A Horrible Evil - Echoes of Port Arthur

related: Martin Bryant Port Arthur Killer
Port Arthur Massacre 1996 Pt 1, Pt 2




April 19, 1997
By Gary Tippet and Ian Munro
The Sunday Age

IT SEEMED too modest a building to earn such an evil reputation - that mundane family cafeteria of pies, pasties, chips, pre-packed sandwiches and Devonshire teas.

Photo: Martin Bryant, right, somewhat echoing the 1970s rocker beauty, Peter Frampton, left

A year later the Broad Arrow Cafe is stripped to its bare stone shell, like a small mirror image of the old sandstone penitentiary on the other fatal shore of Mason's Cove. Both stark, empty reminders of the horror that happened within.

Between them is a rough, beautiful wooden cross, marked with 35 names and a date: Sunday 28 April, 1996.

The tragedy of Port Arthur did not stop when the gunfire did.

Its echoes reverberate in the lives of all who were there: its survivors. Families of its victims, locals, staff, and those who went to help. Police, ambulance workers, doctors, nurses, emergency service volunteers and ordinary people caught up in an event beyond their imagining.

A paramedic, supposedly inured by years of experience, but stopped in his tracks by what met him in that cafe.

A local clergyman who knelt by the bodies of two little girls from his Sunday school, and those of so many strangers, and who can only leave forgiveness to God.

A general practitioner who tended the wounded at the scene and then spent months counselling a shaken community and grieving for lost friends. A cafe manager who ran across the line of fire, warning people away, then looked into Martin Bryant's eyes as he raised his rifle to shoot her.

A man who left three of his best mates and golf partners there, but who sometimes still meets their spirits on the fairway.

A surgeon waiting to receive the victims at Royal Hobart Hospital while fearing that his son might be among them. A couple whose marriage was badly injured by that day.

The effects of Port Arthur reach out from the Broad Arrow, out past the toll booth, and over the bulldozed ruins of Seascape Cottage. Across the Tasman Peninsula and its wounded communities of Nubeena, Koonya, Saltwater River, Taranna to Eaglehawk Neck and on to Hobart and Tasmania. They reach out to touch the rest of us too, understandably more faintly as time passes.

But in the minds of those who experienced it, 28 April 1996 is a day too easily recalled. For many it resonates daily. It flashes back in dreams and unbidden memories, it walks with those still employed there, it is in the empty beds of their loved ones. Their lives have been irrevocably changed. These are their stories. In their words.

''... IT'LL FADE, the evil of that day. And it was evil. It was a horrible, horrible evil.''

Maree and Garry Broome had gone to Tasmania with their mates from Kilmore Golf Club, Wally Bennett, Ray Sharp, his brother Kevin and Kevin's wife Marlene. That Sunday, with other friends, they decided to drop in to Port Arthur on their way to a barbecue. They were in the Broad Arrow when they heard gunshots. At first they thought it was a re-enactment. Garry saw a young man apparently shoot someone, but for a second another man hid his view.

Garry: "I turned around to see where Maree was and I was shot - through the bloke who'd hidden my view, I think. I was hit by skull fragments and bullet fragments.

"It was a sharp pain which only lasted a few seconds. I put my hand up to my face to see what happened and it felt like my face was way out here. I was standing against the wall and I dropped back and slid down. I was on my haunches and I looked down at myself and there's this great mass of blood. I thought 'Oh gawd, I've had it. You don't survive this loss of blood.'

"I could hear the bloke shooting, I didn't look up but I thought maybe I should roll over and play dead. But I thought 'What the hell's the use, I'm gunna die any way. I am dead.'

"I just sat there and thought 'Am I feeling worse? Am I dying now?' I don't know how long it was but one of my mates, Merv from up the road here, pulled me up and I stood up and I walked over people and looked at them and I was still amazed I could walk. I thought 'I'm not dying yet'. He took me up behind the tank around the back.

"I still thought I couldn't survive but, I don't know when it sank in, but I realised 'This can't be my blood' and I think it was all the debris from that other poor bloke. It was thick and red and there was just so much of it. I just couldn't have survived if it'd been all mine.

"I realised my mates were gone pretty early (Wally Bennett and Ray and Kevin Sharp were all killed) and I think even the first night I started thinking about them. But I thought 'Don't think about them because you won't sleep and you need to sleep to survive'. I sort of blocked them out as much as I could. Difficult. Every now and again they'd come to my mind and, deliberately, I'd try and get them out of my mind. I didn't need to be thinking unpleasant things, there were enough unpleasant things anyway. And I suppose that's how I coped.

"Even that Sunday, after I got to hospital, I'd thought 'God, I'm alive'. I do feel selfish, a bit guilty, that I'm alive and they're not. But there's nothing I can do about that."

Maree: "When we came home I didn't cook. There were people on the door, casseroles, cakes, we partied until late at night. I said to Garry 'I'm so grateful to be alive, let's party'. So it was open slather. People were knocking on the door we'd never seen before. It was lovely, it was really a celebration of life."

