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World Suicide Prevention Day: Research shows far-reaching impact of a lost life

John Bradley says grief still manages to “ambush” him. Photo: Penny Stephens Support groups such as Compassionate Friends have helped him John Bradley manage his grief. Photo: Penny Stephens
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John Bradley has three children. The eldest is in Melbourne, he says, the youngest lives in Paris, and the middle one is buried in Springvale.

It has been just over 10 years since John Bradley’s daughter, Heather – a budding actor – took her own life. Yet Mr Bradley says grief still manages to “ambush” him.

“Last Sunday was Father’s Day,” he says. “I had some contact with my surviving children, but obviously not with Heather. Those days, I feel, you get ambushed in your grief.

“I can hear just a bit of music, see something – a photograph – or bump into someone.

“I went to see the opera The Tales of Hoffmann. I thought this would be a wonderful spectacle. But one of the scenes was a girl who was just about to take her own life. She had long, curly red hair, just like Heather. I just burst into tears. It was overpowering. I wasn’t expecting it.”

New national research into the ripple effect of suicide reveals that those “touched by suicide” show high levels of distress over a long period of time, ranging from one to 58 years.

A collaboration between Suicide Prevention Australia and New England University, the study –The Ripple Effect: Understanding the exposure and impact of suicide in Australia – surveyed 3220 people who said they had been been affected by suicide in some way.

The report’s lead researcher, New England University associate professor Myfanwy Maple, says this is the first time a  study of this scale has been undertaken in Australia.

The World Health Organisations estimates that more than 800,000 people die by suicide each year. Dr Maple says that according to the latest ABS 2014 Cause of Death data, 2864 Australians took their own life.

Dr Maple, who is also a director on the board of Suicide Prevention Australia, says exposure to suicide exists across the community.

“So we know that there is going to be stress immediately after a suicide death, or immediately after someone has attempted suicide,” she says.

“What’s important in this research is to show that stress goes for longer periods of time for some people.

“The next stage is how do we identify those people who are going to need support and what’s the best time to offer it to them.”

She says one solution is to think beyond the mental health model of suicide prevention and towards community awareness and reducing stigma.

“Recent research from the United States suggests that 135 people are impacted by each suicide death,” Dr Maple says. “Australia can no longer ignore the ripple effect of pain suicide brings when it touches our lives.”

The report’s findings, she says, show that as part of suicide prevention activity, there is a need to focus on those who have been exposed to suicide.

“People who have been exposed to suicide deaths are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts, actions and behaviours,” Dr Maple says.

“So … being exposed to suicide may increase your risk of suicide yourself.”

Mr Bradley says that after the death of his “beautiful and talented daughter” at 25 years old, he too “fleetingly” thought of joining her.

But being introduced to, and volunteering for, support groups such as Compassionate Friends has helped him manage his grief.

“They gave me the inspiration to keep on going …to a degree it saved my life,” he says.

“When Heather died, I thought she would be reunited with her mother [who died seven years before]. They are both interred quite close to one another in Springvale.

“Rather than me take my own life to be with them …I secured a plot in the same garden bed in Springvale, so eventually I will be with them.

“Death ends a life, but it doesn’t end the relationship.”

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day.

For help or information call Lifeline on 131 114 or SuicideLine on 1300 651 251.

Tromp walkabout was no picnic, more a fresh entry in grim Australian storybook

Mysterious journey: Mark and Jacoba (Coby) Tromp. Mitchell and Ella Tromp talk to media in Silvan. Photo: Daniel Pockett
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Riana Tromp is still in hospital. Photo: Facebook

Mark Tromp leaves the Wangaratta Police Station (right) at night after being found. Photo: Mark Jesser

A scene from Australian horror flick Wolf Creek.

Guy Pearce in the Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Lucien John, David Gulpilil and Jenny Agutter in the film Walkabout.

A scene from Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Among the many images gleaned from the Tromp family’s ill-fated car journey from outer Melbourne into the wilds of NSW – a long, 1500-kilometre road to nowhere – one remains more frightening than the rest.

The finer details of it are thin because the man who found Riana Tromp, 29, the eldest child of the successful berry farming family from Silvan, has opted not to elaborate beyond the basics. But what we know is Keith Whittaker, of Goulburn, got in his ute to drive to Canberra last week and felt a kicking on the back of his seat.

Mr Whittaker found Riana huddled in the back, “catatonic”. That is, not moving, staring straight ahead, unresponsive. He called the police and she was taken away and remains in Wangaratta, back in Victoria, in the care of mental health workers alongside her similarly affected mother Jacoba, who had also walked out on the trip.

