ACT News


Community rallies to help children of drowned couple

The Canberra community has rallied around Otilija and Orlando Shugg - the children of prominent Canberra authors and bloggers Kathreen Ricketson and Rob Shugg who died tragically last week in an ocean drowning.

The Canberra family were at the halfway point of an around-Australia year-long trip that they were recording on their Action Pack blog.

The children's mother Kathreen was pulled from water at Warroora, near Coral Bay in Western Australia last Wednesday while a search and rescue operation to find the body of their father Rob was called off on Sunday.

Speculation was mounting on Monday that the pair had been stung by irukandji jellyfish, which the WA Department of Environment and Conservation reported as being in the area in the previous month.

An unprecedented number of people had reported being stung by the irukandji jellyfish - believed to be the most venomous animal in the world - in the Ningaloo area in April, with 13 confirmed cases.

The children have been flown to Melbourne under the care of their uncle and aunt - Ms Ricketson's brother, his wife and their two children.


Family friends Bianca Brownlow and Julie McMahon have set up a donations fund to support Otilija, 13, and Orlando, 10, saying many people had asked them in the aftermath of the tragedy to suggest ways in which they could reach out to the children.

A number of donations have been made to a bank account set up on Friday.

Kathreen and Rob's blog, meanwhile, had been inundated with 283 messages of shock and sadness.

The Blue Gum School, where the children had been students before embarking on their year-long adventure, had produced a condolence book for students and their parents to record messages of support.

According to Ms Brownlow, the family had had a huge presence in Canberra and in the online creative world. "Kathreen was a hugely inspirational, creative, intelligent woman who had a knack of drawing her community around her," she said.

Robert, who worked with his wife writing and illustrating their books, was responsible for the background IT for the websites and ''was completely devoted to his wife and children,'' Ms McMahon said. ''They were just an incredibly close, incredibly devoted family and they had embarked on this big adventure with their kids and were able to inspire other families along the way through their online presence.''

Friends who had spoken with the family after the tragedy said they were deeply shocked.

The family had intended on completing their journey in Canberra before deciding on the next chapter of their lives.

''Obviously it is for the family to decide what happens next and they need to process many things. The children are with people who love them and will look after them and this is what their parents would have wanted,'' Ms Brownlow said.

On behalf of their friend, Ms Brownlow and Ms McMahon were updating the blog so that "conversations and inspiration can continue in their honour''.

  • Donations can be made to details found on the blog at