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Service to mark 25th anniversary of Port Arthur massacre

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A commemoration service will be held today at Port Arthur in Tasmania to mark 25 years since the 1996 massacre.

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At the time, the incident was considered the world’s worst mass shooting, with 35 people killed and 23 injured at the popular tourist site on the Tasman Peninsula.

It remains Australia’s most deadly massacre.

The shooting prompted significant gun reform under then-prime minister John Howard via the 1996 National Firearms Agreement.

The new law banned rapid-fire guns from civilian ownership except under certain, restricted licences.

It also tightened requirements for firearms licensing, registration and safe storage, and established a government buyback of semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns.

More than 650,000 weapons were destroyed. By some estimates, the move almost halved the number of gun-owning households.

Martin Byrant is serving 35 life sentences and more than a thousand additional years’ jail without parole over the shooting.

Tasmania’s former Labor premier Michael Field will deliver a welcome at Wednesday’s commemoration, which begins at 1pm AEST.

The poem Garden of Peace, written by the late Dr Margaret Scott, will be read by Julia Palmer who was a young girl in 1996 and later worked at the historic site.

Torquil Canning, who designed the garden memorial which was built in 2000 and features a pool of peace, will also speak.

The names of all 35 victims are inscribed there.

“May we who come to this garden cherish life for the sake of those who died,” the inscription reads.

“Cherish compassion for the sake of those who gave aid. Cherish peace for the sake of those in pain.”

The service will end with the laying of wreaths and a quiet moment for reflection.

-AAP

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