In praise of community…writes Gabrielle Upton

November 2, 2014 by Gabrielle Upton
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There is no darker nightmare for a parent than having your 11-year daughter disappear into the night.

Gabrielle Upton

Gabrielle Upton   pic: Henry Benjamin

It is the sort of news that makes your belly knot and sets your mind racing through all the tragic outcomes that could befall a vulnerable young girl by herself in a big city.

News like this travels like a bushfire and I have never seen my local community on such high alert. Michelle Levy’s name was on everyone’s lips last weekend, thanks to the wall-to-wall coverage by Sydney’s newsrooms.

The social media reaction was extraordinary. If you are not already one of the 391,000 people who follow the NSW Police on Facebook, you should be. They posted photos of Michelle that were shared more than 16,000, providing police with tens of thousands more eyes and ears in the community. It is not the first time police have crowdsourced the search for a missing child to very good effect.

Then there was the reaction of the local Eastern Suburbs community who cancelled their plans for a beautiful Spring weekend and joined the search. To share a Facebook post is extremely helpful, but to drop everything and pound the streets searching for a child exemplifies everything that is good about this city and my local community.

Our Jewish community was extremely well organised and absolutely determined to help the NSW Police and the SES find Michelle. The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Jewish House and Sydney Hatzolah swung into action as did thousands of men, women and children. It was crowdsourcing of the old-fashioned kind.

Whilst IT experts lent a hand to compile the Facebook posts, Bondi’s Our Big Kitchen supplied their award-winning food to volunteers and family and others offered to provide an aircraft to fly a sky banner over the city.

Last Monday morning I joined a community meeting called to escalate the search effort, but it turned into a heartwarming debrief as news broke that Michelle had been found safe and well.

The events showed just how much we can achieve when a community collaborates with the emergency services. I also know a strong spirit and a willingness to help those in need is not a trait exclusive to the Jewish community – it is part of the Australian DNA.

Gabrielle Upton is the NSW Member for Vaucluse, Minister for Family and Community Services and Chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel.


2 Responses to “In praise of community…writes Gabrielle Upton”
  1. David Adler says:

    Everyone was delighted that Michelle was found safe and well. But the whole episode is very odd with significant questions hanging:
    – the obvious question of what causes an 11 yo to runaway is not clear
    – what sort of 50+ yo man takes into his home an 11 yo girl for two days before alerting authorities
    – why in interviews was the father so apparently unconcerned as to who this man is and what happened
    – what’s with the assault charges faced by the father
    – DOCS must answer “no comment” but what did the journalist who made enquiries with DOCS have any reason to do so
    – most worrying of all, why did the police initially NOT return Michelle to her parents, but to other relatives?
    All quite odd.

  2. Adrian Jackson says:

    Good that the 11 year old was taken in by someone and then reported to Anglicare staff who contacted the parents. Michelle look Celtic or Nordic so was she adopted as she does not look like her parents at all? Michelle has caused a lot of trouble and expense for her run away stunt.

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