Call for kindness as Sydney mall reopens after tragedy

Sam McKeith and Samantha Lock |

The Bondi Junction retail centre has opened for shopping for the first time since Saturday’s attack.
The Bondi Junction retail centre has opened for shopping for the first time since Saturday’s attack.

Sydney shoppers returning to the scene of a deadly mass stabbing at a busy retail centre are being urged to be “kind and gentle” to potentially traumatised workers as trade resumes.

The Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre reopened for business on Friday morning for the first time in nearly a week following a mass stabbing attack that left six people dead and around a dozen seriously injured.

Queensland man Joel Cauchi, 40, who had a long history of mental-health issues, was shot dead at the scene by a police inspector after carrying out the country’s worst mass killing in recent years.

Ahead of trade resuming after the Saturday afternoon attack, NSW Industrial Relations Minister Sophie Cotsis urged shoppers to be considerate of workers still reeling from the tragedy.

“The retail workers are serving hundreds of people – remember to be kind and gentle and compassionate,” she told Sydney radio 2GB.

“I don’t want to hear that these workers are being asked many times to re-live their trauma, we’ve got to be sensitive to that.”

A support package, including mental-health assistance, will be available to affected workers, while various services are providing help to members of the broader community.

Mental health support workers at Bondi Junction
Mental health support workers will be available at the Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

There will be a bolstered police and security presence on Friday as well as counselling services at the site, where a large floral tribute has continued to grow since the massacre.

Investigators are still probing what motivated Cauchi to carry out the attack, including the possibility he deliberately targeted women – who made up the majority of the victims.

There have been calls to designate the attack an act of terrorism – similar to the designation given to the non-fatal stabbing of a Bishop in a western Sydney church on Monday – if authorities find it was driven by a hatred of women.

When asked if targeting women could be made a terrorism offence, federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus downplayed the suggestion and instead pointed to the need for men to “step up” to deal with the scourge of violence.

“I think we can talk about violence against women without blurring lines into something else,” he told ABC Radio.

Five of the six people killed in the Bondi stabbing were women, while the sole man who died was a security guard at the shopping centre.

On Thursday, hundreds of people gathered to pay their respects to those affected by the attack, adding their condolences and bouquets at the mall.

Premier Chris Minns described the day of reflection as “the first step in healing”.

Six people injured in the attack remain in hospital, including a nine-month-old baby girl whose mother was killed in the attack.

She was moved from intensive care earlier in the week and is recovering in a ward in a serious but stable condition.

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said those in hospital had experienced “very, very significant injuries” and it was a miracle they had survived the attack.

The state government is considering stricter knife laws following the Bondi stabbing and the non-fatal attack on a bishop at a western Sydney church.

Security officers at Westfield Bondi Junction.
A bolstered police and security presence is at Westfield Bondi Junction after it reopened. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

All aspects of the Westfield killings, including knife laws, would be looked at as part of a major coronial investigation and government review following the tragedy, Mr Park told ABC Radio.

“But we do have to remember that people sometimes carry out behaviour that is highly unpredictable and this was one of those cases that had terrifying consequences,” he said.

A candlelight vigil at nearby Bondi Beach will be held on Sunday evening, including a minute’s silence to honour victims.