All The Books I Can Read

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Review: A Mother’s Story by Rosie Batty & Bryce Corbett

on June 20, 2019

A Mother’s Story
Rosie Batty with Bryce Corbett
Harper Collins AUS
2015, 324p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

At the start of 2014, Rosie Batty was an ordinary single mum doing everything in her power to give her son, Luke, the very best life she could. But her world changed forever when her troubled ex-partner, Greg Anderson, killed Luke in an horrendous attack at the local cricket ground in February that year.

Rosie had suffered years of family violence, and had intervention orders in place in an effort to protect herself and her son. She believes the killing was Greg’s final act of power and control over her. But Rosie would not be silenced. Since the events of last February, she has become an outspoken crusader against family violence, winning hearts and minds all over Australia with her compassion and her courage. In January 2015, she was named Australian of the Year.

So I can remember buying this book in 2016 after seeing Rosie Batty at a session at the Melbourne Writers Fest. I remember being so overwhelmed by how composed she was, how well she spoke when talking of her son and the events that led to his tragic murder at the hands of his own father just a couple of years previous. She was for me, someone to be admired for her strength and determination, someone who was doing whatever she could to shine a light on domestic and family violence and just how inadequate the services are at managing it. Rosie’s story is one failure after another to see that her former partner Greg Anderson was implementing an escalation of intimidation, threats and violence designed to control Rosie and when that control was slipping, with their son Luke getting older and more able to express his own thoughts and opinions and live his own life without being subject to custody orders, it seemed that there was really only one thing left for Greg to do to make Rosie suffer. And so he murdered their son, during one of the small windows of opportunity he had to see the boy, at cricket training on an afternoon in broad daylight. Greg was then fatally shot by police after he charged at them with a knife during their attempts to apprehend him.

I’ve always known that this would be a really difficult read and that I’d need to be in the right frame of mind when I read it. Preferably alone, so that I could cry (which I was bound to do) without awkward questions from my kids about why a book is making me cry. And it’s sat on my ‘priority TBR shelf’ ever since. Often I’d look at it, because I want to read it but I’d know that I wasn’t ready yet. But the other day I was reading about someone who was alleged to have made disparaging remarks about Rosie Batty and on a snap decision I decided to read the book. And perhaps that was the best way to do it. Just diving in without over thinking it, picking it up and just reading it in pretty much one sitting.

Was it difficult? Absolutely. Did it end up making me cry? Yes. But as much as I was incredibly sad on finishing this, sad for the loss of Luke, sad for Rosie and what she had experienced, I was also incredibly angry. Angry that for so long this man had made her life a misery with threats, intimidation, physical violence and that every time Rosie went somewhere for help, she was stymied by the fact that because he was also the father of her child, there was very little she could do to protect herself. He was violent and abusive to her, but not Luke so she still had to uphold custody orders giving him access to Luke. Because she had no family in Australia, he had to pick Luke up and drop him off to her which meant he always knew her address and had access to her property, regardless of whether or not she had AVO’s out on him at the time. As things escalated and she sought to include Luke in the protective orders, it was judged that he only have supervised access to Luke – however the only person they deemed suitable to supervise was Rosie herself, the person whom he was violent towards and who lived in fear of him. How would he react having to be supervised during visits with his child by Rosie? So many times she should’ve been referred to this organisation or that support group but it failed to happen. Greg learned if he didn’t show up for court, it just got adjourned and so he habitually refused to show which meant that Rosie’s attempts to protect herself and her son were drawn out and protracted, going no where. Because she owned a home (with a mortgage) she wasn’t eligible for legal aid so she had to pay for a lawyer. Greg, who was often homeless and sleeping in his car or temporary accomodation, was always afforded representation.

There’s no denying that Greg was obviously mentally ill in some ways. He showed signs of instability well before Luke was born and that seemingly without diagnosis and treatment, his condition escalated alarmingly. He saw Rosie as both someone he wanted to continue having children with, someone whom he was in a relationship with, entitled to use her home as his own, but also someone who rejected him and controlled his access to Luke. The only way Greg could seek to reassert some of that control was to make things as difficult as he could, such as not turning up when he was supposed to, reappearing early, etc. He would have an episode of violence but then in the next interaction, ask Rosie if she wanted to get back together as a couple. A lot of people would flip the blame back onto Rosie for not setting stronger boundaries, for always allowing him back into her life but I think it’s difficult to maintain strong boundaries with someone like Greg, who was an expert manipulator and expert at getting people to do what he wanted. He could always find somewhere to live or a job, even though he could never keep either. For Rosie, it was often easier to just ‘go along with it’ because he could be so difficult when she didn’t. She was groomed almost, in a way. Greg was a gaslighter who preyed on women like Rosie – no family, no strong community around them to provide support and basically, be a wall in between him and her. She was always so determined to give him access to Luke, no matter his behaviour, because he loved Luke and Luke loved him. And then even when things got so bad that she tried to get his access revoked, it was almost impossible to do so, despite the fact that there was even a warrant out for his arrest in relation to child pornography (which for privacy reasons, Rosie wasn’t entitled to know and she only found out by accident when Greg’s lawyer made a mistake). There are many legal loopholes and I understand how difficult an issue it is. A father’s rights to access their children do have to be protected and should not be revoked for anything less than serious reasons. But I think towards the end, Greg showed erratic behaviour, including to and around Luke that should’ve raised more concerns. And given he murdered him in broad daylight with other people around, including other children, it’s entirely possible that no matter what the courts did, he’d have found a way.

So yeah. I just feel really sad and really angry for everyone involved here. For Rosie Batty, for the years she spent being abused and living in fear, for the loss of her son and her grief. For the judgement and derision of people who don’t know her because she didn’t grieve the way they thought was appropriate or because she speaks about things that people would prefer not to have a light shined on. For Luke, who had to balance his mother and father at a young age, who learned that the man he loved was capable of horrible things. And even for Greg, who obviously needed some form of help, maybe many forms of help and didn’t seem to be able to get that help in order to perhaps be a calmer and more moderate person. Who could’ve just loved his son and left Rosie in peace. Maybe nothing would’ve helped Greg, I don’t know, and that’s sad too. And anger at how many times these situations fall through the cracks, the police officers that thought Rosie was hysterical when she tried to get help, the magistrate that revoked the stricter access. There were opportunities to arrest Greg before the day he killed his son and they fell through – the paperwork didn’t come through in time, he left before the cops got there, the police didn’t turn up when Rosie called them to tell them where he was. So many opportunities. It makes you wonder what might’ve happened if just one thing had gone Rosie’s way in that scenario.

And having read this, I admire Rosie Batty even more. Because it’s hard to bare your soul like this, hard to lay every ugly thing in your life for people to read and pick over and judge. But it’s obvious how much she loved Luke and how by telling this story, she’s trying to prevent it from happening to others. In life, everything she did was for Luke and it seems that after his death, she carries on doing everything she can, for Luke.


Book #91 of 2019

A Mother’s Story is book #41 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2019. I know it was written with a male writer but it’s Rosie’s story, in her own words as such, so I’m going to include it.


2 responses to “Review: A Mother’s Story by Rosie Batty & Bryce Corbett

  1. A thoughtful, touching review Bree, it’s such a tragedy

  2. […] A Mother’s Story by Rosie Batty. My review. […]

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