Garry: "I learnt to look at people in a different light. It's improved my faith in human nature. You'd probably think it would do the opposite, but it hasn't. I see their better sides. It raised my spirit. There were so many nice people that one nutter didn't put me off. He was just one stupid guy.

"I honestly feel there aren't any lasting effects on me. I jump at loud noises, we get a little bit more emotional about things, but only going to the pictures or things on telly."

Maree: "There were dreams, flashbacks to start off with. You'd wake up crying, but that didn't last for many months, did it?"

Garry: "Out on the golf course I'd see Kevin on the next fairway and be just about to wave, but then 'No, he's dead'. It's only someone who looks like him. It's terrible."

Photo: Broad Arrow Cafe

Maree: "Poor Marlene's had a hard time. I feel very sorry for her. But she went back for the court case and she got a lot from that, going back, because she thought she was the only one, the one that got the worst end of the deal. But she met up with some other people and she realised she wasn't alone. And that had a wonderful, cleansing effect on her and she's been good since then.

"She has a restless soul at the moment and she knows that. She says for a while she hated going in the front door. But it's getting better. She had a lot of anger to get rid of, but she's a strong personality.

"For a terrible selfish moment that day I was relieved that it wasn't my man lying there and I'm still relieved. Because when I see her and think could I have coped without Garry ... my dear friend. Without Gazza I would have been lost."

Garry: "I don't think about (Bryant) at all, I'm just happy to have survived. I suppose I block it out a bit. I don't really have anger."

Maree: "I don't believe in hate, I think that's a wasted emotion. You get on with life. I've known some people where it's taken over their life, Port Arthur. Even their grandchildren, they're going to counsellors. You can't let it take over. You've got to fill your life with other things, nice things, joyous things and have people around you and do things for other people. I don't think you can afford hate. I think if you have hate it shows on your face and eats at your heart.

"You think about Port Arthur, but you don't let it become overriding. I don't want that poor unfortunate boy having any more influence over my life. He's taken certain things out of my life but I'm not going to give him the pleasure of taking any more, of taking over, of taking the joy out of my life. And we've worked very hard at putting joy back into our life over the last year.

"We'll be right now. We're going to go on to bigger and better things.

"But good things come out of evil, don't you think? It brought Australia together for a short time, and I think that's good. There's nothing like tears.

"Martin Bryant, he'll never be forgotten but he'll fade. He'll always be in our history, but it'll fade, the evil of that day. And it was evil. It was a horrible, horrible evil."

''THERE WAS NO escape. In your social life. In your work life. In your relationship, everything. It was there.''

Dr Stephen Ireland and Dr Pam Ireland took over the general practice at Nubeena, 11 kilometres from Port Arthur, in January 1992. They were the only practising doctors on the Tasman Peninsula. They were paged by the local volunteer ambulance service. The couple has since separated. Dr Pam Ireland is continuing to practise at Nubeena. Dr Stephen Ireland works at the Royal Hobart Hospital.

''It was a common enough thing for us to turn out to emergencies, all sorts of things, chest pains, asthma, allergic reactions, road trauma, I dunno, fish hooks - the sort of things you get in a seaside holiday town. In emergencies people tend to over estimate the degree of casualties, so when I was told there were four dead and others perhaps wounded I was thinking: 'Well maybe one person's been shot and people are over-reacting' because witnesses often over react. I was thinking there would be a huge over reporting, we would get there and it would be something fairly minor which is the usual situation.

"When we drove past the toll gate to the site I saw there were four bodies covered up. We had to pass several other bodies by the side of the road which were covered up by the time we got there.

"Just taking in the scene outside the cafe it was obviously the scene of a major disaster with people looking stunned and bemused and wandering around. I was told in no way was the area secure and we couldn't venture too far from that area. Then my wife went one way and I went the other trying to determine who was there, who was alive, who was a survivor and who needed the first attention.

"Unless you have been in a disaster scene, it's very hard to comprehend the sense of unreality and vague feelings, the difficulty of trying to focus on specific tasks, because of a feeling of overwhelming dread of taking in all these sights. It alters your perceptions, although you tend to function in an automatic way.

"It's a high-velocity weapon. Usually in that sort of situation if it hits you near any vital structure you are dead. And that's what happened. People that got shot near any vital centre - head, belly, chest - died and those that were shot more peripherally survived. There were a couple of lucky survivors - I suppose lucky is a qualifiable word depending on how they feel about it now - but there were some people who survived who could easily have died. There was a fellow shot in the jaw in the cafe who was probably the most likely to expire and he did survive.

"There was a lady there that had extensive damage to her hand and arm, another with a spinal type injury, another with a sucking chest wound, so a variety of wounds. Our essential role was to triage them. Apart from putting intravenous lines in and making sure they had fluid resuscitation going, ascertaining priority.

"We treated them up until they were evacuated. I haven't studied the time. Time is very distorted in that sort of situation. Other people I know have gone back and looked at times and all those things. I haven't found myself able to do that.

