QUADEN: Nine-year-old Murri boy a hero amongst heroes.

Yarraka Bayles with son Quaden in their Brisbane home. Picture by Jodan Perry

Yarraka Bayles with son Quaden in their Brisbane home. Picture by Jodan Perry

EXCLUSIVE: Quaden Bayles and proud mother Yarraka welcomed NITV News’ Jodan Perry into their home to discuss the bullying incident that led the nine-year-old Murri boy to despair, the incredible sequence of challenges that resulted from the global reaction that followed, and what lies ahead for the boy who stands as a hero even to his heroes.

Content Warning: This feature contains images of someone that has passed.

It’s been a whirlwind past fortnight for the Bayles family.

On Wednesday February 19, just after school pick-up, Yarraka Bayles live-streamed a video of her nine-year-old son, Quaden, to her Facebook account. The video was heartbreaking and went viral after touching millions of viewers around the world.  

It showed Quaden in distress following a bullying incident at his school. In it, the nine-year-old boy talks about suicide and begs his mother to let him die: “Give me a knife now so I can stab myself in the heart. You watch me,” he says.

Initially, there was widespread support and compassion for the family. People from all walks of life reached out and offered to help in any way possible. Celebrities and famous sports stars posted touching messages to Quaden, and offers to attend international sporting matches, martial arts camps and appearances on television networks around the globe all poured in with the wave of goodwill.

A GoFundMe campaign was launched by American comedian Brad Williams and raised over AU$700,000. As of last week and at the request of the family, the majority of those funds will be funnelled towards six not-for-profit anti-bullying and healing focused charities, with the remaining money going into assisting Quaden with a variety of needs, including his ongoing medical treatment.

Then came the online bullying, as if the young family didn’t have enough to contend with.

“That just goes to show how stupid people are,”

One post, that itself went viral, posted doctored pictures of Quaden and became the catalyst for many more false narratives: Is Quaden 18? Is he an actor? Are the family rich? Is the video a scam?Was Quaden coached? Was he already dead? These were just some of the misrepresentations that were perpetuated on social media about the family.

Both Yarraka, and Quaden’s sister, Guyala, laugh out loud when NITV News raises the falsehoods.

“That just goes to show how stupid people are,” says Yarraka. “They obviously haven’t done their homework. A simple Google [search] would save a lot of drama.”

But Yarraka also acknowledges that the widespread misinformation also has “very dire consequences”.

“I would highly encourage people to search before you pass judgement ... you would see our whole life is pretty much an open book,” she says.

Still, there’s been a lot of information to process.

Quaden with his late grandfather Tiga Bayles and his mum Yarraka. (Image supplied by Bayles family)

Quaden with his late grandfather Tiga Bayles and his mum Yarraka. (Image supplied by Bayles family)

The Bayles family live in a humble rental townhouse in the eastern suburbs of Brisbane. It is adorned with Aboriginal artwork, photographs of family, and several unpacked boxes of their belongings. There are no plans to stay here long term.

Yarraka has just returned from a day’s trip up north to Townsville, where she ran a cultural competency seminar for her small business, The Black Card. She’s getting ready for our interview while tidying the kitchen – and says with a laugh that it’s a task she was hoping her children would have already done.

Guyala comes downstairs with her hair wound into neat Box braids and goes to Quaden, who is sitting on the lounge. They laugh and play around, pulling faces at each other, sharing jokes. 

Quaden has gone from watching his favorite dancing show on television to picking up his hand-held Nintendo to play ‘Fortnite’, despite his mother rolling her eyes at the game. He’s hungry and makes it pretty clear pizza should be dinner. He’s getting it, and chicken wings too.

Hanging above the couch in the lounge room is a striking canvas showing Quaden in a black superman t-shirt, with the altered logo finished in the red, black and yellow of the Aboriginal flag. Quaden is standing at the water’s edge on Brisbane’s Southbank, arms flexed, towering above the city’s skyline behind him. The image is powerful, and fitting when you consider his medical history. 

The 9-year-old is the superman of the family.

The 9-year-old is the superman of the family.

Quaden has continued to battle ailments with his body since birth, repeatedly defying the odds and the many health professionals advising Yarraka of the worst-case scenarios.  

He lives with Achondroplasia, the most common form of Dwarfism, and is in constant pain. He has already endured nearly a dozen surgeries, including surgery on his brainstem and spinal cord.

Brittle bones, headaches, and joint pain mean the more active he is, the more pain he is in. There are regular trips to hospital for palliative care. He is also hard of hearing, but doesn’t want to use his hearing aid, or his wheelchair, because he doesn’t want to feel different.

“When you hear your child’s life expectancy may not be, you know, they may not live a full life, it’s so alarming,”

Then, last year, Yarraka noticed that Quaden was becoming constantly tired. He could only walk short distances before his mother would have to carry him due to his fatigue. He wasn’t gaining any weight and the torturous headaches had increased.

The family sought the appropriate medical advice and specialists identified major concerns over Quaden’s breathing. He wasn’t getting enough oxygen to his brain and was sleeping up to 19 hours a day. 

Yarraka says the doctors didn’t know how Quaden was still alive, with such drastically “desaturating” oxygen levels. 

