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The more things change ...

By Stephen Hagan - posted Wednesday, 13 December 2006

The more things change - the more they stay the same.

What an eventful few months Australian women have had to endure with the media going into a frenzy over a number of high profile verbal and physical abuse cases that, by their very brazen nature, deserved the probing glare of the nation.

The names of Trenton Cunningham, Pru Goward, Sheik Taj din al-Hilali, David Barnett and Mal Brough, featured prominently in the tabloids and evening newsreels in what would otherwise have been another uneventful month of media speculations on interest rates, exit strategies for Aussie soldiers involved in a no-brainer war in the Middle East, Telstra III share price and petrol prices.


The first story that came to the nation’s attention was the heart-rending saga of an Indigenous Tiwi Island woman, Jodie Palipuaminni, who against the advice of caring family members and the courts returned to her violent partner, Trenton Cunningham, with catastrophic consequences.

Anne Barker, speaking on Mark Colvin’s ABC Radio National show on September 20, commented that the most tragic thing about Jodie Palipuaminni's death was that it was so preventable.

“By the time her husband, Trenton Cunningham, beat her to death in May last year, she'd suffered 11 years of the most horrific domestic violence."

Cunningham had already spent 18 months in jail for two earlier assaults (including pouring boiling water over her) and at the time of her death he was on parole, with strict orders that he was not even allowed to live on the same island as his wife.

Yet parole officers admitted recently in court that, 18 months after Cunningham's release, they weren't even aware that he was again living with his wife in breach of his parole conditions.

They only became aware when, on May 25 last year, he killed her.


In that last brutal attack, Jodie Palipuaminni sustained a ruptured liver, serious head injuries, three cracked ribs, skin burns and heavy trauma to the chest and abdomen. She was pregnant at the time.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Jon Tippett QC, speaking on the same program said, "… the fact that Mrs Palipuaminni died at the hands of her husband was not surprising. It was an event that was entirely predictable and had been predicted".

Trenton Cunningham was convicted last month of manslaughter and is now serving an 11-year jail term.

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About the Author

Stephen Hagan is Editor of the National Indigenous Times, award winning author, film maker and 2006 NAIDOC Person of the Year.

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