It was a Monday afternoon like any other at the popular Dunedin supermarket. Staff were restocking after a busy weekend while customers were ensuring they would have enough food and other necessities for the week ahead.
But on that day, 10 May 2021, something utterly shocking and inexplicable happened. In a frenzied, random attack, a man stabbed four people including two of the Countdown staff.
“We were stunned. This doesn’t happen in Dunedin,” says Victim Support Worker Suzanne Murphy.
Suzanne was in the Victim Support Office, in Dunedin Central Police Station which is located just minutes from Countdown. With her was Dunedin Service Coordinator, Morgyn Miller.
“There were people being brought in by Police. So we had about half a dozen come in who were at the scene at the time,” says Morgyn.
A total of 26 people ended up being referred to Victim Support from the incident.
Morgan remembers the extraordinary response from her Dunedin Volunteer Support Workers.
“As soon as they heard about it, they were either on the phone or on their way in,” she says.
Volunteer Support Worker, Sally Mason, who is also a long-term St John’s Ambulance first responder, was assigned several people with varying degrees of support required.
“We can expect a range of reactions and we saw this with the Countdown incident with some people quite calm and others clearly extremely traumatised,” she says.
Both Suzanne and Sally agree that the level of support needed can be influenced by a multitude of factors.
“You find a lot of the trauma that we deal with has triggered prior trauma as well. So you are not just dealing with that one trauma. Quite often you are also dealing with past ones that have been triggered,” says Suzanne.
The Dunedin Victim Support team are full of praise for the way Countdown supported their staff following the incident.
Often with workplace incidents, Victim Support will work in tandem with a business’s Employee Assistance Programme provider or, in some cases, in place of them.
“We’ve got the benefit of a wider view of all sorts of stuff that goes on out there”, says Sally. “In some ways Employment Assistance Programmes
can be quite narrow. Some people also worry about confidentiality.”
For Suzanne, it’s this different approach which really defines the value of Victim Support’s service.
“I think the beauty of Victim Support volunteers and our workers is we are not counsellors or trained psychologists, so we don’t have to work within those parameters. While we have to be safe and have our own professional code of practice, we can actually have a lot more scope with our approach and how we interact with the people we are supporting.
It can be closer to a peer support. We can suggest things which could include counselling or going to a GP. We can help them consider a range of options and offer practical advice. The strength of Victim Support is that broader scope.”