Parkes teenager receives vote no letter, mother wants to know where the sender got his details

UNIMPRESSED: Ethan Bondareff (15) and his mother Rebecca Baxter want to know how the people who sent Ethan a letter urging him to vote no got his personal details. Photo: Barbara Watt.
UNIMPRESSED: Ethan Bondareff (15) and his mother Rebecca Baxter want to know how the people who sent Ethan a letter urging him to vote no got his personal details. Photo: Barbara Watt.

A Parkes mother is furious and her 15-year-old son confused after he received a letter urging him to vote no to changing the marriage law.

Rebecca Baxter said the letter arrived in the post addressed to her son, Ethan Bondareff, on Friday, October 27. 

“When I saw URGENT: 27 OCTOBER DEADLINE in bold black letters on the envelope I knew it had something to do with the same sex marriage survey,” Rebecca said.

“I am furious, where did they get his name and address? Are they doing anything to safeguard who these letters are being sent to?”

The letter states ‘a Yes vote will mean radical LGBTIQ sex and gender education programs will become compulsory in our kid’s classrooms’ and urges the recipient to ‘send in your No vote right away, while there is still time to push back’ as ‘together we can stop this radical gay lobbyist agenda’.

It is signed by four women, Heidi McIvor, Pansy Lai, Marijke Ranice and Cella White who write ‘as mums we’ve come to learn the importance of voting No to changing the marriage law’.

A footnote says the letter is authorised by L Shelton, 4 Campion St, Deakin ACT. 

Rebecca said Ethan, who identifies as part of the LGBTIQ community, was upset after reading the letter. 

“Ethan wants to know why it was sent to him personally,” she said.

“He was wondering if any of his friends received one or was he singled out. He is concerned because he has gay friends and feels some of them may not have the same level of support that he has. 

“That’s Ethan for you, his first thought is for other people.” 

Because the letter had no identifying party and was authorised by Lyle Shelton with an address the same as the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) of which he is managing director, the conservative Christian advocacy organisation was her first port of call. 

The ACL denied sending the letter and suggested she get in touch with Australian lobby group Coalition for Marriage, of which Lyle Shelton is also a director. 

But Rebecca could find no contact details for anyone at the Coalition for Marriage except for an email address. 

She sent an email on Wednesday and received a reply from The Right Reverend Dr Michael Stead, Anglican Bishop of South Sydney and Chairperson of Coalition for Marriage on Monday morning.

Reverend Stead apologised unreservedly and claimed Ethan’s details were on a commercially available mailing list.

Rebecca and Ethan cannot work out on what commercially available mailing list his details would appear. 

“I want more answers about this list,” Rebecca said.

“If Ethan wasn’t a strong kid with good support this may have had a terribly negative impact on his mental health.”