“They did a sleep study and they realised he had a life-threatening condition. He’s going into severe respiratory failure every time he falls asleep” says Yarraka.

At around 5pm on the afternoon of this interview, Yarraka notices Quaden on the lounge appearing tired and tells him to go use his ventilator for a while. She describes it as his “new best friend” because he needs to take it everywhere.

“Otherwise they said, you know, he could just not wake up,” she says. “That was really hard to hear, but it made me understand how serious it was.

“His machine is bi-phasic, so it helps with every breath in and every one out. It’s literally life support”.

While the ventilator provides some comfort for now, there are no certainties for the future. Quaden’s next surgery is on Friday.

“When you hear your child’s life expectancy may not be, you know, they may not live a full life, it’s so alarming,” says Yarraka.

“But we feel deep down he will continue to defy the odds and prove the specialists wrong just as he has done his whole life.”

Quaden sits on Yarraka’s lap and with a pizza delivery on its way, is keen to chat. He expresses his love for all sports, notably Rugby League, Basketball and AFL. He’s just got back from the local park after a kick with Guyala. 

Following the incident at school, Quaden was invited by the Indigenous All Stars to walk out alongside the team captain, Joel Thompson, for last week’s match against the New Zealand Maori team on the Gold Coast.  

“Yeah that was pretty cool,” says Quaden. “I got to see Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and James Roberts and all the boys … they gave me a bottle of Powerade, and I also got to sit and wear Latrell’s headphones.”  

The weekend was a welcome interruption from the earlier events in the week, but a dark cloud still hovered over the incident that started it all. When NITV asks Quaden if he likes going to school he says he doesn’t “because of the bullies, because they’ve never seen different people before.” 

“Be good if they knew about other people who have diseases and things, and just be kind.” 

“It’s not nice when you say these rude things to other people,” he says.

“Be good if they knew about other people who have diseases and things, and just be kind.” 

For Guyala, a savvy social media user, it was tough to sit and read the things said about Quaden online, she says. And she made a number of  posts in his defence.  

“It hurts me as a big sister because I know who he is and that he’s not what everyone thinks.  

“He’s very witty and cheeky, but he would literally give you everything that he has. He reminds me so much of my grandfather (Tiga Bayles) because he’s so caring, loving and outgoing.  

“One time we were doing catering for Mum’s business and when we finished there was heaps of food left over. Quaden said, ‘how about we wrap these up and give it to homeless people, why do they have to miss out for?’ Just to hear a 9-year-old boy say that was beautiful.”  

It’s the sort of understanding and compassion for others which undermines the arguments of those people who last week claimed that a 9-year-old wasn’t capable of expressing himself the way Quaden did in the video. But  it quickly becomes clear when speaking with him, that he thinks about the world well beyond himself. 

He mentions that he’d like to give some of the funds raised through the GoFundMe campaign to the homeless. 

“Then they could buy their food, do their shopping and make sandwiches,” he says.

Yarraka is understandably exhausted from the spectacle of the past fortnight and is also feeling the hard pinch of her 4am start for the Townsville work trip. Providing daily for her family is no cake walk. She says she is tired but driven as a mother to keep pushing for change.   

She says she wants to keep up momentum for ‘Quaden’s Law’, a package for schools that focuses on building emotional resilience in children when bullying incidents occur. She doesn’t want sanctions on bullies or expulsions from schools, but a more “proactive approach” which involves coming up with solutions on how to decrease these incidents from occurring. 

“I still stand firm in what I've done. At that time of recording, I just felt hopeless. I felt really and truly hopeless."

“This is something that will pilot and will be very well thought out,” she says. “It will be a blueprint for success, it will be a blueprint to ensure the safety of our children, and you know, for future generations to come.”   

In the lounge room, Quaden has returned to his handheld game and starts haggling with his mother for the price and permission to purchase a ‘battle pass’ for Fortnite.  

Yarraka says it’s hard to believe the live video was less than a fortnight ago and after everything that’s happened since, both in terms of the positive and the negative that followed, she sticks by the decision to hit record. Showing Quaden to the world in that raw moment opened her family up to criticism but it also opened important conversations about effectively tackling bullying around the globe. 

“Everything that's happened, no regrets,” she says. “I still stand firm in what I've done. At that time of recording, I just felt hopeless. I felt really and truly hopeless. Like, is it going to take for me to lose my son before anything happens? I can't do that. I'm not going to wait. It was a plea for help, and that’s been answered.” 

Despite the good and the bad -  the attention, support and goodwill, the criticism, threats and defamatory statements, the misinformation and the thousands of articles written about the family across the world, there’s a couple of clear truths here. 

There’s a 9-year-old Murri boy living with disability that doesn’t want to feel different, and he doesn’t want to be told he’s different.

And there’s his mother that’s going to do everything she can to make that happen.  

Quaden with his sister Guyala and his mum Yarraka. (Photo by Jodan Perry)

Quaden with his sister Guyala and his mum Yarraka. (Photo by Jodan Perry)

Watch the full interviews with the Bayles family in a special extended episode of The Point 9.30pm Wednesday night on NITV (Ch34).