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Development   /  Sue Clothier

Living Underground

LIVING UNDERGROUND with Marta Dusseldorp, is a story of intense personal insight into family violence.


Impact areas






  • DIRECTOR Marta Dusseldorp

  • PRODUCER Sue Clothier and Marta Dusseldorp



LIVING UNDERGROUND with Marta Dusseldorp

A Feature Documentary in three acts.

How do women get themselves into a violent relationship?

How do they cope while they are going through a violent relationship?

How do they get out of a violent relationship and what is left?

Three women. Three stories. Three Acts.

A universal story of intense personal insight told by those who know.

LIVING UNDERGROUND is one story told by 3 voices.

An Actors performance, inspired by real events.
An Artist whose creative outpouring is through fashion design.
A Writer whose language inspires and informs.

These three voices are joined by the unsung community hero, who paints context and delivers broader testimony that underpins our documentary.

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

LIVING UNDERGROUND shines a light on domestic and family violence. This issue never goes away, in fact, it grows.

Most incidences go unreported and it is difficult to measure the true extent of the problem but it’s estimated that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 16 men have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former co-habitating partner. 1 woman in 9 is killed every 9 days and 1 man every 29 days, by a partner.

Covid has seen a surge. A NY Times article reports, “During the epidemic, we were unable to go outside, and our conflicts just grew bigger and bigger and more and more frequent,” “Everything was exposed.” As quarantines take effect around the world, “intimate terrorism” — a term experts prefer for domestic violence — is flourishing. The report explains home isolation, however vital to fight the pandemic, is giving still more power to the abuser. The isolation has shattered support networks, making it more difficult for victims to get help or escape.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

Domestic and family violence is a well-known community issue, so why is it that the numbers are increasing and women and others continue to die at the hand of their abusers?

Many stories have been told, but very few have moved the dial in a meaningful way, on this issue.

We believe that by humanising the issue and by bringing an emotional depth to the documentary, we can sharpen the focus and bring the community back to this issue so as to effect positive social change.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

By increasing awareness and garnering empathy for the women and families that are suffering, or experienced, family violence.

By empowering the audience to speak up and demand greater public support for social reform.

By spotlighting individuals and agencies and their work in this area. Covid has exacerbated already difficult situations and agencies are reporting a spike in demand for their services. Enforced isolation has tipped the scales in favour of the abuser, but as lockdowns continue, the danger increases. Studies show abusers more likely to murder their partners and others in the wake of personal crises, lost jobs or major financial setbacks. Social change is needed now.

By removing the shame on those who are or have been in domestic family violence situations.

We acknowledge it takes courage to walk away, but many women can’t, as they suffer from low self-esteem. Our film encourages those who are struggling to find that courage.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

Our partners are Shelter Tasmania and Youth, Family & Community Connections (YFCC). Each are concerned the impact COVID has on “at risk” women and children. Enforced isolation, in an already isolated area, means there is no way of truly determining what is happening on the ground, but the demand on their resources is increasing. They have asked us to expose this crisis and endorse the idea of using documentary to bring attention to this very pressing issue.

Our partners will work with us on our documentary to ensure accuracy in our messaging and have offered support to connect us with other community organisations.
The DUSSELDORP FORUM is very interested in supporting this documentary as they have done with “Ka-Ching - Pokie Nation” and “In My Blood It Runs” ABCTV. They provide funding and support initiatives demonstrating positive, long-term change. Bringing people together to foster collaboration and share solutions to better meet the needs of this and future generations.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

We want to open people’s eyes to the reality of domestic violence and its effect on the family and wider community. Alongside the film, will be a strategy, developed with our partners that give pathways to channel activism, advocacy, volunteerism and financial support.

We want more acknowledgment and financial support for agencies and volunteers in this sector.

We want a School Toolkit for students to better understand domestic violence.

The NSW Women's Court Advocacy Service reported a surge in women seeking help in the days after ABC’s Hitting Home aired in Nov 2015. Director of the service, Renata Field, said some shelters and counsellors had reported a similar surge in victims calling for help. The National Domestic Violence hotline reported a 44% increase in the week following and on the day after the broadcast, 419 calls - over twice the national average.

We want to embolden those who have remained silent to take the step towards help to exit their situation.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

As many domestic violence cases go unreported, success for us would be to see an increase in numbers of women seeking help to exit their situation. As for HITTING HOME, the strength of success was seen in empowering women to take a step towards seeking the help they need for their exit.

A second measure of success would be an increase in financial or individual/community support across agencies. Statistics could be gathered by our partner organisations.