Tuesday 23 August 2011

Family and friends want a public memorial for Declan Crouch

Cait Bester
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
© The Cairns Post.

GRIEVING family and friends of Cairns teenager Declan Crouch want a public memorial in his honour in the hope it will raise awareness of youth suicide.

Declan’s mum, Ruth Crouch, and his school friends are lobbying Cairns Regional Council to make an exception for a tree and memorial site on the Cairns Esplanade to be a "special place" for the community to pay their respects to the teenager.

But the council’s officers have instead recommended a plaque be placed on a park bench in Keith Edwick Park at Machans Beach and have "considered, but not recommended" a tree on the Cairns Esplanade.

"There should be something special here in Cairns for Declan. I am not asking for this just on behalf of my family but I have been asked by his friends and even strangers if there is going to be a special place to remember him," Ms Crouch told The Cairns Post.

Declan, 13, was reported missing in early March, sparking a widespread police search.

Police divers found the body of the Trinity Bay High School student on June 1 in a previously inaccessible area of mangrove swamp not far from his home.

Police have confirmed Declan took his own life.

"While it’s lovely for the Machans Beach community to be recognised because they were especially involved throughout the search for Dec, we’re really out of the way from where everybody in Cairns can go,’’ Ms Crouch said.

"It’s not just his friends but those who’ve shown an amazing amount of support which has come from all over Cairns, the Tableland, north and south of the city.

"It would be a place for anyone to go. Having it somewhere on the Cairns Esplanade would make people more aware of youth suicide, not in a confronting way but through the nice memory of Declan."

A Facebook page established by Ms Crouch - Declan Crouch: A special place in Cairns to remember him - has attracted support from community members and people interstate.

"The search for Declan was so widespread and it involved not just the Cairns community but a lot of people outside of our region," Ms Crouch said.

"I’ve had a quite a lot of messages on Facebook from parents, who I don’t even know, telling me that Declan’s story has made them much more aware that teenagers can wear a mask, that behind a happy face there may be some real problems."

Cairns Child Protection and Investigation Unit Det Sen-Sgt Glenn Horan said Ms Crouch’s efforts to raise awareness of suicide were admirable. "It’s always a concern and people should speak about it more openly," he said.

"It’s an issue that people aren’t comfortable talking about but if it was discussed more openly, people would be more aware of the reality."

In 2009, Cairns Regional Council abolished the city’s tree dedication scheme and does not support tree dedications along the Cairns Esplanade.

Despite the rule, Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane, who looks after the Machans Beach area, identified the memorial as a "special" case and said she would ask councillors to show support for a requested tree on the Esplanade, but not a memorial plaque.

The request for a memorial site on the Cairns Esplanade will be discussed at tomorrow’s council meeting.


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