"Initially because people we knew very well were involved it was a time of intense personal grief and that really colored everything ... you know I'd seen lots of trauma, I've done a lot of emergency work in the past, I'd seen lots of death and mangled bodies so just on their own ... the scale of it was probably overwhelming, but it's nowhere near as affecting as seeing people that you know well killed in such a manner.

"I think overall it's had a fairly marked toll upon my life and I don't think it's ever going to go away. Initially also there was very much a loss of future, you just think life is very fragile. And it's very hard to come to grips with that really. But it does give you a great sense of urgency in life, to get on with it because you can be blown away very easily.

"Living down there it affected my work and my relationship with my wife. I think the effect on us - my marriage has broken up - I don't say primarily because of that, but certainly that was a factor in the situation precipitating that marriage break-up.

"My wife and I were in a situation which was already pretty difficult. Working in a country town, basically working seven days a week, doing on-call for five years in a country town is pretty demanding. It's very hard work and very intrusive on your lifestyle.

"To lump on top of that a massacre where the whole population is very disturbed and really does need a lot of care and attention from the medical practitioners there, I think it probably proved too much of a burden in the end. Although my wife's still down there, but she's not doing much work.

"I think the problem was at work you're working with people who have been traumatised severely, more coming in all the time and although you're empathising with them you're still feeling the same sorts of feelings yourself and having to hang in there for them.

"There was no escape. In your social life. In your work life. In your relationship, everything. It was there.

"Like most people I don't really like talking about it, I tend to avoid it as much as I can. Probably the only person I talk to about it is Walter, Walter Mikac. He's a personal friend. But no, I don't really talk about it. I run along and see a psychiatrist every now and then just to keep a check on things, not that I think that's 100 per cent necessary.

"By and large I've been able to put it aside, mainly. I think I still don't cope well with the children's deaths. That's the part that won't go away."

''OFTEN YOU can detach yourself, but in this case ... I think the whole experience has given me a different perspective.''

Dr Stephen Wilkinson is the director of surgery and anaesthetics at Royal Hobart Hospital. He trained at St George Hospital in Sydney and the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. He specialises in trauma and cancer surgery. He conducts emergency surgery and trauma training from the RHH and was responsible for briefing, co-ordinating and overseeing the hospital's surgery teams following the Port Arthur shootings. He also instructs surgeons and hospitals on the RHH response to the 28 April emergencies.

''That weekend we had run an EMST course. That's a trauma course for surgeons, anaesthetists and other doctors, prepared by the College of Surgeons and I run that course in Tasmania. The idea of the course is to train people to deal with seriously injured patients.

"We had just packed it up about 1.30 on Sunday afternoon. I had been home literally two or three minutes and got the call from the hospital that a Code Brown had been called.

"Code Brown is the hospital code for an external disaster that institutes a whole series of steps that makes the hospital ready to receive a whole series of cases.

"This was a new code and the ink was hardly dry on the paper, so this particular code had never been called before.

"The switch operator told me about 10 people had been killed at Port Arthur. I was concerned because one of my own children had gone out with friends and they had said they were going to Port Arthur, so I was very anxious trying to find out where he was.

"My role was to organise trauma teams in the casualty department - each of those consisted of two doctors and a nurse and we were fortunate to get back some of the instructors and a couple of people who had just graduated from the course. Also, I had to wind up the operating theatres, and we got five theatres fully staffed and ready to go, and within an hour we managed to ship patients all over the place, discharged as many elective admissions as possible and cleared around 60 beds.

"From there my role was to oversee the management of the trauma teams - to make sure that each patient as they arrived went to an appropriate trauma team - and I oversaw the care of the trauma team, gave some instructions on appropriate care, some help with difficult situations, some instructions to some of the teams who were struggling with some of their cases.

"We've dealt with shootings in the past but they have always been low-powered, low-velocity weapons. I think this is the first time the hospital has seen the high-power rifle injuries and they are quite different.

"With the low-power injuries there is very focal damage from the bullet, from the missile. With these high-powered rifles there is massive destruction of tissue.

"What happens is that the bullet has such force when it enters the body that it tumbles and literally explodes within the body, and explodes outwards. So there is a lot of destruction and a lot of tissue missing. And in some cases there was just absence of body parts.

"There was one example of that, I can give you, a hand injury in which the hand had simply exploded and was in shreds.

"In general, the key things are to first manage the injuries that are going to cause loss of life. So for example we secure the airway so the patient can breathe properly and is properly oxygenated, and then we get enough intravenous fluid and blood in so the patient doesn't die from shock. Then a fair way down the track we actually deal with the individual injuries.

"We've had occasional accidents here where we have had three people from a car accident but we've never had an influx of 15, 19, 20 people, that's just never been the case here.

"About an hour into it I located (my son). They had changed their minds about going to Port Arthur and gone to Richmond instead. That first hour was pretty hard to take, I can tell you, but I didn't personally know anyone there.

