close icon

Development   /  Sue Clothier

Living Underground

LIVING UNDERGROUND with Marta Dusseldorp, is a story of intense personal insight into domestic abuse.


Impact areas






  • DIRECTOR Marta Dusseldorp

  • PRODUCER Sue Clothier and Marta Dusseldorp



LIVING UNDERGROUND with Marta Dusseldorp

How do women find themselves in abusive intimate partner relationships?

How do they cope while in an abusive relationship?

How do they get out and finally, how do they recover and move on with their life?

Living Underground is an exploration of domestic abuse that combines two distinct story and visual elements, the “case studies” as told by those who have experienced domestic abuse firsthand and “creative expressions” by Felicity (dance), Sonia (costume design) and Marta (theatre performance). The case studies will be blended with the creative expression, providing a seamless storytelling narrative.

Programs focussed on domestic abuse have often been shot in a current affairs style and employ extensive observational documentary living camera. Living Underground is seeking an elevated storytelling approach which is more considered and artistic.

In the first instance we are curating and recording twelve “case studies” of women who have been in and survived domestic abuse. Their storytelling isn’t hurried, we allow the time and a safe space for each to tell their story.

The visual style of the recording of the interviews will ensure that each contributor is treated respectfully. Each has their own individual lived experience they are sharing. They have gifted their stories and have placed their trust in us to use their stories only in the way mutually agreed.

Many of our contributors are bravely telling their stories on camera – for the first time. We want this to be a good experience.

Living Underground is a universal story of intense personal insight told by those who know.

Support this project

20.00% funded
  • $100,000.00

  • $20,000.00

  • 1

Minimum amount is $ Maximum amount is $





Dusseldorp Forum $20,000.00

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 this documentary achieve its outcomes?

High profile actor, advocate and producer Marta Dusseldorp will draw an audience to the documentary. Martas performance combined with Sonia and Deborah’s personal experiences as told through their artistic pursuits will present the issue in a personal and artful way. This unusual approach of combining 3 techniques to tell one story allows the audience to absorb at an emotional level what it feels like to be in our actors shoes creating a deeper connection to the subject of the film.

In the first instance we will make a feature documentary, but there is scope to create a version for broadcast TV, a live performance and art installation. Our three acts, can be edited in to self-contained short form pieces allowing us to stretch our content across platforms so as to target different groups, which open up different discussion topics. Curriculum materials could be produced that use the film or other film assets as discussion starters.


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

Our partners are Hobart City Council, RANT, Dusseldorp Forum, Shelter Tasmania, Engender Equality, Safe Choices, Youth Family Community Connection in North west Coast, Hobart's Women's Shelter, Women's Legal Tasmania, Broken to Brilliant (QLD), Jireh House Association and Karinya Young Women Services.

Each stakeholder and partner is 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.

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.