Bondi Junction stabbings: Hush falls over Sydney as community tries to heal after devastating attack

Headshot of Sarah Blake
Sarah Blake
The Nightly
5 Min Read
Flower bouquets are seen at a memorial set up inside the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre as part of the community’s reflection day.
Flower bouquets are seen at a memorial set up inside the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre as part of the community’s reflection day. Credit: SM/AAPIMAGE

It was with an immensely moving quiet and sense of calm that Westfield Bondi Junction reopened its doors to the public on Thursday morning.

Standing in stark opposition to the chaos of Saturday afternoon, when desperate screams, emergency sirens and the racing thud of fleeing shoppers had followed Joel Cauchi’s stabbing frenzy, the day of reflection was a fitting first step for a city desperate to begin healing.

Tears flowed freely as the doors slid open at 11am and the first few dozen people entered in complete silence, many of them hugging as they lined up to sign a condolence book beside a white floral tribute that grew throughout the morning.

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Most wore small black ribbons to remember the victims: new mother Ash Good; architect and mother-of-two Jade Young; Chinese national Yixuan Cheng; Dawn Singleton, the daughter of millionaire businessman John Singleton; artist Pikria Darchia; and security guard Faraz Tahir.

The crowd comprised sombre dignitaries, shattered store workers, friends and family of the fallen, Lifeline workers and counsellors from the Salvation Army and Red Cross.

Hazel Stein poses for a photograph whilst visiting the floral tributes at Bondi Junction following a tragic knife attack in Sydney, Thursday, April 18, 2024.
Hazel Stein poses for a photograph whilst visiting the floral tributes at Bondi Junction following a tragic knife attack in Sydney, Thursday, April 18, 2024. Credit: Bianca De Marchi/AAPIMAGE
Members of the public lay flower tributes at the edge of Westfield Bondi Junction during a day of reflection on April 18, 2024 in Bondi Junction, Australia.
Members of the public lay flower tributes at the edge of Westfield Bondi Junction during a day of reflection on April 18, 2024 in Bondi Junction, Australia. Credit: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

The shops at the centre remained closed for the solemn event but most are set to reopen on Friday.

Mother-of-four Tzippy Clifford, 38, hugged her wriggling daughter Lucia and said she attended the day of reflection ahead of her first shift back at the Lorna Jane store on Friday in order to try ready herself emotionally.

“I wasn’t here when it happened, but I was here earlier on Saturday and it was busy because it was the first day of the school holidays,” she said.

“I come here almost every day.

“You can’t help but think of those poor women.

“It just makes you think it could have been you, it could have been any of us.”

NSW Premier Chris Minns said the people of the State owed “a huge debt of gratitude” to those who had helped to save lives, from ordinary members of the public to police and emergency workers.

NSW Premier Chris Minns (L), and NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb sign a condolence book whilst visiting a memorial to the victims who lost their lives in Saturday's knife attack at Westfield Bondi Junction on April 18, 2024, in Bondi Junction, Australia.
NSW Premier Chris Minns (L), and NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb sign a condolence book whilst visiting a memorial to the victims who lost their lives in Saturday's knife attack at Westfield Bondi Junction on April 18, 2024, in Bondi Junction, Australia. Credit: Bianca di Marchi/Getty Images
People lay down flowers at a memorial set up inside the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre as part of the community’s reflection day in Bondi, Sydney, Thursday, April 18, 2024.
People lay down flowers at a memorial set up inside the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre as part of the community’s reflection day in Bondi, Sydney, Thursday, April 18, 2024. Credit: SMH Pool, Dion Georgopoulos/AAPIMAGE

He said it had “been a terrible week for NSW”, with the stabbing followed two days later by an alleged terror-inspired attack at a western Sydney church, and that reopening the Westfield was an important first step.

“It is not back to normal for Sydney, but this is an opportunity to get some kind of grieving and to turn the page on what has been a very difficult period,” Mr Minns said.

He also urged people to attend a candlelit vigil planned for Sunday night at Bondi beach.