"I think it has made me much more aware of the anxiety people go through when they face that sort of thing as a patient. It's made me much more aware that other staff in the hospital are affected by these sorts of things.

"Often as a surgeon you really do concentrate on the medical side of things, but you know, on this occasion you could see ... the whole hospital community was really shaken by it.

"A lot of the staff have been through stress counselling and a few are still having some counselling sessions.

"I am seeing a person that I talk to about it every couple of months. It's just the responsibility for a lot of things that day. If there'd been a balls-up it would have been dreadful.

"Often you can detach yourself, but in this case ... I think the whole experience has given me a different perspective. I think it's made me, perhaps a more compassionate surgeon.

"I still get ... um, ah ... you know, I have given a few ... ah ... lectures on Port Arthur and each time this sort of thing happens ... I'm sorry, I find I get this ... reaction, reaction ...

"I give the lectures as little as possible ... this happens every time. I have got one coming up in May that I am dreading."

''THE FACES didn't register, they were injured people and we checked for life or not.''

Gary Alexander injured his spine while serving in the army during the Vietnam War. He lives in White Beach, several kilometres from Nubeena and supports himself on a disability pension. For the past eight years he has been a volunteer ambulance officer on the Tasman Peninsula.

Kay Fox is the cleaner at Nubeena school and is also an experienced volunteer ambulance officer. She has lived on the Peninsula most of her life. They were on call the day of the Port Arthur shootings. They arrived suspecting they had been called out on an exercise, but before they reached the Broad Arrow Cafe, they had covered the bodies of seven victims, including Walter Mikac's family.

Gary: "It was in the Broad Arrow, that was the worst of the scene ... there was only the three that was injured in there, but apart from one under the bus they were the worst injured. One needed a line put in. Within 20 minutes we'd seen every injured person.

"Steve and Pam (Ireland) went around and saw everyone. We had a couple of other vollies turn up after that. We were tryin' to make sure no one was left alone - every injured person had someone with them. There was no panic in it. I think I was fairly numb - not for the fact of seeing people shot, because I've seen people shot before - I don't know what it was ... We knew we had a job to do. It didn't hit until later in the night."

Kay: "I just blocked it ... just never thought about it."

Gary: "In the afternoon Walter was around there looking for his kids. And Dr Pam came up to me and said: 'Who are these kids up at the gate?' I wouldn't have a clue, and I didn't know them. At that stage we didn't know who they were.

"It didn't hit us on the way in that they were Walter's family when we covered them. We'd seen them but we didn't recognise the faces. That's shocking. You can look at someone, and you've seen them for ages, and you just don't know them and I thought, that's strange that."

Kay: "Pam wanted to go up and identify them because Walter was running around looking for them. Pam wanted to go up to see if it was them so we could tell Walter.

"I taught the eldest girl swimming at school and I didn't realise who it was until we went back. When I saw Walter running around I thought then: 'It could be', but I wasn't sure. It was late when Pam said would you come up to the gate, and up there she identified them. And then we had to go find Walter and tell him."

Gary: "That's the thing that I've remembered, and probably has given me more problems after the thing. We know the kids. We know Nanette - everyone knew Nanette - and yet when we'd seen her on the roadside, checked the pulse, covered her up, I didn't recognise her. That's strange that, but it was probably a good thing I didn't at that stage.

"The faces didn't register, they were injured people and we checked for life or not."

Kay: "There was nothing on her face, nothing on her children's faces. I think perhaps because the blood had gone and they were like little wax dolls ... I never thought. There was two girls in the Broad Arrow who we knew and I didn't know who they were until someone said there's two we do know."

Gary: "I didn't think it affected me at all ... my wife did. I went through a real bad patch apparently. Because I know my wife was packing up ready to leave. I thought I was all right, doing what I normally do. Apparently I was barking at everyone, short-tempered. We got over that. There was a lot to do after it. Port Arthur did not finish when we got the last injured out of there."

Kay: "I'm not so bad now. Sleepless. I can't sleep. Used to get real nasty with people. I got over that bit. School gave me a week off ... so they sent me off. Other than that, I don't like the dark. Can't get over not liking the dark.

"When it all happened at night-time they thought Bryant was still running around shooting and they had us all locked in Clother, one of the buildings over there, lights out, down on the floor, don't make a sound. Just before that we had told Walter he had lost his family and he was there too and we weren't allowed to make a noise and we had to keep Walter quiet.

"When it boiled down to it I think it was a car door closing, but everyone was so jumpy. But since then I don't like the dark. I have to leave the light on of a night.

"We've got another chap, another vollie ... and he's not too good at all. He's on tablets and going to doctors and he's not back with us yet."

Gary: "Like most of us, he's had problems sleeping. Anyone who says they were all right after it, I think they're really lying to themselves. You'd go to bed at night, you'd lie down and you'd see these figures. Your eyes would open up and you'd sit there. I used to sit and watch videos each night. Now I can't get off the cigarettes. After all these years of being off 'em, now I'm back on 'em.

