A group of Koori Elders arrived at Martin Place today to conduct a smoking ceremony – a traditional cleansing ritual – at the flower laden pedestrian thoroughfare in tribute to 38-year-old mother Katrina Dawson and 34-year-old cafe manager Tori Johnson who were killed in the final and 16th hour of the siege.
Close to 10.00am on Monday, self-proclaimed Muslim cleric Man Haron Monis took 17 people hostage in a Lindt Chocolat Cafe armed with a shawn-off shotgun. Monis died as the siege came to an end and several of the hostages were taken to hospital injured but in stable conditions.
“When we're doing ceremony, it's about healing the spirit and that's the most important thing – it is about healing those people that went down in that siege,” said Yuen Elder Max Dulumunmun Harrison.
A smoking ceremony was organised by the Wyanga Aboriginal Aged Care Program in Redfern and led by Elders Max Eulo and Max Dulumunmun Harrison.
"We're on Gadigal country here,” said Wyanga chairperson Norma Ingram. “The Gadigal have nurtured these lands for thousands of generations and where we are now is such a special place."
Many members of the Indigenous community came to attend the ceremony including students and leaders from the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, a support organisation for Indigenous students at the University of Technology, Sydney.
”We want to be able to pay our respects and acknowledge and show our support of the spirits, the families that have been impacted by that, and try and hope to give some comfort to them,” said Margret Campbell, a Dunghutti Elder.
The cafe is currently sealed off, however Elders said there were plans to hold a smoking ceremony inside it in the future.
“This one incident has been able to bring so many people from all different nationalities from all different religious backgrounds together to say certainly for the people we've lost… our heart goes out to their families," said Ingram.
With Andrea Booth.