Mary Forrington was nine years old when Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon were kidnapped from Adelaide Oval in one of the most devastating cases of missing children in Australia’s history.
She was also at the Oval on that sad day and wasn’t seated far from the victims. Mary can’t recall anything out of the ordinary at the game, but she remembers a world which suddenly prioritised safety, supervision, and proceeding with caution in the aftermath.
“I certainly know I was never allowed to go to the bathroom on my own for many years after that. It was the same for lots of our peers and it wasn't acceptable for young people to take a younger sibling or friend because you would have thought that the girls were probably quite safe being two of them together.”
Mary remembers a time when Adelaide Oval had little to no security measures in place. It was thought to be unnecessary to have excessive security at a game of footy. However, in the aftermath of that day, security visibly increased. It wasn’t just at the venue of the crime, it was everywhere; security and police presence increased at the Royal Adelaide Show and other such events as well. Parents became more cautious with their children, schools were teaching modules on child safety, and stranger danger was a genuine concern.
“I know all of my friends parents were all on the same page with keeping kids safe, not leaving them, you didn't walk too far on your own. We were allowed to walk to school, but there were a lot of children in the area, so safety in numbers. But at school we had definitely a significant increase in, you know, stranger danger and what to do if you were in that position.”
Mary discussed a time when children were carefree, and parents allowed them to be, but that world quickly evaporated after the kidnapping. It quickly became apparent that this could happen anywhere and to anyone.
“I think when you're younger you have a certain amount of invincibility about you that you think, oh that couldn't happen to me? But having been there that day and we weren't sitting that far away from where the girls were sitting, you think, wow, that could have been me, it could have been friends, it could have been anyone.”