"Remember that the power of love and creation will always triumph over the power of destruction and revenge."
Australia has been called 'The Lucky Country', a nation of people from all around the world. It prides itself on being an idyllic paradise and equalitarian nation; for the most part
this is true. It has its fair share of problems-
drugs, crime, racism, poverty and violence-
but on the whole they seem not to be as much of an issue as they are in many other first world nations.
There is no way any Australian would have imagined that the beautiful Tasmania would have been the setting for the largest killing spree perpetrated by one man, besides one.
Port Arthur is a historical site, a tourist mecca situated in the south-eastern coast of the state of Tasmania. Tourists are drawn there by the history of the brutal penal settlement that once stood on the site which is now one of eerie and serene beauty.
Sunday April 28th 1996 was the type of day that draws people to the historical site, crisp and sunny, autumn weather in its finest. People were out in their droves, families and tourist coach loads alike taking in the sights and indulging in tourist activities. One of the visitors to the site was Martin Bryant, he ate, as many of the visitors did, at the Broad Arrow Café watching the lunch time crowd disperse. The following events would change the face of Port Arthur, Australia and Australian gun control
and affect many families and communities within Australia and world.
Bryant finished his lunch on the front balcony of the café and went inside with his bags. On a vacant table he placed a blue sports bag and video camera beside it. He observed the diners; the place was fairly crowded with the last of the lunch time rush. It was 1:30pm. He removed, from the bag, an AR15 semi-automatic rifle and began shooting. Within 90 seconds he had killed twenty people and wounded another twelve.
He moved out of the café to continue the killing he had started when he had shot a couple he knew in their home, Seascape Cottage, just north of Port Arthur before he had arrived.
Many people had started moving towards the café as Bryant emerged, believing a re-enactment was taking place. Bryant opened fire on the crowd in the car park. The crowd dispersed as Bryant moved towards one of the tourist buses shooting the driver and three passengers.
Bryant then returned to his car and drove three hundred metres down the road. He stopped the car and shot a woman and her two children, following the older child to where she hid behind a tree. He returned to his car and drove towards the entrance gate and shot three men in a car. Bryant removed the bodies form the car and transferred his weapons into the victim’s car.
Bryant drove north to the General Store where he took one man hostage and shot his female companion. He drove to Seascape Cottage with the hostage in the boot of the car. He then shot indiscriminately at cars approaching the property, miraculously only wounding the victims. He took the hostage inside and then set the stolen car alight.
The police were called and Seascape Cottage was cordoned off. Bryant then fired shots at the police at the scene. During the stand off, that lasted throughout the night, the hostage lost his life, hand-cuffed to a stair rail shot by Bryant.
Bryant was spoken to by a negotiator
during this time as it was known by this stage he had a number of weapons and possibly three hostages.
At 8:25am Bryant ran from the cottage his clothing ablaze and smoke billowing from the cottage. He was arrested then and there and the single largest police action in Australia was over.
Bryant’s nineteen hour spree saw thirty-five people fatally shot and eighteen wounded.
Bryant was described through out his trial as "a quiet lad and a bit of a loner". He was subjected to a number of psychological exams and was thought to have suffered from schizophrenia and Asperger's Syndrome but was declared legally sane and fit to stand trial. The trial was widely publicised in Australia and all over the world.
His behaviour in court was considered cruel by some as he smiled most of the time and even laughed during witnesses’ evidence. He was convicted of 35 counts of murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment with no eligibility of parole.
The devastation of the Port Arthur Massacre was felt through Australia, many of the victims did not reside in Tasmania. One of the major ramifications of the shootings was the tightening of gun laws in Australia and the downturn in tourism in general. Tasmania was hardest hit by the slump and a major advertising campaign was launched to draw visitors back to the Wilderness State. The gun reform laws are still a bone of contention through out Australia as they are some of the strictest in the world.
The Broad Arrow Café has been torn down and a memorial garden
has been planted on the site to help those who grieve still. There is a large cross constructed out of the beams of the roof of the café listing the victims stands over looking the peaceful harbour.
The names inscribed appear below:
Chung Soo Leng
Ng Moh Yee William
http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial/bryant/ (the victims names come directly from this site).