"It's talked about every day and silly things are talked about. 'So and so's having problems and going to see a doctor: Oh, fancy them having problems, they weren't even there.' 'So and so's suing Port Arthur: they're only after money.' It's bitter talk. They're the sort of things that get around and they aren't dying down.'

"I can't stand the dark, I agree. And that happened three months after Port Arthur. I found once I got off this peninsula ... I slept like a log.

"Maybe it's the noises and there's people around, but down here there is nothing. It is dead still and pitch black. There's no street lights. I reckon after this anniversary, and this psychologist, the bloke we go to, we have this group session ... he reckons once the anniversary is over it'll start to die down and that perhaps we might start to die down."

Kay: "Well, we hope it will."

''WE CAN'T forget the people who were killed but we have to put Port Arthur behind us. ''

Peter Stride and Andrew O'Brien are Tasmanian Ambulance Service paramedics. O'Brien was at a barbecue when he was told to drive to Port Arthur to set up as ambulance field commander. Stride and fellow officer Warwick Allen were aboard the first helicopter touching down at the site and evacuated the first victims. The next morning Stride accompanied the badly burnt Martin Bryant to Royal Hobart Hospital. He recognised him as the young man he had rescued from a car wreck in October 1992.

Peter: "We landed on the cricket ground. Warwick got out of the machine first and headed up into the crowd while I grabbed some equipment. And the thing that sticks in my mind the most is that while the helicopter was winding down that was the only sound you could hear. And when it stopped there was dead silence. Even though there were hundreds of people it was dead quiet.

"We worked our way up through the people, assessing them, until I arrived at the cafe.

"Warwick was already in there somewhere and I walked in and just stood there for a minute - or what seemed like a minute - absolutely stunned. I looked around the room and I couldn't believe it. I thought 'This is bull....'.

"It looked like something out of a movie, all these people scattered all over the place. Then I thought 'S..., I better do something' and that's when we dropped into our operational mode and got into it."

Andrew: "I was about 10 minutes behind these blokes. I just took the station wagon and went. We train to deal with bus crashes or train crashes or plane crashes but not for people who go berserk with a gun.

"I just couldn't believe it, it was beyond my imagination. I was absolutely dumbfounded. I wandered around for five minutes wondering what the bloody hell I was going to do.

"Then I thought: 'Ah well, get your act into gear, you're not here to gawk, you've got a job to do'."

Peter: "Nobody else died after we got there. The vast majority had only one shot put through them and if it didn't do the killing at that stage more than likely, once you stopped the bleeding, they weren't going to die.

"If we go to vehicle accidents where we have five people, with multiple injuries, we've got multiple problems and they die a lot quicker. But once he fired and did what he had to do, that was it.

"We waited at Taranna that night, waited all night, then we went in (to the burning Seascape Cottage). He was down, lying on the ground. There was still exploding ammunition, so we didn't go in, the SOGs went in, picked him up and brought him out. He had burns on his back and arms, lying face down, we put an IV line in. We asked him if he wanted any pain relief and he never gave a rational answer. He said something like 'What's going on?'.

"Did I want to kick his head in? Everyone asks. Not that day. If he walked in here now I probably would. But not that day.

"Basically I was numb, we'd been there such a long time, we were tired and obviously in the back of our mind we knew the world was watching us. So we did what we had to do, we did it professionally and what we wanted to do was get the hell out of there, go back to town, knock off and go home.

"We brought him out by road, we had him for an hour and a bit. There were two SOG coppers, one in the back with a gun and the other up front. We arrived back in Hobart with him and were met by what looked like thousands of police manning the streets, took him in, handed him over like we do with any patient.

"(Later) we had a debriefing ... then I rang home ... And then we were into the grog. Basically you're not supposed to do that after you have a stressful incident, but we wanted to stick together, catch up with everybody who was there all through the night, see how they were travelling. It ended up a fairly big gathering and we rolled out of there about 11.

"I got home, I hadn't had any sleep for x amount of hours, I had a gutful of grog and I went out like a light. I didn't have any of the effects: flashbacks, dreams, pictures. I was just dead tired.

"But the next morning as I walked down the hall I started crying. I said to Mary, my wife, 'I haven't cried yet'. She held me and I just cried for a few minutes."

Andrew: "I had my blub that night after I spoke to my wife. That was when I said 'Ah, it was horrible'. But that was it and I came back to work the next day and got on with it. I didn't have time to stew over it.

"If you're going to survive in this job you learn at a fairly young age that you don't take on board what's not your own personal problem. Our job is to go out there and look after people who've been injured, ill, whatever, and you've got to keep them, not quite at arm's length but you can't let them get in. Otherwise you won't last.

"You go out there to do your job. You do the bit you can to help. And that's what I've walked away with: I said we've done our job and we've done it well, so I feel good. I feel bad about the incident, but I don't feel bad about what we did and that's probably what's helped me survive the last 12 months."

