Innocence lost: the Bali terrorist bombings

Date: 14/10/2002

A University of Western Sydney forensic psychologist says the weekend's car bombings in the Balinese resort town of Kuta, have finally shattered Australia's delusion that terrorism 'won't happen to us'.

Trauma counselling expert David Mutton says unlike September 11, the war on terrorism will now take on a new meaning for the families of the hundreds of victims.

"Many people will feel that Australians have been particularly targeted by the terrorists, because so many of our nationals frequent Kuta," says Mr Mutton.

"The fact this attack has come so close to the first anniversary of September 11 will also raise anxiety about further strikes, as Indonesian and Australian authorities work to find those responsible," he says.

"Already in Australia, security around key installations and infrastructure is being stepped up in the wake of the bombings. NSW Police have been ordered to break up large groups of people. There are also questions about whether defence force personnel should be used to conduct patrols.

"There are also concerns that community anger over the attacks will be directed towards Australia's Muslim community, as it was after September 11, with police to keep an eye on Islamic mosques," Mr Mutton says.

"Bali was considered by many as a 'safe' destination. The weekend attack has proven that no one is immune from the reach of terrorism."

Mr Mutton says the role of grief counselling will also become critical in the coming days.

"Many of those killed or missing in the explosions were on holidays with groups of friends. Those who managed to get out alive from the burning buildings may be experiencing survivor guilt, because they weren't able to save their companions.

"Added to that, some survivors are dealing with the trauma of having to search Bali's hospital wards and morgue to find loved ones and friends."

"These people will need to discuss their feelings and fears with professional counsellors. The fear and shock will most likely give way to anger and vengeance over time. Those who escaped the blast, but were on the island at the time, will also be extremely apprehensive and fearful. It will affect us all in some way," says Mr Mutton.

* David Mutton is a forensic psychologist, and an expert on post-traumatic stress disorder. He served as the Chief Psychologist with the NSW Police Service for 11 years, and provided critical incident debriefing at the Thredbo Landslide Disaster, Port Arthur Massacre, and Glenbrook Train Crash. Mr Mutton has also helped establish a state-wide counselling and support service for police personnel involved with traumatic incidents.

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