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Friendship is free

Sami Muirhead loves the idea of having friendship chairs at school, a place where children can sit when they’re feeling left out.


Friendship is free

Sami Muirhead loves the idea of having friendship chairs at school, a place where children can sit when they’re feeling left out.

Thanks to the legacy of a little boy, thousands of students have been able to find a friend when they have been feeling alone.

Joshua Dawes was just six years old when he died from a freak accident after a golf buggy he was riding in hit a gutter and the little boy hit his head. That was 10 years ago.

Joshua’s dad, Paul, describes his vivacious son as being known “pretty much universally as the Lego king with family and friends”.

“He made the most amazing things and his bedroom is still all about Lego,” says the dad of three boys. “We still buy him Christmas and birthday presents and they are invariably Lego.”

When they lost their son, Paul and his wife, Diane, commissioned a friendship chair to be carved out of a massive blackbutt log. The functional piece of art sits near Joshua’s classroom overlooking a play area at his former school, Sunshine Coast Grammar. It is hand-carved into a giant piece of Lego and it is a lasting tribute. It is surrounded by student art and peaceful trees. There is the most magical and serene feeling around the area.

Mrs Genevieve Hudson is the Dean of Prep–2 at Sunshine Coast Grammar School and says, “The purpose of the chair is a place where children can go if they are feeling lonely or are separated from their friends in the playground. It is in easy view of most of the students while at play. Teachers and students usually notice very quickly if someone is sitting there and it doesn’t take long before the child on the seat is included in play with new or old friends. Every single child knows if you are feeling alone you go and sit on that chair and someone will play with you,” Mrs Hudson says.

And it works. The chair is legendary with every student at the school. Who hasn’t had a day at school where they have felt a bit left out? Children grasp the concept of the chair quickly and accept its rules with the purity and instant acceptance only a child is capable of.

There are days I would like a friendship chair at social functions or at awkward parties. What a beautiful way to cut out all the rubbish we get carried away with and focus on kindness and humanity.

“I think it is a lovely thing that the chair is used by parents and children alike to share the message of friendship,” Paul says. “Something that gets lost in this crazy world we now all share.”

To mark one decade since Joshua’s death, the chair is about to undergo a slight restoration. And perhaps the most beautiful and saddest part of all is the fact inside the friendship chair there is a piece of his little boy’s Lego he was playing with when he was killed. It is a Batman Lego car. Thanks Joshua and your family for showing the path to every child who is feeling lost.


Sami Muirhead is a radio announcer, blogger and commentator. For more from Sami tune into Mix FM.

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