In the early 2000s, Ipsita Wright was a youth worker in Springvale, south-east Melbourne, and one of her favourite clients was a 19-year-old man named Terry.
One day Ipsita received a phone call from Terry’s parents saying there had been an “accident” and that he had died. The next day she received a call from another YSAS client, Vincent, who said he was in police custody and asked her to visit him.
Little did she know that the two phone calls – and the fates of the two young men – were intimately connected.
Ipsita arrived at the Melbourne Assessment Prison and was shown into an interview room, a pane of protective glass between her and Vincent. “As soon as I saw him, I knew something really bad had happened,” she says.
In fact, what had happened was the stuff of Shakespearean tragedy: the bloody vengeance of a jilted lover. Vincent had recently broken up with his girlfriend, and then had seen her in the company of Terry in a market laneway. After a heated exchange of words, Vincent had stabbed Terry with a machete.
As Vincent sat in the prison interview room explaining the situation, Ipsita realised that he didn’t know Terry had died from his injuries, putting her in an incredibly delicate position. “I was sitting there in front of the kid who had stabbed one of my favourite clients, as well as then having to tell this kid that, as result of your actions, he’s now dead.”
And yet, despite her grief at the loss of Terry, Ipsita’s immediate concern was for the young man in front of her. “In that moment, I realised that Vincent needed support as well. Just because he’d been the one who was now responsible for this kid’s death, didn’t give me the right to turn my back on him.”
As the case progressed, Ipsita made sure Vincent had a decent solicitor and kept his parents informed about what was happening. Vincent also had a chronic heroin dependency, so Ipsita contacted the custodial nurse to set up a withdrawal program for him. “Everybody needs a helping hand,” she says. “Even if you’ve done the wrong thing.”