12 January 2017
  37. Joseph, Sue (2013) The 'morally defensible' journalist: Shedding 'performance' and managing an ethic of empathy within personal trauma narrative, Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics, Vol. 10, Nos 2/3 pp 8-15
  38. Klein, Ross and Poulston, Jill (2011) Sex at sea: Sexual crimes aboard cruise ships, Tourism in Marine Environments, Vol. 7, No. 1 pp 67-80
  39. Knox, Malcolm (2006) Cruising: Life and death on the high seas, The Monthly, September. Available online at https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2006/september/1166764350/malcolm-knox/cruising
  40. Kyriacou, Kate (2014) 'I want you to kill my wife': 'Family man' trawled for sex and once asked a girl to murder his wife, Courier-Mail, 16 July pp 4-5
  41. Lattas, J. (2007) Cruising: 'Moral panic' and the Cronulla riot, Australian Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 18 pp 320-335
  42. Le Grand, Chip (2012) For Jill Meagher, a city marches in silence, Weekend Australian, 1 October. Available online at ww.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/for-jill-a-city-marches-in-silence/news-story/bd9618969e465c0e32aa5206e71ba29b, accessed on 6 March, 2017
  43. Little, Janine (2015) Jill Meagher CCTV, Feminist Media Studies, Vol. 15, No. 3 pp 397-410
  44. Lombard, Nancy and McMillan, Lesley (2013) Violence against women: Current theory and practice in domestic abuse, sexual violence and exploitation, London and Philadelphia, Jessica Kingsley Publishers
  45. Mama Mia (2015) Lisa Wilkinson delivered a passionate speech at the rally for Allison Baden-Clay, 19 December. Available online at http://www.mamamia.com.au/lisa-wilkinson-doing-it-for-allison/, assessed on 1 February 2017
  46. Masters, Deb (2006). The mourning after, Australian Story, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 8 May. Available online at http://www.abc.net.au/austory/content/2006/s1634481.htm, accessed on 2 January 2017
  47. Maxwell, Kimbery A., Huxford, John, Borum, Catherine and Hornik, Robert (2000) Covering domestic violence: How the O. J. Simpson case shaped reporting of domestic violence in the mass media, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Vol. 77, No. 2 pp 258-272
  48. McCullough, J. (2015) From 'A man's home is his castle' to criminal assault in the home: A brief history of family violence law and justice, domestic violence and interpreting: A National Forum Report, Monash University, Melbourne, March. Available online at http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/criminology/from-a-mans-home-is-his-castle-to-criminal-assault-in-the-home/, accessed on 2 January 2017
  49. McKenzie, Mandy, Kirkwood, Deborah, Tyson, Danielle and Naylor, Bronwyn (2016) Out of character? Legal responses to intimate partner homicides by men in Victoria 2005-2014, Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV) Disscussion Paper No. 10, Monash University, Melbourne
  50. Meade, Amanda (2014) Baden-Clay lover Toni McHugh's Women's Weekly spread causes outrage, Guardian Australia Online, 1 August. Available online at https://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/aug/01/baden-clay-toni-mchugh-womens-weekly-outrage, accessed on 2 January 2017
  51. Meyers, Marian (1997) News, violence and women: News coverage of violence against women, Meyers, Marian, Engendering blame, New York and London, Sage pp 1-17
  52. Murray, David (2014a) 'I blame Allison': Baden-Clay told counsellor he had thought his problems were the fault of depressed wife, Courier Mail, 5 February p. 1
  53. Murray, David (2014b) The murder of Allison Baden-Clay, North Sydney, Ebury Press/Random House
  54. Murray, David (2015) Allison Baden-Clay will become the face of family violence campaign, Courier-Mail, 29 July. Available online at http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/allison-badenclay-will-become-the-face-of-family-violence-campaign/news-story/c14e52621943551571d56af450e716d7, accessed on 3 January 2017
  55. Norton, Francene (2014) Gerard Baden-Clay given life sentence for murder of wife Allison, ABC News Online, 16 July. Available online at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-15/gerard-baden-clay-guilty-of-killing-wife-allison/5548628, accessed on 2 January 2017
  56. Oakes, Dan (2012) Images of Jill set a haunting scene, The Age, 27 Sepember. Available online at http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/images-of-jill-set-a-haunting-scene-20120926-26lof.html, accessedon 2 January 2017
  57. Queen v Baden Clay (2016) HCA 35, No. B33/2016
  58. R v Baden-Clay (2015) QSCA, 265
  59. R v Wilhelm (2010) New South Wales Supreme Court (NSWC) 334, 19 April
  60. R v Wilhelm (2010) 77 New South Wales Law Reports (NSWLR) 1, 19 April
  61. Riches, Sam (2006) Brimble inquest evidence unreliable, says Hyde. New witness admits claims are hearsay, Adelaide Advertiser, 6 December p. 5. Available online at Factiva database Document ADVTSR0020061201e2c20000p, accessed on 2 January 2017
  62. Russell, Mark (2012) Husband warns of social media's negative influence on trial, The Age, 29 September. Available online at http://www.theage.com.au/technology/technology-news/husband-warns-of-social-medias-negative-influence-on-trial-20120928-26qro, accessed on 2 February 2017
  63. Sharp, Annette (2014) Women's Weekly boss Helen McCabe comes under fire for Baden-Clay mistress interview, Daily Telegraph, 31 July. Available online at http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/sydney-confidential/womens-weekly-boss-helen-mccabe-comes-under-fire-for-badenclay-mistress-interview/news-story/173eb9b20a5d97826714001642d691ea, accessed on 20 December 2016
  64. Small, Stephanie and Wilson, Courtney (2015) Allison Baden-Clay: Thousands rally in Brisbane against downgrading of husband's murder conviction, ABC News Online, 18 December. Available online at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-18/baden-clay-rally-in-brisbane/7040478, accessed on 20 December 2015
  65. Sutherland, Georgina, McCormack, Angus, Pirkis, Jane, Vaughan, Cathy, Dunne-Breen, Michelle, Easteal, Patricia and Holland, Kate (2016) Media representations of violence against women and their children: Final report, ANROWS Horizons 03, Sydney. Available online at http://media.aomx.com/anrows.org.au/H3_2 2_Media_CONTENT_low.pdf
  66. The Allison Baden-Clay Foundation. Available online at https://www.allisonbadenclayfoundation.org.au/
  67. Tyson, Danielle, Kirkwood, Deborah and McKenzie, Mandy (2016) Family violence in domestic homicides: A case study of women who killed intimate partners post-legislative reform in Victoria, Australia, Violence Against Women. Available online at doi:0.1177/1077801216647796
  68. Valentine, Kylie and Breckenridge, Jan (2016) Responses to family and domestic violence: Supporting women?, Griffith Law Review. Available online at doi:10.1080/10383441.2016.1204684
  69. Wells, Jamelle (2010) Wilhelm walks free after Brimble death trial, ABC News, 29 April. Available online at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-04-29/wilhelm-walks-free-after-brimble-death-trial/415092, accessed on 6 March, 2017
  70. White Ribbon Australia. (2016) Why is the work of White Ribbon important? Available online at http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/white-ribbon-importance
  71. Williams, George (2013) Chances of return to death penalty remain almost nil, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 June p. 19
  72. Zelizer, Barbie (2010) About to die: How news images move the public, New York, Oxford University Press
  73. Zelizer, Barbie (2004) Taking journalism seriously: News and the academy, Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage

Note on the contributor

Janine Little is a senior lecturer in communication (journalism) at Deakin University, Geelong, Australia.