Gold Coast theme park tragedy has also killed the dream

By Eva Bradley

1 comment
HBT124533-09.jpg Eva Bradley. Hawkes Bay Today columist. 
Photograph Supplied 
NEWS WTA 05Jan13 - HBT 05Jan13 - NAT 11Jan13 - NAT 18Jan13 - WTA 01Jun13 - TWO'S COMP
HBT124533-09.jpg Eva Bradley. Hawkes Bay Today columist. Photograph Supplied NEWS WTA 05Jan13 - HBT 05Jan13 - NAT 11Jan13 - NAT 18Jan13 - WTA 01Jun13 - TWO'S COMP

The name says it all: Dreamworld. It is a place not just apart from reality, but better than it. Kids long to go there and adults rediscover a joyful part of themselves they thought they had lost.

And yet this week, the dream has turned to a nightmare from which some will never wake and others never recover.

Right now, the focus is on personal tragedies and professional accountabilities, yet there is another element that affects us all in a far less important but still valid way.

For all but the brave (or foolhardy?) among us, Dreamworld and other theme parks like it are no longer on the bucket list.

Because although we pay fat ticket prices to be put in a position where we feel as though we might die, losing our life in pursuit of that exciting but fine line between pleasure and painful terror is the last thing any of us want or expect.

And yet it has happened.
So who will risk it happening again, to them?

Before this week's accident, most of us fitted into one of two categories; we had been to Dreamworld, or we planned to go there.

Among the former category, I have vivid memories of floating along the Thunder River Rapids as both a child and an adult. I remember the moment of inevitable dread just before the raft plummets down the waterslide and the overwhelming sense of relief that came right after that as the ride ended and the raft slowly chugged up the conveyor to safety.

Safety.
It's a concept that is about as elastic as well-chewed gum and all of us naturally have a different yard stick for measuring it and judging what risks we're prepared to take in order to reap the rewards - in this case a joyful thrill.

But what most of us are non-negotiable about is trust. Everyone who walks through the gate at Dreamworld trusts the operators to have done everything possible to maximise safety and minimise risk.

Freak accidents occasionally happen, and anyone who goes into a theme park acknowledges that fact if only subconsciously. But "accidents" due to negligence of even the smallest kind are a breach of trust that few of us are prepared to forget, or forgive.
No doubt exhaustive inquiries will determine if this week's tragedy is down to bad luck or bad management but right now, as stories of buried reports and staff complaints begin to emerge, it's not looking good.

And so what will I tell my kids in a few years' time when they beg me to take them to Dreamworld, or even a ride at the A&P show?

I don't want to be a type-cast, 21st-century helicopter parent who doesn't let my kids stretch their risk muscle.

But my trust in what I presumed were watertight safety standards befitting of a modern world obsessed by health and safety has been blown.

Personally I think it ought to be a long time before Dreamworld's doors are reopened both out of respect for the lives lost and the need for a through shake-down of equipment safety.

Yet I expect it will be much longer still before the public trust that's been lost gets found again.

It wasn't only four people who died this week. The dream has died too.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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