It was only 18 months ago that Kate Fitzsimons was beginning her career in the corporate world. Today she is a devoted charity worker, teaching young Australians how to travel safely overseas, after the tragic death of her sister. She spoke to Zoe Arnold about turning great sorrow into a purpose.
Kate Fitzsimons misses the simple, sweet moments she shared with her sister. Applying make up together in the bathroom; talking about their boyfriends and having a laugh as they got ready for work.
"We were four years apart, but people often mistook us for twins – I had a great time tricking people that I was the older one," Kate says. "We had a special bond. An unbreakable bond that I feel so lucky to have had."
Nicole Fitzsimons was killed in an instant while riding a scooter on holiday in Thailand with her partner, Jamie in October 2012. After a casual night out, they drove back to the hotel on a scooter without helmets. They believed helmets were not required for the short one kilometre they had to travel.
"My sister was not a risk taker," Kate explains, adding that "if she knew the stats – Thailand's roads are the third most dangerous in the world – I don’t believe she would have got on that bike."
The World Health Organisation's most recent figures show a staggering 26,312 people died in road accidents in Thailand during 2010, in the same year just over 1300 people died on Australia's roads.
"What I want to do is teach every Aussie teenager the inherent risks associated with travelling. More and more young people are travelling every year, as flights get cheaper and the dollar stronger. But people in my age group think they’re invincible – I want them to know they’re not," Kate says.
In the weeks after her sister’s death, Kate established the Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation - with the specific aim of travelling to high schools across Australia to educate young people about how to be safe overseas.
"Aussies love South East Asia because there's a lack of rules – you don't have to wear a helmet and anyone can ride a scooter – but those rules are in place to protect us in the first place. Students relate to my lectures because I’m only a few years older than they are, and they can see I’m speaking from the heart."
It only takes a few minutes to understand Kate’s passion for her sister, and for turning around what she believes are avoidable statistics.
"I'm a broken-hearted sister who has gone through the unthinkable. Nicole was the happiest I had ever seen her – she was working at the Footy Show, had just finished renovating a beautiful home, and was deeply in love with Jamie.
"All that was gone in an instant because she chose not to wear a helmet, and chose to drive a scooter on what are some of the most dangerous roads in the world."
Kate Fitzsimons is now a young woman on a mission. She has shared her sister's story to more than 5,000 students across the country at more than 50 schools.
"I just want more Australian tourists coming home safe from their holidays. Five minutes of research is all it takes to show you what safety risks exist in your destination of choice," she says.
"It took one moment of her lowering her safety standards to end her life. I can’t bring her back, but I can stop another family from experiencing the unthinkable."