Port Arthur

Thursday, 28 April 2016

It was 20 years ago today that the tragedy that we remember as Port Arthur occurred. This reflection was written by Kylie Tonkin. Kylie and her husband Andrew and family are part of Mildura church, where Andrew leads the ministry team. This is a powerful story of providing hope and compassion in a most difficult circumstance; it is also an honest reflection of the cost of moving into the neighbourhood. Along with Kylie, we admire the leadership strength of then PM John Howard about this issue back in the day, and we add this: would that our nation's leaders today have as much strength about other issues of justice and safety and welcome.

—Paul Cameron

"Andrew had just graduated Bible College and we had been in Hobart three months; it was our first Church. Our good friends and fellow college graduates arrived in Tassie about the same time we did. He was the minister at Nubeena, the only church on the Peninsula. He called us that Sunday, saying his family needed to stay with us for the night, there was a gunman on the loose and they were frightened. They arrived at our house in shock. They spared us the details that day, but I have since heard them. They were unthinkable and horrific. He was one of the first on the scene; he and others sifted through bodies in the café to see who was alive. The Peninsula is remote; it took ages for help to arrive.

The next morning we travelled down to Port Arthur. We were the only two cars driving in that direction. All other vehicles were driving the opposite way. I was 3 months pregnant with Joshua. We still didn’t know where [the gunman] was, but we had to get down there to help. We were let through road blocks and the next few days our friend and Andrew just listened to victims, heard their stories. One young girl survived because he started shooting to his left, she was to his right. They spoke to Alannah and Madeline’s grandfather. It was horrible.

RIP to the 35 victims, and praying today for the survivors, the emergency workers, and everyone else who was there and will be reliving this horror for the rest of their lives. But reliving it even more this last week because it’s an anniversary, and so the media are on it. Thank you John Howard for having the guts to make changes to ensure another mass shooting will not happen again in Australia. And thank you Walter Mikac for your steadfast advocacy on gun laws—you witnessed and experienced first-hand the damage that can be done. This is why you are passionate."

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