Dolly Everett’s parents share message after she would have turned 21

Amy “Dolly” Everett should have turned 21 last week.

A sweet, free-spirited girl, she would have celebrated the milestone with a plate of birthday pancakes before partying with friends and family like any other young Aussie.

“It’s not your birthday if you don’t have pancakes according to Dolly,” her mother, Kate, told news.com.au.

“(Dolly and her sister Meg) loved to party in our garden. So given that Doll was very close to so many in our community … there would have been champagne and a big party with many, many fairy lights in mum and dad’s garden.”

Instead, Mrs Everett and her husband, Tick, had a quiet dinner together to honour their daughter.

Dolly, who lived with her family on a remote cattle station in the Northern Territory, took her own life at the age of 14 in 2018 after being subjected to an extended period of bullying and cyber-bullying.

Mrs and Mr Everett created the anti-bullying organisation Dolly’s Dream in her honour, which shared a post on social media to mark her birthday on May 1.

“Today, Dolly would have been 21 years old,” the post read.

“In her memory, we ask that you pause today to be kind to one another, to remember the power of words and – in Dolly’s own words – to speak even if your voice shakes.”

Six years on, Mrs Everett said milestones don’t get any easier.

“On those special days, there’s nothing at all that’ll stop the tears. But we do have an amazing community around us and people that hold space for us. And they say her name so she’ll never be forgotten.”

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, the 47-year-old said she noticed changes in Dolly before their adventurous little girl who always lit up a room took her life.

“When Dolly would go back to school, she would have a different personality and she would become more withdrawn,” she said.

“I noticed when she would come home for holidays, she wouldn’t be eating as well as she would normally.

“But one of the biggest indicators for us was her physical reaction to her phone ringing or text message sound coming through. That in itself should have indicated that something was far more wrong than she told us about.”

Dolly was subjected to bullying, vile name-calling and online abuse during her time at a Queensland boarding school.

In November 2017, Dolly wrote a heartbreaking email to her mother about how she handled being confronted by a bunch of students, one of whom told her she should kill herself.

Months later, Dolly took her life on January 3, 2018.

That night, Ms Everett said there was “nothing out of the ordinary”.

Dolly even made her signature dish – potato salad, coleslaw and steak – for the whole family.

But about 30 minutes after they went to bed, the parents found their teenage daughter dead.

“We look back and there won’t be a day that we don’t think we should have done more,” said Ms Everett.

“To see her world torn apart like this is heartbreaking. And you know, we are an average family living in rural Australia. If it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone.”

It’s why she’s urging all Aussies to come together and take a stand against bullying on Do It For Dolly Day on Friday.

Every year, thousands honour Dolly by dressing in her favourite colour and participating in fundraising activities to help support the organisation’s anti-bullying work.

“Most simply, it’s a day to acknowledge that we are all standing together to say no to bullying and to spread kindness.”

Last year, Do It For Dolly Day saw the highest-ever participation, with more than 1000 fundraising activities undertaken across Australia and over $802,000 raised.

This year they are hoping to surpass the goal with the simple message ‘Go blue to end bullying’.

It comes after the eSafety Commission revealed cyber-bullying is on the rise.

Last year, eSafety received 2,383 reports of cyber-bullying – a 40 per cent increase from 1,700 in 2022.

67 per cent of reports concerned children aged 12 to 15 years.

Ms Everett said the stats are “terrible” but she is hopeful they will decrease, saying initiatives like Dolly’s Dream’s free 24-hour support line and the Beacon cyber safety app, “can only put us in a better position”.

“I hope that we have people becoming better digital citizens, and just better people all around. I hope that children who are exposed to Dolly’s Dream may become more empathetic, and just hold space for someone else who may be struggling.”

Speaking ahead of Do It For Dolly Day, she encouraged parents to look out for any major changes in their child’s personalities and check in if they notice something is wrong.

“Teenagers get moody but if you can honestly look at them and see a change in their personality, whether they’re an A student, and they suddenly aren’t achieving those grades, or they are suddenly avoiding their favourite sport, or they go through a distinct change in friends … then that we need to start having conversations, like ‘how are things at school?’ and ‘tell me about what you’re using on your phone?’”

The family hope by using their voices and sharing Dolly’s story, others will be encouraged to speak up and get help.

“I just hope that her death is never in vain and at the end of the day, everyone feels brave enough to speak even if their voice shakes like Dolly said.”

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