“Show the community solidarity and send a massive message to the six families who have lost loved ones that we are thinking of them, we care for them and we want them to get through this together,” he said.

“There has been, in the midst of so much violence and anxiety in the community, an overwhelming public response to the suffering of those families and it is wonderful to see that we are a community that can come together, that we are a community that can stand together in difficult periods, and show that grief is universal when it is felt by one family, one individual.”

Members of the public pay their respects at the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre during a day of reflection on April 18, 2024 in Bondi Junction, Australia.
Members of the public pay their respects at the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre during a day of reflection on April 18, 2024 in Bondi Junction, Australia. Credit: Dion Georgopoulos/Getty Images
Members of the public line up to visit the memorial at the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre during a day of reflection on April 18, 2024, in Bondi Junction, Australia.
Members of the public line up to visit the memorial at the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre during a day of reflection on April 18, 2024, in Bondi Junction, Australia. Credit: Dion Georgopoulos/Getty Images

It was hoped the reopening would mark a beginning for the healing process, said Kellie Sloane, the State member for Vaucluse, who was visiting with NSW Opposition Leader Mark Speakman.

“This place is at the heart of our community,” she told The Nightly.

“It’s where we come to shop, to buy birthday presents and gather with our friends, which many were doing on Saturday when this horror unfolded.

“We hope that by being here today and having this gentle, quiet reopening, it gives people a chance to begin to recover and to heal.”

Richard Shields, Kellie Sloan, Australian Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and Senator Andrew Bragg lay flower tributes at the edge of Westfield Bondi Junction during a day of reflection on April 18, 2024 in Bondi Junction, Australia.
Richard Shields, Kellie Sloan, Australian Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and Senator Andrew Bragg lay flower tributes at the edge of Westfield Bondi Junction during a day of reflection on April 18, 2024 in Bondi Junction, Australia. Credit: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said it would help bring the community together.

“A unifying process must happen for our country after a period of grief and horror like this,” Mr Dutton said.

For Bondi Junction GP Trevor Tingate, the events of Saturday brought back uncomfortable memories of the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, when he was working as a doctor at a hospital in Hobart.

Dr Tingate was just outside the doors of the centre on Saturday afternoon when Cauci’s attack began and had offered to help, but he was not been allowed by police to enter the shopping centre.

“I understand why they said I couldn’t come in, but ... I would have liked to have been able to help,” he told The Nightly.

Dr Tingate said he had not yet been contacted by any patients seeking treatment for stress, but he expected this to change in the coming days.

“It reminds me of what it was like (in Tasmania), People are shaken, they feel unsettled, they don’t feel safe,” he said.

“This is a big thing to have happened here.

“I think it will be a long time before people are able to move on from it.”

Returning to the centre on Thursday for the day of reflection, Dr Tingate said it was a “weird” feeling to be back there.

“I know so many people who work here, because of my work, and some of them don’t want to come back to work tomorrow,” he said.

People leave floral tributes for the victims of the stabbing attack at the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre in Sydney, Wednesday, April 17, 2024.
People leave floral tributes for the victims of the stabbing attack at the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre in Sydney, Wednesday, April 17, 2024. Credit: Flavio Brancaleone/AAPIMAGE

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed that another hero of Saturday’s attacks would be rewarded with the offer of a permanent home in Australia in what he termed “a bit of light in amongst the darkness”.

Following Tuesday’s announcement that a Frenchman dubbed “bollard man” who held back Cauci on an escalator would be offered the chance to stay, Mr Albanese said the same would be offered to security guard Muhammad Taha, who was taken to hospital after being stabbed by a knifeman.

“Muhammad Taha, he confronted this guy, the perpetrator, Joel Cauchi, on Saturday. And it just shows extraordinary courage,” Mr Albanese said.

“These are people who were putting ... themselves in danger in order to protect Australians they didn’t know, just people going about, doing their shopping.

“That’s the sort of courage that we want to say thank you to, frankly.

“It’s a bit of light in amongst the darkness that you saw these extraordinary acts.”

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

Young people seeking support can phone beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or go to headspace.org.au.

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