THE tight-knit Tyabb and Western Port communities were this week doing what they do best – coming together to lend support to the family, friends and school mates of 11-year-old Luke Batty, who was tragically killed last week by his estranged father.
The outpouring of public grief following the shocking events at Bunguyan Reserve last Wednesday afternoon was most visible at the cricket ground itself, which had been turned into a makeshift public memorial as hundreds of visitors brought flowers and farewell messages for the much-loved Flinders Christian Community College student.
Luke died after being struck in the head with a cricket bat and stabbed with a knife by his father, Greg Anderson, following a weekly cricket practice session at Tyabb Cricket Club about 6.20pm. Anderson was fatally shot by police soon after the 54-year-old threatened officers with a knife.
A spontaneous candlelit vigil organised through social media was held at the ground on Thursday night when hundreds of friends and members of the community came together to pay their respects and express their grief.
The following afternoon, hundreds of Flinders college students made their own tribute, walking the perimeter of the oval and releasing balloons.
Shortly after, Luke’s mother, Rosie Batty, visited the ground to read the messages.
A memorial page has been set up on Facebook, with thousands of messages of condolence and expressions of deep sorry being posted. An online charity fund has also been set up by friends of Rosie Batty.
Hastings police and Mornington Peninsula Shire were quick to make counselling and support services available to anyone needing help and those who just wanted to someone to talk to following the shocking events.
A “safe space” organised by the shire, Victorian Council of Churches and Red Cross was set up at Tyabb Community Hall on Frankston-Flinders Rd for friends and residents who required counselling “or who simply wish to discuss how they are feeling”. The hall remained open over the weekend.
A public memorial service is being planned to enable members of the community to pay final respects to Luke, but a date and further details are still being worked out in consultation with Luke’s family and will follow a funeral service expected to be held later this week.
Police have also indicated that a public meeting was being planned to enable members of the community to ask questions and seek advice.
Hastings police Senior Sergeant Alan Courtney said police would be visiting schools and cricket practice sessons at Tyabb to help young people in the area feel safe.
“We also plan on conducting a public meeting so that all members of the Tyabb community have an opportunity to express themselves and ask any questions they might have,” he said.
Counselling services were made available to teachers, staff and students at Flinders Christian Community College.
“Flinders is devastated by the sudden and untimely death of one of our Tyabb junior school students. Our school community is in shock and struggling to come to terms with these tragic circumstances,” school officials said in a statement.
“Briefings have been held for staff, students and Flinders parents, and all our chaplains [and] counsellors will be joined by counsellors from other local schools and churches to support our students, staff and parents throughout the day.
“Our prayers and support are extended to the boy’s mother and we thank the members of the community who have rallied to support her.”
A Department of Education critical incident team was sent to the school to help deal with the trauma, and support officers also visited 12 other schools in the region to provide counselling.
Flinders Christian Community College executive principal Jill Healey said the loss of the beloved grade 6 boy was “an absolute shock and a tragedy”.