Change.org petition to mark son's bravery gains support

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John Tyson (right), father and husband of flood victims Jordan and Donna Rice walks with surviving son Blake Rice outside the Brisbane Coroners Court during the lunch break in Brisbane, Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. The court is holding an inquest focusing on those who died or remain missing following the January 2011 floods which swept through south-east Queensland.

John Tyson (right), father and husband of flood victims Jordan and Donna Rice walks with surviving son Blake Rice outside the Brisbane Coroners Court during the lunch break in Brisbane, Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. The court is holding an inquest focusing on those who died or remain missing following the January 2011 floods which swept through south-east Queensland.

John Tyson suffered an unthinkable tragedy in the Queensland floods in 2011.

The Gold Coast man lost his partner and son when they were swept off the roof of their car before volunteer rescuers could reach them.

He knew nothing could bring Donna and 13-year-old Jordan Rice back, but he wanted the teenager, who told rescuers to take his younger brother, Blake, first to be recognised for his bravery.

Tony Abbott, who was opposition leader at the time, said Jordan should get the highest civilian award for bravery, the Cross of Valour.

But three years have passed and nothing has happened.

Two weeks ago, Mr Tyson took to his keyboard, launching a petition on change.org asking for the Prime Minister to formally recognise his late son's heroic act in helping to save his 10-year-old brother.

He describes how his son's last words were: "Take my brother first".

"Jordan couldn't swim. He must have been petrified. But he put his fears aside to make sure his brother made it through the terrifying flood," the tribute reads.

More than 80,000 people have signed the petition, making it one of the site's best-supported causes.

Mr Tyson is one of two million Australians who have used the online platform since it launched in 2011. Australia is the second-highest per capita user of the site in the world.

Change.org Australian director Karen Skinner said the high number of users, which includes both people who start and sign petitions, busted the myth that Australians were disengaged from public issues.

Research undertaken by the organisation shows the top three issues appearing on the site concern health, education and the environment.

However, it's the individual campaigns, with an emotional story attached, that often attract the most signatories.

The Illawarra Mercury's campaign on change.org to have Bulli rapist Terry John Williamson placed under a permanent supervision order is one that has drawn an emotional response from readers.

Click here for the Mercury's Change.org petition and story. 

The campaign was inspired by an interview in the paper in which Williamson's first victim spoke for the first time about her ordeal and the continuing effect it has had on her life.

More than 1500 people have signed the petition, with many signatories writing about the climate of fear that gripped the Illawarra in the 10 months between the initial attack and Williamson's eventual arrest.

Ralph Kelly's campaign for legal reform following the death of his son, Thomas, in a single-punch attack drew almost 150,000 supporters.

Mother-of-five Nicole Perko received life-saving cancer surgery after a teenage student from Dubbo launched a petition to support her.

Mrs Perko was on a waiting list for peritonectomy surgery, which involves removing cancer from a large part of the abdominal area, at Sydney's St George Hospital when the petition was launched.

It won widespread support, with advocates including Russell Crowe, model Jennifer Hawkins, musician Clare Bowditch and the late Charlotte Dawson - the former wife of Mrs Perko's brother, Scott Miller.

After the campaign, NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said more procedures would be carried out at Prince of Wales Hospital, easing the pressure on St George.

Change.org's Karen Skinner said: "The strongest trend we are seeing is people supporting others who are telling their own story. People want to back the underdog."

She said the research showed women were dominant users of the site - 70 per cent of users are aged over 45 and two-thirds of them are parents. The largest single group of users are aged from 55-64.

The research also revealed that users weren't simply "clicktivists" and many had gone on to continue their activism by lobbying politicians or donating money to a cause.

"Some people say it's clicktivism, it's too easy and it's not a real commitment," she said. "That's not what we see. I don't think people are trivialising their support for an issue just because they see it on their Facebook page.

"We see ourselves as being an easier entry point for activism. Yes, online petitions make it easier to find out about an issue and get involved but it's not an end point."

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