BOND University Vice-Chancellor Tim Brailsford has spoken out against speculation and inaccuracies regarding the sudden death of gifted Tuross student Bonnie Whitehead.
Bonnie was found dead in the bedroom of her Gold Coast Unit on the afternoon of Saturday, September 15 and early media reports focused on her attendance at a university pub crawl the previous day.
Police are awaiting the results of an autopsy and the cause of death remains unknown.
Professor Brailsford said reports Bonnie had been evicted from licensed premises were “not true at all”.
“The press did not report the fact that when she got back to her unit the night before, her flat mate was there, she cleaned her teeth, took her makeup off, had a very rational, normal conversation and went to bed,” he said.
“That is hardly consistent with the press image of a girl not in control of her faculties.
“Bonnie was not a person who used to partake of large amounts of alcohol. She would enjoy a drink but she very much enjoyed having a chat and being part of the event. The portrayal in the press is completely out of character.”
Students on the popular pub crawl could join an early or late bus on Friday afternoon.
“Bonnie commenced on the later start,” Prof Brailsford said.
“Do some maths: she left at 4.30 on a bus, she was back on campus by 8pm on a bus. When you add in the travel time, the amount of time she would have actually been in a licensed premise is pretty narrow. “She left the student bar somewhere about 9pm of her own accord, saying she was tired.”
Prof Brailsford said the pub crawl would be reviewed, but the university would not have “a knee jerk reaction”.
“We don’t shy away from the fact that those sorts of events need to be looked at,” he said.
“This is a student-run pub crawl, as happens at every university, and we work with the students to try to mitigate all sorts of factors.
“We have the students come back to our tavern at campus so we can try to control the situation and apply appropriate alcohol restraint and observe the kids.”
He said the campus showed leadership and “would rather have open communication with our student body than come out and pontificate and drive their activities underground”.
He said no one yet knew the circumstances of Bonnie’s death.
“We will be reviewing practices associated with these types of events, but in the fullness of time and we will liaise with police.”
Tributes flow for gifted Tuross lass
TRIBUTES are flowing for a gifted, compassionate Eurobodalla student who died suddenly on the Gold Coast this month.
A scholarship student with a passion for human rights, Tuross Head’s Bonnie Whitehead was excelling in her second year of law and international relations at Bond University.
In her 2010 HSC, she gained the second highest mark in NSW for History Extension and the fifth highest mark for Senior Science.
The former Moruya High School student reached the HSC All-Round Achievers list with marks above 90 per cent in 10 units, after winning a senior scholarship to Sydney’s Wenona College.
Bond’s vice-chancellor Professor Tim Brailsford said she had “a strong sense of social justice” and sought “an inclusive society”, with opportunities for everyone.
He said she was “adventurous, high spirited, energetic and ambitious, but with a strong sense of wanting to make a wider contribution”.
“She was a high-achieving student. She was driven. She contributed to academic debate and was not backward in saying her piece.”
He said her teachers valued an inquisitive thinker, who clearly “wanted to do something”.
The young woman who rejected Schoolies Week to help in a Cambodian orphanage believed “the globe has no boundaries”.
With a friend in London, she had continued to support the orphanage.
“The two of them were working both sides of the globe,” Prof Brailsford said.
Last December, just two months after losing her father Bill Whitehead, Bonnie volunteered for a week at a university camp for young people with serious disabilities.
“This is a young woman with a very promising future who had already achieved much,” Prof Brailsford said.
“It is a tragedy to think we have lost such a capable, bright and energetic young individual and a great young Australian. Our hearts go out to (mother) Lorraine and Bonnie’s sister Lily.”
A Eurobodalla friend said the family was devastated by the loss of a “delightful” young woman.
“It is a tragedy to lose a brilliant, compassionate mind at such a young age,” he said.
Moruya High School English and History teacher Michael Lambert is mourning “a marvelous student”.
“She was probably one of the brightest I have taught,” Mr Lambert said.
“She wanted to do well, but she also thoroughly enjoyed learning. She had a wonderful sense of right and wrong. She had courage. When she saw things wrong, she spoke up.”
Mr Lambert said Bonnie and a friend formed a school social justice group.
“She cared about people and wanted to see things done correctly,” he said.
She was concerned about poverty, disadvantaged kids and minority groups, including those in same-sex relationships.
“She thought everyone should be treated equally. It is a sad loss of a young person with so much to offer. She was a wonderful example to people of all ages. She was full of energy and life.”
Wenona principal Dr Briony Scott said Bonnie was “an outstanding student and a wonderful friend”.
She was “an inspiring young woman” with a “passion for human rights” who was “testimony to the power of young people to change the world”.