Speaking up for Nate

Stacy Dunbar prepares to address students at Kalamunda Senior High School.
Stacy Dunbar prepares to address students at Kalamunda Senior High School.

WA Local Hero Stacy Dunbar stood before a hall of teenagers and recounted the night her baby son died when a drunk driver crashed through his bedroom as he slept in his cot.

The courageous Merriwa mother brought her award-winning road safety campaign to more than 1100 students at Kalamunda Senior High School last Friday.

Mrs Dunbar recalled waking to a loud crash and discovering blinding headlights inside her youngest son’s bedroom.

She described the horror of searching frantically through dust and debris for eight-month-old Nate.

“There was nothing left of Nate’s room – I was screaming – then I saw his little face,” Mrs Dunbar said.

She realised Nate’s older brother, Kai, was watching from his bed, pinned against a remaining wall, as the drunk driver climbed free of her car.

“The driver said ‘please God, don’t take him, take me instead’ and walked into the night,” Mrs Dunbar said.

The driver, Melissa Waters, was released on parole last month. The mother of three had a blood alcohol level three-and-a-half times the legal limit when she lost control of her car and smashed into the Dunbar home in January, 2013.

In the aftermath of the Merriwa accident, Mrs Dunbar launched a major campaign to stop people drinking and driving.

She said to describe her life as an emotional rollercoaster since the loss of Nate would be an understatement.

Following the Pledge for Nate campaign, more than 8000 people promised not to drink and drive over the 2013 festive season, contributing to the state recording its lowest rate of drink-driving offences in 60 years.

Mrs Dunbar was named WA Local Hero in the 2015 Australian of the Year Awards in recognition of her “courage and dignity in responding to tragedy with an unswerving commitment to make her community a safer place to live”.

Kalamunda teenagers were the first high school students in Perth to hear details of the night that left a family and a community bereft.

Mrs Dunbar said she hoped the students would take to heart her message: bad choices in life can have catastrophic consequences for all involved.

“I can guarantee she (Waters) never thought how her actions would affect others,” Mrs Dunbar said.

She urged students, teachers and parents in the audience to always to think ahead, have an action plan and never drink and drive.

“Take a taxi, a bus, a train, nominate a driver, ask mum or dad for a lift, stay at a friend’s – make the right decision.”

Mrs Dunbar was the keynote speaker at the school’s Kalamunda Day, a celebration of the Act-Belong-Commit health promotion.

School principal Helen Deacon said Mrs Dunbar’s strength in adversity demonstrated remarkable resilience – a core value of the school.

“In sharing her story, Stacy showed how you pick yourself up, keep going and seek purpose, even when faced with great loss.”

Mrs Dunbar is willing to address other schools and will speak at a free public forum, at 7pm, on Wednesday, August 26 at the University of Western Australia.

Reservations are required with tickets available from www.ticketswa.com/event/great-australians.