Heartwarming update about Bondi hero

NSW Premier Chris Minns with Westfield’s Elliott Rusanow and Police Commissioner Karan Webb at Bondi Westfield on Thursday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

Bondi security guard hero Muhammad Taha says he is “honoured” to have been offered permanent residency in Australia.

Mr Taha was stabbed in the stomach as he tried to protect his friend during Joel Cauchi’s deadly stabbing rampage on Saturday.

While recovering in hospital, Mr Taha confirmed that the government would be granting him the opportunity to stay in the country he calls home.

“Yeah, (the government) got in touch with me, so maybe they will soon start the process, hopefully,” he told The Australian on Thursday.

“I’m very honoured. It’s a great gesture from the government.

“I’ve been in Australia around one-and-a-half years. It’s home to me. I love being here. I’m very thankful for this.”

In an interview with SBS reporter Janice Peterson on Thursday night, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Immigration Minister Andrew Giles had spoken with the Pakistani immigrant and expressed confidence Mr Taha’s visa issues would be “sorted out”.

“We know that Mr Taha put his own safety at risk in order to protect people who were there shopping,” Mr Albanese said.

Mr Albanese also told A Current Affair he was “very confident” the matter would resolved on Friday.

“The minister has spoken with the gentlemen who is still in hospital, Muhammad, and we wish him every swift recovery,” Mr Albanese said.

“We’re just going through our processes but we see no reason why this shouldn’t be approved, and I’m very confident it will be approved tomorrow.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has praised the actions of Bondi security guard Muhammad Taha and said the man’s visa issues would be ‘sorted out’, with a big announcement on the matter booked for Friday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

The Prime Minister said people like Mr Taha were welcome in Australia.

“This is again another person who is newly arrived, was here working, and put his life on the line in order to protect Australians who he didn’t know,” he said.

“Amidst all this carnage and sorrow, there are stories of bravery ... he certainly is the sort of character that we want to see continuing to contribute here in Australia.”

The call to extend a permanent visa to Mr Taha followed the prime minister’s announcement that “Bollard Man” legend and French national Damien Guerot was welcome to “stay as long as he likes” in Australia.

Mr Taha had asked why he hadn’t heard from the Prime Minister with an offer of permanent residency.

“As a direct victim of the incident, I believe I deserve recognition and consideration for citizenship,” Mr Taha told The Australian.

“As well, the guards working alongside came running towards the point of incident and risking their lives … (they) should be ­offered citizenship as well.”

Muhammad Taha was injured in Saturday’s Bondi stabbing attack. Picture: Supplied
Muhammad Taha was injured in Saturday’s Bondi stabbing attack. Picture: Supplied
Mr Taha has been recovering in hospital. Picture: Supplied
Mr Taha has been recovering in hospital. Picture: Supplied

Mr Taha heroically confronted Cauchi – alongside colleague and Ahmadi refugee Faraz Tahir – as the 40-year-old Queenslander began randomly stabbing female shoppers.

Mr Tahir was killed in the attack.

Mr Taha is on a graduate visa that is due to expire within weeks.

In the interview, the Prime Minister praised Australia’s multicultural character and said looking after each other is “what we do”.

Faraz Tahir was killed during the Bondi Westfields stabbing attack.
Faraz Tahir was killed during the Bondi Westfields stabbing attack.

Rent freeze for tragedy-affected businesses

Shopping giant Westfield announced on Thursday that it would freeze rent payments for businesses at the Bondi mall until after a community reflection day on Thursday.

In a statement, Westfield said: “In light of the tragic events, rent at Westfield Bondi for the week from Saturday, April 13 until Friday, April 19 inclusive will be waived.

“Our businesses team will continue to engage directly with each of our business partners on the support they need to reopen and reconnect with their customers.”

Bondi Junction Westfield
Locals pay tribute to the victims of the Bondi attack. Picture: David Swift
Bondi Junction Westfield
A permanent memorial will be established at the centre. Picture: David Swift
Bondi Junction Westfield
Businesses will be offered a rent freeze after the centre closed for a week. Picture: David Swift

Westfield earlier announced the shopping centre would reopen on Thursday without retail trade for a “Community Reflection Day”, featuring black ribbons.

