On the 13th Anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre the quest continues to understand the life and motivations of murderer Martin Bryant.

A new book dealing with Martin Bryant, the murder of 35 people at the historic Port Arthur convict settlement in 1996, found significant coverage in this anniversary week of 28 April.

The horrendous tragedy profoundly affected those directly involved. In Tasmania the connections between people meant that many, many were affected. Any tragedy is a tragedy for all, and this is particularly true in an island community such as Tasmania.

There are myriad questions. But one in particular haunts us, ‘Why did Bryant do it?’

Under the title, ‘A dangerous mind: what turned Martin Bryant into a mass murderer?’, the Sydney Morning Herald published an edited extract from Born or Bred? Martin Bryant: The Making of a Mass Murderer, by Robert Wainwright and Paola Totaro (published by Fairfax Books, rrp $35). The extract is absorbing and provocative. It concludes with these words:

“Martin Bryant was not just a young man born with a personality disorder, intellectually impaired and struggling with autistic traits. His genetic load was the baggage he carried with him into life. What occurred around him, a devoted and vigilant father who effectively managed him – and an heiress mentor and eccentric friend – were equally important, creating a cushion around him that for a long period of his life protected him from reality. More importantly, they acted as constraints that impeded or at least diffused, and gave an outlet for, his most obsessive tendencies. Once Helen and his father were gone, Bryant was left to his mounting frustrations, his angers, his resentment of rejection and social misunderstanding.”

See the full edited extract.

A briefer extract considers the possibility that Martin Bryant was hoping that someone, somehow, would prevent his murderous act.

There are numerous other articles, including a moving story by Tim Martain in the ‘Sunday Tasmanian’, April 26, concerning the reunion of victims and featuring the bravery of local woman Brigid Cook and the gratitude of the family who her bravery saved from Martin Bryant’s murderous rampage.

Sadly, three days after ANZAC Day, we remember a tragedy at the hands of one of our own, and yet the darkness of that Port Arthur day could not extinguish the light of bravery and self-sacrifice.

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