By Paul McKenzie
15 December 2015, I was at a funeral with friends, of a friend, who daughter lost her life to cancer. A friend of mine during the funeral received frantic text messages her phone, which she told us, “There is a gun siege at Martin Place in Sydney – O My God, my husband works in the MLC Centre next door”. Her husband on the phone to her, on his way out of the MLC building, going straight home to work. He was lucky, not so for the Lindt Café store manager Tori Johnson and Sydney Lawyer, mother of three daughters, Katrina Dawson, who dropped into Lindt Café for a hot chocolate. After a 16-hour standoff with hostages, held by Man Haron Monis, a gunshot was heard from inside and police officers from the Tactical Operations Unit stormed the café.
The Sydney Martin Place Siege saw a pouring of united condolences and solidarity from all peoples, walks of life, background and religions, to pay respects to Tori Johnson, Katrina Dawson and their families. Thousands of people pouring flowers and tributes, also giving thanks to the New South Wales Police Tactical Operations that end the siege, preventing more deaths, that had Sydney and the nation in fear for 16 hours. Right opposite the Lindt Café, is Sydney’s Channel 7, which was turned into the Martin Place Siege emergency centre, with extra duties given to Channel 7 studio in other capital cities, all doing their bit during the siege crisis. A few months later, Channel 7 won the TV Week Logies Award, for the best new coverage of the year, which Channel 7 dedicated the award to the lives of Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson.
We can never, forget during that time, we were sharing of grief for the Sydney Martin Place Siege, but also unfolded, was the Peshawar School siege in Pakistan, that killed 141 people. While the tributes were going on for Sydney in Martin Place, Hyde Park Sydney was turned into a night vigil for the Peshawar School siege. Never forget that Peshawar School night vigil in Hyde Park, I got talking to relatives, who lost a nephew or a niece, who was going to that school. Parent at Peshawar dropped them off as a normal school day, only to pick up their dead kids, after that also horrible siege. There was also new report that night, over 150 women were killed in Iraq, defying sex slave orders. All three events, bringing the world into global hysteria on terrorism, especially on the few days close to Christmas, with other religions Jews, Muslims, Hindus, also having had religious festivities recently.
Sydney lawyer Katrina Dawson, who died from the Sydney Martin Place Siege, having a legacy of charity and noble deeds, that got Sydney talking, 12 months on from the Siege. The Recent Sydney Morning Herald headline “Katrina Dawson’s legacy – creating something positive out of horror”. Her brother, well-known barrister Sandy Dawson, and her husband, Paul Smith, have taken on the formidable task of baking her children’s birthday cakes. The Katrina Dawson Foundation has been set up, providing scholarships to Sydney University Women’s College in January 2016. The scholarships are for young women who are financially restrained from pursuing their dreams. The foundation collaborates with Macquarie Group for a third scholarship, which includes potential for an internship and mentorship.
One of the first to receive a fellowship, Ngaree Blow, is studying a Doctor of Medicine at Melbourne University and wants to work in the field of improving the health of Indigenous Australians.
For the first anniversary of the Sydney Martin Place Siege, Premier Mike Baird organised a
twilight public ceremony with light projections and music. “This is an important opportunity to mark one year since the traumatic events of the Martin Place siege,” the NSW Premier Mike Baird said. “It will be an understated public ceremony to remember victims and survivors, and to recognise the response and resilience of a community that refused, and refuses yet, to be divided by those who wish to cause harm”.