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Australian govenment admits ‘fundamental failures’ in Pickett case

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Emma Davis
WVoN co-editor

An Australian woman, murdered by her estranged husband, was let down by “fundamental failures” within the authorities, the government has admitted for the first time.

Andrea Pickett was killed in 2009 by Kenneth Pickett after he made a series of threats to her and her family.

Her family campaigned for two years for an inquest into how the system failed to protect Ms Pickett.

The coroner’s findings, returned last month, criticised the fact that “there is no organisation or department which has the role of protecting victims of crime in circumstances such as those which Andrea found herself in.”

The findings also slammed the police authorities for failing to properly look into Kenneth Pickett’s multiple breaches of violence restraining orders.

On a programme aired on the country’s ABC network this week, the newly appointed Minister for corrective services in Western Australia, Murray Cowper, said: “I want to reassure the people of Western Australia that the government hasn’t been sitting back idly waiting for a coroner’s report to come down, and clearly state that there have been some fundamental failures on behalf of a number of government departments in respect to this.”

As reported on the ABC News website, Ms Pickett had made several pleas for help to the police and to a division of Western Australia’s Department for Child Protection known as Crisis Care, which offers emergency those in danger.

But her requests to be placed in a refuge with her seven youngest children were rejected, as she was told there were not enough beds.

Chief executive of Western Australia’s Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services, Angela Hartwig, said: “That was a failure and it’s not good enough to say that there weren’t enough beds in women’s refuges. I think so much more could have been done knowing that there weren’t the beds in refuges. They should have put them up somewhere safe even if it was witness protection or out of the metropolitan area in the interim.”

She told the makers of the programme “We’ve had two new refuges funded in the metropolitan area in about 20 years and so with the population growth, with the increased demand, refuges cannot possibly cope and I think governments have been pretty poor in terms of dealing with this issue.”

It has since been revealed that there were 12 beds available in a refuge a few hours away on the nights leading up to Ms Pickett’s murder.

130 Australians are killed every year by their partners or ex-partners, with most of these victims being female.

Mr Cowper responded to the criticism by reassuring viewers that more provisions were being made to cater for those seeking refuge.

He said: “We now have in excess of 200 positions for families in Western Australia. We have around 50 for single people, and if for some other reason that accommodation was to have been filled, we will find alternative, suitable accommodation in the private sector.”

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