Out there somewhere was father Mark Tromp, tailgating a random driver in Wangaratta late at night before vanishing himself, into dark parkland on the regional city’s fringe, the keys left dangling in the ignition.

When news of the Tromps’ disappearance first broke, it already felt familiar. It felt like a variation on the Netflix show Stranger Things, itself a pastiche on missing-people stories from the 1980s. The strange gaps in the information also read like something out of the 1990s TV show the X Files, with its protagonists fleeing from technology but tracked just the same.

But the real echoes are much closer to home.

Return to Riana dazed and mute in the back of a stranger’s ute, unable to say who she was or what had played out – this narrative is straight from an Australian horror story, the road-trip gone wrong.

It has been a common trope in Australian storytelling since Europeans first arrived, starting with the bush tales, the Victorian gothics, the movies. From the many retellings of Bourke and Wills to Patrick White’s Voss to those 1970s classic films Walkabout and Picnic at Hanging Rock, the premise remains the same. City folk head into the bush and get lost, metaphorically and physically.

“Australian roads are hunting grounds,” wrote Katherine Biber, a legal scholar, criminologist and historian from the University of Sydney, in 2001. She was writing about masculinity in Australian cinema but of course femininity is challenged out there in the beyond, too – the female victims of Wolf Creek, the “girl” in Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout, even the cross-dressers of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

The hunting grounds, wrote Biber, are “stages upon which elaborate pursuits and counter-pursuits are played” but the roads lead nowhere, instead acting as stages for “the performance of a series of cultural rituals”.

This new drama, she says, takes place in the car, or the vehicle, a “micro-habitat.”

In Rianna Tromp’s case she was in the original Tromp car that set out from Silvan, a grey Peugeot wagon owned by her sister, then she was in the vehicle that her sister allegedly stole, then she was found in Kevin Whitaker’s ute.

Like so many Australian road trips before them, it starts as a journey to destinations unknown. The Tromps didn’t know what they were looking for or where they were headed, son Mitchell told the media, just that they had to flee.

As the white boy says in the film Walkabout, “I don’t suppose it matters which way we go”.

Mitchell, who was the first to leave the trip in Bathurst, threw his phone out the window at Warburton, not far from home. The explanation given here is that the trip was supposed to be technology-free, he bought his phone and, when urged, chucked it out. From then the family were off-grid.

The irony is that by driving away into the Australian bush there were more people looking for them and tracing their movements than ever before.

Members of the family stuck in Wangaratta delayed their trip back to Silvan this week, telling friends they were intimidated by further feelings of surveillance by the TV crews camped in their driveway.

In Picnic at Hanging Rock, all the girls’ watches at the doomed picnic party stop, at noon, foreshadowing what was to come. In some ways Mitchell Tromp throwing his phone out the car window while going through the Warburton forests was the Tromps’ final and very equivocal farewell to the world they wanted to escape for a while and, for this trip, the end of common sense and logic.

In all, it lasted five days, but time appeared to shift for the Tromps, as if they had all entered some kind of temporal zone far away from normality and the usual chronologies of family life.

The Tromps were turning into urban legends even before they were all found.

While they were still whereabouts unknown, witness reports came in, various family members seen here or seen there.

A man with a pup-tent was seen walking into the coastal town of Bega and police swooped, thinking it was Mark. It wasn’t, but it could have been. Cabins and huts along the Hume that showed signs of disturbance were combed for clues- a muesli bar wrapper could speak volumes.

The one verified sighting came with its own pop culture reference – the young couple in Wangaratta who said Mark Tromp tailgated them after 10pm were out catching Pokemons on their mobile phones in the local reserve.

It culminated in the news photographs of Mark, after he had been found after three days wandering, flipping the bird to media outside a police station, from inside a car, the stress and isolation of what he had been through showing. It was misread as defiance, but friends say he is not an angry or defiant man.

Thankfully, this is a story with a happy ending, an Australian gothic in which everyone returns to civilisation and their their families. But it’s still a mystery, even to the Tromps themselves.

Standing outside the family home, expressing their joy and relief that their father had been found safe and well, Mitch and sister Ella struggled to say what happened.

“There’s no one reason for it,” Ella said, when pressed. “It’s bizarre.”

In time, there may be an explanation for what triggered this trip into the unknown. But perhaps there won’t be.

As the gardener says at the end of Picnic at Hanging Rock: “Some questions got answers and some haven’t.”

Anyone needing support can contact Lifeline: 13 11 14 www.lifeline杭州.au; or Beyondblue: 1300 224 636 www.beyondblue杭州.au.

