Why on earth did Dreamworld ever think of reopening today?

It's a Friday - the end of a week that's been the most harrowing in its 35-year history. A week in which children have lost their mums, husbands have lost wives, lifelong partners have perished metres from each other and parents have lost their adult children.

A week when a place of fun was drained of its colour.

Dreamworld bosses backflipped last night and announced that the park will no longer be reopening today, after initially saying they'd open the park for a memorial, with entry fees going to the Australian Red Cross and activities limited to smaller rides, animal attractions, and the water park.


But why did they even consider it? Right now Dreamworld is not a fulfiller of dreams but the saddest amusement park on earth. The place is eerily sombre and the staff are in shock. Questions are still swirling about safety. To open seemed crass and thoughtless - not to mention the fact that the park is still an official crime scene.

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Yes, life has to move on and normality is part of the grieving process but I can say from experience that anyone involved in a tragedy needs the world to stop for a moment before it resumes.

To pay my way through university I worked as a lifeguard at a swimming pool. One afternoon a four-year-old boy drowned. He'd become trapped between the ladder and the pool wall and by the time lifeguards found him it was too late.

Queensland Emergency service personnel are seen at Dreamworld. Photo / AAP
Queensland Emergency service personnel are seen at Dreamworld. Photo / AAP

It was harrowing - for the woman looking after him who was not his mum; for the parents who weren't there; for his little four-year-old swimming mate who'd suddenly been unable to find him.

Equally, it was traumatic for us pool staff and our boss who'd never had a drowning throughout the pool's 22-year history.

When people die in a place designated for play, for joy, for laughter, it's horribly unsettling. It's as if the big painted faces and the uneasy blend of steel and silliness are suddenly rendered ridiculous. It's only right to withdraw, to be quiet, to let time lay its covering on the wounds.

In respect to 12-year-old Ebony Goodchild and 10-year-old Kieran Low who were thrown from the ride and saw their mums die, we have a duty as grown-ups to keep the park closed a little longer to mark the enormity of what they have lost.

CEO Deborah Thomas speaks to the media at the Ardent Leisure Annual General Meeting. Photo / Getty Images
CEO Deborah Thomas speaks to the media at the Ardent Leisure Annual General Meeting. Photo / Getty Images

I appreciate people will have timed their holidays to enjoy a day at Dreamworld but too bad. Go to Wet 'n' Wild, see a movie or walk along the beach, grateful for your precious life.

Equally, the staff at Dreamworld need time to recover. In the days following the drowning at the swimming pool at which I worked, the mood was sombre. But what was worse were those who couldn't contain their curiosity. Were you working? Did you see what happened? How was the mum? What went wrong? The questions were shameless and thoughtless and as a 19-year-old I had no idea how to answer them.

Deaths in amusement parks or at fairgrounds are never forgotten. Ghastly as it seems, they become part of their gruesome allure. I'd guess that barely a day would pass when a visitor to Sydney's Luna Park doesn't mention the ghost train fire that claimed seven lives and injured 13 more in 1979.

I'm not suggesting Dreamworld close for weeks. As long as safety requirements are met it's perfectly reasonable for the park to open next week. But we need to give those who have been directly affected - and a nation in shock - the dignity of a grieving period that reflects the magnitude of what has happened.