Vanessa Fowler has turned a tragic family circumstance into making a difference in the community.
Mrs Fowler volunteers at the Cambrian Youth Choir and she is the Foundation Chairwoman of the Allison Baden-Clay Foundation.
Named Ipswich Citizen of the Year for 2019 at the Australia Day awards, Mrs Fowler has been on a journey to educate and raise awareness of domestic and family violence.
When Mrs Fowler woke up on Friday morning the 20th of April, 2012, she had no idea her whole life was about to change.
That was the day her sister, Allison Baden-Clay was reported missing.
Her disappearance resonated with the public and after a massive police investigation her body was found on a riverbank in Anstead.
Two months after her death her husband was charged with her murder.
At the time Mrs Fowler’s family, along with her retired parents, lived at the Gold Coast.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” Mrs Fowler said.
“My goal at that time was to support the girls so we all moved back to our home town of Ipswich.
“We certainly have that village here in Ipswich. People we are connected to are all very much involved with raising and supporting the three girls in their own way.”
Mrs Fowler and Mrs Baden-Clay were Ipswich Girls Grammar School old girls.
“It was Allison’s wish that her girls also attend Ipswich Girls Grammar school and I wanted to be able to support the girls and my two boys through school. I got a job teaching at the Ipswich Junior Grammar School, so I was able do that,” Mrs Fowler said.
Strive To Be Kind Day Image: Facebook
Some of Allison’s closest friends came together shortly after her death as they needed to tell the world what an amazing person she was. They said she was a very generous and loving soul who always put others before herself.
“Strive To Be Kind Day started this way, very small. We chose yellow because her bridesmaid dresses were a butter yellow,” Mrs Fowler said.
Since its inception in 2012, Strive To Be Kind Day is held on 27 July each year and has gained enormous support with over 100 Queensland State and Private schools, businesses and shopping centres now participating.
“We are asking the community to pay it forward and we encourage random acts of kindness. We would encourage people to be kind everyday but particularly on that day,” Mrs Fowler said.
The next step for the foundation is the launch next month of the MATE Bystander Program.
“We have been working this past year with Griffith University to put together a program that integrates Allison’s story and teaches people to recognise the signs and teaches preventative measure we can take as a society,” Mrs Fowler said.
“We are going to introduce it into the corporate sector because we feel it is important to get the message out into work places.
“My family and I are passionate about the program because we were the bystanders. If we had known what we know now things might have been different. We didn’t know that happened in the middle class suburbs, we thought what happens in a marriage stays behind closed doors and you don’t interfere. I think these days we have to be more aware that domestic violence does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone.”
Mrs Fowler and her parents would prefer to work behind the scenes.
“We could’ve all fallen in a heap I guess and just gone away looked after the three girls,” Mrs Fowler said.
“But because Allison’s story was so high-profile we thought we needed to use that to help others because that’s what Allison did. She always helped others. I don’t really like all the publicity, but just by telling her story and having the strength to start this foundation, we are helping others.
“We have had women come to us who have told us they have survived because they heard Allison’s story and realised this was their life too. They decided if they didn’t get out now, they could end up like Allison.”