EVERY November, the family of Maryborough man Robert Learmonth celebrates what should have been a milestone in a life cut short on the steps of a nightclub.
Robert was 21 in 2005, when a punch to the head and subsequent fall outside the former Criterion Hotel ended his life and changed those of his parents and siblings forever.
At the time, he was just two days shy of starting work as a foreman - a job which was expected to kickstart his career.
Earlier this month, close family marked what would have been Robert's 31st birthday and wondered how different things would be if he was still here.
For his sister Leonie Pearse, the pain of losing her little brother hasn't dimmed with time.
Watching her daughters grow up without having ever known their uncle - the eldest of her two daughters was still a toddler when he died - has brought on a whole new aspect of grieving.
"The pain is constant. It never goes away. But at this time of year and coming up to Christmas you are reminded someone is missing," Ms Pearse said.
"He never got to know my children and I will never get the chance to meet his."
From the moment her grandmother turned up on her doorstep to tell her Robert was never coming home, Ms Pearse has been her family's strength, bravely speaking on their behalf to the media, taking care of funeral arrangements and guiding them through daunting court proceedings.
The Learmonths are determined to educate young people about the reality of one fateful mistake.
Having already spoken at various pre-Schoolies events in the past, Ms Pearse is expected to once again do the rounds of classrooms - a form of therapy she says helps her "feel like I'm doing something for Robert and for us". and her message is simple: "just walk away."
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