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Statement to the Senate: Sydney Siege

Speeches in Parliament
Christine Milne 9 Feb 2015

The Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, joins her colleagues in the Senate in extending the sympathy of the Australian Greens to the friends and families of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson.

Senator MILNE (Tasmania-Leader of the Australian Greens) (11:51): by leave-I rise today to join the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate in extending the sympathy of the Australian Greens to the friends and families of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson, who were killed in a horrendous criminal act carried out by a violent man with a criminal record.

Katrina Dawson was an outstanding young barrister. She had a great deal more to give to the community as a barrister, as a mother, as a person who cared for the community. We especially thank her husband, Paul Smith, and her three children, Oliver, Chloe and Sasha, for the generosity they have shown as they have come to terms with the most horrendous thing that could have happened to them-losing Katrina. Tori Johnson's partner Thomas Zinn and Tori Johnson's family are also suffering, and we are thinking of them. We send our support to the 16 other people who were victims of the siege, and also to the police officers and emergency personnel who were involved.

This is not something that anyone can come to terms with lightly or quickly. Those who have been hurt physically and mentally-anyone who witnessed what happened or intervened to try to prevent it from happening or from becoming worse-have our support, because for them it is not over. Throughout the coronial inquiry and throughout all the inquiries that go on they will be asked to relive those moments as they intervened or witnessed what happened, and they need to know that they have the support of the Australian parliament as well as the Australian community.

I was in Peru in South America when news of how the siege rolled out and then the aftermath was reported. I can tell you that it was extraordinary to watch something like this from afar and to see the reaction: Martin Place carpeted with flowers and expressions of peace, support and solidarity. That was such a great message for Australia to be sending to the rest of the world. We suffered a major jolt as a nation when something of that calibre of violence occurred in the heart of Sydney, but our response was to come together to reject violence. And that coming together to reject violence was the message we sent out to the rest of the world. It is a reminder that at heart we are a nation that values peace, community and social cohesion. We value and enjoy diversity and difference, and that was on show. And then, as certain people in the community felt fearful about what might occur, out came that wonderful outpouring of support with the 'illridewithyou' hashtag. It really demonstrates that what was a wake-up call for the nation was answered with the right response from the nation-not to marginalise, but to reach out; to redouble our efforts to reject messages of hate, fear, disrespect and violence, and instead to value those things which bring us all together as human beings, as a community and as Australian people.

Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were 38 years old and 34 years old respectively. They will not be forgotten by their families or their community, and I, too, join with everyone supporting the Katrina Dawson Foundation. How wonderful that this foundation will stand to raise money for women's educational opportunities. I wish everyone involved in trying to come to terms with the aftermath our support, love and encouragement.


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