THE tight-knit Tyabb and peninsula communities bid farewell to a cherished young soul last Friday, as hundreds of mourners gathered at Flinders Community Christian College for the funeral of 11-year-old murder victim Luke Batty.
But police, psychologists and youth workers fear it will be a long time before the community, and in particular Luke’s young friends and school mates, can leave behind the pain and anguish of the Year 6 student’s senseless death at the hands of his father ten days earlier at a nearby Tyabb cricket ground.
Overcast skies and light misty rain on the morning of the funeral were offset by the brightly dressed mourners, who had been asked to wear a “splash of yellow” to celebrate Luke’s favourite colour, the colour of “happiness and optimism, of enlightenment and creativity, sunshine and spring”, as he once wrote in a poem.
Luke’s mother, Rosie Batty, was escorted to the service inside the school chapel by her mother, father and brother after arriving in a limousine.
Wearing a yellow jacket, flower and scarf, Ms Batty read Psalm 23 to the assembled mourners inside the chapel, while hundreds more listened and watched in the nearby school gym, where the service was screened.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me,” she read.
Mourners were told by the head of Flinders Community Christian College’s junior school, Greg Partridge, that Luke would always be remembered for infectious laugh and mischievous sense of humour.
“I know teachers found it hard to discipline him when they were laughing at what he had just done,” he said. “You will be missed dearly Luke.”
Reverend David Rietveld said Luke was a young man whose “integrity drove him to understand him what life was about”.
“Luke would seek to ask not just the simple or the surface questions, he would ask the deep and the profound questions about life, about God, about meaning,” he said.
Rev Rietveld also praised the efforts of Luke’s mother in attempting to bring some good from the tragedy by highlighting the impact of domestic violence across the community.
“I don’t think any of us for a moment thinks that possibly more good could come than the bad that has been perpetrated,” he said.
“But like me, I suspect you have marvelled as Rosie has sought to bring good out of the bad that’s taken place as she’s tried to bring a spotlight on domestic violence and bring that into the public conversation in the hope that we might minimise the harm that it causes.”
Following the service, mourners cried and embraced each other as Luke’s yellow casket, adorned with bright flowers and a stuffed Spongebob Squarepants toy, was carried through a guard of honour made up of hundreds of school friends and members of the community to a hearse where it departed for a private cremation service.
A poem written by Luke included inside the funeral order of service booklet shed more light on his love for the colour yellow.
“In the natural world, yellow is the colour of sunflowers and daffodils, egg yolks and lemons, canaries, bees and bananas,” Luke wrote.
“In our contemporary human-made world, yellow is the colour of Spongebob, the Tour de France winner’s jersey, happy faces, post-it notes and signs that alert us to danger of caution.
“It is the colour of happiness and optimism, of enlightenment and creativity, sunshine and spring.”
Luke’s family requested mourners provide donations to the charity Children Affected by Violence instead of buying flowers.
An online charity fund in honour of Luke has also been set up by friends of Ms Batty, as she battles to try to bring some good comes from the tragedy.
‘‘For Rosie, her strongest belief is that something good can come out of this,’’ said close friend Jane McGrath, who has set up the Luke Batty Fund at gofundme.com
Ms Batty’s compassion and dignity in the face of the tragic loss of both her son and former partner have been a source of admiration across the community.
She has highlighted the issue of domestic violence while being careful to explain that her estranged husband had suffered a long-term, undiagnosed mental illness.