1996 is a tough year to write about. 1996 was the year Tasmania, my home, changed forever when one man decided to kill as many people as he could in one day.
I’m lucky because I didn’t know anyone killed that day, 28 April, in Port Arthur. I nearly did. My two brothers and younger sister were with my father that day, I was with mum. My father planned to take them to Port Arthur, a historical convict site, as a day trip. They set out that morning for the hour long drive, but my father thought it might be a bit expensive after all, as you have to pay to get into the World Heritage site, so they went to see some other sights down the Tasman Peninsula. If they had gone to Port Arthur that day, it’s very likely they would have been shot by Martin Bryant, the gunman who killed 35 people and injured many more. My family were stopped by police as they drove closer to the site and told to turn around. They were so close to death it’s hard to comprehend.
I was at a friend of my mother’s house when we were told to turn the TV on as something was happening. There were reports of a man with a gun, possibly still in Port Arthur, possibly not, and it was reported he’d killed five people. We couldn’t believe it. Nothing like this happens in tiny Tasmania. The reports went on that no-one knew where the gunman was, and people were warned to watch out for a yellow car. It was scary. And then the emergency helicopters started arriving in Hobart, carrying the injured and dying, injuries on a level never seen before in Tasmania, never seen on this scale in Australia before. Many of the doctors and paramedics who worked on that event have gone on to work at other disasters such as the Bali Bombings because of what they learned that day.
After the shootings, the new Prime Minister John Howard introduced tougher gun laws, as Bryant was able to kill so many single-handedly mostly due to the fact he had semi-automatics. Oh how the conspiracy theorists have loved to spread stories that the whole event was staged by the government to take away guns from the public.
We went to a big event called AGFEST later that year and I remember my mother being nervous because she was worried they could be a copycat attack on such a large grouping of people. Fearing public events, even thinking anything could happen to you like that was a new and not-nice feeling.
1996 was also the year my older sister, Ruth, moved out of home.
Musical musings of 1996
On to happier things, The Prodigy came out with Breathe in 1996 and I began to think that not all “dance” stuff was crap. Music continued to be a little darker in the mid 90s, with stuff like Tool’s Stinkfist being released with accompanying weird music video. On the pop side, The Spice Girls arrived on the scene, showing off nipples and telling everyone they wanted to zig-zig-ah. But by now, I’m a very moody teenager and far to gloomy for pop music.
Clones, games and mobiles
1996 was the year Dolly the sheep was born/created. The world’s first cloned mammal. We were living the future. Everyone was making predictions about cloned pets and cloned humans.
Also on the future front, Motorola released the StarTAC Wearable Cellular Telephone. It was small (ish) and portable and it was a flip phone. So futuristic for the time. But of course, only yuppies had mobile phones in 1996.
1996 was the year the Siege of Sarajevo was officially over. The Bosnian War was supposedly over in 1995, but the Siege of Sarajevo didn’t end until a couple of months after. The U2, Brian Eno and Luciano Pavarotti song, Miss Sarajevo, was played endlessly. I still don’t really get what they were trying to do with the song.
In Japan in 1996, the Nintendo 64 was released. Our cousins got one in 1997 when it came out in Australia. Oh how we loved going up to see them and play their games that year. We couldn’t afford a new console and new games, so we stuck with the SNES for many more years to come.