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Pollies’ tribute to Bondi victims

Written by on May 14, 2024

Politicians stood on Tuesday to honour the victims of the Bondi stabbings as both party leaders recognised the “remarkable acts of courage” from first responders.

The tribute began the first question time of the sitting week and came one month and one day after the attack at Bondi Junction Westfield. Anthony Albanese, Peter Dutton and Wentworth MP Allegra Spender all gave motions of condolence.

“Today, we add our voice from our national parliament to those tributes, to show our respect whose lives were so pointlessly taken away. To the families, to those who are still doing it really tough, and we say that we hope that those who were lost that day are able to rest in peace,” the Prime Minister said.

“A month on from the shocking events at Bondi Junction Westfield, the distress has barely faded. The grief never will.

“It should have been just another Saturday – the unremarkable happiness of people going about their lives, shopping. That’s so familiar, I think, to just about every Australian.

“Everything changed in just a few minutes that day. Just a handful of minutes that changed so much forever. We mourn all those whose lives were wrenched from them so brutally and so pointlessly.

Mr Albanese, Mr Dutton and Ms Spender all spoke on the legacy of each of the six victims.

“Yixuan Chang, an economics student. Pikria Darchia, an artist. Ashe Good, an osteopath and new mum, whose final thoughts were for the safety of her baby, Harriet,” Mr Albanese began. “Dawn Singleton, who was looking forward to her wedding. Faraz Tahir, the Westfield security guard whose funeral I attended, where I got such a poignant sense of the new life he was creating for himself here in Australia. And Jade Young, an architect and loving mother.

“We mourn for all the wonderful, rich possibility of life that was taken from them.”

Mr Albanese spoke of the private condolences he had passed on to the families of the stabbing victims.

“We mourn for all those whose lives will always feel the weight of loss, their every heartbeat tempered by a sorrow for what might have been,” he said. “The parents who lost a son or daughter, a baby who will grow up knowing her mum only through photographs and the stories from her family who are now holding her tight in love.”

“That Saturday in Bondi was a hinge on which their whole lives turned. We want them to know they are in our hearts.”

Also praised were Silas Despreaux and Damien Guerot, dubbed the “bollard boys” by Mr Dutton, and NSW Police Inspector Amy Scott. It came in addition to tributes to local representatives, emergency services and staff at the Bondi Junction Westfield.

“The swiftness of the response, given the circumstances which were there, should forever give praise to the actions of our NSW Police, emergency service workers, health workers and others,” Mr Albanese said.

“I praised (local MP Allegra Spender) for (doing) the work of a local member that no local member wants to engage with. It was a very fine representation indeed of her local community at what was a very difficult time.

“We can be proud of everyone who played a role that day. That, at the worst of times, we once again saw the best of the Australian character. Remarkable acts of courage. Remarkable acts of compassion. Remarkable acts of love.”

Speaking after Mr Albanese, Mr Dutton said the tragedy marked the “mettle” of the Australian character and the “magnitude of our camaraderie”.

“There was fear, but there was also fortitude. There was cruelty but also compassion. Hate but also heroism. Human tragedy but also a triumph of the human spirit,” he said.

“Terrible events become etched in our national consciousness not only because they are tragic but also because the place and circumstances surrounding the tragedy are always chillingly familiar and relatable.

“The tragedy is not just the loss of what was. The tragedy is the loss of what would and could have been. The sentiment was palpable at the candlelight vigil held at Bondi Beach on the 21st of April in memory of the victims.

“While time never heals loss in tragedy, it is our fellowship as Australians which helps us through tragedy.”

He wished a speedy recovery to the 122 survivors of stabbing attacks, singling out Muhammad Taha, the security guard who was on shift alongside Mr Tahir. Also praised was lifeguard Andrew Reid who provided emergency care to victims inside the mall during the attack.

Finally, Ms Spender, whose electorate was the site of the attack, addressed the parliament.

“Everyone in my community knows where they were on the afternoon of Saturday April the 13th,” she said. “At home. At the beach. It was a beautiful afternoon. Maybe heading up the coast for school holidays or in Bondi Junction, where so many of us find ourselves on any given weekend.

“Six families are bearing the tragic, unbearable loss that any one of us could have faced. Their hearts are heavy with loss and grief. A burden that cannot be lifted with words or deeds.

“Their loved ones were like hundreds of other people at Westfield that day. A mum out with her little baby. An artist running an errand. An architect buying a birthday present. A recent migrant to Australia trying to earn money for his family back home. A student celebrating the end of exams. A bride-to-be preparing for a very special day.

“All Australians see ourselves or someone we love in that snapshot. Those brief descriptions don’t do justice to those who we have lost. They cannot be reduced to a phrase.”

Ms Spender echoed the words of Elizabeth Young, the mother of victim Jade Young, in calling for “politicians – both federal and state – to address the gaps in mental healthcare to make for a safer world for our girls and all Australians”.

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“The word I heard most often in the days that passed was “senseless”. It was an act without sense, without reason, purely destructive of life and love,” Ms Spender said. “But as a community, we cannot let that word “senseless” be the last word.

“There were six people whose beautiful lives were cut short that day. They mattered, and their memories are up to all of us to honour. The whole community, the whole country, and everyone in this place is sorry for their loss.”

Also honoured by the House of Representatives were Jack Patrick Fitzgibbon and former minister Gerry Hand. It came after Simon Kennedy was sworn into the House of Representatives, replacing former prime minister Scott Morrison as the MP for Cook.