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The Sydney siege: courage, compassion and connectedness

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Recognising and responding with both our strengths and vulnerabilities to help get through times of distress

The shock and threat of the Sydney siege on Monday 15 December 20141 have provoked large-scale responses — to the emergency, its aftermath and the implications it may have for the future. The strong response by police, counterterrorism agencies and other experts and the leadership shown by civic agencies through the hours of uncertainty were watched by the world. There was powerful engagement, concern for outcomes and an outpouring of grief over the tragedy of the hostage deaths that occurred.

The more recent adverse events in Paris, still evolving as we write,2 speak to the growing environment of terror that the global community is facing. Over the coming months, doctors, and in particular general practitioners, have an important role in helping those who may be vulnerable.

The siege

All that was seen in the human responses to the Sydney siege speaks of the compassion, courage, commitment, care and concern for others among the multitude who engaged with the attack and its consequences. The tributes and memorials of flowers attest to how deeply people were moved, and continue to be. People identify with suffering and loss, with threat and survival, with grief and anger — reflecting strengths as well as empathy.