Aged 20, 19 and four.
That’s how young Matthew McLuckie, Lachlan Seary and Blake Corney were when they were killed on the Territory’s roads.
None were at fault.
Matthew was on his way home from work when he was hit by a speeding car travelling the wrong way on Hindmarsh Drive.
Lachlan had been the designated driver for his friends on a night out. He’d just dropped them off and was on the way home when a drunk, drugged and speeding driver travelling at 150 kilometres an hour on the Monaro Highway hit his vehicle.
Blake was in the back of his parent’s car – which was stopped at an intersection – on their way to a toy shop when a truck driver crashed into the back of their car in 2018.
Their parents are now bonded together by the one thing no parent should ever have to experience – burying a child.
“I can speak as a parent. When you’ve seen the inside of your son’s own skull and worn his brains all over you, that’s not a happy experience,” Blake’s dad Andrew Corney said yesterday.
All three families are now calling for change on the ACT’s roads, and most recently, for a broad review of bail and sentencing outcomes led by Matthew’s father Tom McLuckie.
That campaign garnered incredible amounts of community support.
But the Territory government has remained steadfast in its view that sort of review is not necessary, despite growing pressure from victims, the police union and the Opposition.
Yesterday, Matthew’s father Tom, Lachlan’s mother Janice and Blake’s father Andrew all attended the ACT Legislative Assembly as petitions launched by Mr McLuckie were tabled before a no-confidence motion was moved in Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury.
When they left the chamber, those victims were angry, and not just with the government’s refusal to commit to an independent review of bail and sentences. They were angry with Chief Minister Andrew Barr, who had not even acknowledged their presence in the room.
Tom McLuckie and his wife Sarah Payne took to Facebook last night, with Tom saying all of those present had felt “insulted and diminished” by this lack of acknowledgement.
“We plebs should know our place [and not] to question the almighty and feel his wrath,” he said.
Ms Payne said she had sat listening and crying to other politicians as they gave their condolences to the victims present.
“When it was time for Andrew Barr, our Chief Minister, and therefore leader of all those in the room to speak, he ignored us entirely,” she wrote.
“He stood with his back turned to us (something that no other member did when speaking), and not once … did he go anywhere near acknowledging that he was in a room with people whose lives have been torn apart by vehicular crime during his time as leader of the ACT Government.”
Ms Payne said all had been crying after they left the room and she had been “shaking with distress”.
In a statement issued this morning (12 October), a spokesperson for Mr Barr said he had spoken respectfully and members were required to address the Speaker when speaking in the chamber.
“The Chief Minister’s speech canvassed the seriousness of the policy issues being considered, acknowledged the diversity of views held in the community, and sought to find some common ground,” the spokesperson said.
This afternoon, Mr Barr changed his tune and in Question Time apologised to families, acknowledging his mistake.
“I made a mistake in not explicitly acknowledging [their] presence … in the chamber,” Mr Barr said.
“I unreservedly apologise and I will seek to learn from that mistake.”
Mr Barr was asked whether he would meet with the families, but he said today he understood that was not their wish.
“I [also] acknowledge the irreconcilable differences in the outcomes being sought through the petitions [and my views],” he said.
“I have an in-principle objection to mandatory sentencing and the US-style appointment of judicial officers. I would not seek to sack the Attorney-General in the terms requested yesterday.”
Mr Barr said yesterday afternoon’s debate “set a pathway forwards” for ministers to continue with the work they had already commenced.
Opposition spokesperson for police Jeremy Hanson yesterday afternoon once again tried to move a motion calling on the government to commit to the independent review.
It was amended by the government to remove that clause and instead call on the government to progress work and potential reforms in these areas in an “evidence-based way”.
Labor backbencher Marisa Paterson supported the government’s amendments to the motion despite having previously spoken in support of a review.
Mr McLuckie said yesterday he could not understand the government’s stubborn refusal to commit to this review.
“If there’s nothing to see the review will prove that and we will go away,” he said.