‘A gift from heaven’

The image of Thalia on screen at the Royal Exhibition building. Photo: Peter Haskin.

“LOOK at the picture of Thalia … and our dog, Benji. Just enjoying the simple things in life.

“Does it remind you of someone?” asked Tony Hakin as he referred to the photo of his daughter, Thalia, hand outstretched upon the family dog with her younger sister in tow. The image beamed across the screens of Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition building this week.

It has been one year since the Hakin family was rocked by the Bourke Street tragedy, when the 10-year-old Beth Rivkah student was tragically killed in the car rampage on January 20, 2017.

On Tuesday, Thalia and the five other victims of the attack were honoured at the Bourke Street State Memorial Service. Hundreds gathered to pay their respects as readings and reflections were recited and family members shared tributes for those lost in the rampage.

Hakin remembered Thalia, “a gift truly from heaven”, “the heart and soul” of their family.

“This little girl could be any of our children. You live for her, work for her, stay up with her when she is sick. And she gave you complete and undying love, trust and adoration. You know she will grow up, have a successful career, marry, have children who are equally beautiful.

A photo of Thalia Hakin amid floral and soft-toy tributes at the site of last January’s Bourke Street tragedy. Photo: Peter Haskin

“But this little girl, on the last day of her school holidays, didn’t make it. She was hit by a car on the footpath on the way to a magic show.”

Hakin described the extraordinary and far-reaching support received by the family over the past 12 months – from the complete strangers who rushed to his family members in the immediate moments after the attack, to the compassion shown by his employer, to the meals and condolence messages received from the Jewish community.

He also paid special tribute to the bravery and resilience of his youngest daughter, Maggie, and wife, Nathalie, “who not only suffered serious injuries herself, but also held her [Thalia’s] hand through her three days of unconsciousness – until it wasn’t there anymore.”

But Hakin implored that the time has come for a shift in the narrative as to how the victims are remembered, “because they have a right to live on, and not just in our hearts”.

Since the loss of Thalia, the project “Torah for Thalia” has been set up with the aim of uniting Jewish children in the writing of a special Sefer Torah in her memory to be dedicated to the family’s shule at Chabad McKinnon. The hope is that the Torah will be complete during 2018, in what would have been the year of Thalia’s bat mitzvah.

Hakin also issued an impassioned plea to the press: “Stop making the [alleged] villain the focus of each story associated with it. Focus on the six people, special people, and the injured,” he said.

In a heartfelt address, Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau spoke to the families of the victims, those who were injured, and gave words of thanks to the emergency services’ men and women and medical staff who tended to those affected.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews addressing the memorial service.

“[This was] a day that brought such heartache to those directly affected, such anguish to those nearby, and such sadness to all of us in the wider Victorian community,” she reflected.

The sentiment was echoed by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who also offered the support of the state. He concluded his address with a recitation of one of the many messages which was left at the scene of the tragedy one year ago, “put simply, and profoundly”.

“We may not have known you, but we will always remember.”

To contribute to or buy a letter in the Torah for Thalia, visit https://www.torah4thalia.com