Fluffy socks. A woman riding a bizarre mythical beast. And a handbag, with a clipped-on image of a cheeky little boy in a Spider-Man suit.
This is the mish-mash of posts on Schapelle Corby’s Instagram page.
And it’s difficult to stomach. Because this little boy isn’t just any wide-eyed toddler. This is William Tyrrell, wearing the very superhero costume he was went missing in on September 12, 2014. It’s a photograph that has been seared into our minds.
Since Corby’s return to Australia after spending a decade in prison in Bali, she has taken it upon herself to resurface the tragedies of lost children. It’s an obsession the convicted drug smuggler showed no apparent interest in previously.
It began with the words “Where’s William Tyrrell” glued to her handbag when she first landed in Australia.
Her decision swiftly drew criticism from the boy’s family, with the the official Where’s William Campaign explaining they were “not happy”.
“While the Where’s William Campaign aims to increase awareness where possible, this situation regarding Miss Corby has no association whatsoever to William, his loved ones or their campaign to find their little boy,” they wrote on Facebook.
Days later, these sentiments were ignored. Corby again shared William’s photo, this time dragging Daniel Morcombe into her new crusade by referencing “Daniel’s Law” in her Instagram hashtags.
Daniel, the blue-eyed 13-year-old whose disappearance in 2003 went unsolved for years until convicted child sex offender Brett Peter Cowan was eventually charged with murder in August 2011.
Ever since, Daniel’s parents have worked tirelessly to protect children from similar predators by advocating for the introduction of Daniel’s Law; legislation for an online register pinpointing the details and locations of child sex offenders.
Then on Tuesday night, Corby chose to highlight another missing child. Hayley Dodd, who was just 17 when she vanished in 1999.
A 61-year-old man will be on trial for her murder this year.
Again, Corby mentions Daniel’s Law.
It goes without saying that fighting to protect our children, and to find the babies who are so suddenly snatched from their parents’ lives, is an exceptionally worthy cause.
But there is a time and a place. When it makes its way to Corby’s Instagram page, out of nowhere, it not only feels jarring. It is trivialising the suffering of so many Australians.
The faces of these lost children have abruptly become tabloid fodder all over again. Their tragedies have been thrown back into the news cycle where Corby, a convicted drug smuggler, is front and centre. And at the moment, her new-found fascination shows no sign of waning.
This can do more harm than good for families, warns Dr Sarah Wayland.
The UTS researcher works closely with families of missing children as well as the Missing Persons Advocacy Network (MPAN), a group created by the family of Daniel O’Keeffe, who spent five years searching for the 24-year-old until his body was found in 2016.