Thank you, Madam Speaker. It is with a heavy weight of responsibility both on my shoulders and in my heart that I rise today. In a personal way, I want to say that I’m sorry.
Nineteen months ago, a young boy here in the ACT was murdered by his father, who has now confessed to the terrible crime.
Mrs Jones, Bradyn Dillon’s mother, has stated publicly that she and her family contacted Child and Youth Protection Services, ACT Policing and other government agencies in an effort to get someone to intervene for the safety of Bradyn. I have no way of knowing exactly what was said by Mrs Jones and her family or what happened to those reports of concern once they were received. But I am so sorry that the hoped-for intervention did not occur.
I am also sorry that Mrs Jones first learnt the extent of Bradyn’s injuries as she sat in a courtroom two weeks ago. How awful to realise the depth of pain he must have been in in the months before his death, as evidenced by the 60 to 70 bruises found on his body.
As a mother, it hurts me to see one of my children get a single bruise or a cut, yet I am able to fix that with a Band-Aid or a kiss. I cannot imagine the anguish of a mother worrying for months over the pain that her child might be in but feeling utterly helpless.
Madam Speaker, one of the most important things we can do when loved ones leave us is to speak well of them. To contribute to this today, I wish to quote Mrs Jones:
‘Bradyn was a “mummy's boy” who always looked at me with such love and told me I was beautiful. Very few people are able to make me feel as special as he made me feel. Bradyn had a way of making everybody around him feel joyful and was extremely compassionate for a boy of his age. If there was ever someone left out[,] he would ensure they felt included and went out of his way to make them happy’.
What a tragedy to lose such a happy, cheery, loving boy. To all who loved him, I wish to say that I’m so, so sorry and my sincerest condolences.
Madam Speaker, last week was National Child Protection Week, sponsored by the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect or NAPCAN. As Leesa Waters, deputy CEO of NAPCAN, has said, we must not ‘wait until a child has been abused or neglected before [we] do something. We need to work together as a community to stop this from happening in the first place’.
Madam Speaker, we in this Assembly must do all we can as well. Those responsible for child protection need to be fully transparent when tragedies such as this occur. The public has a right to know what went wrong so that they can be assured that necessary changes have been made. Robust independent review of decisions made needs to be an option. Parents must know that they have somewhere to turn we they feel no one is listen to them.
We must do all we can to prevent this kind of tragedy ever happening again. We owe it to Mrs Jones and all those who loved Bradyn.