Denman W18 Masthead 2

Remembering Daniel

Kaylia Payne

I never imagined that I would be writing this article.

Despite spending a good proportion of my time fearing for the worst, not once did I think that this would actually happen. Not to my brother, who had always been the careful one. The kind one. The one who dedicated his life to making the world a better place.

My little brother, Daniel Payne, was born in Canberra and spent his first twenty-two years here. During that time he made more friends than I have met people, and it was never difficult to see why. Life was never boring with Daniel around. He always had a funny story to tell, an interesting fact to share, a cause that he was passionate about.

Most of all, he had an inherent kindness that really resonated with all who knew him. It made us want to be better people, to care a little more about the world and everyone in it.

Even back then, whenever people talked about my brother they always mentioned three things: he was funny, intelligent and kind.

Actually, he wasn’t just funny – he was hilarious. He was always cracking jokes and making everyone around him laugh, himself hardest of all.

Speaking of which, his laugh was the loudest thing that I have ever heard, and I heard it a lot. Even now, filled with grief, whenever I picture my brother I see him smiling and joking around.

We had his friends over a few nights ago, with the intention of sharing memories and crying together about the amazing person we had lost.

However, within five minutes we were all sitting around laughing, remembering all of the funny things that he did and said. Even with the incredible pain that his passing has left, it is impossible to remember my brother and not smile.

Daniel had a zest for life that I have never seen in anyone else. As my sister always said, he was a ‘yes person’.

He was always willing to try new things and explore new places – a trait that led to his travelling to four different continents over the course of both family and solo adventures.

In fact, I cannot recall a time where I asked him to do something with me and he refused, no matter how boring or silly my request was. He was like that with everyone – no matter what the occasion, Daniel would always be there, making sure that everyone had a great time.

Kindness was always an intrinsic part of my little brother, but it was at the beginning of his twenties that his activism really came to the forefront, particularly where asylum seekers and refugees were concerned. My brother believed that all people are entitled to safety and a life free of fear, and campaigned strongly against turn-backs and mandatory detention. He worked with the Red Cross during this time, educating schools about asylum seekers and busting the myths about ‘illegals’ (it’s not illegal to seek asylum) and ‘queue-jumpers’ (spoiler: there is no queue).

In 2014, my brother started studying medicine at Griffith University. While most people would find that challenging enough, my brother also became involved with various advocacy groups around the Gold Coast, including Hope4Health and the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA), where he campaigned strongly for the rights of asylum seekers and the vulnerable.

Everything he believed in came down to one thing: he wanted the best for everyone.

Though we shared the same beliefs, I remember arguing with him often. I was of the opinion that most people are racist, self-serving bigots who are deliberately ignorant. My brother didn’t agree with this at all, believing instead that people are inherently good and that education would change the world.

As it turns out, he was right.

Because my little brother did change the world through education and kindness, and will continue to do so even now that he is gone.

On 22 October 2015, Daniel was killed in a motorcycle accident.

He had decided to take the bike out for one last ride, having sold it to my father who had arranged to pick it up the following Friday.

My brother was on his way to an interview for the volunteer position of National Project Manager with Crossing Borders, a charity that aims to remove barriers to healthcare for refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants. He planned to drive his car down to Canberra the next day to visit my parents and surprise his friends.

However, at around 4 PM that day, travelling between 30 – 40kph (a speed that the police and witnesses say was more than cautious for the rainy conditions) Daniel’s bike skidded as he was going around a corner. He fell off and hit his head on the road, killing him instantly. His friend, who had been travelling ahead of him on her own bike, was a medical student and tried her best to revive him before help arrived. The paramedics tried for a further hour and a half to save him, but there was nothing that anyone could do.

He was gone.

Since that time it has felt like our world has shifted, that there will always be a before and after. And there will be. Life is never going to be as good without him; there will always be something fundamental missing. Even with a week to process the news, I still can’t understand how it is possible that he isn’t here anymore. I still can’t comprehend that I am going to age, while my little brother will never reach twenty-five. I still can’t accept that there wasn’t anything I could do to save him.

My family and I didn’t just lose a brother and son, we also all lost a best friend.

It has been so tempting to curl up in bed and give up on an existence that doesn’t make any sense. I am not religious. I have never believed that the world is fair or just, nor have I ever entertained the idea that things happen for a reason. Things just are. And that sucks. It really, really sucks.

But my brother worked too hard towards a better world for any of us to give up now. During his twenty-four years, Daniel proved that one person really can make a difference.

Instead of looking at the litany of issues in the world and deciding that it’s too hard to change them (as so many of us do), he dedicated his life to helping the marginalised in society. By doing so, he changed so many lives for the better – not only through his volunteer work, but also by encouraging all of those around him to practice empathy and kindness.

So in honour of my little brother, we have started a GoFundMe campaign. The money raised will go to Hope4Health, a charity set up by Griffith University students that aims to eliminate health inequalities.

We have raised almost $9000 in six days, showing just how wide-reaching my brother’s influence was and continues to be. So wide-reaching in fact, that Griffith University is going to name the medical school award for community service after my brother, which demonstrates just how remarkable a person Daniel was.

If you are able, we would love for you to contribute to the cause and help to continue my brother’s legacy of kindness and compassion.

However, even if you aren’t, it would mean so much if you were to consider my brother’s message and live with a little more empathy for those around you.

As Daniel’s twenty-four years show, the world will be a better place for it.

If you would like to contribute to Daniel’s legacy and Hope4Health, click here


Kaylia Payne

Kaylia is a career-student who is currently doing her MA in Writing and Literature. A student/office assistant by day and a blogger by night, she dreams of one day having a job where she doesn’t need to wear shoes to work. Read more of her fabulous work here. More about the Author

  • Beke Pyne

    Biggest hugs and thankyou for sharing your story, Daniel’s legacy will live on through you, your family and friends.

  • Ms Jennifer

    He sounds like a remarkable man, thank you for sharing your story and I hope it inspires others to continue in his work. Thoughts are with you and your family and his friends x

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