Peter: "I probably give Mary the s.... because I basically don't worry about anything now. You put yourself in the position of someone down there: minding their own business, having a good time, yet some goose blew them all away. I have my moments but I'm getting on with my life, enjoying what I'm doing, and that's how I look at it.

"I've survived in this job by doing the best job I can. I've always said that if I could save everybody I'd be God, and if I was God I wouldn't be working shiftwork. And that's the simplest way I can look at it.

"I hope after this anniversary, that's the end of it. The state's got the arse out of its pants at the moment, why keep on with all this misery about the joint? Let's get on with life. We can't forget the people who were killed but we have to put Port Arthur behind us."

''BUT HAVE I been able to forgive? It's a hard thing. I try not to think about that any more, I try to leave that to God.''

Glenn Cumbers was the new Uniting Church minister at Nubeena, 11 kilometres from Port Arthur. It was the first ministry for the former nurse. That Sunday he was having lunch with friends at a house near the Port Arthur Historic Site when they heard gunshots. He raced to the scene and spent the rest of the day comforting the wounded and relatives of the dead. He now lives in Bathurst, NSW.

''The scene inside the Broad Arrow was just something that took your breath away. I don't know, a lot of things go through your mind, and I know some people have described it as a war zone, but to realise that these were innocents. None of them had guns.

"I remember looking at people who were still sitting upright in their chairs, holding a cup, with half their face removed. Just having to go through, while at the same time checking each person to see who's alive and who's dead, what patient do you work on first.

"At the same time I remember thinking, in a sense, that God was already there. There was this peace, this calm. Like, I'd been to road accidents where there were people screaming and yelling, but inside Broad Arrow there was this calmness.

"I remember relatives coming up to me saying 'My husband's in there, can you just check again?' And I'd come back and say 'I'm sorry, they're deceased' and I remember one lady asked me three times.

"In the souvenir section there was a glass door which was locked and there were three bodies piled up there and the relatives asked me to check them.

"It was really hard because I'm on one side of the glass door moving bodies from on top of each other and the relatives have got their faces pushed up against the glass looking at me. And that was a difficult thing.

"After some time working with the people I remember saying we have to cover up the remains because there were people coming in at that stage and the scene was just horrific.

"It was getting dark and the last of the casualties were lifted on to the helicopter and the rest were about to be taken out by bus and they were doing debriefings.

"The SES guys were going in one direction, medical in another and I remember standing there thinking 'Where do clergy go? Where do I line up?'

"It inflicted scars on everybody. You could not be there that day, whether you're police or doctors or anyone, whoever walked into the Broad Arrow or the area around it, you'll never, ever be the same.

"For days I couldn't sleep, even now I get flashbacks. Scared, jump out of my skin at loud noises. Go anywhere public and I check out, make sure no one's carrying any big bags or acting suspicious. Yeah, all that type of thing.

"People kept asking me about my faith and it's a natural question. My faith wasn't challenged that day. I think if you come in thinking that bad things only happen to bad people you could be shattered, but if you know that bad things happen to everybody and that this was the act of one man, who for whatever reasons was able to have a gun to do that with, you manage.

"People didn't question God. Just the opposite, I found more people turning to God. More people found comfort in their faith that the children were with God.

"It was very hard for people because the bodies lay on the road and in the cafe for days and they had every right to be angry at a lot of things but God wasn't the one they were angry with. They were angry at the one person who had done this.

"What I feel toward Martin Bryant now is nothing. I had to work through that. I think for our own healing process there has to be a sense of forgiveness, not condoning what he's done, not letting him off the hook, but knowing that one day God will judge him and that God of all will judge him rightly.

"And that kind of takes the pressure off us, whether or not to say he should have got the death penalty or whatever.

"I remember feeling angry hearing the news that he was still alive after that day. I found it really hard because I knew David and Sally Martin and had been with them not many days before the shooting.

"I remember hearing on the radio the different clergy - and it's their right to say these things: forgiveness, mercy, compassion towards him. But I think it's easy to say from a desk so many hours, so many kilometres away. But to be with the people that day suffering the tragedy, the death, brings it a bit closer. And so I think in one sense I was able to walk in the steps of those people, in their grieving.

"But have I been able to forgive? It's a hard thing. I try not to think about that any more, I try to leave that to God."

''I LOOKED HIM in the eye and it was, How dare you? Who do you think you are, doing this?''

Brigid Cook was the manager of the Broad Arrow Cafe. She was in the kitchen when she heard a loud bang and thought the bain-marie had blown up. As she went to investigate, workmate Colleen Parker told her to flee. She ran to the car park, waving people away from the Broad Arrow, telling them to take cover, then hid behind a tour bus.

''Somebody said 'Oh, he's there' and it was the first time I'd actually seen him. And there he was.

"And he was just aiming his rifle and he was just having quite a fine time. 'Oh, this is gooood. I'm having a good time here.'

"He was quite careful. He was careful where he placed himself, so people couldn't get to him and he was taking very good care of himself so nobody could interrupt what he was doing or spoil his enjoyment of what he was doing.

