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Real Life

EXCLUSIVE: Allison Baden-Clay's sister Vanessa Fowler remembers her legacy

''Her three greatest life achievements are without question her girls.''

By Lizzie Wilson
Trigger warning: This article deals with themes including domestic and family violence.
It's late afternoon in the town of Kalbar in Queensland's picturesque Scenic Rim region, and a cool autumn breeze gently blows across thousands of fresh sunflowers. For mum-of-two Vanessa Fowler, it's a place she comes to remember her precious little sister, Allison Baden-Clay.
"It was her favourite flower – it represents adoration and loyalty, which is Allison in a nutshell," an emotional Vanessa tells Woman's Day.
"She was strong, resilient, passionate, and generous to the bone. She was just an amazing woman in every possible way."

Allison, a loving mum-of-three, was just 43 when her body was found on a creek bank back in 2012 - 10 days after her real estate agent husband Gerard Baden-Clay had reported her missing.
He earlier claimed to police she'd gone out for a morning walk and never returned. He was later charged with her brutal murder, killing his wife of 15 years in cold blood so she wouldn't find out he was cheating on her. The family's only comfort, that he's been sentenced to life behind bars, but could be eligible for parole as early as 2027.
As the story broke, so did hearts across Australia for Allison's daughters Ella five, Sarah eight and Hannah 10 who woke on the morning of April 20, 2012 without their mother.
Vanessa and Allison with their mum, Priscilla. (Image: Supplied)
"They lost their rock; the woman they knew they could rely on for absolutely everything. Their mother would never come home, and they never got to say goodbye," says Vanessa, wiping away tears.
"Her three greatest life achievements are without question her girls. Their grandparents – our amazing mum and dad, Priscilla and Geoff – have raised them with such grace, and they've done a tremendous job – we're determined to make their lives happy and full of love.
And the girls are living each day to make their mum proud.
"Hannah the eldest is now 20, and has graduated from university – she's pursuing a career in dance, just like her mum. Sarah is 17, turning 18, and finished her grade 12 studies last year and has begun full-time uni, and gorgeous Ella is 14 and in Grade 10 – their mum would be beaming with pride," Vanessa says, smiling.
A qualified schoolteacher and proud mum of two teenage boys, Vanessa made the very easy decision after Allison's tragic death to leave full-time teaching and devote her life to campaigning around domestic violence.
She was the guiding force in establishing the Allison Baden-Clay Foundation, where she is Chairman of the Board, and is currently co-chair of Queensland's Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Council.
"Allison's legacy is in our hands. Like many families of victims, we paid the ultimate price, because we didn't know the extent of the abuse until it was too late," she says.
"Domestic violence doesn't discriminate, and nor is it limited to low-socio-economic families. We were the bystanders, and she never opened up to us, and while she was successful in every aspect of her life, she would've struggled to admit she had failed in marriage," she says.
"She would be humbled by the work we're doing, particularly around education, and recognising the signs of the sort of coercive control she endured for years. If our awareness campaigns save just one family, it's worth it."
Vanessa was the guiding force in establishing the Allison Baden-Clay Foundation, where she is Chairman of the Board, and is currently co-chair of Queensland's Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Council. (Image: Allison Baden-Clay Foundation)
And while the family reflect and honour a beautiful young mum taken way too early, for big sister Vanessa, she remains as committed as ever to her three precious nieces.
"We decided each of their names would represent the three key words we've selected for their mum's Foundation – Hope for Hannah, Support for Sarah, and Empowerment for Ella.
"They're right behind our upcoming Strive to be Kind campaign which aims to raise awareness, while encouraging people to practice kindness in their daily lives.
"My sister will never see her girls walk down the aisle, or get to hold their babies. Allison was so very brave – I only wish we could've done more."
If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, help is always available. Call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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