‘She was going to prove she was tough enough’
THERE was nothing they could do for her, except crawl into the bed where she'd died, and hold her for the hours it took for help to arrive.
It was the longest night of Tick and Kate Everett's lives - the night their 14-year-old girl decided to end hers.
Dolly Everett, their funny, adventurous, "crazy-haired" little girl, had succumbed to a campaign of torment, to troubles at school she'd been unable to solve.
"I actually just lay with her for hours," Kate Everett said.
"Cuddled up with her for hours and just, I just made a promise to her that this wouldn't be in vain … that I was so, so sorry that I hadn't made better decisions."
The family of Amy "Dolly" Everett - the girl in the Akubra who became the face of a nationwide anti-bullying campaign - has opened up about her short life and tragic death.
In an interview with A Current Affair, Dolly's parents and sister Meg have told how their once-carefree girl's behaviour changed when she began attending boarding school at Warwick on Queensland's southern Darling Downs.
They described repeated calls to the school where they raised concerns of bullying, their daughter having been the victim of physical assaults and taunts of "slut" and "bitch".
But the school responded by calling Dolly a liar whose multiple suspensions were her own fault.
Her family told how the school apparently refused to let Meg return after the death of her sister.
Dolly and older sister Meg grew up on remote properties and studied by school of the air.
When the girls reached high school age, the decision was made to send them from their home in the Northern Territory to Warwick's Scots PGC College.
The girls were initially homesick. At home they rode horses, fished for barramundi in their own back yard, played with their dogs and explored the bush.
It seemed like they were settling in, but it was not long before Dolly began speaking of troubles with other students.
"She told me that the boys were calling her a slut. She was 12," Kate said.
"I don't know whether 12-year-olds even know what that means. They shouldn't. I used to tell her 'it will get better - you'll fit in'."
Kate told A Current Affair she called the school but was told it was not a big deal and that they would speak to the students.
"And I said, 'well, I feel like it's causing my daughter grief, so I feel like it's an issue'."
Tick said things got worse when his daughter retaliated against a boy who had been continually pushing her over.
Dolly "decked" the boy and the school responded by suspending her.
"Fair enough, Dolly probably shouldn't have retaliated the way she did, but for Dolly then to become the person in the wrong and the other kid to be the victim, I don't … it doesn't make much sense," Tick said.
Things settled down for a while after that. But with hindsight, Dolly's parents wonder if she had been putting on a brave face.
The following year, there were more problems at the school.
Tick and Kate said a boy convinced Dolly to take pictures of herself and send them to him. She was 13 years old at the time. The school took away her phone privileges.
After that, she was suspended after being caught drinking.
"In that last year … I just think, 'Oh God, she's just changing.' And as a parent, I guess you say, 'This is part of adolescence, is this who she is?' "
Kate called the school repeatedly, trying to explain that her daughter was not like this, that something bigger was happening.
"But they told me Dolly was a liar," Kate said.
"I just think by the end she almost had an attitude of 'if I can't beat 'em, I may as well join them, and maybe it'll just stop, maybe it'll stop'."
By last November, the situation at the school had escalated badly.
Dolly's parents received an email from her, that read in part: "I started to panic because they were ganging up on me and I didn't want to fight so I walked away and one of them started screaming at me, calling me a dirty slut, bitch and screaming about how I should kill myself and go cut some more."
Tick and Kate said they considered taking Dolly out of school at that point. But after being home for the summer holidays for a while, Dolly said she wanted to go back.
"Dolly was just adamant that she was going back," Tick said.
"She was going to prove that she could do it and that she was tough enough to be Dolly again. She had me convinced that she was right."
The day that Dolly took her own life, January 3, they talked about going back to school.
The mood was light. Dolly had asked, casually, "Hey, what's the go with school?" and Kate had mentioned booking flights for the 18th.
Dolly cooked steak, potato salad and coleslaw for dinner, her regular meal. They played cards. Dolly joked about her mother's lack of skill. At 9pm, the girls went to bed.
Half an hour later, they found her.
"There was nothing we could do," Tick said.
"It's the most horrible thing you, anybody, any parent … you just, you should never have to do that.
"You know, being isolated was another battle. You know, sort of three and a half hours before anyone else could get there. The longest night of our lives, really.
"You know, she's right there and there's nothing you can do."
Meg tried to return to the school - but the school said no.
"The words that we all heard on the phone in the car was 'we've got nothing in place to protect other students and you are not allowed on school grounds'," Tick said.
Dolly's family has spent the past months setting up "Dolly's Dream", highlighting the scourge of school bullying, in the hope they can help other parents see the warning signs.
"Through my eyes, she was this … gorgeous, amazingly funny and talented girl that had so much to live for and could've been anything she wanted to be," Kate said.
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