Bega district Letters to the Editor, October 6

On the 20th anniversary of the kidnapping and murder of Bega schoolgirls Lauren Barry and Nichole Collins, Lauren’s father Garret penned the below comment piece for the Bega District News.

As always, readers’ thoughts on opinions, letters and articles are welcome. Email ben.smyth@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Parents of Nichole Collins and Lauren Barry (from left) Garret and Cheryl Barry and Delma and Graeme Collins

Parents of Nichole Collins and Lauren Barry (from left) Garret and Cheryl Barry and Delma and Graeme Collins

More to be done to break culture of abuse

This Friday, October 6, will mark 20 years since Bega schoolgirls Lauren Barry (14) and Nichole Collins (16) were abducted from Evans Hill near Tathra, subjected to an eight-hour torture car trip, before finally being murdered at Fiddler’s Green Creek – half way between Bombala and Cann River.

Ironically the murder site is a very peaceful creek bank in beautiful but remote native forest.

I don’t propose to immerse the reader in any more of the grief and suffering of that horrific event. Those of us who are close to it each manage as best we can and try to get by in different ways. 

I understand several media outlets plan to run stories, but I have decided to produce my own note as some past media stories have demonstrated they are more after sensation to drive ratings or sales than achieve community good. 

There is plenty of stuff on the web if someone wants greater background.

After 20 years I am still almost overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of our wonderful Bega Valley community. Please residents of Bega Valley, hang on to and defend the community spirit, values and environment of this most beautiful and peaceful part of the world.

I want to use the remaining space to try to draw something positive around the anniversary of Lauren’s death. Indulge me if you can as, if nothing else, it is therapeutic for me at this difficult time of the year to put some thoughts to paper.

Lindsay Hoani Beckett and Leslie Camilleri were Lauren’s killers. 

The court evidence points to a weak individual with psychopathic tendencies in Beckett but a true controlling and rat cunning monster in Camilleri – almost up there with Hitler/Goebbels and the other despotic psychopaths of recent and distant history. 

Individually what Camilleri did matched their sadistic skills – he just did it to a few people, they mass produced it.

But few of us should be complacent about abuse.  

I propose what I will call the LC scale of abuse. Imagine a line from left to right, where the right is more extreme. 

Camilleri  is pretty far out on the right, a bit to the left Beckett, perhaps a bit more to the left those controlling males that have killed partners. Perhaps paedophiles sit on the scale near them and we could argue until the cows come home where to put “lesser” levels of abuse and intolerance.

But few of us escape the extreme left end of this spectrum. That percentage of the management of various organisations identified in the royal commission into abuse of children who turned a blind eye to goings on –   sorry you have a seat out there on the left of the scale and certainly not the extreme left.

I can’t even wrangle myself off the scale. Back in the ‘70s, in my youth I sat through football bus trips and similar all-male gatherings listening to talk and songs degrading women and same sex people. I said nothing against it, so I am guilty of allowing that rot to fester. 

At various stages of my life since then I have been in all-male company where similar abusive talk took place and again was silent or at best just left that gathering. 

Most men of my generation would have heard some of that talk and a disappointing number probably participated in it. 

I am not talking about light-hearted banter that groups of one sex sometimes joke on about the other – these days the girls give as good as the boys. What concerns me is derogatory speech and comments that give some licence to abuse.

Of more recent times such talk has in the main at least become “politically incorrect’ and I think there has been a genuine positive shift in attitudes and tolerance. 

However, some of the stories emerging from the marriage equality debate and demonstrated in the high levels of domestic violence identified recently in Australia, make me wonder if a much larger proportion of the population than we would like to believe are being contained by the “incorrectness” of expressing and / or enacting what they actually think.

Murder, rape, paedophilia, bashings – people who commit these heinous crimes are rightly condemned by the vast majority and to some extent the fear of such condemnation prevents some of this extreme crime.

Since Lauren died there has been some progress in improving the mentoring of boys and similar education to attempt to break the cultures that foster abuse and importantly the tolerance of abuse, but much more could be done. 

Women’s refuges and similar abuse combative measures should be expanding not facing government funding cuts.

There is a memorial to Lauren and Nichole atop Evans Hill. I painted a piece of hard volcanic rock with the Om sign (a sign representing universal harmony and tolerance) and placed that at the foot of the memorial. 

Twenty years had faded it (the rock is pretty permanent, paint and people less so) so I have repainted it. 

If fortune is with me and I am still here for Lauren’s 40th memorial I might touch it up again but I do hope I can report at that time that society has made a decent shift to the left on the LC abuse scale and that expressions in any way condoning abuse are by then seen as not “a right of free speech” but a socially unacceptable action worthy of a registration on the LC scale.

Garret Barry (Lauren’s dad)

READ MORE: Nathan Barry opens up on love and loss 20 years on

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