Media fuelled Duncan family’s grief

BLAIR Duncan was 15 years old when she opened the door of her family’s Albury home to two police officers on March 5, 2010.

She already knew why they were there.

No family, Blair says, should have to be told their loved one has died by anyone but the authorities.

The now 19-year-old university student has urged the community and the media to think before they post online, to stop families from experiencing more pain.

“They say don’t sweat the small stuff, but finding out like this makes it a big issue,” Blair said.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: No slur on police role

Her call comes after Coroner Tony Murray last week handed down his finding into the 2010 death of her sister Yasmin Duncan, 18.

Yasmin was a passenger in a car being driven by Table Top man Daniel Shiels when it veered into the path of a B-double truck in wet conditions.

Almost two hours later and two hours before police came to the door, Yasmin’s friend had seen a picture of the crashed car on the internet and phoned Yasmin’s parents Max and Donna to ask them where she was.

Elder sister Jade also received a call from a friend and she tried to call Yasmin, then Mr Shiels’ mother, who told her Yasmin had died.

Finding out their daughter and sister had died through the media and social media compounded their grief, Blair said.

“It took us away from that grieving process you need to go through; you’ve got that added pressure on your plate,” she said.

“It can be really destructive.”

Her world was thrown into a spin again when her and Jade discovered Yasmin’s photo had been posted on Facebook page “R.I.P. Albury-Wodonga Teens”, which largely remembered those who had taken their own lives.

“It was just torturous. It was just horrible. It’s just not how she died,” she said.

Blair said it took days for administrators to act on their pleas to take down Yasmin’s photos, during which time the sisters kept the page hidden from their parents so it wouldn’t affect them the same way.

“It goes to show even with the best intentions, you can still be crossing that line,” Blair said.

But she counted herself lucky her family didn’t have to deal with social media trolls who set-up pages that disrespect deceased loved ones — which had happened to others she knew.

“It’s something that’s so hard to fight, but something needs to be done,” she said.

“Social media is a way for young people to grieve, it’s a new way we’re still getting to know. It’s never been like this before so no one knows how to deal with it.”

Blair said her heart breaks at the thought of another family having to go through what they went through and she urged people to think of families like hers before they post.

“The news is so instantaneous and that’s the thing about social media, there’s no filter. It’s about the individual being more compassionate,” she said.

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