My home of Toowoomba is grieving the death of Mr Robert Brown, at the age of 75, earlier this week. Mr Brown died of injuries sustained in an attack that took place in broad daylight outside the Grand Central Shopping Centre. Footage shows his young attacker, with great cowardice, violently shoving Mr Brown from behind—his frail body hitting the road face first and never moving again—before the young attacker then steals Mr Brown’s backpack from his lifeless body.
What happened has become an all-too-common story in Toowoomba: a stolen car and a police chase through our city. We’ve lived with this crime wave for too long. Everyone I know in Toowoomba knows someone who’s had their house broken into, had a car stolen or been confronted by a gang of youths in our public spaces. But now things have escalated again. Last night, a 16-year-old received gunshot wounds—again, in broad daylight and in the centre of our city. An 18-year-old has been charged. This is unacceptable.
Our beautiful city, until only recently a place where families moved to for its safe, easy and happy lifestyle, is now under threat. Something beautiful has been taken away from us. The Toowoomba Chronicle has given voice to our anger, starting its Enough is Enough campaign, calling for the Premier to come to Toowoomba to hear us and help us. In the pandemic, the Premier saw fit to come to our city and tell us she was keeping us safe. It appears safety only mattered to her when there was a headline to grab.
The Premier won’t be coming to Toowoomba City Hall this Wednesday. It’s been arranged for her to attend, but, unfortunately, she’s only sending up her ministers and minions, failing the people of Toowoomba in our hour of need. She is our Premier. She’s a premier for all of Queensland, and she’s a premier for our town of Toowoomba too. She needs to be there, and there is still time for her to change her mind. I hope she will.
We need her to commit to three things: to make breach of bail an offence again, to make detention no longer the last resort for magistrates and to introduce tougher minimum sentences rather than the existing tougher maximum sentences, which she talks about and which are almost never used. I don’t want to see more kids in detention; no-one does. I just want to see fewer kids committing these barbaric crimes.
This has shocked our community. It’s been a terrible series of events. But I don’t want the final words on Robert Brown in this place to be of him as the victim. I’d rather remember him as a photographer who loved to take shots around Grand Central, capturing the built environment of Toowoomba as it passed through our beautiful seasonal tones—the faces of our city’s happy children reflected in his lens and in his own smile. He was a man who would sit and, in his soft voice, while holding your hand, talk about his photography as if nothing in the world was worth even another passing care. May he rest in peace.