A road accident which occurred one fateful night almost 50 years ago, resulting in the tragic deaths of three youths, has had a lasting impact on one Ballarat man's life.
After decades of keeping quiet about the accident because he didn't know how to talk about it, John Bourke has decided to speak out about the impact of road trauma in the hope it will prevent others from experiencing what he has.
Mr Bourke was a 16-year-old strapper when he decided to go for a walk to see a friend on Saturday, December 19, 1970.
It was a hot night and the friend Mr Bourke was planning to see was not home, so he re-routed to Sturt Street.
After enjoying a milkshake at a Sturt Street cafe, he walked outside and ran into two of his closest friends, 15-year-old student Peter Steele and 16-year-old apprentice jockey Ray Arnold.
Walking towards Bridge Mall, "where all the action was in those days", about 9.45pm, a voice called out "Bourkey!".
Mr Bourke and his friends turned around to see a young man they had met only several weeks earlier, Laurie Liddle, standing in front of his gold Hemi Pacer. He told the three friends to jump in for a drive, much to their excitement.
After the car took off, Mr Bourke remembers knowing something was not right. He had noticed Laurie had been drinking, but did not know to what extent.
"As soon as he took off we knew we were in trouble. He stepped on the pedal and we were thrown back in our seats. He sped up to the corner of Albert and Dana streets, broadsided around the corner and down Dana Street," he said.
"We knew we were in trouble straight away and started screaming, asking him to stop and let us out."
After a terrifying few minutes they reached Main Road, where the car became airborne, crashed into an electricity pole and through a resident's brick fence before coming to a halt on the front lawn.
The crash was horrific, with three of the four passengers killed on impact. Debris from the car was scattered down the street.
From the time of getting in the vehicle to the time of impact it was three minutes: three minutes which completely changed the life of four youths, four families, 22 immediate members of those families and four generations of countless family and friends. And I get to live with this all my life.John Bourke
The next moment Mr Bourke remembers is waking up in hospital the following morning with a policeman by his bedside, telling him he was the sole survivor of the crash.
He was discharged from hospital that same morning and handed the same blood-soaked clothes to wear home that he was wearing during the accident.
He wound up back in hospital later that day after collapsing once he had returned home. He discharged himself that Friday, Christmas Eve, to attend Ray Arnold's funeral.
Mr Bourke said there had been one question - "why me?" - that had persistently played on his mind over the years.
He does not know why he survived and his friends, and the driver, had their lives cut short.
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The coroner's report indicates that Mr Liddle had a blood alcohol content of 0.265, which the coroner reported is equivalent to drinking about 17 seven ounce (200ml) glasses of beer.
Mr Bourke said the trauma resulting from the accident has affected his life a great deal and the pain is always re-triggered at Christmas, when he always pays a visit to his friends' graves.
"You always reflect on it," he said.
Mr Bourke said the trauma, and the lack of support services to deal with it, "sent him off the rails personally".
He did not seek counselling to understand what he was feeling, as it was not really available, and so said it had been hard to measure the damage the accident had caused him.
About six years ago a friend suggested he see a psychologist, who helped him come to terms with what had happened.
"It was the best thing I ever did. Because of the culture in those years, you didn't know anything," he said.
His psychologist urged him to write to the coroner to obtain the report to address the issues and help him to move on, which it has.
Mr Bourke was inspired to start to speak about the accident after attending one of John Maher's road safety seminars. Mr Maher's 18-year-old daughter, Carmen, died in 1995 after falling asleep at the wheel. Ever since, he has travelled to schools and businesses across Australia to promote road safety.
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Mr Bourke spoke about the incident publicly for the first time at one of Mr Maher's seminars to a group of school children.
"They were really moved by it so I thought, if I can make a difference, if it saves one person, then it saves a lot of people pain," he said.
Addressing the road toll
Mr Bourke wants to see more investment in road safety education to reduce the road toll and therefore the trauma that ripples through affected communities, as road trauma does not just affect the immediate relations of a person lost to road trauma but the emergency service people who attend the accident, witnesses at the scene and tow truck drivers.
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The weekend of the accident, seven people died on Victorian roads, pushing the state road toll to 1046.
It was an increase on the previous year's record of 1032.
Fast forward to 2019 and despite countless road safety campaigns and the introduction of safety laws and precautions like mandatory wearing of seatbelts, more drug and alcohol testing and road safety barriers, Victoria's road toll has spiked to 186 in the year so far.
"We spend a lot of money on educating people about drugs and alcohol, the effects of smoking, on work safe but we do little education on road safety," Mr Bourke said. "Somewhere along the line, a government needs to invest in it, and not scare campaigns on TV.
"If you look at the cost to families, to communities, hospitals - not only the personal cost but the financial cost - we educate about melanomas and cancers and yet we have a killer on our front doorstep but we don't educate enough about it."
Mr Bourke said there was not enough recognition that a person steps into a car, they are putting their life into the driver's hands.
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He wants to see education about road safety - not just cars, but pedestrians and bikes - from a much younger age.
His story was brought to the Transport Accident Commission's (TAC) attention when he attended the Regional Roads Summit last month, where he brought up the need for more education for younger children so the messages stick with them for life.
This weekend, Mr Bourke's six-year-old nephew Oliver Luscombe will be the Western Bulldogs' mascot and will lead the players on to the ground for a match that will have a focus on the dangers of driver distraction.
Today, distractions from mobile phones are a key factor in fatal and serious injury crashes across Victoria.
Wendouree MP Juliana Addison said the match was a great opportunity to speak with the community about the role everybody plays in keeping themselves and others safe on the road.
"As the increase in road deaths this year has shown us, it's more important than ever that we engage with as many Victorians as possible on road safety issues," she said.
A TAC survey of 1742 Victorians indicated that of licensed drivers between the ages of 18 and 60, a third have used their mobile phones while driving.
Related coverage: The footy club putting a focus on road safety
As such, the TAC will have its 'Donut Disturb' team at the game this weekend, encouraging football fans to activate their smartphone's 'Do Not Disturb While Driving Function', which will be rewarded with a donut.
It comes after the recent Toward Zero round, which saw 1000 football captains playing in a guernsey with the number 0 and netballers wearing Towards 0 socks in matches across Victoria.
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