‘First step in healing’: Bondi mourns stabbing victims

Chris Minns at Thursday's reopening

Source: ABC News

The Sydney shopping centre where six people died after a “senseless” attack has become a site for solemn reflection as hundreds gathered to mourn those killed inside.

The doors of Westfield Bondi Junction, in the city’s eastern suburbs, reopened to the public on Thursday for the first time since last Saturday’s mass stabbing attack left six dead and more injured.

A sombre crowd formed to leave condolences and bouquets on level four of the silent shopping centre, where shops remained closed until Friday.

Mothers held children close and wiped away tears as they left. Others crossed their chests in prayer as they descended the escalators. Many wore black.

One police officer wore his badge but no uniform as he walked through the centre, his arms linked with another.

At the top of the escalator where the so-called “bollard man” – French construction worker Damien Guerot – confronted the knife-wielding attacker, people queued for coffee.

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Shoppers file into Westfield Bondi Junction on Thursday afternoon. Photo: Getty

Outside Myer, a message from Bondi store manager Samantha Thomas thanked “brave team members, first responders and customers who worked to save lives and keep others safe”.

Behind closed shopfronts, some workers set about returning to normalcy, checking price tags and stock.

A sombre-faced NSW Premier Chris Minns and Police Commissioner Karen Webb walked through the centre before speaking to the media.

“This is an opportunity to get some kind of grieving and to turn the page on what has been a very difficult period,” Minns said.

He praised the community for coming together and described Thursday as “the first step in healing”.

“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,” he said.

“My sense is that the community is strong and united – the best of the state will be on display in the weeks ahead. But that’s not me saying that everything will quickly go back to normal. It’s not going to be the same for a while.”

Minns has indicated stricter knife laws are being considered following the stabbing and the separate attack at a western Sydney church on Monday.

Police Minister Yasmin Catley said the state government would also consider similar laws to those implemented in Queensland to allow officers to use metal detectors without a warrant during searches.

Scentre Group, which owns and operates the shopping centre, said shops would open for business on Friday with an increased police and security presence. There will be normal trading hours, although some shops are expected to remain shut.

Shopping centre tenants’ rent will be waived for the period it has been closed, with staff offered mental health support and counselling.

On Thursday, digital screens at all Westfield locations showed black ribbons.

Security will be increased at all centres in response to the attack.

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Muhammad Taha is recovering in hospital after Saturday’s stabbing attacks. Photo: ABC News

One guard, Faraz Tahir, 30, was among those killed, while fellow security guard, Muhammad Taha, remains in hospital.

The pair, both from Pakistan, showed enormous courage and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said the government will consider extending Taha’s visa to remain in Australia.

Guerot was offered a permanent visa earlier this week.

Friday’s reopening for trade will mark almost a week since 40-year-old Joel Cauchi went on his stabbing spree.

The Queensland man, whose family said he lived with mental illness for decades, was shot dead by a police inspector on level five of the complex.

Six people remain in hospitals across Sydney, with one woman in intensive care in a serious but stable condition, according to NSW Health.

A nine-month-old baby, whose mother Ashlee Good was among five women killed, remains in hospital in a serious but stable condition.

A permanent memorial is being planned near the site and a beachside candlelight vigil will also be held on Sunday.

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-with AAP

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