I averted my eyes - Barbara's Story

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Having lived both north and south of the Yarra in Melbourne, I have innumerable experiences of the long drive along Punt Road and Hoddle Street. Two stand out for me:

Many years ago, a friend lent me her old Morris Minor in exchange for driving lessons. The car was poorly maintained but it got me around ok. One day, as I drove south on Punt Road, I saw a large truck lumbering up the hill in Toorak so I chose the right lane so I could overtake it – but I didn't allow for the slipping clutch on the Morris Minor. To my deep humiliation, no matter how hard I pressed on the accelerator, that old car could not do more than chug slowly up the hill, just keeping pace with the huge truck on my left.

I averted my eyes from the rearview mirror so I wouldn't have to see the look in the eyes of the driver trapped behind me, stuck in the slow dance of chugging up Punt Road Hill in first gear!

For many years I have enjoyed the company of my sister for dinner at my house in Thornbury. On Sunday 9 August 1987, she headed home as usual to Clifton Hill after the Sunday night movie – but called a short time later to assure us that she was safe. I was mystified until she told me that police had diverted her away from her usual route along Hoddle Street. When she arrived home she tuned in to the news to hear that armed men were marauding through her suburb shooting people indiscriminately. She was warned to stay indoors and not open the door to anyone until police could determine that all of the shooters were in custody.

It turned out that there was only one shooter, a disgruntled young man who lived around the corner from my sister. If she had left my house 15 minutes earlier she would have been caught up in one of the worst mass shootings in Melbourne's history and I may have lost my best friend.