A father killed his six-month-old son on this road at Coochin Creek.
A father killed his six-month-old son on this road at Coochin Creek. Patrick Woods

On this lonely road, a father killed his tiny baby

We cannot mollycoddle child-killing brutes by shifting blame onto the other parent or deflecting from their actions with lame excuses, writes SHERELE MOODY.

TODAY, a woman is mourning the loss of her six-month-old son.

The child was murdered by his 46-year-old father who then ended his own life, Queensland Police say.

Their bodies were found in a car on a rough dirt track at Coochin Creek - about 40 minutes from the family's home in Redcliffe and not far from the picturesque Sunshine Coast.

I know Coochin Creek well, having travelled Roys Rd to and from work more times than I care to remember.

Roys Rd is a typical country thoroughfare - a smooth bitumen stretch with a few gentle bends.

Hoons often burn rubber along its dark surface or race their mates illegally - away from the gaze of police.

Pine plantations stand sentry here, with little dirt tracks stretching their bumpy tendrils into the human-made forests.

Monday to Friday these tracks are silent but on the weekends the roar of motorbikes echoes across the flats.

Warning signs alert people to the fact that CCTV will film them dumping rubbish - or unwanted pets - in the area.

There is even a small historic cemetery that serves the surrounding farming community.

This is a place where dumped cars are so common they rarely rate a second glance - I've driven past my fair share and never once bothered to pull over and check them out.

By day it is pleasant enough but by night it is eerie and it is lonely.

I am not surprised the father chose this area as the end of the line for his son - and himself.

The baby and his father were found in this car by council workers.
The baby and his father were found in this car by council workers. Patrick Woods

The baby disappeared two days before when the man failed to bring the infant boy back to mum as per their custody agreement.

The desperate search for the pair ended on Wednesday when council officers found their bodies in a seemingly abandoned red Commodore.

We have since learned the father was the subject of domestic violence allegations and that there was no amber alert issued - despite the abuse concerns.

Police say they will investigate why a child in dire danger was not considered worthy of a national missing persons alert.

As often happens when men murder their children, a clarion call of blame swept swiftly across social media with some people saying the child's murder was in some way the mother's fault.

"All of the women blaming this man. You won't ever look at yourselves and consider yourselves the blame. It's all women commenting on this. Not one amongst you who admits it is what you do to men that causes this. Burn," one man wrote on Facebook.

Another bloke wrote: "Bet it's linked to a family law dispute with the ex-wife and the court denying the father access to the child. The Family Court system has a lot to answer for."

The mum is not to blame for this tragedy. She did not kill her son. She may have feared for his safety but she could not have predicted this outcome for her first - and only - child.

The only person responsible for ending the baby's life is his father and we cannot lose sight of that.

As the dust settles and our anger for another child lost to family violence subsides, we should take the time to examine the drivers behind child deaths in Australia.

About every two weeks a child is killed by their mother or father.

Last year, 23 children were killed.

 

Children are usually beaten to death with strangulation and suffocation the next most common cause of death, followed by stabbing and drowning, research shows.
Children are usually beaten to death with strangulation and suffocation the next most common cause of death, followed by stabbing and drowning, research shows. AnaBGD

Newly released Australian Institute of Criminology research by Monash University shows 300 children were killed by their parents or carers over the past 12 years.

Averaging out to 25 deaths a year, child murders are low when compared to the deaths of adult men (the most common victims of violence in Australia) and women.

The researchers found that more than three quarters of filicide victims were killed by custodial parents - with two thirds of perpetrators being fathers or stepfathers.

Professor Thea Brown says 66 per cent of the filicides were "motivated by a domestic argument" usually about the upbringing of the victim and or custodial arrangements.

Children are usually beaten to death with strangulation and suffocation the next most common cause of death, followed by stabbing and drowning, the research shows.

"The major risk factors for children are age - the youngest children are the most vulnerable, especially from stepfathers," the Monash University Department of Social Work academic says.

Boys are more likely to be killed than girls.

Many perpetrators experienced mental illness at some stage and - given postnatal depression is a major issue for new mothers - it is no surprise that psychiatric issues were most common among young women who killed.

Professor Brown says domestic violence, parental separation, past child abuse, substance abuse and previous criminal history were also common factors in the researched deaths.

Like so many other experts in the area of family violence and child murders, Professor Brown believes early intervention is the key to ending child killings.

We need our governments - at all levels - to extend funding to mental health services and to pay for more programs to prevent violence.

Family law professionals - especially judges and independent children's lawyers - need to put children's safety before the "rights of parents" when making custodial decisions.

Instead of giving child killers lenient sentences, our criminal justice system must up the ante and jail them for life.

Families and friends of parents can play their parts as well - if you know a child is at risk, step up and take action.

And perpetrators? At the end of the day the decision to kill a child rests solely on the shoulders of the person who commits the murder.

We cannot mollycoddle these brutes by shifting blame onto the other parent or deflecting from their actions with lame excuses.

The last thing our country needs, is another tragedy like the killing of a six-month-old baby by his father on a lonely bush road.  

*For 24-hour domestic violence support phone the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. If you are experiencing mental health concerns, phone Lifeline on 13 11 44.

News Corp journalist Sherele Moody is the recipient of the 2018 B&T Women in Media Social Change Maker Award and has multiple Clarion and Walkley Our Watch journalism excellence awards for her work highlighting violence against women and children. She is also the founder of The RED HEART Campaign and the creator of the Australian Femicide & Child Death Map.

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