Students learn painful lessons after young teacher allegedly murdered

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
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To the young students at Delacombe Primary School in regional Victoria, Hannah McGuire will be remembered as a consistent – and happy – presence in the classroom of their close-knit school community in regional Victoria.

But if their confusion and curiosity about her sudden death last week leads them to the world of online news reporting, they will learn painful lessons about the prevalence of women who suffer violence at the hands of their current or former partners, as well as rising anger about what many people believe are flaws in the justice system.

When Ms McGuire’s body was found in a burnt-out car last Friday, 5 April – after her family had reported her missing – it didn’t take long for Victoria Police to arrest and charge the alleged perpetrator, Sebastapol man Lachlan Young, 21, with one count of murder.

Mr Young was a man she had recently bought her first home with – and a man who was, at the time of Ms McGuire’s death, on bail for unrelated charges of assault and burglary.

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According to research group Counting Dead Women Australia, Ms McGuire is the 18th woman allegedly killed in violent incidents so far this year – and the third in Ballarat alone. The group’s data, which includes the few deaths caused by other women, shows 64 women were killed in incidents of violence in 2023.

A dedicated and valued educator

Hannah Jane McGuire went to Ballarat High School and was studying education at Federation University. She had been working at Delacombe Primary School for four years – starting in after-school care before transitioning to become a teacher’s aide.

Scott Phillips is the principal at Delacombe Primary School – about five minutes from the CBD of regional Ballarat – and described Ms McGuire as a dedicated and valued educator. In the past two years, she taught the youngest pupils at the public school of almost 600 students.

“As you can imagine, it’s pretty traumatic for the school community,” Mr Phillips said.

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In a statement, the school told parents that helping maintain routine and listening to children struggling with grief was important. The school is offering support services for distressed pupils.

“Her work in the out-of-school-hours program and classroom demonstrated her commitment to not only the school and its children, but the wider local community,” the school said.

Community in mourning

In a social media post on Wednesday this week, the Clunes Football Netball Club, where Ms McGuire won many best-and-fairest awards as a young netballer, said that the McGuire family were long-standing supporters.

“She was a strong leader amongst her peers, a fierce competitor and a friend to so many. Always carrying a beautiful smile, or cheeky grin. We were looking forward to seeing Hannah back in the Maggies’ colours this year,” the club said.

“Fly high our little Magpie!”

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Regional town suffered multiple recent tragedies

At a march against gender-based violence scheduled today in Ballarat, hundreds of people are expected.

The community – with a population around 120,000 – is in shock over a spate of recent violent deaths, including the alleged murder in February of 51-year-old mother Samantha Murphy, whose story received national attention after vanished after leaving her home for a run. A month later, Patrick Stephenson, a 22-year-old local with no apparent connection to Murphy, was charged with her murder. Her body has not been found.

On February 16, the body of 42-year-old Rebecca Young was found in Sebastopol, Nine News reported. The body of 55-year-old Ballarat man Ian Butler, who was known to the mother of five, was also found. Police have said they are not looking for any other suspects.

This evening’s march is aimed at highlighting the impact men’s violence has had on the community and will start at Ballarat train station. Its organiser is Indigenous rights campaigner Sissy Austin, who was running in Lal Lal State Forest near Ballarat in February last year when she was the victim of a random attack.

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan offered her condolences to the McGuire family and said the spate of women dying in violent circumstances had to stop.

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“It is just unacceptable that too many women are losing their lives at the hands of a violent perpetrator,” Premier Allan said.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live