Cairns tragedy: Police and emergency responders offered counselling

17/07/2019 Posted by admin

State Emergency Service volunteers on the scene. Photo: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images Police on the scene of the mass killing in Cairns. Photo: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Police and emergency services personnel meet on Monday in the aftermath of the killing of eight children in Cairns. Photo: Edwina Pickles

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The outpouring of grief in the wake of last week’s alleged murder of eight children in Cairns has been laid bare for all to see.

However, the police and emergency responders who were there in the initial aftermath of the deaths and the subsequent events have shown a calm resilience.

But Deputy Police Commissioner Brett Pointing said, underneath that stoicism, those responders would all eventually have to face the sad reality of the situation.

The bodies of eight children – four girls, aged two, 11, 12 and 14, and four boys aged five, six, eight and nine – were killed in the west Cairns suburb on Manoora on Friday morning.

Raina Mersane Ina Thaiday, the mother of seven of them and the aunty of the 14-year-old girl, has been charged with their murder.

Ms Thaiday, 37, also known as Mersane Warria, remains under police guard in the Cairns Base Hospital recovering from knife wounds.

Mr Pointing flew from Brisbane to Cairns on Monday to debrief emergency responders at the city’s main police station.

Those responders included police officers, State Emergency Service volunteers and police liaison officers.

Mr Pointing said even the most hardened officers would have been unprepared for the scene that awaited them at 34 Murray Street, Manoora.

“I don’t think you can ever prepare someone for a job of this magnitude,” he said.

“We do see a lot through our careers, but this one is really up there with some of the worst events that our people have been subject to.

“Young children that have had their lives cut short I think resonates with everyone and I don’t know how you can prepare people for that.”

Mr Pointing said while police were by nature resilient, they were “not bullet-proof” and would bear the scars of the horrific events in Cairns.

“I think, like everyone, they’re asking those big questions – ‘why?’,” he said.

“How could this happen?

“Police are only human. They have families themselves and whilst they are incredibly resilient, we’re going to work with them very, very closely to make sure they get through this in good shape as well.

“It’s happened at the worst time. It’s a time when all of us should be celebrating family, should be taking advantage of the school holidays and spending time with their kids.

“They should be celebrating each others’ company and celebrating life, not grieving the loss of life.”

Mr Pointing said the effort from everyone involved in the investigation had been “nothing short of phenomenal” in incredibly trying circumstances.

“I think we all know police and emergency services workers, as part of their job, see things from time to time that no human being should have to see and they do things that no human being should have to do,” he said.

Mr Pointing said the last three days had “felt like three weeks” for many involved in the investigation.

“It almost feels like it’s been unrolling in slow motion,” he said.

“So much has happened in the last three days and when you walk amongst the police you see they’re tired and many of them have put up an incredible effort over the last three days.”

Mr Pointing said there were internal mechanisms to support police, but acknowledged that might not be enough.

“We do tell our people – and this is very important – that whilst you can have all the support mechanisms, the greatest support comes from family and friends,” he said.

“We’ll be encouraging that to take place over the coming days, weeks and months.”

Mr Pointing said police would work with the local community to assist locals going through the grieving and healing process.

Acting Premier Tim Nicholls said more than 220 police had been involved in the case, many of whom had come from other cities to assist.

“Ambulance officers were among the first responders and we thank them for the caring way they have carried out their work,” he said.

“There are also numerous social service organisations at work in the community, from the Salvation Army keeping the barbecue going at the drop-in centre, to other church groups, Uniting Care Community and our own Department of Communities staff.

“They have all played a vital role and I want to offer them my heartfelt thanks.”

People in distress can telephone Lifeline on 13 14 11.

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