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Parish priest of Port Arthur during 1996 massacre says why make a film about the tragedy

Fr Morgan Batt: “I just think why – why even make a film.”

THE former parish priest of Port Arthur has criticised the decision to make a film detailing the events that led to the 1996 massacre. 

Brisbane priest Fr Morgan Batt was the parish priest of Richmond and Port Arthur, Tasmania, when the massacre which killed 35 people unfolded.

He was on his way to say Mass at Port Arthur when he heard reports of a gunman, later revealed to be Martin Bryant, shooting.

Fr Batt was intimately involved in the aftermath that followed, working with police and providing pastoral support for the local community, including parishioners who had lost loved ones.

Now parish priest of Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast, Fr Batt has added to criticisms following the announcement of a film NITRAM that will detail the events leading up to the massacre.

“I just think why – why even make a film,” Fr Batt told The Catholic Leader.

“Leave it for another 50 years.”

NITRAM, which is Martin spelt backwards, is due to premier on streaming service Stan and in cinemas next year, which will be 25 years since the tragedy.

Stan describes the film on their website as depicting “the events leading up to one of the darkest chapters in Australian history in an attempt to understand why and how this atrocity occurred”.

But Fr Batt said it was not the right time in history to release a film on the massacre.

“I note that Second World War movies and Vietnam (War) movies still elicit strong emotions for people, so will this movie and we just don’t need it in our COVID world,” he said.

“It’s not in the past yet but very much still in the present.”

Port Arthur: “It’s not in the past yet but very much still in the present.”

Fr Batt’s criticisms follow similar objections by survivor Justin Woolley.

Mr Woolley was 12 years old and walking out of the Broad Arrow cafe with his younger sister when Bryant began shooting.

He said in a statement posted to Twitter that his family was “extraordinarily lucky” to survive the massacre, and while he did not intend to censor the events of April 28, 1996, he objected to a film portraying the life of Bryant.

“Do we need to remember this event and the impact it had on our small state at the bottom of the world? Yes, I believe we do,” he said.

“But turning it into a piece of money-making entertainment? You’ll have to excuse me, and I would have thought any right-minded person, for believing that is tasteless.”

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein also said during Question Time in Tasmanian Parliament on Tuesday  (December 1) he was “highly uncomfortable” about the film, which was not being shot in Tasmania.

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