Many of you would have heard about the freakish, tragic accident in Devonport, Tasmania where so far six children died when a jumping castle was swept 10 metres into the air by a fierce, rogue gust of wind.
Although we live on the Australian “mainland” (as Tasmanians call it), for us it’s still quite personal. My husband is Tasmanian, and in particular, from Northern Tasmania. While Geoff was born and raised in Scottsdale on the North-East, his dad came from Penguin which is just over 30 kilometres away from Devonport and Geoff has families spread right throughout these parts. Indeed, numerous branches of his family arrived in Tasmania in the 1830s, and let’s just say there was no TV back then. Many of his ancestors had massive familes, and there was one guy in particular who really clocked the numbers up. He had 24 kids with two wives. So, you can appreciate how his family tree has been very prolific and spread something like a weed. I stir him about being related to anyone with old time family ties in Northern Tasmania, and I’m yet to be proven wrong, although it’s only been a small sample size.
So, like everyone else we were shocked and heartbroken by this freakish tragedy, but we had the added concern of whether we had family involved and it took awhile for them to release the names of the children. So, while we were one of the families pulling up at the school not knowing whether our child was affected or not, we were connected. Indeed, so many people are. Moreover, quite a number of my friends have kids making the transition from year 6 which is the end of our primary school system here, and into year 7 next year, which is the start of high school. So they’re really feeling it too.
For awhile there, we didn’t know the names of the children who had passed away. So, far they’re not familiar. However, but one grandfather looked familiar and would’ve fitted in well at Geoff’s sister’s place for Christmas. Moreover, there’s definitely a sense of Geoff and his family genetically belonging to this community. There’s a noticeable “look”. Being an island, Tassie is a close-knit community, but it’s also had its internal divides too. There’s traditionally been a very strong divide between North and South, and to a lesser extent the West Coast as well. Like most island communities, Tasmania is isolated and they refer to the refer of Australia as “the mainland”. One of Tasmania’s other claims to fame is that it often gets left off the map, although during covid having a moat was rather advantageous and I think some politician down there talked about having a moat and a drawbridge, and not being afraid to use it back in the early days of covid.
So, for this to happen in a place like Devonport, it’s monumental. With an estimated population of 25,747 in the 2020, it’s not a village. However, with a web of established families and networks, it’s a particularly close community – especially now.
Sharing a bit about Devonport with you isn’t going to help any of these families, but it helps me feel closer. It helps us feel closer to a community where we have indeterminate connections. A close friend of ours, who is married to Geoff’s best man, is a school counsellor at a nearby school, and was at Hillcrest School on Friday providing counselling for families and children – such a tough job but she’s put years into her training and really strives to develop strategies for connecting with children, and in particular children who are doing it tough for a whole swag of reasons. I’m not her mum, but I am proud of her and so grateful she was there. However, as we move into school holidays and Christmas, there needs to be a changing of the guard as school staff go on holidays. They will need support for the long haul.
Meanwhile, tonight we did what we do at the close of every year. We went to my daughter’s end of year dance concert. With all the stunning and thought-provoking dancing, it always makes me reflective, and when I see the younger ones dance, I also remember our daughter’s progression through all the grades to where she is now about to embark into the senior teens. I wasn’t being morbid. I wasn’t teary or sad. However, it certainly hammered home what it would mean if it happened here, and a sense of what the families at Hillcrest School are going through, and the students. Six of their precious friends are gone and for some it’s going to be very lonely going back to school next year. You hope they were all someone’s bestie, and know there are now six huge, and very painful holes in the playground, as well as at home. Holes they will never be filled, but I pray there will be some kind of healing. That maybe being in this together, they can help each other muddle through, and as the Beatles said “I get by with a little help from my friends.”
They are in my prayers.
Rest in peace dear sweethearts,