8 February 2024

Wagga authors share a powerful memoir of loss, hope and healing

| Chris Roe
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book cover and little girl in a chair

Aaron de Jong and Peter Doherty will give an author talk on their book, Ainsley de Jong Could Dance, at The Curious Rabbit. Photo: Supplied.

First-time Wagga authors Aaron de Jong and Peter Doherty have been overwhelmed by the response to their very personal memoir, Ainsley de Jong Could Dance, and are gearing up for their first author talk at The Curious Rabbit on Friday.

The book tells the story of a young Wagga girl’s battle with a brain tumour, her sudden death in a school playground and the aftermath as her family fought for answers.

Ainsley’s father Aaron said it had been gratifying to see his daughter’s story touch so many lives.

“The feedback’s just been great and so much more than we ever would have expected,” he said.

“We’ve got messages, texts and emails off people that have found that it’s related to a part of their lives or something that might have happened to them or their mental health.”

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Ainsley’s story was published in September last year and sold out so quickly that Aaron and Peter (a friend and former journalist) decided to put the public book launch on hold until the second run of copies arrived.

“We sold out within a week with that first run so we’ve done a second print run and really wanted to do something public,” Aaron explained.

“Pete and I will be there to talk a bit about it and there’s a Q&A with Vickie [Birkinshaw] from The Curious Rabbit.”

It will be the first time that the pair has had the chance to speak in an open forum and Aaron said the book highlighted some of the challenges faced by families in the regions.

“I think that there are some things that you don’t know aren’t available to you until you’re in the thick of it,” he explained.

“There was a lot of stuff in there about the Department of Education and not getting an inquest because we were in a country town, so I think awareness is important.”

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While reliving such a painful and personal story can be tough, Aaron said there had been healing too.

“The fact that people are still talking about my daughter and it’s helping other people has definitely helped me with my own PTSD and mental health stuff,” Aaron reflected.

“Since my book has come out, I’ve also spoken to the current principal of the school and there were a lot of the staff who haven’t spoken about [Ainsley’s death] since it happened because they weren’t allowed to.

“It’s only recently that the school has gotten counselling about that day and we’re nearly 10 years down the track.”

You can hear Ainsley’s story firsthand and meet Aaron de Jong and Peter Doherty at Friday’s event at The Curious Rabbit.

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