Tara Costigan’s brutal death at the hands of her former partner in 2015 profoundly shocked many Canberrans, vividly illustrating the full horror of domestic violence. Marcus Rappel attacked Tara with an axe as she breastfed her week old baby, in the presence of her two older children.
In the wake of her utterly horrific death, Tara’s community mobilised to make a difference in her name, creating the Tara Costigan Foundation to combat domestic violence and support victims. Their hashtag, “Together We Are Strong” derived from the tattoos shared in her memory by members of her large Canberra family. Tara was among three Canberra women and one man murdered by their domestic partner or a family member in 2015.
The Foundation held several conferences and gatherings, awareness-raising events and had engaged with a number of ambassadors (of whom I was one). But just four years later, the Foundation will close its doors after spending several months assessing their future viability and the complexities of running a charity.
Despite the closure, their central work in supporting victims goes on through Tara’s Angels, a project that provides a personal caseworker at no cost for a period of up to two years for anyone who has left a violent relationship and is trying to rebuild their lives.
The service is available across the region and is provided through a partnership the Foundation established with Baptist Care in 2016, offering flexible support tailored to the individual person’s needs to move forward in rebuilding lives. Tara had worked with Baptist Care, providing in home help for elderly clients.
Earlier this year, Foundation executive officer Samantha Costigan told Region Media that the Tara’s Angels programme has had a 100% success rate. “We regularly receive comments such as, ‘You’ve changed my life’ and ‘I could never have done this without you’. It brings us such joy to hear that we are helping to change people’s lives in a positive way.”
Family member and chair Nathan Costigan said on the Foundation’s Facebook page that the decision to close had been taken for financial reasons. “We operate in a very intense industry with so many fantastic causes all trying for the same money, and unfortunately as we have been unable to secure ongoing Government funding or corporate sponsorship the Foundation will now close and hand the baton on”, he said.
Thanking their corporate sponsors, Mr Costigan said the Foundation is currently winding down all operations and will cease receiving donations on December 31. This will include completing all current fundraising and making an assessment of longer-term projects.
Funds will be donated in full to Baptist Care to assist their continuation of the Tara’s Angels service, and anyone wishing to support Tara’s Angels can still do so through Baptist Care.
Baptist Care ACT and NSW said they were saddened by the decision, but that Tara Costigan’s legacy would continue to be the work done in her name. The Tara’s Angels project has supported over 100 families in rebuilding their lives after domestic violence. There are plans to expand the service in the ACT and surrounding NSW region.
Nathan Costigan said that while there was great sadness about ending the Foundation as an entity, the family and their many supporters believed they had made a significant difference in supporting victims and creating a climate of change.
“Out of the most harrowing of circumstances, my family, the Foundation supporters and the Canberra community have emerged as a strong collective voice calling for societal change to the way that we speak about, respond to and work to prevent family violence”, he said.
If you or someone you know is impacted by domestic or family violence, call the ACT Domestic Violence Crisis Service 24-hour crisis line on 6280 0900 or 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732. In an emergency, call 000.
Donations can be made to Baptist Care.