Green slip reforms would leave most motorists to fend for themselves

Injured motorist Desmond Goulding. Photo: Sylvia Liber In-Young Joyce helps her husband Myung Jin Juong at their home in Epping. Photo: Kate Geraghty
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Myung Jin Juong and wife In-Young Joyce at their home in Epping. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Most people injured on the road face losing their common law rights to sue insurance companies for ongoing medical costs and lost wages under radical changes to the compulsory green slip insurance scheme.

They would also lose their rights to any legal representation to challenge a disputed assessment of their insurance claim.

Under state government plans to overhaul the compulsory third-party insurance scheme, the minority of motorists who are most seriously injured would retain common law entitlements to lump sum compensation payments and legal representation. Others with less serious injuries would be given limited statutory benefits to income replacement and medical benefits for a maximum of five years.

The vast majority of injured motorists suffer less serious injuries, which can prevent them from returning to work, and will fend for themselves under the planned changes. They will no longer be able to claim for a lump sum payment for future expenses and income loss. They will be cut from the defined benefits scheme after five years.

“Under the new laws, almost no one will have the right to a solicitor. That’s disgusting,” said injured motorist Desmond Goulding, 64, from the Illawarra.

“How can a normal person go up against insurance companies. That’s ludicrous.”

A $400 million spike in fraudulent insurance claims in Sydney’s western suburbs and inefficiencies which result in just 45¢ in every green slip dollar being returned to injured motorists has spurred wholesale reform of the scheme which covers more than 2 million people.

Danielle De Paoli, from Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, said fraudulent claims had increased the cost of the scheme, but there were other cost-saving alternatives to cutting benefits and redefining the entire CTP scheme.

The Baird government appointed State Insurance Regulatory Authority deputy chair Nancy Milne and former Labor Party industrial relations minister John Della Bosca to assess the fairness and affordability of the proposed scheme.

Their report released last week says the insurance industry is calling for an internal insurer dispute resolution process which would allow it to have the final say on disputes with claimants.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge, a member of the standing committee on law and justice, which last month reviewed the CTP scheme, said the proposed changes would be particularly unfair on manual workers.

“A nurse or carpenter who relies on a healthy body to do their job can lose their entire career with an injury that is assessed at well below 10 per cent whole person impairment,” he said.

“They face losing their right to claim for ongoing wage loss over their entire career and have it replaced with a statutory benefit that will run out after a maximum of three to five years.”

Mr Shoebridge said the joint parliamentary committee report highlighted a “grossly disproportionate share of green slip premiums that go to fatten up insurer profits”.

“Over the lifetime of the scheme they have taken one dollar in five and the regulator has repeatedly failed to address this,” he said.

“John Della Bosca savaged workers compensation benefits 15 years ago and the government clearly sees him as someone they can rely on to do the same with CTP.”

Mr Della Bosca implemented cuts to the workers compensation scheme in 2011. Unions portrayed him as the “butcher” of workers compensation.

Government sources say Mr Della Bosca has been recognised for his significant experience in delivering important social reforms including his advocacy and leadership of the NDIS. This was said to be testament to his ability to engage with complex reform.

Mr Shoebridge said he had no doubt Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello was more committed to addressing problems with the scheme than his predecessor Greg Pearce, whose planned CTP reforms failed.

Mr Dominello said his focus is on delivering a better scheme for injured road users and motorists. He said the government’s reforms were supported by social service advocates and will end “the days of insurer super profits and see a significant reduction in premiums”.

“It is not fair that only 45¢ in every green slip dollar goes to injured road users, nor is it fair that NSW motorists are being asked to pay the highest premiums in the country,” he said.

Insurance companies including Suncorp, Allianz and NRMA have made significant donations to the NSW Liberal Party and Labor Party in recent years.

In 2015/16 Suncorp’s financial contributions to political parties included $33,930 to the Liberal National Party and $34,300 to the Labor Party.

Richard Shields, the Insurance Council of Australia’s head of government and stakeholder relations, is a former deputy director of party affairs for the NSW Liberal Party. He was also touted earlier this year as a potential rival to conservative senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells in a factional challenge from the moderate wing of the party.

A spokesman for ICA said the insurance council draws talent from all sides of politics. “These people are highly professional and they work on policy matters with political parties of all persuasions,” he said.

Spokesman Campbell Fuller said the NSW CTP scheme was “broken” and in need of reform to create a fairer more affordable scheme to better support the most seriously injured motorists. He said the number of motorists who would need treatment after five years was very small.