"I just had this very brief look at him before he shot me. And he was looking back at me. I looked him in the eye and it was 'How dare you? Who do you think you are, doing this?' I saw him raise the rifle - he was looking to do it to someone else - and I turned to run away and he shot me.

"It felt as though someone had driven a fence post through my leg. Then I realised I wasn't dead and I whisked my apron off ... and tied it around my leg, remembering to tie it off in a bow so if I passed out or did anything silly later on I could undo it without having to unpick knots.

"And then we heard the shooting on the bus. And it was so quiet. Nobody was screaming or hysterical. It was almost still, calm, unnatural which is quite unusual here because people are always walking around chatting. But you could hear the birds singing, it was so still.

"I didn't realise he'd actually gone, I thought it was one of the tourists bolting. And that was the other thing, nobody drove out. It was so quick but it just didn't seem like that.

"I went to the trial every day. Initially I went to the pre-trial because I wanted to have a look at him, I knew that I was probably going to be a witness if he decided to plead not guilty and I wanted to have that out of the road so it wouldn't be a shock, that first look. And just to see what he was, which was very little.

"He's nothing. He's a nothing, he's a lack, he has no essence.

"He's the most important person in his world and what he wants or doesn't want are the only things that drive him, give him purpose. He wants to impinge on people's lives, he has a deep failure to communicate with people, he's such an aberration that people automatically don't like him, don't relate. I think he thought 'By God, I'll make them notice me'. And he did.

"I think because I had such a strong focus on my leg getting better that was pretty much all I was thinking about. I suppose this was denying him his attempt at impacting on my life. And I didn't want to be limp or not be able to do stuff. I have a very full life that I enjoy and in any fashion at all that I was going to get better I'd do it. And I did.

"You have swings. Mostly I enjoy what I'm doing, but you do grieve and you rage and you laugh and you weep on each other's shoulders when you need to do that. But it's great, it's great being alive. It's a very good thing.

"My children were very angry. My son's quite young, he's only 12 and he contained it so long because he wanted to protect me from what he was feeling. But he couldn't. I mean, how can a child know how they should react? He's a lovely, kind, gentle boy and that's one of the things that made me so angry, the impact on my children, the fact that they had to think their Mum almost died - and in this fashion too.

"(It's) outrage. This is Tasmania, this stuff doesn't happen here. One of my reasons for moving here was because it is this fantastic place to bring children up and we have a very good life down here. And this was a total denial of that because of this person's whim.

"Somebody was saying the response time was too slow. A man was walking around saying: 'Why are the ambulances not here? Why aren't the police here yet?' And I thought because this is Tasmania, Sunday afternoon in Tasmania and we don't do this shit.

"I loved that cafe. I was driving to work that morning and it was the first sunny day we'd had for some time, and I was thinking how much I like my life and my work, coming down the hill past the church and all the trees changing color. It was such a good time. And having that blown away, for want of a better expression, for a long time it was 'Where do you go?' It was almost a guilt feeling, why was I as lucky as I was, being alive still and having a good life when so many others don't.

"But having that place now. I tend to almost tune it out. I would be very happy now to see it gone."

''I DON'T FEEL bitterness towards Martin Bryant, I just feel sadness.''

Lesley Kirby was retail manager at Port Arthur. Her husband Mark is a bricklayer there. That Sunday she and the other senior managers were at lunch on their way to a team-building seminar at Swansea when they received the news of the massacre.

They raced back and Lesley went straight to the souvenir shop where she knew two of her staff, Liz Howard and Nicole Burgess, had been killed.

''I just walked in. Straight into the Broad Arrow. And I looked around and I thought 'This isn't happening - this is s.... Who's done this thing?'

"I went over to where I knew Nicole and Liz were, where I knew they'd be somewhere in the gift shop area, straight over to them, and I physically checked to see if they were dead. I thought 'I don't care who's told me. I have to know for myself'. I walked through that shop and I just couldn't believe it.

"I think the saving grace for me was that, having worked on the ambulance, you have the ability to turn off to a certain degree ... and that it wasn't the first time I'd seen blood and gore, though nothing on that scale.

"But I think too, it was my turf, a familiar building. I came back to work on the Wednesday and I went into that building and I cleaned it out, cleared all the stock out and I was there when the police clean-up team came and scrubbed the walls and stripped the carpet and all that stuff. And people said to me 'How can you be here?' I said 'It may sound really stupid, but I'm comfortable there, that's my home turf.'

"I know that building, I know it inside out. It's hard to explain to anyone but it wasn't the building. The evil had gone, the evil went out the gate with him. There was sadness there, but it was my responsibility and I took it very strongly. I wouldn't ask anyone else to do it but it was my building, my area, they were my staff and ... and, you do it. And I felt a lot better having done it. Because I knew if I didn't do it I would never lose this thing, it would never go away.

"When I first went back in that Wednesday, I would walk in and I could picture that scene, I could see it all and I could tell you the injuries on every one of those people. I could still walk in there now and do it.

