Before Sunday 28 April, 1996, the Port Arthur historic site south of Hobart had its own murky history – of convicts and hard labour, prisons and asylums, and economic hardship.
Still, the World Heritage Site’s natural and built beauty drew tourists from around the country and across the world.
From this pool of curious visitors, local man Martin Bryant chose his victims that Sunday, using a military-style firearm to shoot dead 35 people and severely injure 23 more.
His youngest victim was 3, and his eldest over 70.
The subsequent gun laws that came into force significantly reduced the number of guns in the country, and the number of gun-related deaths dropped from around 600 per year, to 230 in 2014.
Almost a quarter of the current population have never known a time where high-powered firearms were readily available, and many more would not remember when they were.
On the 20th anniversary of this dark spot in Australia’s history, a look back at how the events of that day unfolded and their lasting impact over the years since.
Sunday 28 April, 1996
One of the world’s worst massacres perpetrated by a single gunman mostly unfolded within the space of just 45 minutes.
Bryant, who struggled with mental health issues, loneliness and had suffered a number of traumatic losses in the weeks before the incident, planned carefully.
The interactive map below shows the trajectory of his actions across the 24 hours his attack lasted.
Fallout: Gun control
The gun laws brought in during the immediate aftermath of Port Arthur dramatically changed who could access those weapons, and which ones were available; almost all semi-automatic and automatic guns would not be legally-available to the general public again.
The timeline below outlines the swift actions of the Howard government to enact these changes across all states and territories, and some of the major developments after the massacre.
Gun users and proponents – farmers, recreational shooters and hunters – argued the laws unfairly restricted their access to firearms they use responsibly, often for work, and portrayed them as criminals.
Undeniably, the laws had a lasting impact significantly reducing the number of gun-related deaths in Australia. There has never been a mass-shooting like Port Arthur since.
A memorial for the victims and families of the Port Arthur massacre will be held at the historic site and at St David’s Cathedral in Hobart at 12:30pm, 28 April.
Support services and related links
Lifeline | T: 13 11 14
The Alannah and Madeline Foundation
Port Arthur Historic Site
Further reading and viewing