Zoe Gough in hospital when she gave birth to her baby girl.
Zoe Gough in hospital when she gave birth to her baby girl.

Teen suicide probe

TWO years after the suicide of Maryborough teen Zoe Gough, her parents are still struggling to understand why nobody could save their daughter.

That question is now being asked by the Crime and Misconduct Commission and the matter has been raised in Parliament with Child Safety Minister Phil Reeves refusing to comment on the case due to privacy legislation.

Already a mum-of-two at the tender age of 16, Zoe had been known to the Department of Child Safety for several years before she died.

Her childhood was marred by violence and family problems and she lived with a series of foster carers as her home-life spiralled out of control.

Zoe, who was 14 when she gave birth to her first daughter, had a long history of depression and self-harm and was receiving counselling before her death on April 20, 2009.

Her parents blame themselves for their daughter’s suicide — but they also believed the Department of Child Safety had a case to answer about their duty of care.

Tracey-Lee McSweeney and David Gough, who separated when Zoe was a child, claimed nobody told them about a series of investigations carried out after her death, until they were contacted earlier this year by a reporter from The Australian.

“They shouldn’t have let her move out on her own, it was putting her in a very vulnerable position,” Ms McSweeney said.

“If (the child safety department) wants to take responsibility for these kids and say they can do it better than their parents, then they need to answer why this has happened.”

Ms McSweeney admits she did not cope with Zoe’s death well and went through a period of bingeing on drugs and alcohol.

But after a long struggle, she was now sober and ready to find the answers about why her daughter died.

“I’m starting to really question the role that the department played in Zoe’s death,” she said.

Zoe’s dad, David Gough, said he believed the department should have been more “on the ball” while Zoe was still alive.

“I’ll admit my part in the process and I would have done a lot of things differently,” he said.

“But they were supposed to be keeping an eye on her and they let her down.”

He felt he had been sidelined and kept in the dark, particularly because he only found out about the investigations into his daughter’s death after reading it in the newspaper.

“No one’s asked me anything, no one has rang me about anything, no one cares that I am her dad,” he said.

In another devastating blow to the Maryborough community, Zoe’s friend Felicia Goodson also hanged herself weeks after the young mum’s death.

According to an investigation by The Australian, the child safety officers denied Felicia foster care and sent her back to live at home, following allegations that she had been sexually abused there.

The Department of Communities, which deals with child safety matters, said information could not be provided about the case due to privacy and legal reasons.

However, a departmental spokesperson said a two-tiered investigation would be launched if a child died, after being known the department in the three years before their death.

The families are calling for a public inquest into the deaths of their daughters.

“I want to know that it wasn’t just me, my fault,” Ms McSweeney said.

“I want to know what happened.”

Need help? Call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

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