Show no tolerance

Louise Towler (Melville Cockburn Chamber of Commerce) with Phil Britten (WA Institute of Martial Arts-Motivational Speaker).
Louise Towler (Melville Cockburn Chamber of Commerce) with Phil Britten (WA Institute of Martial Arts-Motivational Speaker).

The co-director of Myaree-based WA Institute of Martial Arts was just hours into an end-of-season football trip with Kingsley Football Club when blasts ripped through the tourist district of Kuta on October 12, 2002.

Seven of his teammates were among the 202 killed.

The then 22-year-old was propelled through the air, suffering burns to 60 per cent of his body. His front teeth were blown out, leaving blood gushing from his mouth.

Chatting to the Times in Bibra Lake last week, he recalled the World Trade Center attacks of 2001 and the feeling of gratitude he felt for living in Australia, so far from the grasp of terrorism.

Yet one year, one month and one day later, he was to feel its full force.

‘I’m sitting there curled up with roofing and bodies all over me,’ he said.

‘I collect my bearings and I start swimming my way through the rubble, the roofing and bodies and I get to my feet. At this point I’m wondering what the hell is going on.

‘Every breath I took, my throat just closed up; the heat, the smoke and the chemicals were just so intense.’

Mr Britten said a wall to his left was his only escape.

‘I launch for a second time and I’m almost over, my legs are almost over, when I feel hands on my hair, I feel hands on my shoulders… I was being used as a ladder by other people to escape,’ he said.

Mr Britten lay there, curled in the foetal position, beaten.

It was only the emotion brought on by what he would not become or things he would not achieve if he died that spurred him to finally make it over that wall.

It is those memories and the scars he lives with today that shape his views on terrorism.

‘Over the whole 12 years (since Bali) I’ve never thought we should lower our guard,’ he said.

‘Regardless of religion or race, everyone has to have a zero tolerance of extremism behaviour because it doesn’t matter what religion you live by, there’s no reason to kill innocent people.

‘That just has to be where the line is drawn.’

Mr Britten likened terrorism to schoolyard bullying, believing a stand had to be taken.

‘I’m worried with how things are going but I think we have an opportunity at this early stage to put a nail in the ground and stand up,’ he said.

‘No one should have to live their life in fear.’

Close to 12 years on from the blasts that changed his life, Mr Britten has forged a successful career as an online consultant, a motivational speaker and co-director of three martial arts schools in Perth.

But he says it was only when he began speaking out about the events that he begun to feel any sense of healing.

‘One of the hardest things was being hospitalised and trying to work on my recovery and knowing there were funerals taking place for my seven mates,’ he said.

‘When I started speaking out and telling my story, I really started finding myself I suppose.’