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Bourke Street: the day that changed a city

One year on, we remember the tragedy on Bourke Street and the kindness which followed.

Twelve months after the Bourke Street tragedy took the lives of six people, and injured dozens more in inner city Melbourne, Red Cross Emergencies staff and volunteers have joined in a moving state memorial service.

The event brought together thousands of people, including families of the bereaved, those injured, those who witnessed it and those who were involved.

Red Cross volunteer Amanda Lamond was invited to give an address on behalf of the non-government organisations who were involved in the incident.

She spoke of a day that changed the lives of so many, while bringing out the very best of humanity.

Here’s her speech.

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this land, the Wurundjeri people.

I acknowledge the bereaved, those injured, those who witnessed the event, dignitaries, responders, and members of the public.

All of us here have been impacted by this event.

When reflecting with colleagues about our experiences over the weekend at the memorial site in Bourke Street, we all have memories that I think will always stay with us.

There were a lot of contrasts. We saw the mass outpouring of grief on the one hand, alongside people getting on with the business of life. We saw sadness, shock and despair, alongside love and kindness.

I remember the beautiful mishmash of flowers, toys, notes and cards that spontaneously appeared and gave us all something to gather around. It continued to grow as if it had a life of its own, just like the crowd around it.

There was a real sense of the power of all the organisations working together; each in their unique and complimentary roles. Afterwards people talked about the importance of the agencies being there together, each doing what they did best.

I remember at one point seeing one of my colleagues sitting in the shade on the stairs. In her well-known uniform, people seemed to gravitate to her, perhaps feeding off her strength and calm.

She was sitting amongst people who had come, especially, to be together.

To make sense of something that made no sense.

To ask questions that had no answers.

To understand something that had no explanation.

To have to see to believe, something, that was so unbelievable; something that shouldn’t happen.

She would probably say all she was doing was listening, but she was doing so much more than that.

Immersed in their sadness, people opened up to others to find solace. I remember seeing strangers supporting strangers, their guards were down, vulnerabilities exposed.

You didn’t need to be in a uniform to help. It reminded me that it is a very normal thing for people to reach out and help other people in times of need. That is what we at Red Cross call the Power of Humanity.

At the memorial, people were crying openly. And still crying as they walked away . This grief, for them, for then, could not be taken away. And that broke my heart all over again. But we know that this grieving, and the need to come together as a community is normal. It is what people do when tragedy strikes. They come together. To be together. To draw on each other’s strength and resilience.

One lady said to me, “I just feel so sad”, these were the only words she could find to describe how she felt. And then she said, “Thank you so much for being here. It reminds us that there is still good in the world.”

If you need help dealing with emotions this may bring up for you or your loved ones at this time visit Looking after yourself.