All Iyla Katterns wanted was a pink surfboard so she could learn to surf like her dad, Nathan. But she never got the chance.
The three-year-old was killed in 2019 by her mother, Tamara Gurney.
Now Iyla’s paternal grandmother, Jo Thomson-Jones, has helped found Mothers of Sons, an organisation dedicated to helping women fight for their sons’ rights in a legal system she believes can be stacked against men.
Both Iyla and her father had been the subject of domestic violence orders meant to protect them from Iyla’s mother.
Gurney absconded with Iyla from the Gold Coast to the NSW town of Orange in February 2018. But it wasn’t until August 2019, after an 18-month legal battle, that a judge ordered that she return Iyla to the care of her father.
Instead, Gurney killed Iyla and then committed suicide in prison while she was awaiting trial for her murder.
Ms Thomson-Jones said she believed the police and the courts would have handled the case differently if it had been a violent and volatile father who had absconded with a child, rather than a mother.
“Nobody will listen to these men,” she said. “I know there are some men out there who do terrible things, but that’s not every male.” She said her son Nathan had been unable to return to work since his daughter’s death.
“When you lose a child, your heart is broken,” she said.
On the other side of the country, Perth-based mother-of-two Michelle Jones has also been involved in helping with the launch of the Mothers of Sons website, which will provide advice to women who want to support their sons and a forum in which they can share information.
Ms Jones imagined that at 56, she would be happily married and surrounded by her grandchildren. Instead, like Ms Thomson-Jones, she has become an unlikely legal activist.
Her family life was turned upside down by the woman who was once engaged to her eldest son, Daniel.
The woman, Sarah Jane Parkinson, spun a web of lies falsely accusing Daniel of assault and rape. A magistrate later acknowledged the terrible consequences of Parkinson’s “incomprehensible, wicked behaviour”.
Daniel, a former ACT prison officer, was jailed for almost five months, fearing for his life. His parents, married for 32 years, separated under the strain, remortgaging their home for a fight that ultimately cost them $680,000.
Ms Jones said she believed the system had become too heavily weighted in favour of prosecuting men in such cases.
“We need an equitable system for men and women,” she told The Weekend Australian.
“It really concerned me that men were being accused of these crimes and were innocent, and yet a whole court system acted straight away. That’s quite frightening.” She said Parkinson had made a “mockery of the genuine cases” and had caused scarce resources to be diverted from where they were needed.
Her son’s experience had also made her concerned that other men were in prison because they did not have the money to fight the charges against them.
“We need to look at each case objectively and with the evidence put forward,” she said.
Parkinson will be released on parole on Monday. She was sentenced to three years and one month in jail, with two years nonparole, over the false allegations.
Ms Jones said the ACT Sentence Administration Board’s decision this week to release Parkinson on parole just two years after she was sentenced was bitterly disappointing.
“But we are stronger now,” she said.