Port Arthur massacre a defining moment for Claire Braund (& WOB) 25 years ago

3/05/2021
Claire Braund was at a brunch for women in journalism in Hobart 25 years ago, when she took a call she will never forget.
 

The boss was on the phone, telling her to come into the office immediately.

"All of a sudden, I noticed everyone else around the room starting to get similar calls … everyone put their champagne glasses down," Ms Braund said.

"It was just a mass exodus because we all obviously had the same call."

That call was alerting them to an unfolding situation at Port Arthur, in the island's south-east corner, that would come to be known as the Port Arthur massacre.

She described the days that followed as defining the rest of her life, as she left journalism and eventually set up Women on Boards, which works to address gender inequality in boardrooms and across leadership roles.

"I'll never forget where I was on that really terrible day that we went through in Tasmania," she said.

"It was just a mass exodus because we all obviously had the same call."
That call was alerting them to an unfolding situation at Port Arthur, in the island's south-east corner, that would come to be known as the Port Arthur massacre.

She described the days that followed as defining the rest of her life, as she left journalism and eventually set up Women on Boards, which works to address gender inequality in boardrooms and across leadership roles.

"I'll never forget where I was on that really terrible day that we went through in Tasmania," she said.
"It was a defining moment, I think particularly in a young person's life and I was young, I was 25 at the time.

Hourly press conferences as death toll rose

"Every hour, for 11 press conferences, it just went up and went up and went up until it hit 35 and it was just one of those extraordinary nights."

She then went north of the Port Arthur historic site, where a siege was underway.

"There was flashes of gunfire... there was all this kind of stuff going on, so it was a really surreal time."

In the days that followed she was among the first group of journalists allowed into the Port Arthur site and interviewed a survivor of the shooting at the café.

Peter Crosswell was shot as he threw himself over two nuns to protect them and then got them out of the café and hid them in the woods before returning to try to try to help others.

'Defining moment'

Claire, who grew up at Ebor in northern NSW, stayed in Tasmania long enough to cover the ensuing gun control reforms but the tragedy made her realise she wanted to be closer to family in NSW.

"I was a long way from people who mattered in my life," she said.

"Sure, I had some great friends down there but in the end, I was a long way from people who really counted and people who really mattered for me and so I made the decision to come back."

She co-founded Women on Boards in 2006 out of a desire to see the structure and governance of organisations better reflect the society they serve.

"My purpose in life is actually to help others," she said.

"I mean, I will never help people the way that survivor helped those two nuns and then went to put himself effectively back in danger.

"But I think one of the great lessons that you learn from seeing something like that is what you can do, and how you want to live your life.

"I think it's at those big moments that you evaluate your life and think: 'What matters to me, and what do I want to do with it?'"

This article has bee reproduced from ABC News.  See the original article online here
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