Thursday, 6 February 2020
Abdallah, Antony, Abdallah, Angelina, Abdallah, Sienna, Sakr, Veronique
The universe of an untold number of people were forever changed on 1 February, none so more than the families of four innocent children—Antony, Angelina and Sienna Abdallah and Veronique Sakr and others who were injured. These deaths were senseless, unjust and avoidable. In the face of such an abomination, there is grief, anger and regret throughout the community. It is an unimaginable tragedy that has affected everyone who has heard it, the news of which has spread throughout Sydney and across the other side of the world.
People who do not even know the affected families personally are finding it hard to comprehend and accept this loss, so we wonder how on earth will the parents, the siblings, the cousins, the aunts, the uncles and grandparents of those children cope? We don't know the answer to that and we probably never will. But what has stood out is the dignity and faith of those families, of Leila Abdallah, who, in the face of all this, refuses to succumb to hate; of Daniel Abdulla, who, in spite of all his pain used a phrase I have never heard before that encapsulated—I think—that he is the best dad he can be by saying he saw himself as a full-time father, part-time worker; of Bridget and Bob, whose words were of appreciation of the support they had received while advising us to remember to enjoy our lives. What incredible human beings. You really are the best of us.
Not that you need my reassurance, not that my words today will bring back your angels, not that anything I or anyone else can do will switch off your pain but I say this in the people's House in the centre of Australia's democracy: we are with you and we pray for you. We pray in churches, we pray at memorials, workers pray at construction sites, observing a respectful minute's silence for these children. We thank you and we honour you for setting the example of what we should all strive to be.
In subtle ways that you'll never know, you and your children have changed so many strangers, including myself. We have witnessed from this horror families actually being drawn together, reminding us of how precious our time is on this earth together. The faith of those around you has also been strengthened, particularly for those in the Maronite community within and beyond Sydney, and it is one of the reasons I am proud to wear both the Australian and Lebanese flags in this chamber honouring the family of my husband of Lebanese heritage.
We grieve because we hope that some of our grief will help mitigate some of your loss. We pray because we have faith too. The next days ahead, the years ahead, the life ahead will be so difficult but may our Lord and saviour greet your four angels. May they watch over you for all your days with eternal love.