City of Joondalup approves temporary memorial plaque at Iluka Beach

Annica and Lanre Odina want to install a plaque in the hut behind them, where their son Daniel's backpack was found shortly before they discovered he had died. Picture: Martin Kennealey www.communitypix.com.au d446522
Annica and Lanre Odina want to install a plaque in the hut behind them, where their son Daniel's backpack was found shortly before they discovered he had died. Picture: Martin Kennealey www.communitypix.com.au d446522

A TEMPORARY plaque will be installed inside a hut at Iluka Beach in memory of Daniel Odina.

Joondalup councillors last night voted 8-4 to allow Annica and Lanre Odina to install the memorial plaque for their 24-year-old son for up to 12 months.

The hut has already become a meeting place for Daniel’s family and friends to remember him.

Four months ago, Daniel was reported missing when he did not return to his Connolly family home one night.

The next morning, his backpack was found at the Iluka Beach hut and four days later, his body was found about 15m off the beach.

Encouraged by Daniel’s friends, Mrs Odina applied to the City of Joondalup to install a 15cm by 20cm memorial plaque high up in the hut but it was rejected.

Under the City’s Memorials in Public Reserves policy, adopted in 2009, community members can apply to install a memorial for a person who has significantly contributed to the local community.

Mrs Odina was astounded her application was rejected so she started a petition, collecting 947 signatures from City of Joondalup residents in two weeks.

City officers had recommended councillors at last night’s meeting vote not to install the plaque, in line with the policy.

Mrs Odina said people who died at a young age did not have the same opportunities to contribute to the community as those who lived to old age.

“If my son Daniel had died in a neighbouring council, we would have had our plaque by now,” she said.

“The City of Wanneroo is not littered with unsightly memorials despite this generous and humane policy to allow public memorials freely to all people without qualification.

“A public plaque commemorating the life of a person who died too young also serves as a reminder to anyone who sees it, whether they knew the person or not, that life is precious and cannot be taken for granted.”

Cr Sophie Dwyer moved an alternative motion to install a temporary plaque for up to 12 months, as opposed to six months as allowed in the policy, and to review the policy.

“The term ‘significant person’ has not been defined within the existing policy which gives rise to ambiguity,” she said.

“Significance has different meanings to different people and different generations.

“A plaque on a hut will cause minimal impact to the infrastructure or surrounding environment… and it is unlikely the group will risk losing the memorial by encouraging antisocial behaviour at the hut.

“However, the applicants are not responsible for the behaviour of every person that visits the site and it is not reasonable to link every incidence of antisocial behaviour to the installation of the plaque.”

She said approving the plaque was an opportunity for the council to demonstrate its consideration for the changing views of the community.

“If the approval of this memorial creates an increase in applications for memorials in public places, then this is evidence of our community’s desire for a change in policy,” she said.

“The installation of the memorial for 12 months gives the City sufficient time to investigate community views on memorials in public places and to develop a sound policy proposal that manages the costs and risks associated with any change.”Cr Philippa Taylor said a temporary plaque did not seem “quite enough for the family” particularly given the public support, citing 97 per cent of responses to the Weekender’s previous story on Facebook were in favour.

“This is a policy, it is just a policy,” she said.

“We have been elected as councillors to use our discretion.

“We often look to other local governments to see what they’re doing in a similar situation.

“The City of Wanneroo is planning on building and dedicating an entire playground to Sam Trott (a Landsdale toddler who died in a park pond when he wandered away from his home).

“What a completely different attitude in Wanneroo when it comes to remembering the lost sons; as a mother, I can see absolutely no difference.”

However, Cr Taylor’s amendment to approve a permanent memorial plaque was defeated 10-2.

Cr John Logan said going from a temporary plaque to a permanent plaque was “going a little bit too far because of the potential problems it could raise”.

“We need to be aware of the problems around us in terms of antisocial behaviour and in terms of opening Pandora’s Box on something like this,” he said,

“There might be a number of applications for a permanent memorial in the city which we simply wouldn’t be able to cope with.

“If successful for a temporary plaque, there is nothing stopping the family for applying for a permanent one at a later date and I wonder when the grieving process does subside to some extent, whether they will still require a permanent plaque.”

In supporting the officers’ recommendation, Cr Tom McLean said “the policy developed only five years ago is more than adequate”.

“Grief comes to us all and we all have our different ways of dealing with it,” he said.

“I lost two brothers in the space of two months a few years ago and I remember them in my heart and mind and that’s where it’s going to stay.”

Cr Christine Hamilton-Prime agreed the policy was appropriate but felt the council should investigate a new policy to deal with temporary memorials in tragic circumstances.

“I believe compassion is needed in circumstances when there is considerate public outpouring, however identification is required on exactly where the line is drawn,” she said.

Mrs Odina said she was relieved the process was “over for now”.

“We are pleased with the outcome, although it’s daunting to think we may have to go through this ordeal again in 12 months time,” she said.

“We were deeply moved by the statements in favour of our plaque and are immensely grateful to the councillors that expressed their compassion for our cause and moved to review the policy and allow the plaque.

“Nevertheless, it was a harrowing experience to sit through the meeting and hear our personal tragedy debated.

“We are eager to install the temporary plaque as soon as possible and hopeful the review of this policy will result in our plaque becoming permanent.”