“Fraud and exaggerated claims add an estimated $75 to every premium,” he said.

“The final design of the scheme has yet to be determined, so it’s premature for any stakeholder to make definitive claims about how a reformed scheme may deal with issues such as claims, benefits, profits and disputes.

“The ICA rejects any suggestion of a link between proposed changes to the CTP scheme and political donations by its members. The ICA and its members are committed to transparency in the area of political donations.”

A spokeswoman for Suncorp said it works with all governments and political parties to “drive the best outcomes for customers and the wider community”.

“To that end, Suncorp is bipartisan and transparent in its engagement with government.

“We agree with the government that the current NSW CTP scheme is broken and in need of reform. We support the proposed reforms to the scheme that tackle rising incidences of fraud involving legally represented claims, while delivering the best health outcomes for motorists and improving affordability.”

Top Education: Company at centre of donations furore a beneficiary of streamlined visa program

Top Education chief executive officer Minshen Zhu with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: Top EducationThe education company at the centre of the donations furore that halted the front bench career of Labor senator Sam Dastyari is one of the greatest beneficiaries of the government’s new streamlined visa program, new data from the federal Department of Education reveals.
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Data released this week shows that 98.5 per cent of Top Education students are international, more than double the Australian private higher education institution average of 42 per cent. It has one of the highest proportions of international students of any private higher education institution in NSW.

Of the 13 local students the institution has enrolled, only 46 per cent successfully completed their first year.

Last year, the 1000 student institution was one of only 22 private education providers to be granted access to the government’s simplified student visa framework, previously only available to universities. The move fast tracked the process for international students to obtain visas and enrol at the Eveleigh campus, opening it up to millions of lucrative student dollars.

The company donated $44,275 to the Liberal Party in 2014/15, while also footing the $1670.82 personal bill for Senator Dastyari’s travel expenses that led to his resignation from Labor’s front bench this week.

Based on a conservative calculation that multiplies the cost of its cheapest degrees and diplomas across its student numbers, the institution, run out of a ground-floor office in a University of Sydney building, earned $10 million in international student fees last year.

But the actual figure may be much higher. Department data reveals that the college had 171 students listed in the discipline of “society and culture”. The only degree it offers in that area is law, costing each student $80,000, netting it up to $13 million.

Top Education is also the only non-university private provider to be accredited for its law degrees by the federal government’s Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency and one of a handful of Australian institutions to be listed on the Chinese government’s official “white listing” of preferred overseas institutions for Chinese college students.

In 2013, Labor senator Kim Carr rejected the company’s application for a streamlined visa when he was the minister responsible for higher education after being lobbied by its chief executive Minshen Zhu.  He is a well-connected political figure in Australia and China as a delegate to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the Communist Party’s people’s forum.

On Friday, Mr Carr told Fairfax Media he was concerned about Top Education’s proposal because the Department of Immigration had advised him that there was a “very high level of risk” associated with the move to extend the simplified visa process.

“The department gave me emphatic advice that the risk levels of extending the simplified student visa framework were too high,” he said, referring to border protection concerns.

“Despite the fact that they had been significant contributors to the Labor Party, their case was not able to be sustained on the department’s advice at the time,” he said.

“There are some really serious questions to be asked here. How is it that this policy change occurred?”

On Friday, former federal education minister Christopher Pyne said any link between donations and the college’s visa application was “completely wrong”.

“The only reason they would have been given streamlined visa processing is they, along with 20 other education businesses in Australia, met the requirements that the public service decided were required,” he told Channel Nine. “It has nothing to do with the Liberal Party or the Labor Party or the government of the day.”

Top Education declined to comment.

Roseville’s big blocks offer buyers more bang for their buck

This contemporary addition enjoying a north-east aspect at the back of 4 Glen Road introduces a wonderful wow factor. Photo: Supplied This penthouse at 13/10 Nola Road comes with two double bedrooms, each with built-in storage. Photo: Supplied
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With multiple living areas at entry level and flexible bedroom accommodation upstairs, 22 Merlin Street is a good proposition for families with school-aged children. Photo: James Rice

Roseville’s median house price is $2,306,000, similar to the median prices in Cammeray and Naremburn, which are closer to the city.

So why buy in Roseville? You get a whole lot more bang for your buck, with an average land size of 914 square metres compared with 411 square metres in Cammeray and 339 square metres in Naremburn (based on sales over the past 12 months).

It’s better than a two-for-one deal, with a train station thrown into the mix providing a city commute of just 20 minutes.

