KASAMA Vol. 8 No. 2 / March-April 1994 / Philippines Australia Solidarity Group Queensland

Justice for Elma Young

by Emere Distor

March 8 - Forty people picketed in front of Beenleigh Magistrates Court to protest against the murder of Elma Albaracin Young, the pregnant 42 year-old Filipina nurse whose body was found dumped in Munruben on February 21.

The first court appearance of Elma's husband, Senior Police Constable Paul Young, was on International Women's Day. The case was adjourned until the 4th of July on request of his lawyer. He will appear again in Beenleigh Magistrates Court when it is expected that he will enter a plea.

Elma Young was the 14th Filipino woman migrant violently murdered in Australia since 1980 and the fourth recorded victim in Queensland. The three men accused of murder in Queensland were convicted and are all serving life sentences: David Mathieson for drowning his wife Teresita Andalis in 1980 who he had insured for nearly $3 million; Antonio Juan Curado for murdering Nenita Westhoff and her husband in 1987; and Bruce James Hughes for bashing to death the deaf and mute Filipina, Mila Wills, a year ago.

A committee called "Justice for Elma Young" was created to monitor the case and inform the Filipino and Australian community of the violence perpetrated upon Filipino migrants and other women of non-English speaking background (NESB) communities.

The monitoring committee was patterned after the committee initiated by the Centre for Philippines Concerns-Australia Brisbane Branch (CPCA-QLD) for Mila Wills last year.

"Justice for Elma Young" is an ad-hoc umbrella organisation of individuals and community groups pursuing justice for Elma Young and other victims of domestic homicide particularly against women of NESB communities. One of its aims is to recommend implementation of legislation on domestic violence

As part of its build-up campaign for the next hearing on July 4, the committee held a workshop titled "Getting to Know Our Issues" in April. Twenty-five people, mostly from NESB communities, attended the workshop facilitated by the Migrant Women's Emergency Support Services, Brisbane Migrant Resource Centre, and CPCA-QLD.

The first part of the workshop focused on domestic violence in cross-cultural marriages involving NESB women. The second session was on the patterns and commonalities among the deaths and disappearances of Filipino women and their children in Australia.

In a research conducted by CPCA, 16 Filipino women and three children have died violently in four states (NSW, VIC, QLD and WA) since 1980. However, CPCA fears that these figures may rise because its compilation has a big gap between 1980 and 1987.

CPCA, a national alliance of Filipino groups and individuals around Australia, started its documentation in 1987 but it was only in 1990 that the death of Teresita Andalis in 1980 came to light. Given the frequency of deaths and disappearances since 1987, (average of three deaths per year), the group fear there may be more cases that will resurface.

Patterns and commonalities can be established by CPCA in its documentation. In eleven of the seventeen murder cases of women and children, the Australian husbands, ex-husbands, or de facto partner were the accused or suspect and most of the victims had experienced domestic violence prior to their deaths. Though her 11 month old baby died, one woman survived repeated blows to her head with a hammer.

The husbands of two of the three missing women have experienced the death of their other wives. In 1987 Harry Pollard reported his wife, Asing, had run away with another man, taking the baby with her. Harry was a widower when he married Asing, his first wife died accidentally. Thomas Keir reported his wife, Jean, ran away in 1988. In 1991, his second wife, Rosalie, also a Filipina, was strangled with a lamp cord and her body set on fire. He was acquitted due to lack of evidence.

The increasing number of violent deaths and disapperances is traumatising not only the Filipinos but the whole NESB communities in Australia where there is a growing and alarming link between domestic violence and cross-cultural marriages. These incidents must also be occuring in other ethnic communities but, as far as CPCA is aware, there is not existing documentation. Needless to say, CPCA is encouraging ethnic groups to be vigilant in documentation as well as in campaigns.

On 4 to 5 of August in Melbourne CPCA will hold a national workshop called "Stopping Violence Against Filipino Women: a Government and Community Responsibility". This workshop is being funded by the Office of the Status of Women and to be attended by CPCA members around Australia, survivors of domestic violence, and people working in the social welfare industry.