Colleen Hewett releases a new song in support of violence free families. Photo contributed
Colleen Hewett releases a new song in support of violence free families. Photo contributed Contributed

'Shut up and let us breathe': Singer reveals dark past

BEHIND the glitz and glamour of being an Aussie pop icon, Colleen Hewett was fighting for her life.

The former queen of pop is drawing on her turbulent past to send a clear message to domestic violence perpetrators - shut up and let us breathe.

The star of stage and screen's musical comeback is shining the light on the shocking epidemic that is claiming at least two Australian lives a week.

The video for her single, Shut Up and Let Me Breathe, features cameo appearances from John Farnham, Archie Roach, Rosie Batty, Eddie McGuire, Neil Mitchell, Molly Meldrum and Derryn Hinch.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also thrown his support behind the song that will be used in Rotary's Violence-Free Families campaign.

The 65-year-old singer said her second husband - who has since died - subjected her to a litany of physical and psychological abuse during the 1980s.

From beating her while she was pregnant with her third child to strangling her in an attempt to ruin her singing career, her tormentor never faced justice and Hewett said he went on to abuse more women.

"I'm letting go of a lot of stuff and one of them is the violence," Hewett said of the single and her upcoming album Black and White.

"I'm not a victim. I am a survivor of this foul disease that seems to be on a rampage around the world.

"My second husband had a real problem heeding to my requests to just shut up and let me breathe.

"He tried to strangle me on I don't know how many different occasions, he had a knife at my throat on a couple of occasions, the kicking, the punching, the thumps on the head, the punch on the back, once he belted me so badly that I was bruised from the top of my head to my feet.

"I was bruised so badly that I was instructed 'don't come out (in public)'."

Describing the dark torment, Hewett said she was trapped in Fiji for much of the relationship.

Her chance to escape came during the 1987 coup when Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka ousted Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra.

"It was the only chance for me to get away from that situation - there was only one flight in each week and one flight out and by the time the flight out came around he had apologised and said it would never happen again," she said.

But the promises were never kept and back on Aussie soil, Hewett was forced to act.

"He just got too many (drinks) into him that night and I got kicked in the stomach - I was four months pregnant," she said.

"I reached out to some valuable friends with contacts and we got him kicked out of the country."

Hewett said it was important for victims to shine a light on their experience.

"If you line up all the people who are brave enough to speak out you would hear the same stories," she said of reliving her nightmare.

"Bruises heal - it's the psychological damage that you're left with and the fear for your children.

"I am a much stronger person now.

"He tried to knock away my confidence, he tried to knock away my spirit, he even tried to stop my gift of singing by trying to strangle me but it's made me a stronger person and I don't put up with too much crap anymore."

Penned by Darwin composer Tracey Bunn, Shut Up and Breathe is one of the singles on Black and White, Hewett's first album in 15 years.

The album will be released on May 22 and $5 from the sale of every CD will be donated to Violence Free Families.

The music video can be viewed at

If you or someone you know needs help, phone DV Connect on 1800 811 811, DV Line on 1800 656 463 or 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). 

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