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Christchurch shootings - reflections a year on

Many of those injured and killed in the mosque shootings of March 15th 2019 in Christchurch were ANZ customers, and well known to the team at the Upper Riccarton branch.  A year on Business Banking manager Shainaz Ali reflects on the tragedy:


“Will my father be coming home today?” the little boy asks politely.


He had opened the front door and now stood behind it, his small round face peering out. I pause for a moment, not knowing quite how to answer.


“I’m sorry,” I manage, struggling with the thought of what he is going through. “So sorry.”


His father was among the 42 worshippers killed by the gunman in Al Noor Mosque on March 15th 2019. He had been a customer of ours and I had met him and his wife before. Soon after the event I offered to visit the family.


The young boy took me inside to where his mother was sitting. She appeared lost in grief, surrounded by women from the community, some of whom were also bereaved. She greeted me with a weary nod and teary eyes. I told her I was not here to talk about finances, just to leave my contact details and let her know we were ready to help.


As I left the house, the scale of what had happened in the mosques hit me. So many lives torn apart in such a senseless act of hate. This was not the New Zealand I know.


"We were not strangers to them... they felt we were part of their community, people they could trust."


Shainaz Ali, ANZ Business Banking manager 


A week later, I got a call from the young boy’s mother. She came into the branch and we started looking into her finances. From my experience, many of our Muslim women are not involved in the family’s money and in this case, she had no idea of their financial position.


In the middle of such grief, it was a tough and intense time for her to start learning about personal finances.


Together we worked through her finances and we were able to uncover areas where we could help her improve her financial situation. We talked to her about what she wanted to do with the funds she would receive from Victim Support.


We also tried to ensure she was getting the help she needed from other social services.


Anyone would have done the same, to help a family at a time of need, but on this occasion, I feel we were uniquely placed. Situated so close to the mosque, many of my colleagues in our Migrant Banking team already had relationships with those affected. 


Some of us shared their culture, language and background and this helped us to get the best outcomes for them. We were not strangers to them and, especially in this time of need, they felt we were part of their community, people they could trust.

Flower tributes placed after the March 15th 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch.


Personally, this was a hard time for me, but taught me a lot. It made me grow as a person and more than ever, I now understand how important it is to take the time to get to know people, to be patient and really listen.


I also have a huge appreciation for those in the bank, from the top down, who lead our response, supporting us as we tried to help those affected, and made sure we too were OK.


Like others perhaps, my memories of 15th March 2019 are still very fresh. But when I reflect on how things have changed in the last 12 months I feel honoured that we were able to serve our community.


We were there to help at a time of need. We were able to support the families, including the widows and their young children, and play a small part in helping them get back on their feet.


Last month seven staff from ANZ Upper Riccarton branch spent their volunteer day at the Al Noor Mosque cleaning and gardening. On Monday 16th March ANZ's Christchurch branch staff will wear a green wrist ribbon as a mark of respect.