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ENOUGH ROPE finishing up at the end of 2008

After six years of edge-of-the-seat television, multiple awards and a re-definition of the meaning of a talk-show, ABC TV and Zapruder's other films are today announcing that ENOUGH ROPE will not return in 2009. More >>

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  - 16 August 2004

Audience Show and Tell

Robyn Lawler and Andrew Denton

Robyn Lawler and Andrew Denton Photo by Martin Webby

You too can put your name forward for 'Show and Tell'. Just enter your details into the Show and Tell Guestbook on our website.

ANDREW DENTON: Robyn Lawler. Are you here, Robyn? Please welcome Robyn Lawler to the show, ladies and gentlemen.


ROBYN LAWLER: Thank you.

ANDREW DENTON: Now, Robyn, the day you will never forget.

ROBYN LAWLER: Yes, the day I will never forget is the Port Arthur massacre that happened down in Hobart, Tassie, in March...sorry, April 28, 1996.

ANDREW DENTON: And why is that a special memory for you?

ROBYN LAWLER: Because I had a brother who was involved in it.

ANDREW DENTON: What happened?

ROBYN LAWLER: He was a tour guide down at Port Arthur and he was about to take a whole group out and they heard the...what they then found out was the gunshots and the people that he was about to take out thought that, "Oh, this is a re-enactment." But my brother knew that it wasn't, that this doesn't happen and...then it all started. He had to get people to safety. He got them up...further up the track, you know, to get them away from where Martin Bryant was.

ANDREW DENTON: How did he know what was happening? Because this was out of everybody's...

ROBYN LAWLER: Well, what happened was a guy actually ran out from the Broad Arrow Cafe shouting out that there was a madman in there shooting people. And then Bryant came out and he was only about 50 metres away from where my brother was with this group of people, with the gun in his hand.

ANDREW DENTON: Did your brother have any way of defending himself?

ROBYN LAWLER: Er, no, not at that point in time. When he got the people to safety, he decided he was going to take up towards the toll booth to warn people not to come down because of what was happening. And he was out in a big, open area and he saw Bryant get in his car and he thought, "If he's going to shoot me, he can shoot me face on. He's not going to shoot me in the back," because there was nowhere for him to hide, he had nowhere at all. So he turned around and Bryant drove up in the car, he stopped the car, he wound the window down, he got the gun out, he aimed it directly at him, and, like, Ashley saw his life flash in front of him, and within seconds, he put the gun back in the car, he beeped the horn and he waved to him and he drove up to the toll booth.

ANDREW DENTON: Why didn't he shoot him?

ROBYN LAWLER: Well, as it happened, three years prior to all this happening, Martin Bryant used to...lived with an older lady who was in with the Tattersall people, lot of money, etc. In a car accident on the way down to Port Arthur, Ashley, my brother, was on his way home from work from the city, and he actually stopped that night and he pulled him out of the car. And they say that he...they... The police reckon that they recognised him and that's why they didn't shoot him.

ANDREW DENTON: So in all that madness, Martin Bryant recognised your brother?

ROBYN LAWLER: That's what they're saying. Yes.

ANDREW DENTON: Goodness me. Now where did this leave Ashley? Your brother's name is Ashley?

ROBYN LAWLER: That's correct.

ANDREW DENTON: Where did this leave him? That's an enormous trauma to go through.

ROBYN LAWLER: Well, he... Look... He's been though so much, he still is going through so much. He's just a completely changed person. He's not the brother I had back in 1996. His nerves are on edge, his... Just the sound of a phone ringing, he'll nearly go though the roof with that, you know. Um, he's basically become a hermit. He can't deal with people and anything anymore so it's very, very sad. I mean, he's not on his own, you know. There's lots more that were there that day that are in exactly the same boat and they'll just never get over it.

ANDREW DENTON: Was there enough help for them?

ROBYN LAWLER: Not to start with, no.


ROBYN LAWLER: Because it took too long. From the day that it started till they started bringing in psychiatrists and psychologists, counsellors, you name it - too long, far too long. It should've been done instantly, just like that and it wasn't. And, like, with Ashley's case, he was left to defend on his own for at least six weeks after it before anything was even done for him.

ANDREW DENTON: I know you'd never give up on your brother. What can be done to bring him back to a normal life?

ROBYN LAWLER: (Sighs) That is a really hard question, Andrew. I don't even think I can answer you that now. I honestly don't know. I don't know. I don't know with going through something as traumatic as that was and you have to live with it for the rest of your life and it's like every time you shut your eyes, you hear the gunshots, you see the people that died lying there in front of you, I don't know whether there is. I honestly don't know whether there is.

ANDREW DENTON: So...this description you're giving, there were many, many more victims to the Port Arthur massacre than those who died.

ROBYN LAWLER: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely, yeah. And the sad part today is that most people... I know time goes by, but they forget. They just think these people have got on with their lives but they haven't, they haven't at all.

ANDREW DENTON: People do care, though, don't they?

ROBYN LAWLER: Oh, they...yeah. Yeah, they do. But maybe it' need to keep making them aware that perhaps that, you know, these people are still suffering, it's not over for them and maybe they're going to suffer until the day they die. But for them to know that, "Well, OK, we know that. Maybe we can't do a lot for you but we are still there for you. You'll always have the support."

ANDREW DENTON: You have made us aware. Thank you very much

ROBYN LAWLER: You're welcome. Thank you.