Gaye and John Fidler share their story | Alannah & Madeline Foundation Skip to main content

Time has not blurred the horrific details of the 1996 Port Arthur tragedy for survivors Gaye and John Fidler.

Gaye and John Fidler remember April 28, 1996, with remarkable detail.

The couple were part of a group of 10 visiting Tasmania to celebrate a friend's birthday. The group had organised to meet at Port Arthur's Broad Arrow Cafe to squeeze in a little sightseeing before flying home to Melbourne that night.

Just two minutes after the group met, 17 shots were fired inside the cafe. In just 15 seconds, 12 people were dead. Three were Gaye and John's friends.

Thirty-five people tragically lost their lives at Port Arthur that day - including Alannah and Madeline Mikac, aged six and three, along with their mother.

Gaye and John vividly remember, and are still affected by, the horrific events at Port Arthur.

"For a long time, sounds made us jumpy. We'd jump at a car backfiring or a spanner dropping"

"[Many] years on, we've relaxed a little and gotten over that to a degree but still get nervous at times in unfamiliar environments." 

Although they have hard days, the couple explain the Port Arthur tragedy has given them a greater appreciation of life.

"We now do what we want to do today as tomorrow might not be here," John said.

Gaye and John were instrumental in helping set up the Alannah & Madeline Foundation.

The couple were approached to be involved with the Foundation by Alannah and Madeline's father, Walter Mikac.

By coincidence, Gaye and John knew Walter before that day. Walter was their pharmacist in Melbourne and had also gone to the same school as their daughter.

Gaye and John worked with a dedicated team of volunteers to launch the national charity to help protect children from violence and its devastating effects in April 1997.

"We didn't want what happened to the girls to ever be forgotten," John said.

Gaye adds, "When we talk about the girls, we also think of everyone else who lost their lives."

"It's just wrong for kids to have their innocence taken like that. Children are the ones in our society that need protecting the most."

The couple played a hands-on role at the Foundation until 2007.

"I know the Foundation is still in good hands. We've seen it grow, aim higher and achieve more than we imagined. The Foundation is still very important to us." John said.

Tighter national gun laws have been introduced since the Port Arthur tragedy.

After getting off the plane from Tasmania, John went straight to the then Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett to ask for help for the victims of the tragedy.

"I couldn't just lose three of my mates and not try and do something about it," John said.

John spent 30 minutes with the Premier. They spoke about the events at Port Arthur and how the Victorian Government could help. They also spoke about national gun laws which political leaders later agreed to significantly tighten.

Walter Mikac is still a close friend of the couple.

Gaye and John treasure a card Walter sent to them in the early days of the Foundation.

He wrote: "I feel as though you have very much become a part of my family and for this I feel very lucky. I know our bond will never go away."

Today, family is very important to Gaye and John.

Photos of their four children and eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren fill their home. Their faces light up with pride when they talk about their achievements.

The modest couple shrug off any suggestion of being remarkable in any way.

"What's the alternative?" Gaye said.

"We're happy and positive about the future. There's still lots to smile about."