Hidden human toll of the Bourke St massacre continues to be felt

Published by the Herald Sun on 4 September 2019.

The hidden human toll of the Bourke St tragedy has been revealed with at least 22 people still unable to return to work.

Among them are at least three victims with severe physical injuries, whose lives will never be the same, and the rest are seriously mentally scarred.

And the Herald Sun can also reveal 27 police officers involved on the day had to take time off following the horrific massacre, with at least two resigning from the force.

Killer James Gargasoulas was jailed for 46 years after committing one of Victoria’s worst examples of mass murder that took only minutes to do but ruined lives forever.

He has never shown any remorse and is reported to be enjoying life behind bars watching television, listening to music and getting visits from family and friends.

Meanwhile, WorkSafe has revealed the ongoing toll for victims, police and witnesses with 114 compensation claims including 22 people who cannot return to work two years on and two who lost loved ones in the rampage.

Victim Support Minister Ben Carroll said it was a horrific massacre and those injured and their families would continue to receive support.

“This was an unspeakable tragedy — six innocent people lost their lives and so many others will remember it for the rest of their lives and our thoughts are with them,” he said.

Police Association Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt said many officers had found themselves struggling in the years following the incident.

“For those police who attended the scene, tended to victims, helped devastated families on the day and in the aftermath and who worked in any number of challenging and traumatic roles that day, January 20, 2017 is a day that will never leave their memory,” he said.

“There are a number of members who are not working now because of what happened on that terrible day. We have and will continue to support them in any way we can.”

The handling of Gargasoulas by authorities in the week before his violent car rampage will be heavily scrutinised six-week coronial inquest later this year at which some impacted police may be called as witnesses.

In total, government agencies have paid out $13.1 million to support people affected by the tragedy including $6.54 million from WorkSafe.

This includes $2.1 million in medical expenses and $1.1 million in death, dependency and rehabilitation payouts.

TAC paid $6.6 million for deaths, funerals, rehabilitation and medical costs.

A further $1.6 million was given from the Bourke St Fund, which was created from government, corporate and public donations and dispersed to victims through a special panel.

A WorkSafe spokesman said the massacre would impact many people for years to come.

“This horrific tragedy is still affecting the lives of many people in a variety of ways.” he said.

“WorkSafe continues to work closely with the TAC and the Victims Support Agency to do everything possible to provide the victims and their families with the assistance and care they need.”

“Support is being provided by WorkSafe to the bereaved families of the workers who died in this incident and the many workers physically injured, or affected by what they saw.”