Normal sales and operating hours resume on Friday from 9.30am, almost a week after six people were killed in the horrifying knife attack.

Dutton visits memorial

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton attended the Bondi Junction memorial on Thursday and offered his “thoughts and prayers” to those impacted by the incident.

Minns’ puts social media giants “on notice”

The centre opened its doors for the first time since the incident on Thursday with the NSW Premier and NSW Police Commissioner among the first to walk through.

Chris Minns signed a condolence book in honour of the victims and spoke outside police headquarters just before midday.

He said it was a “major concern” that rumours and graphic content circulated online after the stabbing and took days to be removed by content moderators.

“To have so much unsubstantiated rumour as well as graphic content still available on public websites and social media platforms,” Mr Minns said.

“It proves to be very difficult to foster community cohesion and harmony to calm down the community to send messages of unity in a difficult period when social media firms still continue to disseminate terrible pieces of information.”

NSW Premier Chris Minns with Westfield’s Elliott Rusanow and Police Commissioner Karan Webb at Westfield on Thursday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short
Members of the public wait to enter Westfield Bondi Junction on Thursday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short
A large crowd gathered to pay their respects. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

French heroes speak

The Two French citizens who confronted Cauchi have revealed more about the moment they locked eyes with the killer.

Silas Despreaux and Damien Guerot told the Today show they initially thought the a celebrity must have been the cause of the commotion at the shopping centre.

But after going to check it out, they soon were confronted by Cauchi, armed with a knife just metres away from them.

Guerot has since been dubbed “Bollard Man” for his heroics on social media after video of him confronting Cauchi circulated online.

Damien Guerot confronted attacker with bollard. Picture: 7NEWS
Damien Guerot confronted attacker with bollard. Picture: 7NEWS

“The bollard was there, Silas was like, ‘We need to do something, we need to catch him,’” Mr Guerot said. “We were in open space, there was nowhere to hide, nothing to protect ourselves … if we miss him, we don’t have a chance.”

Mr Guerot has been offered Australian citizenship for his role in helping to stop the massacre.

“Confronting”: Mayor’s warning as Westfield reopens

Waverley Mayor Paula Masselos says the reopening of Westfield Bondi Junction will be “confronting” but “significant” for the healing journey of victims and the community.

“I know it’s going to be very powerful. It’s going to be confronting, it’s going to be emotional. But I really think it is going to be very significant,” she told the Today Show on Thursday morning.

“It’s about people going back to that place, reclaiming it, not allowing these terrible events by that person who obviously was suffering mental health issues to actually make this place a place that no one wants to come back to.

“It was such a thriving, dynamic community hub, and we want to make sure it will be that again. So we’ll be working very hard to ensure that people will be able to re-embrace this place.”

Sydneysiders have flocked to the site to lay flowers and cards to the victims of Cauchi’s rampage.

But Ms Masselos acknowledged it could take some time before a permanent memorial is erected.

“We’ll be working very closely to come up with something that will really commemorate it. But it’s going to take some time,” she said.

Ms Masselos noted it took three years for the Lindt Cafe memorial to get off the ground.

“We want to make it, we want to make it appropriate. We want to make it something that people will really love, but we want to take our time, work closely with the Premier’s Department, and just make sure it is the right … kind of memorial to put here.”

Westfield opens for day of reflection

Westfield Bondi Junction opened its doors for a day of reflection on Thursday after six days after a deadly massacre in which five women and security guard were stabbed to death.

The centre will reopen on Thursday for the first time on since thousands of shoppers were evacuated during the emergency five days ago.

Some shoppers who abandoned their cars to flee the scene on the foot returned to the scene on Sunday to collect their vehicles, but this will be the first time members of the public will be able to walk back into the centre.

Scentre group chief executive Elliott Rusanow said there would be no retail trade at the centre when the doors reopened, instead saying members of the community could pay their respects.

Counselling and services will be on site to provide the necessary help before normal trading hours resume on Friday.

Some stores would choose not to reopen, Mr Rusanow said.

“This has been a very difficult time and I want to acknowledge the hard work and tireless efforts of our Westfield Bondi and Scentre Group teams,” he said.

“They have been working through conditions which have been devastating in their minds and in all our minds.”