One woman's hopeful response to the scourge of domestic violence.


On a regular weekday morning, the 10th of September 2015, Gold Coast woman Tara Brown dropped her daughter off at child care.

Police allege that her former partner was waiting for her there. When she drove away from the child care centre, police say that he chased her, that he ran her off the road, and then he violently beat her. Tara died later, in hospital, as a result of her injuries.

On the same day, another Gold Coast woman, Karina Lock was shot and killed by her former partner in the car park of a local fast food restaurant.

Karina Lock.

It was also that day, former lawyer Jackie Gillies knew she needed to do something. She had dropped her son off at Kinder, and as she was driving away she heard about Tara Brown on the radio.

"That day, I had just dropped my son off. Imagine if somebody was to pick [my son] up from Kinder but it wasn't me and it wasn't his Dad. And it was someone who was saying, 'you're never going to see you Mum again. She's dead and it was your Dad that's done it.' I was just so, I was really emotional.

"The next day another woman Karina Locke was killed in Queensland as well.

"I just thought, 'this has got to stop. Like, there's nothing I can do, what can I do?' And then I did what quilters do.

"The only thing I can do is make somebody a quilt. You know we do it somebody has a baby. We do it when somebody gets sick. We do it to say thank you to our kids' teachers at school. We do it for lots of different reasons. And I just thought, if I could make one quilt and give it to a domestic violence refuge then that will be me at least making a positive contribution."


The post that started it all in September 2015 • Tonight, somewhere in Queensland, a little girl is going to bed without her mum. The death of #tarabrown, at the hands of her ex-partner, brings the national death toll - that is the murder of women by intimate partners or relatives - to 62 for this year... and we are only in the 37th week. • Some of you may know that I was a lawyer in a previous life and that I continue to advocate for the rights of women to be safe in this country through my volunteer work on the Exec board of #victorianwomenlawyers. Today, though, I am finding it really tough not to feel a little helpless and hopeless at the crisis we are facing in Australia. #Tarabrown was murdered by her ex-partner after he ran her off the road (just after she had dropped the sweet girl in the pic off to childcare) and then beat her to death with a steel bar. And then #karinalock, another woman, was shot and killed by her ex-husband in a McDonalds in front of shocked customers. • The crisis is compounded by the lack of leadership by our government - the same government who slashed funding to domestic violence services and refuges across Australia. We must #stopviolenceagainstwomen #zerotolerance. • In an effort to drag myself out of this feeling of hopelessness and helplessness though I really feel compelled to actually do something positive. And SO my quilty friends - I have done some research and have found a couple of charities who help women and children to start new lives after escaping violent men. They help to set up a new home with furniture, linen, toiletries etc. • I'm interested to find out if any of you would be keen to join with me to make some quilts to donate to these charities to provide a bit of colour and love to these families who have been through and lost so much. • I'm thinking a "send me a block each" kinda thing where I would put the quilts together and quilt etc (block to be determined)... My heart is aching so much that I just want to DO something - I hope some of you feel the same and are interested to be involved. • #charityquilts #charityquilt #comfortquilt #healingquilt #keepsafequilts

A photo posted by Jackie Gillies (@keepsafequilts) on

Three years ago, pregnant with her youngest son, Jackie felt the urge to sew her unborn child a quilt. She didn't even own a sewing machine at that time. She borrowed her mother's to make it. Jackie finished the quilt on the same day her son was born.

And just like that, Jackie was hooked. She has been quilting ever since.

It's hard to explain what's so compelling about quilting, for those that quilt as regularly as women like Jackie, and women like me. It's probably a combination of reasons; a drive to creativity, an interest in surface design, the idea of making something that will make another person warm and cosy.


And, importantly, they make for heartfelt gifts of comfort.

Jackie got home that day, got on Instagram and told her story. At the time, she was sewing with a small group of women in Melbourne and she hoped that together they could make 30 quilt blocks to sew into one quilt. But as word got around, the project snowballed.

"It kind of just went a little bit crazy and before I knew it there were people all around the world saying that they would make a block. America, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Germany, England, New Zealand.

"One woman in Australia, Lisa, made 50 blocks herself, and since then she's made nine quilts. She makes them and sends them to me."

The whole quilting community has come together. Sewists, quilters, fabric store owners. Some have donated whole completed quilts, others have sent materials or offered their time and professional services.

And then there is the ridiculously gorgeous quilt made and donated by @quilty_carlie for the #quiltblockstohealviolence project ???? • I still can't quite believe that she is donating it to the project - perhaps she accidentally popped it in the bag with the other quilts - so let's not tell her ok ???? • Seriously though Carlie, you are some special kind of lady. Thank you so so so much ???? • Ps wait till you see the back and the other quilt she donated ???? • #charityquilt #saynotoviolenceagainstwomen #annamariahorner #charityquilts #comfortquilt #healingquilt #keepsafequilts #ilovepatchwork #quiltersofinstagram #quiltsofinstagram #quiltlove #handmadequilt #modernaussiemaker • Reposted by @jackiegillies A photo posted by Jackie Gillies (@keepsafequilts) on


"It really struck a chord. It was during the time that in the news there were 62 women that had been murdered and it was the 35th week of the year.

Initially known as #quiltblockstohealviolence, Jackie's project has ended up with 60 quilts to distribute to domestic violence refuges around the country.

It's now an ongoing initiative, known as Keep Safe Quilts. Jackie tells Mamamia that she consulted her five-year-old son on what to write on the labels that go on the back of the quilts. He suggested, "We love you, keep safe." And Keep Safe Quilts was born.

For more information about Keep Safe Quilts or to make a donation, please visit the website or follow Jackie on Instagram.

Mamamia and Keep Safe Quilts credit Destroy the Joint and the Counting Dead Women Australia research team, who undertake the incredibly important work of counting the deaths of women at the hands of violent men. 

If you need help or you'd like to talk to someone, you can get in touch with the team at 1800 RESPECT. They have a 24 hour support hotline, 1800 737 732.