“I think the suburb is under-valued,” says McConnell Bourn agent James Matheson.

“A lot of buyers looking in Cammeray and Naremburn are now focusing on Roseville, so there’s a lot of room for growth.”

With its tree-lined streets and character homes, Roseville marks the beginning of the leafy upper north shore but has the advantage of being right next door to bustling Chatswood, a shopping and dining mecca.

On the northern border, plans for a new school on the UTS Ku-ring-gai site to open in 2019 will further boost the suburb’s appeal.

Rated in the upper north shore’s top five for liveability, according to a recent study by consultants Tract and Deloitte Access Economics, Roseville scores well for mobile and internet coverage, proximity to employment hubs, tree cover and transport.

“There’s great access down to Macquarie, it’s very family-friendly, safe and really pretty,” says Matheson.

A shortage of stock this year has helped secure some strong sales, including five house sales of more than $4 million, three of them in Roseville Avenue.

New apartments have sprung up along Boundary Street and in Victoria Street helping to push the median apartment price up to $855,000.

But there are still plenty of walk-up units in the suburb, with prices starting at a little under $600,000.

4 Glen Road, Roseville.

1. 4 Glen Road Guide: $2.8 million 4 bed 3 bath 3 car Built 1920s; renovated 2006 Land 813 square metres Inspect Sat and Wed, 1.30pm-2pm Agent McConnell Bourn, 0415 419 442 Auction September 17 Last traded for $900,000 in 2003 See more at: domain杭州m.au/2013012565

Embracing the best of old and new, this family home is set in a quiet cul de sac within walking distance of the station, cafes, cinema and Loyal Henry Park. Sitting behind a timber fence and a formal garden with manicured border hedging, the property retains its traditional Californian bungalow facade with a covered verandah, but a contemporary addition enjoying a north-east aspect at the back of the house introduces a wonderful wow factor. Encompassing two living areas with raked ceilings separated by a fireplace, the addition opens seamlessly through two wide sets of bi-fold doors.

Step out onto an outdoor terrace and up to a level lawn surrounded by tiered hedging with a cubbyhouse tucked into one corner. Back inside, the open-plan kitchen has a stone-wrapped island bench with breakfast bar seating, European appliances and a gas cooktop. There are four bedrooms at the front of the property, the main with a generous walk-in wardrobe and en suite.

Room for improvement: Consider installing a swimming pool in the back garden.

22 Merlin Street, Roseville.

2. 22 Merlin Street Guide: $2.3 million 4 bed 2 bath 3 car Built 1930s; renovated 2000 Land 1042 square metres Inspect Sat and Wed, noon-12.30pm Agent Savills Cordeau Marshall Lindfield, 0412 565 682 Auction September 17 Last traded price unknown See more at: domain杭州m.au/2013014423

This substantial property is located on Roseville’s coveted east side, where you’ll find a greater number of large, level blocks compared with west of the Pacific Highway. With multiple living areas at entry level and flexible bedroom accommodation upstairs, the home is a good proposition for families with school-aged children. A wide entry foyer leads to a formal lounge with fireplace on the left and a formal dining room on the right bookended by two outdoor entertaining areas.

There is a stone kitchen with European appliances adjoining a family meals area which opens onto a deep back garden wrapped in established greenery. Upstairs, access to the master bedroom is via an office with built-in cabinetry, a space which would also work as a nursery.

Room for improvement: Open up the back of the house to the garden.

13/10 Nola Road, Roseville

3. 13/10 Nola Road Guide: $1.25 million – $1.3 million 2 bed 2 bath 1 car Built 2011 Size 196 square metres Strata levy $1878 a quarter Inspect Sat and Wed, 11am-11.30am Agent Richardson & Wrench, 0413 384 545 Auction September 21 Last traded for $925,000 in 2010 See more at: domain杭州m.au/2013016694

Designed by architects Bates Smart, Pavilions is an up-market complex of 32 apartments positioned west of the highway a short walk from Roseville station. Set behind tiered, landscaped gardens at the end of a cul de sac, Pavilions has proven popular with downsizers, professionals and small families. This penthouse comes with two double bedrooms, each with built-in storage.

The main has a full en suite and access onto the balcony. The combined kitchen, living and dining room has timber floors and track lighting. An island kitchen features stone benchtops, a mirrored splashback and stainless steel Smeg appliances. Glass bi-fold doors open onto a wrap-around balcony with a leafy outlook. There is ducted airconditioning, secure intercom entry and lift access from the secure basement carpark.

Room for improvement: Use the boundary wall on the balcony for a vertical garden.