Don’t Turn Away

Something has been boiling away in the background for me, professionally, for the last six or eight months. It’s the first thing I’ve felt really connected to (again, professionally) for a long time because it is something worthwhile, something that will actually help and something that I have been able to apply my experience to in a way that doesn’t make me feel like I’ve done something utterly lacking in moral worth.

I don’t do immoral things – I’d be a much wealthier man had I decided to take those gigs with a certain tobacco company, a certain booze company or a certain gambling company. Whether you deem that immoral or not is your problem, not mine (and vice versa), but the point is, I try and take a principled stand.

So this thing that I got caught up in was partly due to white hot anger. A digital services company had taken a non-profit for a fairly substantial ride on a project. I ran through in my head how it should have gone and realised that if I had been in charge, we’d have had it out the door for 60%, still made money, paid everyone properly and we would have had something to be proud of.

Anyway. Every now and again, I hear a story that reminds me why I am doing it. It’s not my full-time thing, I am effectively consulting to it for nothing but don’t wince about it. It’s worthwhile. It’s devilishly clever. And hopefully, it will stop things like this happening:

Ned is a guy who lives in Sydney. He’s 50, and he’s intellectually disabled. I don’t care what you want to call it now, but he’s not like “everyday people.” He works in a workshop and gets a ride to the workshop everyday. Everyday, he gets a ride home in a cab – with a cabbie who knows where his home is.

One day, Ned asked a cabbie whether he was going to his home suburb. When the cabbie said yes, Ned thought that the cab was the right one. It wasn’t.

After 45 minutes driving around, the cabbie got annoyed. We know that – because we saw the footage. The cabbie dropped Ned at a station. Not the police station. It should have been the police station. But it wasn’t. Ned went missing for 10 days. It’s thought he went interstate. We don’t know that – but we know he was missing for ten days. They think he’d made it to Brisbane. He was found 5 minutes from his home. He was one of the lucky ones. He was safe.

What is important in this story isn’t only that Ned was found. It was that at no time in ten days did any member of the public care to call the authorities. Clearly Ned is a person who needs, needed, help.

A few days ago, someone who does understand ‘duty of care,’ failed to notify authorities. It turned out very badly. I would ask that we all are aware of what can happen when we ignore the extraordinary.

When you see someone who is distressed, or who is seemingly distressed others, please don’t ignore it. Please call for help.

Call for help. Sometimes these people are very intimidating or we’re just not sure how to handle them, but even if you just call the police and make sure they arrive, you’ve done something. I know that I’ve let these things pass me by, wrapped up in my own world and not wanting to get involved. They’re brothers, sons, uncles, fathers, grandfathers. Sisters, daughters, aunts, mothers, grandmothers. They are loved and sometimes the very reason they are out and about is because they are loved, because their carers were able to let go for long enough to let their loved be a part of a society that doesn’t want to know them.

This thing that I’m doing, that we are doing, will hopefully save Ned from going missing for ten days and the pain and suffering this caused his family. I’m not telling you this to make you think I’m awesome – I most certainly am not – but to say to you, don’t turn away. I must learn to practice what I preach, too. And this project is holding me to account.


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