Mayhem on the mountain: Inside the Tamborine State High School defamation case.
Mayhem on the mountain: Inside the Tamborine State High School defamation case.

Can I borrow $15 for petrol, son?

AN ECLECTIC mix of artists, dreamers, European expats, young homeowners and nine-to-fivers trying to escape the suburban sprawl and rat race of the Gold Coast, there is no "typical" Mount Tamborine, itself a jumble of population pockets spread across a mountain rising 500m above the bright lights of the Glitter Strip.

It is popular for weekend day-trippers who stroll the famous Gallery Walk shopping strip, loading up on sweets from the inevitable fudge factories or sampling wines from nearby vineyards.

 

 

In winter, tourists take advantage of the colder climate to stay in romantic bed and breakfast properties, sipping hot chocolate by the side of a roaring fire.

The case of Mrs Brose certainly has plenty of people fired up on the mountain.

Others, not so much.

In fact, the case is so polarising, opinion is even divided over whether opinion is divided.

"It's not something people talk about," said one shop owner adamantly.

"I've never had a customer even mention it."

 

The Gallery Walk shopping strip. Picture: AP Image/Richard Gosling
The Gallery Walk shopping strip. Picture: AP Image/Richard Gosling

However, another wary trader said it was very much a topic of conversation - just not in public.

"People don't talk about it openly," they said.

"The people who have talked about her (Mrs Brose) openly are in court."

One long-time Mount Tamborine resident whose children attended the high school said many locals were afraid to voice their views for fear of being sued.

Mount Tamborine waterfalls are part of the lure for the thousands of tourists who visit the community every year. Picture: @steve.batho.photography
Mount Tamborine waterfalls are part of the lure for the thousands of tourists who visit the community every year. Picture: @steve.batho.photography

"We're just a small community and it's a bit too close for comfort," he said.

"The mountain is certainly divided. Tracey Brose has a lot of support but there are obviously people who have crossed her path that haven't been happy.

"Because people naively posted things on Facebook, got sued and lost their homes, no-one really wants to say too much because it could be considered libel."

Another long-time Mount Tamborine local said: "I personally don't like her."

"The (school) parents are definitely divided - there are those that think she's great and others who absolutely hate her," he said.

"There's no in-between in terms of the way people on the mountain feel about her."

 

Tamborine Mountain State High Principal Tracey Brose. Picture: Adam Head
Tamborine Mountain State High Principal Tracey Brose. Picture: Adam Head

One school parent said she had never had any problems with Mrs Brose and believed the social media attacks on the principal "got very vitriolic".

"Facebook is not something where you can just blurt out all sorts of stuff indiscriminately," she said.

"We are a small community and it's relatively friendly, and this really has been a divisive issue.

"There are too many 'helicopter parents' who take on all the emotional trauma of their children on themselves.

"Kids have to learn to deal with their own stuff without their parents fighting every battle for them."

 

Donna Baluskas and her husband were declared bankrupt in November, 2019. Pics Adam Head
Donna Baluskas and her husband were declared bankrupt in November, 2019. Pics Adam Head

 

CAN I BORROW MONEY SON?

On November 5, four days after the defamation trial finally finished, Mr Baluskas was back in court.

This time the case was criminal.

In Beenleigh District Court he pleaded guilty to threatening violence at night and wilful damage over the incident at the Brose family home.

He was hit with a suspended nine-month jail sentence.

Forty-eight hours later he and his wife were declared bankrupt with just $350 to their names, after failing to pay a bill for Mrs Brose legal costs they owed from pre-trial arguments.

 

Miguel Baluskas, one of the parents being sued by Tamborine Mountain high school principal Tracey Brose, .pleaded guilty to threatening violence at night and wilful damage over an incident at the Brose family home. Picture: Liam Kidston.
Miguel Baluskas, one of the parents being sued by Tamborine Mountain high school principal Tracey Brose, .pleaded guilty to threatening violence at night and wilful damage over an incident at the Brose family home. Picture: Liam Kidston.

 

In the days following, Mr Baluskas had to borrow $15 from his young son to fill his motorbike with petrol to ride the 60km to work in Brisbane.

The bed Mrs Baluskas now climbs into each night is in a rental home in Nerang.

She is 47. Her husband 49.

 

Nearly four years after that fateful night on Facebook, they fear they are simply too old to financially start again.

They are resigned to never again being able to buy their own home.

Judge Muir is expected to hand down her judgment in the defamation case early this year.

OTHER CHAPTERS IN THE SERIES:

CHAPTER ONE: LIVES DESTROYED BY JUST 43 WORDS

CHAPTER TWO: PRINCIPAL FROM HELL, OR HELL OF A PRINCIPAL?

CHAPTER THREE: THE FATEFUL EIGHT

CHAPTER FOUR: MY ENTIRE FUTURE EXPLODED

CHAPTER FIVE: TELL YOUR CLIENT TO SHOVE HER OFFER UP HER ARSE

CHAPTER SIX: TEMPERS FLARE, TEARS FLOW

CHAPTER SEVEN: THREE SECRET LETTERS

CHAPTER EIGHT: CAN I BORROW $15, SON?