ACT News


A mission to create awareness, for Georgina

Georgina Cockburn would have turned three on January 12, her family forced to have a birthday cake without her.

The little girl was tragically killed at the age of 15 months in April, 2011, when her father accidentally reversed his vehicle over her in the garage of their family home in Young, NSW, northwest of Canberra.

It was a Saturday and her mother Emma Cockburn was in the backyard mowing the lawn. Georgina and her three older sisters were inside the house where their mother thought they were safe.

"Peter came home from work and went to reverse his tool trailer and ute into the garage and she'd gotten through the door that goes between the house and garage and nobody knew until it was too late," Mrs Cockburn said.

The loss of their "happy, bubbly, cheeky" youngest child could have destroyed the couple. They were helped by a strong community of friends and family but Mrs Cockburn said dealing with the guilt was an ongoing battle.

"It is very hard. It's one day at the time," she said. "We've sought professional counselling and that sort of thing and that's helped a bit. But it's still an every day process, managing to get out of bed. The fact we've got three other beautiful daughters has been the one of the main things which has made us get up and get out of bed of a morning and keep going and do what we have to do."


The Cockburns also established the Georgina Josephine Foundation, which is about to mark its first anniversary, on February 26.

It aims to raise awareness of similar accidents, referred to as Low Speed Vehicle Runovers, and to support families devastated by them.

Kidsafe NSW says on average seven children are killed each year and 60 are seriously injured after being hit or run over by a motor vehicle at home.

Very young children are at the greatest risk – 90 per cent of children killed and 70 per cent of those seriously injured are aged under five years.

In cases where a child was killed, half the vehicles involved were cars and a third were four-wheel-drives. Two-thirds of the vehicles were reversing.

The Cockburns spoke at a national road safety forum at Parliament House in Canberra last year. Mrs Cockburn said while many manufacturers were installing them, rear vision cameras should be a standard feature on all vehicles. The foundation was also working with a Brisbane company that was developing technology using thermal imaging which locked the brakes when a human or animal was detected while the vehicle was reversing.

However, Mrs Cockburn said the best thing people could do was have a heightened sense of awareness every time they got in their vehicle.

"Every time you get in the car do a circle of safety - walk around and make sure there's nothing and nobody in the way. Maybe look at getting rear vision cameras in the car. Look at the environment around the home. A lot of people say, 'But I don't have kids' but it could be the neighbour's kids, it could be the old lady walking behind the car at the shopping centre. It could be anyone, anywhere, any place. So it's a matter of every time you get in the car be aware of what's around and what's behind you."

Mrs Cockburn said their daughters Charlotte, seven; Anna, five; and Elizabeth, four; understood that Georgina was a "twinkling star in heaven".

"We still talk about her. We don't want to exclude her," she said.

Georgina was, simply, a "very happy, very loved baby".

An Australia Day weekend concert featuring the Down to Earth Opera will be held at the Young Town Hall from 7pm on Sunday in support of the Georgina Josephine Foundation. Down to Earth Opera was formed almost two years ago to match young rural artists with professional musicians from around the world on the local stage. Concert pianist May Gavin, tenor Raymond Khong, baritone Ian Cousins and soprano Julie O'Connor will perform.

Tickets are $40 each, (children free) and can be purchased at M & M's Music Studio, Young on 6382 2836. Tickets are also available at the door on the night.