GRANVILLE PARLIAMENTARY APOLOGY

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TAKE NOTE DEBATE, THURSDAY MAY 4th

10.10-10.40 AM  Legislative Assembly Chamber, Parliament House

Madam Speaker

I rise on behalf of the Opposition to support the apology moved by the Premier.

If you lost a loved one – or were at Granville on that morning – the years have only dulled the anguish. 

Not the emotional legacy.

It remains our nation’s worst single accident, post war.

83 men, women and children and – it turns out – an unborn child – didn’t survive the disaster.

We rightly mark their passing every January.

At the spot where it happened we toss those roses, on to the unforgiving steel tracks.

It has been four decades now since the eight crowded carriages left the rails almost two hours into the journey from the Blue Mountains.

You have to imagine the scene that morning.

The morning of a blazing hot summer day.

School holidays.

People on their way to work.

Playing cards or board games on a train from the Blue Mountains.

Then, a minute out of Parramatta, slowing from the authorised 80 kilometres an hour, the train was on a left hand curve.

But the track fastening was loose, allowing the leading right-hand wheel to come off the track.

And the derailed Train 108 hit the supports of the Bold Street Bridge.

A bridge that itself wasn’t well constructed.

To make it level, they’d added more concrete.

An extra 200 tonnes of it.

You can imagine the impact.

In less than ten seconds, it collapsed.

On to the wooden carriages.

Half the passengers in two of those carriages died instantly. 

One woman lost her stepmother, her father, and her two little girls.

You can understand why she says she thinks about them, sometimes every single day, for the last 40 years.

And she wonders, often, about the lives they could have had.

Time of course also hasn’t erased the hurt for many of those injured but who survived that day.

One survived after losing her leg – she’d taken the train for the very first time, to work.

She was saved by a police rescue officer crawling through the carriage – the police officer thought he detected a pulse.

When others had thought she was dead.

It is an old saying that adversity introduces us to ourselves.

On that morning we found – not for the first time – that our emergency services workers and volunteers have compassionate hearts and extraordinary determination.

Rescuer after rescuer headed into the crumpled metal wreckage, the splintered wood and the jagged concrete on a blazing hot summer’s day.

To find the dead – and rescue the living.

Those in agony, some struggling for their last breath – amidst the twisted wreckage.

Rescuers naturally fearful of the terminal risk to their own lives, but they just kept going.

Carrying on – because that is what they do.

I met several at the 40th anniversary service at Granville, just past.

Former ambulance officer Michael ‘Scotty’ McInally arrived at the scene of devastation and stayed for 17 hours.

He spent a lot of time with one trapped victim, one of the last who was taken out of the wreckage alive.

But the man died three days later, leaving behind a young wife and four-year-old daughter.

Scotty told me he hasn’t been able to get on a train since.

I also met Margaret Warby, a theatre sister at Parramatta Hospital.

She spent hours clambering around the crushed carriages, tending to the injured and the trapped.

She was there for more than 12 hours, refused to leave.

Margaret was awarded the Queen’s Medal of Gallantry for her service that day.

And of course for many of the relatives Granville has been, despite the immensity of the tragedy, scandalously neglected in many ways.

Today this Parliament has gone some way in redressing that.

All of us are sincere in that, all of us are genuine.

We have compassion for what they have endured.

We genuinely hope the apology gives them some comfort.

The survivors of Granville have lived with your injuries and trauma for decades.

You’ve lived with life-long grief and especially on anniversaries, you still weep.

Every fatality was a loss.

Every life was significant and the possibility of each life was infinite.

Every year we gather in January, we pray, to comfort the living.

Until today we’ve never apologised to you.

The Premier at the time was Neville Wran, in the earliest months of his Premiership.

I know that when the tragedy struck he went to the scene immediately.

That wasn’t widely known because he asked journalists not to mention he was there.

He wanted to keep the focus on the rescue, the victims, and the injured.

Premier Wran was determined to ensure that any official approvals the rescuers needed – no matter the cost– they received on the spot.

There were 250 police there, struggling to contain a crowd estimated to be 5,000 strong.

The last body wasn’t removed from the wreckage until mid-afternoon on the next day.

And the bitter lessons learned that morning were also absorbed by the emergency services, which changed and improved their procedures for tragedies like this.

Many had worked tirelessly, through fatigue and leaking gas, for 30 hours.

Holding the hands of those who were dying.

Guiding a priest through the rubble to give the last rites, to the dying.

Their commitment was genuinely heroic.

Every one of the 83 victims had relatives.

And this Parliament is today, finally, for the first time, apologising to each and every one of them.

Madam Speaker, Granville will never be just another stop on the line.

And I say to Honourable Members if you have a moment sometime, look up the list of names of those who died that morning.

You can find it at Granville or you can find it online.

And read it slowly.

I think you will then appreciate the scale of this tragedy – and why we are apologising today.

Every name on the monument at Granville represents a human life.

A person with inherent human dignity. 

Imbued with Hope.

With ambition and joy.

Now resting in peace.

And forever remembered.

To the victims, loved ones and all those who assisted on the day we, the Parliament of New South Wales, apologise to you for what you have endured.