Linda Watson with the plaque in Friend Park at Barney Point which was unveiled today in honour of her daughter who lost her life to domestic violence.
Linda Watson with the plaque in Friend Park at Barney Point which was unveiled today in honour of her daughter who lost her life to domestic violence. Liana Walker

Domestic violence victims honoured at ceremony

THREE women murdered in the Gladstone region by former partners are among those who were remembered at a ceremony at Barney Point today.

Joelean Lee Watson was stabbed to death in New Auckland on December 3, 2008 by her former partner Shaun Ross Andrew, 25.

Briona Buxton was murdered in West Gladstone on August 20, 2008, by her former husband Wayne Barry Rankin, 34.

Joanne-Leigh Brown was shot dead by her former partner Russell Williams at Calliope Railway Hotel on April 4, 1996.

Today is Remembrance Day for women who have lost their lives as a result of domestic and family violence.

Gladstone Women's Health Centre director Brigitte Geenan said any life lost is one too many, and urged the community to be aware that domestic violence is something we need to talk about.

"There shouldn't be a stigma,” she said. "We should open up the discussion, break the cycle of violence.”

The perception that domestic and family violence is a "private matter'' has compounded the problem, Ms Geenan said.

"People should not have to ask for respect... people should expect respect,” she said.

Ms Geenan said the support of friends of family is critically important for all people experiencing domestic violence.

"If people feel free to open up and talk about their relationship, and talk about the worries they may have, it could well be that it would never end up a violent relationship.”

She said it takes courage for women who have been hit to open up or to call out abusive behaviour, and friends and family can also play a role.

"It's very important for those victims to be aware of how healthy their relationship is - is he controlling me? Can I say what I want to say without being punished for it?”

The Gladstone Women's Health Centre helps victims as well as perpetrators to overcome the cycle of violence.

"We help victims of domestic violence by counselling them, building on their self-esteem, giving them courage to come forward to friends and authorities. We give them practical support to be safe.”

The centre offers behavioural change programs for men who feel they could benefit, including those who have been abusive in the past.

Ms Geenan said it helped men understand why they had been abusive and change their attitude and behaviour and work toward a more healthy relationship.

This month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Contact Gladstone Women's Health Centre on 49791456 or email info@gladstonewomenshealth.org.au