"Even after those guys had been in there, they'd ripped the carpets out, they'd scrubbed the walls, they'd moved the furniture and it was empty, apart from the gift shop, every time I walked in, just for a split second, the carpet was still there, those poor people were still there. Everything. And that lasted for months.

"I knew I was getting better, or coping with it, when I could walk in and I didn't feel it. I had to do it. I thought if I don't do this I'll never get rid of this baggage.

"It's been harder for Mark. He was 40 feet up on top of that penitentiary in a cherry picker. A little man in a big yellow box and that's a very good target.

"When he first heard the noises he thought it was the gas in the cafe blown. He turned around to start the controls of the machine to get down and as he turned back he saw Bee (Cook) run down the side of the cafe and down beside the buses and, he thought, fall over. He started up the cherry picker, which sounds like a Mack truck, and as he was coming down he could still hear this bang, bang, bang happening and as he looked down he could see the shots skimming off the water.

"Mark still has huge problems over what happened and that's causing problems between us. Where a lot of other people had a partner who wasn't involved, who they could go home and talk to, I didn't have that and neither did Mark. You think I feel really bad and I need to talk to someone but I can't lay it all on him because he's got enough trouble coping with what he's got. And vice versa.

"He has huge sleep pattern problems. He's suffering sleep-deprivation, it's affecting his work. He has concerns about the way he was treated afterwards, by the site, by people he thought were friends and who he felt he could talk to. But people are shy of you, they don't want to talk. Your whole emotional being goes on a roller coaster. And feeling that I don't care, because sometimes I said 'Look I can't talk to you about this, I'm overloaded' 'cos I knew if I took on his troubles I'd go under. And it works both ways.

"We had raging arguments and then there were times we'd be the opposite way, times when we'd tread on egg shells around each other. You're up and down all the time, one minute you're right, the next you're in tears.

"I'll get over it. I'm too pig-headed not to. I won't let Bryant do this to me, I won't give him that control, I won't give him that space in my life. I feel a lot stronger now, I reckon I'm going really well.

"I don't feel bitterness towards Martin Bryant, I just feel sadness. Sadness for the people left behind, because I can see the impact it's had on their lives and on mine. Just sadness. It might sound like a massive understatement, but I really wish it hadn't happened, that these good people hadn't had to go through that and go through what they're still going through. And it's not over. Not over by a long shot."

Those who died at Port Arthur, 28 April 1996

Winifred Joyce Aplin, 58, Banksia Park, SA

Walter John Bennett, 66, Diamond Creek, Victoria

Nicole Louise Burgess, 17, Koonya, Tasmania

Sou Leng Chung, 32, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Elva Rhonda Gaylard, 48, Hamlyn Heights, Victoria

Zoe Anne Hall, 28, Sylvania, NSW

Elizabeth Jayne Howard, 27, Eaglehawk Neck, Tasmania

Mervyn John Howard, 55, Dunnstown, Victoria

Mary Elizabeth Howard, 57, Dunnstown, Victoria

Ronald Noel Jary, 71, Red Cliffs, Victoria

Tony Vadivelu Kistan, 51, Summer Hill, NSW

Leslie Dennis Lever, 53, Red Cliffs, Victoria

Sarah Kate Loughton, 15, Ferntree Gully, Victoria

David Martin, 72, Port Arthur, Tasmania

Noeline Joyce (Sally) Martin, 69, Port Arthur, Tasmania

Pauline Virjeana Masters, 49, West Ivanhoe, Victoria

Nanette Patricia Mikac, 36, Nubeena, Tasmania

Alannah Louise Mikac, 6, Nubeena, Tasmania

Madeline Grace Mikac, 3, Nubeena, Tasmania

Andrew Bruce Mills, 49, Mornington, Tasmania

Peter Brenton Nash, 32, Hoppers Crossing, Victoria

Gwenda Joan Neander, 67, Parafield Gardens, SA

Mo Yee William Ng, 48, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Anthony Nightingale, 44, Keysborough, Victoria

Mary Rose Nixon, 60, Crabtree, Tasmania

Glenn Roy Pears, 35, Neutral Bay, NSW

Mary Rose Nixon, 60, Crabtree, Tasmania

Glenn Roy Pears, 35, Neutral Bay, NSW

Russell James Pollard, 72, Brunswick Heads, NSW

Janette Quinn, 50, Bicheno, Tasmania

Helene Maria Salzmann, 50, Ocean Shores, NSW

Robert Salzmann, 58, Ocean Shores, NSW

Kate Elizabeth Scott, 21, Balga, WA

Kevin Vincent Sharp, 68, Kilmore, Victoria

Raymond John Sharp, 67, Kilmore, Victoria

Royce William Thompson, 59, Kingston Beach, Tasmania

Jason Bernard Winter, 29, New Town, Tasmania

A Brief Outline Of Events, Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, 28 April 1996, http://www.portarthur.org.au/index.aspx?base=2594