17th April, 2020 marked the fifteenth anniversary of Scott's arrest at the Ngurah Rai airport. Things have gone from bad to worse over the years with ongoing legal battles and Scott’s declining mental health. The doom and gloom of his punishment has affected our whole family. The thought that Scott is languishing in a foreign prison facing such a severe punishment is always at the forefront of our minds.
When going to visit Scott in Bali, there is always the time for reflections while waiting for him –“what ifs and if only”. Futile thoughts. As Scott has said, “I’m very sorry for this. I wish it could be different….but it isn’t”. We most certainly are sorry too. We are also embarrassed that we come to a foreign country, our nearest neighbour, not as happy tourists but as parents of a prisoner. It is not a nice feeling. What must the Indonesians think of our parenting skills? Then the newspapers report 80% of the prisoners are there because of drug crime. Drugs certainly are a curse in all cultures.
The years since Scott has been in jail have passed slowly for us. He was 19 and now he is 34, turning 35 later this year. We fret about his well-being and worry about how we are going to manage things so we can get to see him again. We conjure visions of our son’s loss of freedom and how he deals with it.
After fifteen years it is not any easier. Life goes on but at a much slower and deliberate pace. It takes great self discipline to focus and complete tasks. Still there are many thank you's not sent, invitations and acts of kindness not acknowledged, correspondence not responded to. Please bear with us we have not forgotten.
Recollections of the Beginning of a Living Nightmare
On 18th April 2005, our world turned upside down when we were notified by Australian Government officials from DFAT – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – that our much loved youngest son was detained in Bali, Indonesia for drug trafficking. The exact words and wording are forgotten but the meaning was clear: disaster for our son, our family and our country.
Both Lee and I were at work; Lee was notified of Scott’s detainment at about 1.00pm on Monday 18 April, 2005 some fourteen hours after the events in Bali had taken place. As Lee knew I did not usually have my mobile phone switched on during work time, he decided to leave work early, arrive home before I did and tell me what he knew face to face. That allowed me to finish my day’s work and be home in my own environment before he broke the news to me. This was a good call as I don’t know how I would have managed to drive safely given the shocking circumstances.
My day at work was busy and with unexpected twists and turns. I decided that I would head home relatively early and complete the “paper trial tasks” in comfort. There it was that I walked into our home at about 4.00pm to hear the phone ring. Rather than let the call go to message bank, I picked up, only to be asked by a journalist if I knew about what had happened to my son. At that stage, I didn’t know what she was referring to.
Just then, Lee walked into the room looking very sombre and serious. I dropped the handpiece and went to him. He told me that he had received a phone call from the Australian Government telling him that Scott had been detained in Bali for alleged drug trafficking.
We were in a state of shock, panic and disbelief, staring at each other and feeling sick with anxiety. The questions and confusion started coming for what seemed like hours, but was probably in fact only minutes. I suspect sudden shattering news of this type gives rise to a sort of lucidity for the participants at some stage. We decided our priority would be to alert our family and extended family before the media and TV news did. Next we would begin arrangements to go to Bali ourselves. And we would try to find out about legal advice for Scott through our Indonesian friends and contacts here.
How we remained calm and focused that night is a mystery. We phoned the relatives and gave them the little information that we had. Thankfully, my sister arrived at the house and answered the phone, which rang continually, organised food and drinks which no-one wanted and generally stood guard. Meanwhile we searched for documentation to obtain passports; rang an Indonesian lawyer in Jakarta; graciously escorted to the front gate two young journalists who, expecting a scoop, evaded our dogs and walked into our kitchen; commiserated with a group of Scott’s friends who came to express their astonishment and concern. I completed the administrative work that I had brought home knowing that it must be returned the next day.
Fortunately we were too busy to watch the TV reports thoroughly, but we did catch shocking snippets – there was our Scott in Bali at the airport dressed in clothes that he normally wouldn’t wear to a fancy dress party! Then, there he was again only partly clad - no shirt and black undies with wrapping around parts of his body - and his face – he looked stunned. There were others, but we didn’t know them.
Still we managed to work on – automatically – while questions, doubts, fears began to form in our minds. Finally we retired and agreed that we needed to be there for Scott before sleeping fitfully. Thoughts floated disjointedly – How could this happen to Scott? Where was he now? Who was with him? Why was there so much press? Was that legal? Why wasn’t he warned? What should we do? What was God’s grand plan? There was hope, pity, rage, sorrow, fear, questions all jumbled together. Most of all there was that sick in the stomach, dead weight empty feeling.
In the darkness, I prayed – the Rosary without my Rosary beads. I prayed for Scott and our family. I prayed for the others who were involved. It was difficult to focus. I tried some yoga breathing exercises. It was impossible to concentrate. What did I do wrong as a mother for this situation to occur? Where had we gone wrong as a family? Why was this happening to us?
At the crack of dawn a journalist asking for our comments about the arrest phoned us. How could we say anything when we didn’t know anything? As the morning progressed our phone ran hot – newspapers, TV, radio people were calling continuously. Outside our home, camera crews and reporters began to appear. Our dogs barked incessantly at all the activity.
We were in “flight” mode – arrange to get to Bali ASAP; clear work commitments and organise for the running of the house while we were overseas.
A friend and neighbour, bless her heart, pushed past the media at 7.00am and offered her support. She also suggested a way to leave the house without alerting the waiting media - the details of how this was done remains our secret! Friends put encouraging notes in the letterbox and others came for brief visits. We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts, as it is at moments and times of distress that friendship, sharing and caring really makes a difference by lifting the spirits and showing one is not alone.
One of my sisters made the six-hour road trip to our place, bringing with her our tech-savvy niece who via the internet organised our accommodation in Bali and provided us with some cultural and historical information about the Island.
By 5.30pm Tuesday 19th April, we had passports and plane tickets in order. The time passed quickly in a kind of a blur – a visit to the doctor for recommended vaccinations, insurance, organising finance, packing appropriate clothes, communication with DFAT, leave from work, informing family and friends. Then early afternoon the next day we were at Brisbane International Airport ready to depart on our first overseas trip since 1980.
The flight was comfortable and uneventful. We were apprehensive – absorbed with worry, doubts, and confusion. On our arrival at Ngurah Rai (Bali) airport an official from the Australian Consulate met us and assisted us through customs and guided us to the taxi rank. We were immediately struck by the different sounds and smells. The media was hovering around which caught us unawares. In hindsight, we probably should have expected it, but we didn’t. A group of taxi drivers got between us and the cameras, thankfully. We then made the rather scary journey through narrow streets with high walls to our hotel in Seminyak.
Written by Christine and Lee Rush, 2005.