Yesterday morning a nation listened in disbelief to the news that a gunman had taken several hostages at a popular café in Sydney’s Martin Place. Today we awake to the news that after 16-hours, the siege is over, with two hostages and their captor dead.
At 9.45am on 15 December, the popular Lindt café in Martin Place was as busy as always, with staff from nearby offices and tourists all keen to get their coffee hit before starting their day. Iranian cleric, Man Haron Monis, a 50-year-old man granted political asylum in Australia, stormed the café taking 17 people and staff hostage.
Throughout the day we watched, waiting for some resolution and at about 3.30pm, three men ran free. About an hour and a half later, two female members of staff ran out and we hoped that there would be more. But after several long hours, the siege ended at 2am in a way we didn’t want. Five hostages ran from the building just before armed troops stormed the café. Explosions and gunfire were heard, and while we don’t know what happened inside, we do know that a 34-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman lost their lives, a policeman was shot and four hostages were taken to hospital. Man Haron Monis was also shot dead.
At this time we can only guess at the motivation for the actions of Man Haron Monis. What is known is that authorities were well-acquainted with Man Haron Monis, who has had a history of run-ins with law enforcement during his time in Australia. Man Haron Monis’s ex-wife was allegedly stabbed and set alight in the stairwell of her apartment building, and his current partner was charged with her murder, and Monis as an accessory. In March this year he was charged with over 50 sexual offences dating back to 2002. These offences include the sexual abuse of a young woman who had visited the cleric after seeing an advertisement for spiritual healing. It is believed that on Friday he lost a high court appeal against his conviction for sending offensive letters to families of Australian soldiers who had died in Iraq and Afghanistan. This may have triggered his actions.
NSW Premier Mike Baird addressed the press this morning, speaking with “the heaviest of hearts”, “Unbelievably overnight we have lost some of our own in an attack we never thought we would see here in our city,” Mr Baird said.
“In the past 24 hours this city has been shaken by a tragedy that none of us could have ever imagined.
“Today we must come together as never before. We are stronger together. We will get through this. We will get through this.
“The events that we have seen have shaken us, but they do not dampen our resolve.”
Over the coming days and weeks we will hear much of Man Haron Monis, what motivated his attack and how truly vile he was as an individual. But let us not forget those who lived through this 16-hour siege and the two who tragically didn’t. In his actions of 15 December, Man Haron Monis sought to change the way Australians live their lives. If we let him, he has won. Instead we should embrace what makes us Australian and grieve as a nation for those who have lost their lives and vow to be strong for those whose lives have changed forever following yesterday’s events.