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Drowning unites a community



Mayor Tracey Roberts and Jenon’s mother Grace Biwot. Pictures: Justin Bianchini Mayor Tracey Roberts and Jenon’s mother Grace Biwot. Pictures: Justin Bianchini

THE tide that took young Jenon Biwot wouldn’t take the wreaths thrown in his memory at Claytons Beach on Sunday.

It was difficult to throw them out far enough into the same late-afternoon south-westerly that blew the same fateful day he drowned in a rip a week earlier.

So, as a woman collapsed to her knees at the water’s edge and his father Materno walked the floral tributes back into the sea, the tide ran up the beach to meet the feet of the crowd gathered behind the family and friends of the happy-go-lucky 13-year-old.

They had come, past new signs warning of the beach’s dangers, to pay their respects after the second drowning in two months at the spot popular with bodyboarders, some of whom were out in the waves.

“The community wanted to come together to express solidarity with Jenon’s family,” said Butler MLA John Quigley, who led the beach memorial service for his young, soccer-loving constituent.

“There is no harder time for a parent than losing a child.”

“What happened here last Sunday is something no parent should have to experience,” Wanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts said.

She acknowledged the emergency services, lifesavers and surfers, along with the community who had stood “shoulder to shoulder” along the road overlooking the beach soon after hearing someone was missing.

“It says so much about the community of this City,” she said.

Mrs Roberts invited people to “extend a huge community hug to Jenon’s family” before turning to hug each other.

Christian City Church Joondalup pastor Rod Waters described Jenon’s South Sudanese father as “a man of great faith”, with a trust in God shared with his son and family as they left a Ugandan refugee camp after 18 years for – what would have seemed like the Promised Land – Australia.

He said people should “take the wisdom of Materno” if asking ‘Why has this happened?’

“Trust in the God that you cannot see, he will not let you down… even in the midst of trouble, trial and tribulation.”

In closing before the wreath throwing, Mr Quigley referred to Materno’s sighting of seven dolphins in the area police divers would find Jenon’s body in calmer waters the morning after his drowning.

Dolphins, Materno believed, that comforted and guided his son to his “final spiritual home”.

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