‘Reflections’ by Bronwyn Barnard, member, Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform at the first Remembrance Ceremony

Chief Minister, Bishop Randerson, Families and Friends.

“Whilst I am pleased to see many people here today, I am mindful of the collective grief and loss many of us have suffered. And the pain we must have endured as a result of having a family member or friend using illegal drugs.

Yet it is good that we have come together for this dedication ceremony to express our collective loss , and to remember those who have died.

I am here because my brother died in July this year from an accidental heroin overdose. He was 28 and had been just managing his addiction for many years. He had tried several times to rid himself of his dependence, but unfortunately was unsuccessful.

Since he has died I have questioned the lack of support for him and my family during his dependence. and the response by many of rejection, fear and ignorance to his situation. It has led me to speak out and break the usual silence surrounding a drug death in the hope of awakening the community to the huge need for better health management and better attitudes to both users and their families, throughout Australia.

I was shocked that he was treated by many as a modern day leper, to be put out of sight and out of mind. Worthless, and forever condemned. Could they not see he was young, and that he may have many good years ahead of him provided he received appropriate care and understanding. Could we not all try to improve the situation rather than to further cripple others with criticism and rejection.

I saw Dean as a ship at sea without a sail, thrown from storm to storm. Surely a life buoy was what we should offer, rather than the usual response to just make more waves.

Dean was fortunate in that he had a good job, he worked hard and his employers knew of his addiction . They were actively involved in trying to provide Dean with support. They endeavoured to improve his self esteem. His job provided him with the financial self sufficiency which enabled him to avoid crime. They tried to keep Dean as involved as possible. And Dean worked hard to repay their trust and faith in him.

This work place is a great role model for other employers. Many illegal drug users find that the doors begin to close even at the first whisper of an addiction, or even just use.

The idea for this tree came to me some time after his death, when I was standing talking to my mother in the kitchen. I looked out of the window at our home and became conscious of the old locust tree under which Dean would often sit. And my eyes were drawn to the large vicious thorns which cover this tree. It was still winter and the tree was bare, and I thought how symbolic the thorns were of his drug use. They are sharp, cruel and dangerous reminding me of the harsh reality of Dean’s efforts to get control of his life, and the way in which the community treats people who become dependant on drugs.

However, my mind wandered further from these difficult memories, and I was compelled to remember the true beauty of the tree. Every year I have looked with admiration at the tree when in spring it is covered in blossoms. Large clumps of sweet smelling, white flowers cascade from its branches. The flowers attract numerous varieties of parrots which eat the nectar then drop the petals forming a magnificent white carpet beneath the tree. It is a beautiful sight. I was moved to think, yes look at this wonderful tree and remember it in its entirety. Remember Dean in his entirety, all the good things about Dean, all his good points for he was an individual with many assets and we loved him, as you will have loved your family member or friend.

Thank you for coming today, I hope you find some comfort in sharing your loss with others who have had similar experiences. I hope you will carry the memory of this tree with you. Yes the tree does have nasty thorns, but they are only a part of it and should not dominate your picture of this beautiful tree as a whole.

I hope you find courage in its image.”


Bronwyn Barnard

16 December 1996