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Port Arthur Massacre - Stay at Home Mum

Port Arthur Massacre

5 min read
Port Arthur Massacre

Many thousands of visitors flock to the historic site of Port Arthur in the south of Tasmania. Sunday 28th April 1996 was no different and at lunchtime, the Broad Arrow café was filled with families and tourists alike, enjoying a day out. Hobart resident, Martin Bryant was one of the café’s patrons that day, and after having ordered and eaten a large lunch, he pulled out of his bag a semi-automatic rifle and started shooting indiscriminately. In just fifteen seconds, seventeen shots had been fired, twelve people were dead and a further ten lay injured and helpless.

What no one realised at this stage, was that these innocents were not his first victims. He had previously called at the home of a local couple he was acquainted with, and short and killed them both. After the rampage at the café, in which a total of twenty people died, he then proceeded to a nearby car park, where he shot and killed a further four, injuring a number of others. He then wandered the historic site randomly shooting people before getting into his car and heading up the former main entrance road where he ended the lives of seven more, before stealing one of his victim’s cars and abandoning his own.

Outside the general store, he killed another seven before taking a hostage for the drive back to the scene of his first shootings, firing randomly at vehicles along the way. Back at the house, he set fire to the car and took his hostage inside. By this time, Police were on the scene and throughout that afternoon and night he continued to fire at them. Eventually after killing his hostage and setting fire to the house, he was arrested as he fled the burning building.

Initially pleading not guilty to seventy-two charges including thirty-five of murder, he later changed his plea to guilty, and was subsequently sentenced to life without parole in Tasmania’s Risdon Jail, where he remains today.

MARTIN BRYANT image credit: Dark Documentries
MARTIN BRYANT image credit: Dark Documentries

Described as a loner with below average IQ, Martyn Bryant is remembered as appearing totally isolated in his own little world. Even when confronted with traumatic or dangerous situations, he showed a complete lack of emotion. His father’s suicide was a case in point, where he was happily assisting searchers involved in looking for the body, with no apparent distress or concern for the loss of his father. When a suicide note was found along with other evidence the death was ruled self-inflicted, however, some at the scene regarded Martyn Bryant as knowing far more than he was letting on.

Perhaps due to this strange detached behaviour, he was often bullied and as he grew, his own actions became more cruel and bizarre. Neighbours would describe how he would throw rocks at their children, cut down trees, untie boats from their mooring and destroy fruit trees and vegetable gardens. He later became obsessed with firearms and would take pot shots at tourists who stopped at the apple stand near the front gate of the rural property he then lived.

Unable to sustain any normal kind of relationship he would hire prostitutes instead, although several who visited him refused to go back as they found him to be too creepy.

Actions by Martin Bryant in the months before the massacre suggest that the whole scenario was planned in advance, and that he carried it out with ‘cold, calculating precision’. He was able to purchase several military style weapons from a Hobart gun dealer without any form of licensing. When this fact was made public it created a huge uproar.

Overnight, the media was inundated with large numbers of private citizens demanding that Australia’s gun laws be urgently reviewed. Politicians had no choice but to support, and discussion began on a new set of national gun laws which included a total ban on all semi-automatic weapons.

Despite vehement protesting from several pro-gun lobby groups who felt that the laws would not stop the so called ‘lunatic fringe’ and would only serve to restrict decent law abiding citizens, sweeping reforms on gun ownership in Australia were implemented, including bans on importation and sale of most military style semi-automatic weapons.

A memorial garden and pool now stands alongside the ruins of the Broad Arrow Café, a place of quiet reflection on the senseless deaths of so many innocent people.

The garden memorial at Port Arthur Broad Arrow Tavern. image credit: Port Arthur Historic Sites
The garden memorial at Port Arthur Broad Arrow Tavern. image credit: Port Arthur Historic Sites

This tragedy is one of those where I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when this happened. Do you remember too?

Do you think that buying back and banning guns was the right action for our government to take in response to this event?





Jody Allen
About Author

Jody Allen

Jody Allen is the founder of Stay at Home Mum. Jody is a five-time published author with Penguin Random House and is the current Suzuki Queensland Amb...Read Moreassador. Read Less

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