Where have all the good samaritans gone?

Australia is known for many things: its unique natural wonders, some of the best beaches in the world and most importantly its people – laid back larrikins who are always keen for a beer, a chat and never afraid to lend a helping hand.

Unfortunately for me, that reputation is ruined.

Mixed emotions of sadness and anger made my blood boil when I witnessed a damsel in distress on a busy street of Parramatta last week.

The cat-like screams caught my attention as a middle-aged woman was being physically abused by a man.

There was easily more than 40 people out and about who witnessed the ordeal – yet not one person bothered to help her.

As she screamed “help” I dialed triple zero to notify police. I screamed at a group of six men standing less than five metres away from this woman in the hope they’d help her, yet they didn’t do a single thing.

A 22-year-old Melbourne woman, allegedly raped by a man who had been freed by police on bail just a day earlier, mouthed the word “help” to another passenger on her tram, but was ignored.

I understand people may be scared of getting in other people’s business, or the ramifications that are attached to getting involved – like the fear of being sued – things you hear about in many American cases or on shows like Judge Judy.

But we live in Australia. Nearly all Australian states and territories have in place a good samaritan legislation to ensure that people who step forward to provide emergency medical assistance or help are not held legally liable for their actions, provided they act in good faith. This eliminates the fear of being sued or getting in trouble for helping.

One of the most well-known motivations behind helping others is a personal connection, which triggers empathy – a quality every human being possesses.

When I was 10, a man tried to snatch me from the street. I kicked him in the shin and ran for my life to a quick escape. Looking back, I wish someone was there to help.

I’m sure if the shoe was on the other foot, you’d want someone to help you. So why are people doing nothing? What’s happened to all the good samaritans and where are they when you need them?

  • Katrina Vo is the lifestyle and entertainment journalist for Fairfax Media’s north-west Sydney publications.