Leaders call for unity in our darkest hour

from page 6 of The Mercury, May 1, 1996

by Steven Dally, Chief political reporter

  Premier Tony Rundle urged Tasmania to draw strength and resolve from the despair and grieving over the Port Arthur massacre.
  His message of a hope of healing was repeated by both Opposition Leader Michael Field and Tasmanian Greens leader Christine Milne at Tasmania's 35 Members of the House of Assembly offered their sympathy and support to those involved in the tragedy.
  The House of Assembly and later the Legislative Council passed motions offering condolences to families, relatives and friends of those killed, their sympathy to those injured or involved thank to all those who assisted in dealing with the tragedy.
  Th house then held a minute's silence before adjourning for a week as a mark of respect, the first such move since the North Lyell fire disaster in October, 1912.
  Mr Rundle told the house there was no sense or reason in what happened at Port Arthur.
  "You can see the grief in the faces of the people in the streets and in the shops," he said.
  "And in a small, closely knit community like Tasmania the pain is that much more intense because it is that much more closely shared.
  "Our sympathy is with the injured and we wish them all a speedy recovery."
  Mr Rundle said the private grieving and the sense of community shock would go on for much longer than the public demonstrations of mourning.
  "For those events to have any meaning, our little island must draw strength and resolve from its despair," he said.
  "But that is for the future. Today is for the dead, the injured and those who helped them, and for all of us to reflect and to mourn."
  Mr Field said daily action seems trivial, inconsequential and pointless in the wake of the tragedy.
  "My colleagues and I have discussed the tragedy endlessly to try to find some meaning in what has happened but the answers are just not there," he said.
  "We now grieve as a nation for those who have lost their lives. We feel nothing but compassion for those who lie injured in the Royal Hobart Hospital, the friends and families of those involved, police officers, ambulance officers and others who had to witness the aftermath and somehow go about the job that they had trained for."
  He said Tasmania should not look for instant retribution.
  Mrs Milne said all Tasmanians were in shock and disbelief.
  "There is a quiet in the streets and our usual capacity to act, work, to lead to speak is impaired as we try to overcome the numbness and come to terms with the enormity of the horror and confusion which has befallen us," she said.
  "As I lay in bed last night trying to think what to say that could even have any impact, any expression of what I was feeling, I was aware that right across the state other people were also laying awake, people insecure, people feeling frightened for the future in Tasmania, people despairing, people angry, people praying for some insight."

[images: "Tony Rundle: 'Grief in the faces of people.'" (3.5x4.5)
"Michael Field: 'We grieve as a nation.'" (3.5x4.5) ]

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