Wilton’s marriage broke down in early 2000, and rumours began to surface that he would soon resign. Then Wilton was found by police, distressed in a car with his two young children in the You Yangs, near Geelong as he was driving out of the national park. While the circumstances of the incident were never clear — fellow MP Kelvin Thomson said that Wilton had told him that he would never have harmed his children — it was reported by the media as an attempted murder-suicide.
The Sunday Herald Sun ran the headline “FEDERAL MP ARRESTED”, and full pages were dedicated to coverage of the incident. The day before Wilton’s death, The Australian newspaper ran an editorial suggesting that it was “increasingly certain” that Wilton would resign, and speculating about possible replacements. Around this time, former Victorian Premier and depression campaigner Jeff Kennett spoke out against the media’s coverage, stating that he was “angry at the manner in which this matter was previously reported and which was the cause of further subjecting this young man to national humiliation in the way the media covered his depressive condition.” In the aftermath of the incident and media coverage, Wilton spent a fortnight in psychiatric care.
On 14 June Wilton committed suicide alone in a national park near the town of Labertouche, in the Shire of Buln Buln. His death sparked a major reaction, with the media, the Labor Party, and the family law and mental health systems all coming in for some blame in the ensuing days. Many also pointed to the Australian political tradition of voluble, even personal, politics. The Australian Press Council came under fire for not having guidelines as to the reporting of attempted suicide.
Several condolence motions were passed through parliament from political allies such as Anna Burke and political opposites such as Kay Hull. An entire parliamentary day was set aside for condolence speeches. Members of Parliament wept openly in the House chamber as they spoke of their memories of Greg Wilton and their grief about his departure.
- ^ “7:30 Report – Transcript, 15/6/2000”. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2000-06-15. http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/stories/s140872.htm. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
- ^ “Condolences—Wilton, Mr Gregory Stuart” (PDF). House of Representatives Official Hansard. Parliament of Australia. 18 June 2000. http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/reps/dailys/dr190600.pdf. Retrieved 2007-08-12.