Queensland mum in fight with council to keep son’s memorial at park

Home Family Queensland mum in fight with council to keep son’s memorial at park

A grieving Queensland mother is in a battle with a local council to keep a public memorial dedicated to her late teenage son.

Rachael Coyle said there had been an outpouring of grief when her much-loved son Jayden Ireland, 18, died suddenly in Blackwater on May 22 last year.

Jayden had recently moved from Rockhampton to the Central Highlands town in the hope of getting work in the mines.

But the rugby-loving teen already had relatives and many friends in Blackwater, Ms Coyle said.

Jayden Ireland was "popular, bright and outgoing" his mother said, adding he had "a heart of gold".
Jayden Ireland was “popular, bright and outgoing” his mother said, adding he had “a heart of gold”. (Supplied)

When her son died, heartbroken friends and family went to the park on Blain Street where he had passed away and set up a memorial.

Police at the time said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Jayden’s death.

“I think the memorial started the day after Jayden passed away, or possibly even that day,” Ms Coyle said. 

“It was just the community, and all his friends in Blackwater. It’s absolutely lovely, just really beautiful.”

Over time, the memorial grew. There were painted rocks, flowers, photos and padlocks on the fence.

Ms Coyle said her son was laid to rest in Rockhampton, several hours from Blackwater, so the memorial was a special place for Jayden’s friends and family to visit locally in their grief.  

“My mum lives in Blackwater and she goes to the park every night when she’s in town,” Ms Coyle said. 

“People talk to her, they open up to her and they tell her how beautiful it is, how comforting and peaceful it is. 

“There’s even been people who have told her that they don’t even know Jayden but they go there as well and that it helps them with their mental health. 

“It’s the whole community that loves it, not only just his friends.”

Rachael Coyle has started an online petition calling on Central Highlands Regional Council to allow her son's memorial to stay.
Rachael Coyle has started an online petition calling on Central Highlands Regional Council to allow her son’s memorial to stay. (Supplied: Rachael Coyle)

Ms Coyle said her first contact with the Central Highlands Regional Council came a few months after Jayden’s death in July last year. 

The memorial had grown too large and, in an email, the council requested the family scale it back, which they did.

The family had a plaque made up for Jayden’s memorial, and worked with council to have it made to the right size specifications.

Council staff then placed the plaque in the park at the memorial site.

Ms Coyle said she then received another email from the council in September requesting everything but the plaque be taken away. 

“They emailed me to say that the plaque is up now and you have until the end of the month to remove everything else,” she said.

Ms Coyle said she replied to the email, saying she believed her family had come to an agreement with council which would allow them to leave some other items at the memorial site.

“The council didn’t reply, and I just assumed that everything was fine. But, at the end of September, they came and tore everything down, took everything away without any kind of warning,” Ms Coyle said.

“We were all really upset, it’s hard enough dealing with his loss as it is,” she said. 

“It kind of takes you back. It feels like you’re losing him all over again.”

After a while, members of the community began placing items at the memorial site again and the memorial was now at a similar size to before, Ms Coyle said.

Ms Coyle said she got another email from council last month requesting a meeting with her about the memorial.

Fearing council staff would remove everything from the memorial again, Ms Coyle started an online petition last week – calling on the council to allow it to stay – which has since attracted more than 3700 signatures.

John McDougall, the council’s General Manager (Communities) said the extra items at the memorial posed a safety issue. 

“In 2021, council arranged for a plaque to be placed in a garden at the park as a memorial for Jayden. However, the memorial has been added to informally and often includes items that are unsafe, such as open alcohol and glass.

“The All Abilities Park is a place specially designed for children with disabilities and their families. While council acknowledges the importance of memorials for lost loved ones, we have also received feedback that many people do not feel comfortable using this public space any more.

“Council will continue to work with the family and the community to find a fair and respectful resolution.”

Ms Coyle acknowledged some of Jayden’s friends had, in the past, gone down to the memorial to have a drink with him and left a bottle there.

However, after feedback from council, Ms Coyle said this was no longer happening.

“We did spread the word, the community listened, and that was all stopped back last year,” she said.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyond blue on 1300 22 4636.

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