The West

Helping the silent victims
Annette Dix has set out to change the way the justice system treats victims.

Five years after 19-year-old Lawrence Dix was shot dead in the driveway of his family's Bunbury home, his mother Annette has set out to change the way the justice system treats victims.

Mrs Dix is setting up a not-for-profit group to advocate for those left behind after violent or sudden death.

Mrs Dix said WA victim support services were so severely stretched that relatives of those affected by crime were left alone to navigate a complex legal system while battling to cope with grief.

"My main aim is to lift the invisibility of sudden death trauma and to acknowledge the hidden cost to the community," she said.

"People need to understand that this can, and often does, happen to anyone regardless of their socio-economic status, education, behaviour or other demographic assumption."

Mrs Dix's son was killed in April 2007 by a 20-year-old man over what the WA Supreme Court was told was a $100 drug debt.

Mrs Dix likened learning to live again since Lawrence's death to learning to live after a profound physical injury - but her scars were invisible.

Profound grief and shock took a massive toll on relatives' mental and physical health.

"You shut down," she said.

Mrs Dix hoped the new group would be an extension of the Homicide Victims Support Group and would help those affected by the violent or sudden death of a loved one.

But it would be more than a support group and also offer advocacy and practical support, as well as the more traditional tea and sympathy.

Mrs Dix said State Government victim support services did their best but more help was needed.

"Victims are not recognised or acknowledged in our system and we often feel isolated and highly vulnerable," she said.

"We have no understanding or knowledge of the services that may be available to us and are not in a space where we are able to find out."

Mrs Dix said agencies were often unintentionally insensitive - she remembers receiving the Coroner's report containing graphic details of her son's death in the mail.

"You've come home from work, receive that in the mail and you're traumatised all over again," she said.

Mrs Dix can be contacted on <a rel="nofollow"> </a>

The West Australian

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