Anti-violence message has a chance
There is a piercing quality to Jonty Bush’s eyes, but they are not windows to a world of pain for two loved ones lost to mindless acts of brutality.
They glint of purpose despite her private world going both mad and to hell in a matter of bloody months when she was just 21.
This 31-year-old anti-violence campaigner does not evoke the air of a victim and does not have the haunted look of Daniel Morcombe’s family, who she mentioned at the Buzz Club lunch at Noosa Marina last Friday.
Perhaps that is because the former Young Australian of the Year, who spearheaded the One Punch Can Kill campaign, knows the shocking outcome of deadly force used against her sister, Jacinta and later her father, Robert.
Jacinta was stabbed 41 times in a Mooloolaba luxury high-rise by a deranged boyfriend, Kris Slade, who Jonty had a gut instinct about. As soon as she met him, she knew there was something dangerously wrong about him.
After he killed Jacinta, Kris Slade tried to kill himself but survived and is serving a life sentence that will see him able to apply for parole after 15 years.
Soon after Jacinta’s death, tension over custody issues involving her daugther with a former partner – Luke Paterson – grew between Jacinta’s father Robert and the Paterson family.
The little girl’s uncle, Travis Paterson, punched Robert twice in the head during a confrontation.
Robert collapsed and later died. When the young man was acquitted by a jury of manslaughter and grievous bodily harm by way of the “accident” defence, fire replaced feelings of sorrow and depression.
It was then Jonty set out to make a difference in other people’s lives and would go on to lead the Queensland Homicide Victims Support Group, which she only left last year after a decade of service.
Jonty left the support group for personal reasons.
“After the One Punch Can Kill campaign I really became interested in the broader stuff around awareness and prevention ... trying to get on the front foot,” she said.
“It was so rewarding to come into someone’s life and to have incredible influence – it was an honour.”
Now Jonty is working in Brisbane with troubled youth trying to get them to move away from the sort of alcohol and drug-fuelled violence that ruins so many lives.
“There are some people as young as 10-years-old that are sleeping out overnight in town – not always homeless, not always from bad families – just out,” she said.
“I’m trying to get them to think about what they’re doing and their actions.”
And Jonty has just started a company dealing with online violence education called Champions Against Violence. She is trying to recruit local, national and hopefully, international, identities to spread the word about “walk away” from confrontation and “use words not your fists”.
And she wonders sometimes about the mindset of people.
Jonty said if she broke water restrictions by washing her car on the wrong day, 30 of her neighbours would ring up local government to dob her in.
“And yet someone can be king hit from behind and no one sees a thing, no one reports it, no ones makes a statement,” she said. “I find it incredible that we would be so okay with that, and yet we’re so obsessed with other things (like water cheats).”
Jonty has been horrified by the attitudes of some people to victims. She was once asked: “have you ever met a family that didn’t deserve it?”.
“No one ever deserves anything like that,” she said.
“It breaks your heart.”
And after feeling so much hurt, Jonty has learned not to harbour any ill will to her niece’s father and family. She has custody of the 11-year-old five weeks a year and loves that, but the family dealings can be “tricky”.
“I’m proud to say I do feel nothing towards that family,” she said.
“I think that’s my best achievement.”
As for her sister’s killer, she is less resolved about him.
“When he gets out he will be only 35,” she said.
“If I ever saw him, I honestly don’t know what I’d do.”