Euroa couple’s trip to Christchurch turns to panic

By Tara Whitsed

A Goulburn Valley couple was at the coalface of New Zealand’s Christchurch massacre that resulted in the death of more than 50 people on Friday last week.

Barb Hinchcliffe, from Bannockburn, said she had been travelling on a cruise with Euroa couple Chris and David Blackie when they stopped for a bus trip to Christchurch on Friday.

‘‘We had gone for a day trip to Christchurch off the boat,’’ Mrs Hinchcliffe said and explained the drive was about a 90-minute drive from the moored boat.

She said she, her husband Ian and the Blackies had spent a lovely day walking around the city.

‘‘We were feeling sorry because of all the damage that’s still there from the earthquake (last year),’’ Mrs Hinchcliffe said.

It was about 2pm when the couples decided to sit down for a coffee, just one hour before they were due to catch the bus back to the boat.

‘‘The sirens started going and there were police and ambulances everywhere and we thought this was not looking good; not even dreaming of what had actually happened,’’ Mrs Hinchcliffe said.

‘‘The lady from the café said ‘you need to come inside, we need to lock the doors, there’s a shooter on the run’; we had to go inside.’’

But with not much time before their bus departed from the city, the couple desperately pleaded with the cafe worker to let them out.

Luckily the travellers were able to get back on their bus and out of the city, but they had received news of what had happened in the meantime.

‘‘We knew what had gone on, but didn’t know how bad it was,’’ Mrs Hinchcliffe said.

‘‘I think we felt worse when we got back to the cruise ship; not everyone went to Christchurch, so we had strangers wrapping their arms around us.’’

She said they felt lucky they had not been more involved, but were emotional, particularly feeling for the New Zealanders.

‘‘We felt so sad for them and so sorry for them,’’ she said.

‘‘They’re just getting their lives back together.’’

The Shepparton community threw its support behind Christchurch, particularly during Saturday evening’s Converge on the Goulburn event.

Dami Singh, known as ‘‘Mr Sheppy’’, said he would donate all his takings from the evening to support the victims of the massacre as well as food van Hijack’d.

Shepparton Festival creative director Jamie Lea said it was incredibly selfless and generous for them to do so.

‘‘My heart broke at the news, but explodes knowing there’s people in our community like that,’’ she said.

Hijack’d co-owner Betul Tuna said Converge was the perfect event to do so.

‘‘We just thought this is the perfect event — Converge is a multicultural event and us being members of the multicultural community, we felt like we should,’’ she said.

Ms Tuna said the massacre felt close to home, but for the Islamic community this was something that happened every day across the world.

‘‘We all knew this was coming — we’d been screaming it out for a long time,’’ she said.

‘‘For younger leaders in this sector in Shepparton, our response was one — we knew this was coming, and two — we need to do something about it,’’ she said.

‘‘The same systems, the same mentality and the same privilege that created people like Osama Bin Laden... the same systems that created that form of terrorism created this form as well.

‘‘We’re a victim from that side and we’re a victim from this side.’’

The incident also prompted floral donations to be laid at Shepparton’s Albanian mosque.