A father’s plea to all parents

Enzo Congiu
Enzo Congiu is still trying to come to terms with his daughter’s death. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

A heartbroken father who lost his only child to an accidental drug overdose has begged parents to warn their children “just one silly mistake could be their last”.

Enzo Congiu’s daughter Marli who died in January after taking GHB, has warned it can happen to anyone, no matter how much you talk about the dangers of recreational drugs or how much you trust your children.

Speaking exclusively to the Sydney archdiocese’s newsletter for schools, Connect, he said he doesn’t want any other parent to go through the agony he and his family have endured since the former Brigidine College student died three months ago. On the eve of the school holidays, he has urged parents to sit down with their children and tell them Marli’s story.

“To put it simply, you can’t watch your children 24/7, no matter how well you raise them and trust them, this can happen to anyone,” he said as tears streamed down his cheeks.

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“Most people get to learn from their mistakes, but Marli didn’t have that opportunity. She was 18, not a drinker and had no real interest in drugs. We spoke about them often and she knew the risks. We are all at a loss over what’s happened, it was one of those stupid things teenagers do and has left us all completely heartbroken.”

Marli Cartmer-Gongiu with parents
Marli, centre, pictured with her parents Enzo and Kate.

The bubbly teenager completed her HSC last year and planned to take this year off to travel and work in her dad’s hairdressing salon before starting a nursing degree at ACU next year.

Over the Australia Day long weekend, Enzo dropped her off at her part-time job at a takeaway shop at Mascot before she was to spend the night with a girlfriend.

As she got out of the car, he told her to stay safe and she replied “I love you”. He drove off content, knowing she was “very sensible and had never given him reason to worry”.

About 6am the next morning he was woken by Marli’s mother Kate, screaming that their daughter had been rushed to hospital and was fighting for her life. On arrival, he found she had suffered irreversible brain damage after being starved of oxygen and at 1.30pm her heart stopped beating and she was gone.

Tributes flowed on social media as friends and family remembered the girl with “a huge heart and singing voice to match”.

Enzo Congiu with his late daughter Marli Cartmer-Congiu.
Enzo Congiu with his late daughter Marli Cartmer-Congiu.

Her tragic death – the sixth from drug overdoses in Sydney in as many months – triggered a national debate over whether pill testing would help stop the senseless loss of young lives. Police investigations into her death are continuing.

However, Enzo believes young people will always do silly things and no matter what laws are introduced, they will still take risks with deadly consequences.

Tributes have been set up in Marli’s honour by both her former school and boyfriend Gully Thomas – who has set up a fundraising campaign for the Prince of Wales Hospital’s new Emergency and Intensive Care Unit in the hope that teenagers will think twice before experimenting with drugs.

Called 1000 Reasons for Marli, the apprentice plumber wants to spread the message that “we need to say no to drugs”.

“We’re dealing with a time-bomb and the chances seem that more and more young Australians are going to die if we don’t do more,” Mr Thomas said.

“I loved Marli for 1000 reasons, she was so beautiful, happy, fun, crazy, caring and the most amazing girl to do life with. I can’t let her mark on this world be that she was a drug taker.

“I hope the campaign will help raise awareness of not only what an incredible person she was but also the dangers of experimenting with drugs.”

To donate to 1000 Reasons for Marli go to: give.everydayhero.com/au/1000reasonsforMarli