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Bourke St Condolence Motion

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Ellen Sandell
State MP for Melbourne
9 February 2017

Ms SANDELL (Melbourne) — I too rise today to speak in support of this condolence motion and to speak about the cruel act that happened on 20 January in the Bourke Street Mall and surrounding areas of the CBD. I do this on behalf of the Greens but also as the local member for the area in which this tragedy unfolded.

Listening to the events unfold on the ABC radio news, I felt the same way as many of my colleagues today have described. First was just the sheer shock, the disbelief — not just because this was happening in our home, in a place where we had all walked hundreds of times, but because of the cruelty and the deliberate nature of the act.

But then came the heartbreak. As the severity of the crimes came to light, we learned that some people had already passed away and more were in a critical condition. In particular there was the heartbreak of that image of an upturned pram in the middle of the street.

I am the local member where this unfolded, but I am aware that every member in this place feels these crimes very acutely, whether they were near them or whether they were physically far away. Myself, I was in the Bourke Street Mall just 20 minutes before the tragedy and horror unfolded after a local community event I had attended as part of my job.

So I was one of the lucky ones to miss the horror by mere minutes, but I know that thousands were in a similar situation, thinking, 'That could have been me. That could have been my family. That could have been my friends'.

As I made my way out of the CBD I was oblivious to what was happening but, as I made my way out, I saw a police car speeding down Nicholson Street towards the CBD, sirens blazing, and I thought to myself, 'I wonder what has happened, but I'll probably never find out'.

But unfortunately and tragically everyone in Melbourne was about to find out. As the Premier has said, there is nothing that can articulate the tragic loss of six lives on that day.

There is nothing that can adequately console the families and friends of those who were taken so cruelly, but we can do justice to the victims by acknowledging them out loud here in this place to make sure that they are not forgotten: three-month-old Zachary Bryant, 10-year-old Thalia Hakin, 22-year-old Jess Mudie, 33-year-old Matthew Si, a 25-year-old Japanese man and 33-year-old Bhavita Patel.

Nothing good can ever come from a cruel act like this — nothing — but seeing everyday people rush to the sides of those injured, banding together to provide first aid, supporting them, reassuring them — that is what made me proud to be a Melburnian.

These moments were when our community showed its true colours. We showed that when it comes down to it we are strong, we are caring and we will put our own welfare aside to care for those in need.

We have heard accounts of people who were there on the day, people like Henry Dow and Lou the taxi driver, who embodied what we all hope to be in times of tragedy. They did what we hope we would do if we were in a similar situation.

Again this was demonstrated a few days later by the 2000 Victorians who gathered in Federation Square at the vigil to mourn those we lost. I was proud to stand with my fellow Melburnians. It was clear how affected people were but also just how big Melbourne's heart is.

I want to say a special thankyou to the Premier and to the Lord Mayor for organising the vigil but also for your leadership and for your collaboration at what was such a difficult time.

It also has to be said, of course: thank you to the Victoria Police and the other state emergency services — Ambulance Victoria, local fire brigades — and the Red Cross who were professional as always and carried out timely and heroic responses in what must have been very challenging but also very unclear circumstances.

We can never do enough to acknowledge these first responders and our health workers at times like this. We acknowledge in particular the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Royal Children's Hospital and all the other hospitals involved and the surgeons, the nurses, the doctors and the other health workers and professionals who have cared for victims and who continue to care for victims. You provide world-class care, and we cannot be more thankful.

We must not forget those who are still being treated for their injuries. Some of them are not out of the woods yet.

When terrible things like this happen it is obviously natural to ask ourselves 'Why?'. We do not know exactly why a man decided to commit such horrendous crimes in our city and, anyway, no matter the reason, it is inexcusable. But we can ask how we can prevent crimes like this from happening, how we can make our community safer.

Beyond just looking at the bail laws, which might seem like an easy fix at times, we must go broader: we must look at our mental health system. How can we better intervene in cases where people might pose a threat of serious harm to others? How can we intervene early so it never gets to that? Do we need to look further at the drivers of family violence and how we can better identify, treat or deal with perpetrators?

None of these will be easy fixes, as we all know. They require deep, difficult work over the long term. But of course it is necessary work. While we are thinking of the victims, their families and their loved ones, let us make sure we do turn our minds to how to make communities safer so that something like this is much less likely to happen again.

In this place we may disagree on some of those proposed solutions, but I hope that we can have a respectful dialogue about them for the good of everyone in Victoria and not just use them as political opportunities. It is the least we owe to the victims of this cruel event.

On other days of the year my colleagues and I might disagree on a wide variety of issues, but when it comes to the loss that we feel after this incident, when it comes to the support that we want to provide victims, there is nothing to disagree about. Today we are united as one Victoria in loss and grief.

My thoughts are with all those who, through absolutely no fault of their own, were caught up in this act, and I thank the chamber for the opportunity to share my thoughts on the matter. Thank you.

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Ellen Sandell
State MP for Melbourne
9 February 2017




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