Granville Train Disaster memorial service
18 JANUARY 2023
(See translation in Arabic section)
I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet. I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.
It is a solemn honour to be with you today. Even with the passage of 46 years, the anniversary of the Granville Train Disaster sits so heavily in the soul of the nation.
Six years after the NSW Parliament made its apology to the victims, survivors and first responders, I am grateful to have this moment to extend my sorrow and regret to everyone whose life was changed utterly and tragically that day.
For the people boarding Train No. 108 on the morning of 18 January 1977, it was, of course, just another day — beautiful in its ordinariness.
That morning they walked out of their front doors, in all likelihood barely even giving a thought to how — like clockwork — they would return home that evening.
It wasn’t to be.
For so very many of them, so close to where we are gathered now, the clock stopped.
We can scarcely imagine what it was like in that awful moment.
The suddenness of it. The shock of it. The violence and the noise of it.
A moment in that bright January sunshine that brought the finality of darkness.
And for those who lived to see the light again, life would never be the same.
Like a terrible vibration, word went humming back along the line to Parramatta, Penrith, Blaxland, Warrimoo, Springwood, Katoomba, Blackheath, Mount Victoria …
… and spread through suburbs and towns.
Aftershocks leaving a grief from which so many have never recovered.
For most of us, what remains of Granville nearly half a century on is a collection of distressing images and written records.
Photographs of emergency workers, stretchers lining the railway tracks, and machinery shifting rubble.
Accounts from those who were there.
Footage of policemen walking away from the wreckage carrying bundles of brief cases and handbags, satchels and suitcases.
Bags packed for a destination they never reached, by people who never completed their journey.
For those who were there on the 18th of January — the survivors and the first responders, and for the family, friends and communities of the victims — the words and images that remain are precious artefacts of those who died.
Today is about those we lost, and those who live on with their memories.
The 84 who tragically died that day.
The hundreds broken in body and wounded in spirit.
The first responders and volunteers who worked in heat and dust and danger to assist the injured and comfort the dying.
Responders arrived to scenes that no-one should ever be subjected to.
But they were there, their compassion, their courage and the sheer power of their humanity driving them to do everything within their power to save life.
To save limb.
To help their fellow human beings in their moment of greatest need.
Fighting through exhaustion in the hope of being able to soften the horror.
In the darkness of that distant morning, they were shafts of light.
In 1977, my great friend and mentor Tom Uren lived and worked in Granville as the Federal Member for Reid.
A photo from the scene shows him grieving for his people — hands in pockets, head down.
Tom knew all too well that many of the passengers were the workers — secretaries, clerks and typists, bus drivers, nurses and bank tellers — upon whom our beloved city depends.
Nearly half a century on, we think of them still. The years not lived, the dreams not realised. And the great promise of those lives unfulfilled.
As we read through the names, we wonder what might have been. Many of them might have still been among us today, part of the great life of our city.
We think of the families and the loved ones and friends, whose own lives were changed forever. Grief may be softened by time, but it does not fade.
And we think of those who survived, and all they endured — in so many ways.
We hold them all in our hearts, and we carry them with us. They are part of us still, and always will be.